I’ve been using a Nokia 6100 as my primary cell phone for pretty much the last six odd years and so I finally decided it was high time that I brought myself kicking and screaming into the smartphone era.

After much pondering I decided that what I was really looking for was a phone that featured a camera, could play music (with a radio), surf the internet, get me on twitter etc on the go, allow me to install apps, show my location using GPS + maps and maybe allow me edit documents.  The first phone that came to mind was the iPhone, but in my opinion it was way overpriced at about Rs.33, 000 (I could replace my desktop I think for that price, plus I’m no fan of Apple’s pricing and for how it treats its users). Initially I had narrowed down to either a Nokia 5800 or Nokia E72. Both phones had most of everything I wanted and were a lot cheaper than the iPhone. On a whim I decided to check out what android phones were available in the market, and after much thought I narrowed down on the Samsung Galaxy Spica.

What’s in the box?

The Spica comes with a charger, USB data cable, Stereo hands-free kit, Software disc and a nice leathery case for the phone.


Samsung SpicaThe Spica comes with a gorgeous 3.2” TFT screen that is only slightly smaller than the iPhone screen. It has a capacitive touchscreen, and I can attest that it is highly responsive. The Spica is powered by an 800MHz processor which in my experience has been able to speedily handle anything that has been thrown at it so far. The phone features four main buttons for taking calls, hanging up the phone, pulling up the menu and for exiting options/ apps on screen. In addition to this it has a four way controller with an OK button in the center of the key arrangement and dedicated keys to bring up search and the home screen. On the sides it has volume control buttons, screen lock key and a dedicated camera button. The top of the phone has the headphone jack (standard 3.5 mm) and ports for USB connectivity. Overall it has a nice solid feel about it.


The phone comes equipped with Bluetooth, GPS, wi-fi and a digital compass. Bluetooth can by default only pair with Bluetooth capable devices. However it seems that downloading an app from the Android marketplace will enable file transfers. Ditto for the digital compass, there is no app for that in the phone. I wish Samsung had pre-installed an app for the compass. I haven’t yet tried out wi-fi on it, but I imagine it should be snappy. Lastly the GPS is quite quick. I was able to get a quick lock on a satellite and pinpoint my location on the map pretty fast.


Twidroid on the Spica

Twidroid on the Spica

Spica runs Andorid 1.5 (Cupcake). However Samsung is currently in the process of releasing an Andorid 2.1 (Éclair) firmware update for the phone, which means that this humble phone will soon be running the latest Android OS. The phone comes pre-installed with the standard Google apps like GTalk, Gmail, Google Maps etc. All the Google apps synch with my online accounts exceedingly well. It also has some social apps like MySpace, Facebook and Orkut installed.  I also downloaded a few apps from the Android Market for Twitter, Evernote, a few games etc. I have been pretty happy with them so far. My only grouse is that it comes with just 200 MB of memory, which seems a tad less for installing apps. While it’s true you can expand the memory to about 32 GB using the SD card slot, I am given to understand that you can’t run apps off the SD card without “rooting” the phone.

Browsing on the phone is a pleasure. The pages load exactly like on a PC browser (wherever mobile versions of web pages aren’t available). You can pan across the page, zoom out and zoom in on a particular part of the page quite easily. In fact this morning, the browser came to my rescue. I had set up a ruby script on my server for some research work that I was doing and suddenly realized that I need to set up another script. I could log on to net2FTP, copy the script, make changes to it and then log on to my server control panel and set up the cron task all from my phone browser!!

The Spica has three customizable home screens on which you can add shortcuts, widgets etc. The Éclair update is expected to expand the number of screens as well.

And the best part – the much vaunted multi-tasking does work!!! I have often clicked on a link in Twidroid and then switched back to it while the page loads in the background. It works very well, though I suspect it does play havoc with battery life. More on that later.


The phone has a decent 3 mp camera. The camera is without flash and in well lit conditions it takes fairly good photographs with accurate color reproduction. However in low light situations it doesn’t have stellar performance.

Sample Photograph

Sample Photograph


The Spica can play MP3’s on its installed multimedia app.  In addition to this it can apparently play DivX movies right out of the box, without any need for conversion. I haven’t played either of them so far so I can’t comment on the quality or performance of the device in this area. The phone however does not have a radio. I did think of using Pandora on it, however it turns out Pandora isn’t available in India.

Battery Life

Now this is something I am not very sure of. Thing is while I don’t really have many calls, maybe a maximum of 15-30 minutes in a day, I have however really played around with web apps. I have found myself checking twitter every 20 minutes or so, chatting on GTalk as well as checking mail frequently. In addition to this, thanks to multi-tasking most apps remain open even after you seemingly exit them. This is possibly to bring up the app faster when you use it again, but it does drain the battery. So with all this tinkering around and having GPRS/EDGE on all day, I have found that the battery lasts little over 2 days. Whether this is good or bad, I really don’t know because I don’t have a frame of reference.

To sum up, I think the Spica is good phone. It has pretty much catered to all the requirements I had of a phone and done admirably well in every aspect. If you are looking at getting a smart phone, I’d definitely recommend it.

Oh, I forgot the best part, it’s cheap!!! It cost me about Rs.12500 or about one third the cost of an iPhone. I’ll leave you with that thought for now.

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