For the longest time, when people thought of S60 powered smartphones, they thought of Nokia. While Nokia has had other licensees for S60, none of the devices have ever made a real mark on the market. Samsung, too, has a long history of S60 devices from over the years that mostly never made it to retail shelves.
Things are different now, though, and Samsung's new 8 megapixel camera equipped i8510 INNOV8 is ready to make a big splash. This phone has hard core camera credentials, 16GB of internal storage, a big QVGA display, GPS, and just about every goody one would expect to find on an S60 smartphone. In short, Nokia appears to have some real competition.
In terms of basic design, the Samsung i8510 INNOV8 will feel familiar to anyone that has used a Nokia N95 or N96 recently. The INNOV8 sports a very similar slider form factor, has a large 2.8" QVGA resolution display, and a camera located on the back. Very Nokia like. But there are a few items that show that Samsung has chosen the road less traveled for some of its solutions. For starters, the d-pad controller has an optical joystick controller embedded in it. Think of it as an upside down optical mouse. Moving one's finger across it will navigate in the appropriate direction, and when used with a mouse aware application, such as the S60 browser, the joystick gives users a very desktop like mouse pointer control. It isn't perfect, as it can sometimes be activated when simply using the d-pad normally, but overall we're much happier with it now than we were when we first handled a prototype of the phone months ago.
Another non-Nokia touch is the automatic camera lens cover that opens and closes as needed when the camera is activated. It even closes when the camera's settings screen is accessed. The keypad is also quite un-Nokia. It is basically a flat metal sheet with raised finger guides on it. It offers good tactile feedback while helping to keep the phone overall thin. And while the i8510 is no competition for a RAZR, its 112mm x 54.5mm x 17.5mm (4.4" x 2.1" x .7") dimensions are completely pocketable. Some might find the phone's 149.7g (5.3oz) weight to be a bit high, but the INNOV8 feels very solidly built, which makes the extra heft easier to accept.
In addition to the normal left and right softkeys and the call send and end buttons that surround the d-pad, there are a number of other buttons on the phone. The silver button to the left of the d-pad brings up the main menu and can be held down to call up the task manager, which can be used to kill off running apps. The right hand silver button brings up the media app, which provides access to photos, videos, music, and other media. The M1 and M2 keys on the slide out keypad can be customized by the user and set to launch any application or web bookmark that they desire. By default, M1 launches the music player and M2 brings up the RealPlayer video viewer.
Other controls on the phone include the volume rocker that is on the left edge of the phone, the dual-stage camera shutter button on the right, and the camera photo/video/viewer slider switch that sits higher up the right hand edge. I really like how the phone can be unlocked and the camera activated with just a long press of the shutter button and a click on the d-pad's center button for confirmation. It is fast and convenient, and the slider switch control makes the INNOV8 even more camera like.
Other physical features of the phone include the covered micro-USB data/power port on the left edge, which is next to the 3.5mm headphone jack connector, the covered microSD card slot on the right edge, and the auto-dimmer light sensor and front facing camera that sit above the display. In terms of finishes, the back cover of the i8510 has a semi-gloss surface, but the rest of the phone is glossy black - but not too glossy. It's all very tasteful, very elegant. I'm not pleased with the WiFi, DLNA, GPS, and DiVX logos printed on the back, but otherwise everything looks quite nice. Apart from some minor issues with the optical mouse controller, Samsung appears to have done a stellar job with the design of the i8510 INNOV8 - even if it does seem a bit Nokia derived.
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