Build Quality and Design
The Wave III might not look much different from the Wave or the Wave II, but that's largely because it shares the same design strengths as its predecessors, including an excellent finish involving materials we wouldn't expect on such an affordable handset. Indeed, in many ways, the Wave III feels classier than some of Samsung's latest smartphones, including the flagship Galaxy S II. The outside of the Wave III is a careful balance between quality plastics and brushed metal, giving it a clean, refined, minimalist style.
But Samsung hasn't just chosen its materials wisely and put them together well: the curvaceous handset is a treat to hold. Obviously, its lightweight 122 g frame and wafer-thin 9.9 mm from front to back help with that. Having a 4'' screen means it has to be pretty large, but the Wave III still manages not to feel bulky, even when you have it in a pocket. Another external element we approve of is the flap at the back which opens to give easy access to the battery, SIM card slot and the microSD card; it's a system we'd happily see on lots of other mobiles.
Despite the affordable pricing—and because it had to keep up with the reputation earned by the first Wave—Samsung has given the Wave III a great 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED display, with infinite contrast and excellent brightness. As ever, though, it produces flashy, garish colours which are nothing like the originals. That is, however, likely to appeal to many of Samsung's target audience, which doesn't particularly care about accurate colour reproduction. The resolution is also a bit stingy for such a large display, meaning, of course, that the individual pixels are visible.
Interface and responsiveness
Samsung only uses Bada OS for its Wave range of smartphones, and the Wave III is the first to get version 2.0. That includes a new version of the TouchWiz interface, with new icons, more homescreens, animated transitions and a notification area. There are also a handful of new features, including the ability to sort apps into folders, which is helpful if you download them by the dozen. That's not the only thing that Bada OS has in common with Android, or iOS for that matter—the general navigation structure is almost identical between all three platforms. But anybody who is used to using Android might find Bada, which is a little rough around the edges and much less graphically rich, somewhat disappointing; that's even more true, of course, for anybody who's used Android with an extra layer of custom software like HTC Sense.
Social networking fans will be able to rely on the Social Hub to keep up to date with their contacts from a single screen, whether they're on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
ChatOn is Samsung's free messaging service, but it only works with other Bada or Android phones.
For app downloads, you can use the Samsung Apps platform, but compared to the Apple AppStore or Android Market, it is pretty empty. Instead of Apple's half a million apps, here, users have a choice of around 4 600.
Overall, the phone has a pretty smooth interface, and it is easy to flip from one menu to another. But when you're running lots of apps at once, or trying to load a complicated web page, then things slow down a little. The Wave III is less responsive than a high-end smartphone like the iPhone 4S, Galaxy S II or Nokia Lumia 800, making demanding games pretty tough.
It might 'only' have a 5 Megapixel camera instead of the 8 Megapixels that have been more popular recently, but the Wave III doesn't do too badly at all. If you compare its photos to those taken on an iPhone 4S, an Xperia Arc or Ray, a HTC Titan or a Galaxy S II from Samsung, then there could be more sharpness and some detail is missing. But for an 'affordable' smartphone, it does a pretty good job of detail, colours and noise reduction, better, even than the HTC Sensation XL, which is billed by its manufacturer as 'the' multimedia smartphone of the current crop. Amongst the phones it competes with on price, the Wave II more than keeps up.
There are several fun filters in the camera app, a timer and a panorama mode. Once again, even if the Wave III is top of its particular range, it's a mid-level phone overall, but that hasn't meant Samsung has held back on the extras. Our biggest concern was the absence of a physical button to take a photo and the rather slow autofocus on the screen.
720p video is pretty good too, with generally smooth results.
The Wave III could handle playing all the video formats we tried, including MP4 and MKVHD, as well as DivX files natively, something that some of today's most hyped phones can't do. If you want to enjoy content from your phone on a TV, the lack of a HDMI port or MHL support means you'll have to use DLNA via the All Share app, which you can use to push videos, photos and music to third-party devices.
Apart from the awful headphones, audio on the Wave III is pretty similar to its predecessor, which is actually pretty good news. The audio is of reasonable quality compared to Samsung's competitors.
Surfing the web on Bada phones means using Samsung's Dolphin browser, which is compatible with HTML 5 but not Flash. It has improved since the first two generations of the Wave family, making browsing more bearable: pages load more quickly and zooming into a page is easier. Overall, the Internet experience is better than on the Wave or the Wave II, and compared to an iPhone or a decent Android handset, the Wave III comes off quite well, even if you have to do a lot of zooming to access pages that would be fine straight away on the iPhone.
The battery in the Wave III can last for a whole day, or even two if you use it carefully. That's a great result for such a talented smartphone ...