The Samsung Wave 723 is only the second phone with Samsung's brand-new Bada software on-board, but it feels far from fresh. Instead, it's a capable, cheap phone that covers the basics in unspectacular style. But with cheap Android phones firing out like foamy death from a Nerf N-Strike Havok-Fire EBF-25, we can't get too excited about a phone that only offers a pale imitation of a smart phone's prowess.
The Samsung Wave 723 is free on a £15-a-month contract or £199.99 on pay as you go.
Nice but dull
It's hard to come up with many superlatives for the Wave 723. Unlike its big brother, the Samsung Wave, it hasn't got a stunning AMOLED screen or a snazzy metal case. Instead, it's a rounded, plastic phone with a low-resolution screen that feels more like an improvement on the popular Samsung Genio Touch.
But just because the Wave 723 is a bit dull, doesn't mean that it's not decent. In fact, it's an exercise in adequacy. The plastic case, for example, isn't a patch on the Wave, but it feels well-made and solid. The box also included an optional leather screen protector that may appeal if you're nervous about breaking the screen, or if you like flipping your phone open like a Star Trek communicator.
The touchscreen is the capacitive kind, which means that you don't need a stylus or sharp fingernails to use it. We found it impressively responsive, which is especially important for a phone where you have to type on a virtual keyboard rather than using proper buttons. We had no trouble typing accurately right from the get-go on the on-screen Qwerty keyboard, even when the phone was in portrait mode and the keys were tiny.
However, we do wish that the 240x400 pixel, 3.2-inch screen had a higher resolution. There are plenty of places that show lots of small text on the phone, from the Twitter app to the Web browser, and the low resolution meant that it wasn't easy to read.
You can pack the Wave 723's home screens with widgets, which can include everything from a stream of your Facebook and Twitter updates to shortcuts to your favourite contacts. We found it easy to add and remove widgets by tapping a button that sits at the top of the screen, which isn't the most elegant of solutions, but is certainly straightforward.
Sadly, the widgets weren't always the perfect size to fit the screen. The bookmarks widget, for example, wasn't wide enough to fill the screen, but didn't leave enough width for us to tuck another one beside it. At least there is plenty of space, with up to seven home screens on offer -- you'll just have to become used to sliding from one to the other all the time.
The widgets we tried all worked well. However, there wasn't much of a selection pre-loaded on the phone. You can pop onto the Samsung App Store on the phone to get more, but the shelves were bare when we checked, with only two £1 widgets for sale. So if you're keen on widgets, at this budget we think you should choose an alternative like the Samsung Galaxy Europa or the LG Optimus One. They have the Android OS on board, which means an app store with hundreds of widgets to install, many of which are free.
Similarly, apps are thin on the ground for Bada, although there are some good ones --we spotted an official version of Tetris for free, for example. However, the Android app store boasts thousands of apps. With the price of Android phones dropping faster than a lead balloon, this is just another reason to check out the cheaper options like the ones mentioned above.
Fast and furious
The Wave 723's Web browser loads pages quickly thanks to the phone's built-in Wi-Fi and HSDPA for fast downloads over the 3G network. Unfortunately, its low power made surfing the Web sluggish in places. For example, opening the handy Google search box sometimes caused the phone to hang for a few moments, as did opening the menus.
Multi-touch zoom made it easy to quickly zoom into text on Web pages with a pinch of our fingers, which is good because, as we mentioned already, small text is almost impossible to read on a screen with such low resolution.
The Wave 723's email support wasn't as wonderful, however. We had to manually retrieve the content of messages, which could be handy if you're starved for data on a pay as you go contract, but it was still a chore. Adding accounts was fast and easy, but we weren't able to sync our contacts from our Gmail account, although our friends from Twitter and Facebook were a cinch to add to the phone's address book.
Snap to it
We were happy with the snapshots we took with the Wave 723's 5-megapixel camera. In good light, we found the colour accurate and the shutter fast, although the images could have been sharper. The phone also offers a bucketfull of sharing options, so you can easily upload your photos to Facebook or email them to friends.
There's a dedicated camera button on the Wave 723, but it didn't launch the camera while we were using another feature -- writing a text message, for example. That makes it almost useless, but it doesn't hurt to have.
The Samsung Wave 723 is a solid, usable touchscreen phone for anyone on a budget, and we wouldn't have hesitated to recommend it -- if it was 2009. The capacitive touchscreen is responsive, the on-screen keyboard is pleasantly usable, and the few widgets on offer are fun.
But 2010 has seen a tsunami of Android phones that you can pick up for the same price, or even cheaper than the Wave 723. They tend to be flimsier and more plasticy than this phone, but in exchange you get an operating system that's packed with features and an app store that's overflowing with games and programs that add even more.