The Samsung Galaxy Fame is a phone that comes with a celebrity name, but certainly no celebrity price tag. Available SIM-free and unlocked from around £180/US$200 and free on UK contracts starting as low as £10 per month, the Samsung Galaxy Fame will certainly not drain your bank balance.
It is unsurprising that Samsung has the most prolific smartphone sales figures. With Galaxy devices as numerous as stars in the night sky spanning every corner of the market, from the highest end Samsung Galaxy S4 and announced Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, the super-sized Samsung Galaxy Note 2 right through to the ageing Samsung Galaxy S3 before hitting the lowest ends with the Samsung Galaxy Fame and the Samsung Galaxy Young.
Samsung has clearly got a design ethos in mind, one that has been apparent since the Galaxy S3. The Samsung Galaxy S3 was far curvier than its predecessor, with its successor following very much in its footsteps.
With the Samsung Galaxy brand all very much in line, the Samsung Galaxy Fame is positioned at the very bottom, alongside the Samsung Galaxy Young.
With vital statistics sitting at 113.2 x 61.6 x 11.6mm (4.46 x 2.43 x 0.46) in size and 120.6g (4.25oz) in weight, Samsung has created a handset that sits very comfortably in the hand, if a little heavier than expected.
Clues to the smaller price tag are certainly evident from the off, the smaller 3.5-inch screen with a 320 x 480 HVGA resolution and plastic body being the biggest clues.
That said, Samsung has been a fan of using plastics on its devices since the off, with its appearance on its flagship smartphones always being a talking point. On the Samsung Galaxy Fame, the plastic feel fits the phone.
Sticking with the design of the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Samsung Galaxy Fame comes in two colours, our review model coming in white, with blue also being available.
A faux metallic band surrounds the bezel, which is noticeably thicker than on premium handsets. The curved back wraps tightly round the back of the Fame, offering a reassuringly snug fit.
As with every modern smartphone, the screen dominates proceedings. The aforementioned HVGA resolution was always going to be a bit of a worry, but its diminutive size goes some way to helping.
Thankfully, the resolution doesn’t greatly hinder the phone, since Samsung’s screen tech keeping things vivid and a lot brighter than expected.
Elsewhere on the front of the Samsung Galaxy Fame is the traditional Home button, sandwiched between the Menu and Return soft keys. At the opposite end is a metallic speaker, the VGA front-facing camera and a couple of sensors.
Underneath this, Samsung has powered the Galaxy Fame with a single core 1GHz processor, as well as 512MB of RAM. These sit alongside a VGA front-facing camera, 5MP rear snapper (with flash) and 4GB of internal storage, of which a mere 1.95GB is free.
Externally, the Samsung Galaxy Fame comes with the standard micro USB port at the bottom, sat alongside the microphone, with the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.
Unsurprisingly, the volume rocker is on the left and the Power/Lock button is directly opposite, on the right-hand side. Being such a small phone, every inch of the screen – as well as every button – was easy to hit one-handed, which is ideal for the younger generation that Samsung seems to be aiming the Galaxy Fame at.
Behind the wrap-around back cover, which sits reassuringly tightly to the back of the Fame, the 1300mAh battery sits over the SIM slot. Thankfully, as with all Samsung Galaxy devices, the Samsung Galaxy Fame also comes equipped with a microSD slot, which even more thankfully is hot-swappable.
The Samsung Galaxy Fame shapes up to be an interesting prospect. The budget market has become increasingly packed with Android phones, with last year’s flagship devices slipping down the price scales to sit alongside newly launched tech.
The question is, will the Samsung Galaxy Fame live forever? Or will it crash into the ground while learning to fly?
Since the very first Samsung Galaxy phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Portal, the Korean firm has been creating and tweaking its TouchWiz overlay.
Samsung has fitted the Samsung Galaxy Fame with Android 4.1.2, treating you to the sweet sugary goodness of Jelly Bean, if not in its latest iteration.
The 1GHz of power underneath the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s hood is almost instantly noticeable from the lock screen.
The usefulness of being able to have three apps that can be launched directly from here is somewhat subdued when it takes a couple of seconds to load the camera.
Which apps you choose to launch are customisable, but by default are ChatOn – Samsung’s answer to BBM and iMessage – as well as the Google Now search engine and the Camera. Don’t go expecting any fancy lock screen animations, such as a ripple, either.
The lack of power wasn’t so noticeable once we got past the lock screen. The Samsung Galaxy Fame seemed to flow a lot better. There was a definite hesitation, but nothing frustrating.
TouchWiz has been built to be an intuitive interface, and it succeeds. Everything is simple to use, with Samsung providing some helpful little tips when you first use the Galaxy Fame. The biggest let down of the phone is one that seems to have appeared on a lot of lower-end handsets – namely the lack of an auto brightness feature. We really can’t figure this one out.
The dock can only handle three apps alongside the app drawer launcher, given the smaller stature of the screen. This frustration is somewhat alleviated with the ability to create folders and put them in the dock. When creating folders you can’t drag icons onto one another, rather you have to long-press and tap folders instead.
Throughout the phone, Samsung’s tweaks are evident, no more so than with the widgets. The weather clock widget available on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is a very smart affair, reflecting the time and weather conditions based on your location.
Apps and widgets can be accessed via the phone’s app drawer on the bottom-right, with long-presses dragging them over onto one of the home screens, and up to seven available. Samsung has also kindly given us the option to hide apps within the app drawer, so apps that can’t be removed can at least be hidden.
One of the key features of any Android experience, emulated on later iOS versions, is the notifications bar. Swiping the bar down gives access to the notifications screen, complete with the quick settings that Samsung has put in every TouchWiz iteration.
There are a lot more options available than you may previously have been used to, and as we mentioned before, it moves across every time you open the bar. We could list all the available power saving options, but needless to say they cover GPS and Wi-Fi, as well as the mobile data and an interesting setting known as Blocking Mode.
Blocking Mode disables notifications, including calls from people who aren’t on a set list. It can also be set to a timer, making it ideal for when you’re asleep.
Elsewhere in the Samsung Galaxy Fame notifications bar is a brightness toggle, as well as the very smartly laid out clock and date in the top-left, opposite access to the phone’s settings.
The Android Jelly Bean experience with swiping away notifications and expanding notifications is also present, making it easy to dismiss the spam emails or a Facebook message that you "don’t want" when you’re at work…
In all, the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s interface is a pretty standard Samsung affair. Anybody used to playing with one of the Korean firm’s handsets will feel immediately at home. TouchWiz isn’t without its faults, but it is right up there with the best, with the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s biggest flaw being the single-core heart beating at the centre.
Contacts and calling
Samsung’s tweaks extend into the Contacts and Phone apps. This is neither a good nor a bad thing. The intuitive ability to phone or message contacts by side-swiping directly from the contacts list is a big bonus.
The Contacts app is little more than a very plain list of contacts. It’s by no means an attractive app, but it certainly is very functional.
Android has the ability to pull in all your contacts from a variety of different social accounts.
The two main ones we foresee being of interest – Facebook and Google – are both there, with Samsung continually omitting Twitter. Thankfully, downloading the app from the Play Store resolves this issue.
Each contact is adorned with a profile picture, taken from either the Google assigned one or their Facebook profile picture. The contact list also shows you which accounts are linked to each contact.
Opening up the contact provides that person’s details. A tiny low-res picture sits to the left, leaving a massive gap on the right.
This is very disappointing, since the gap is left solely for Google+ updates (for those who have Google+ contacts).
This area could be far better used for Facebook or Twitter updates, or a higher resolution image.
Unfortunately, Samsung’s TouchWiz interface has suffered in comparison to other handsets, notably HTC’s offerings, since there is very little social integration within the contacts app.
As we mentioned, there are no social updates other than from Google+ (we actually had to think of conversation starters), and merging contacts from multiple accounts had so be done manually.
We could, and have, bemoaned Samsung’s contact list for being a bit poorer than other offerings. In reality, it is little more than a very functional app based on the fantastic stock Android offering.
This means that your list of contacts can be sorted into groups, have favourites or widgets, or go so far as assigning different contacts their own individual ringtone and vibration pattern.
In order to keep its title as a smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Fame needs to make phone calls.
Thankfully, unlike higher-level processors and better cameras, this is a feature that Samsung hasn’t omitted to keep costs down.
Call quality was as we expected – nothing mind-blowing, but perfectly reasonable.
With no second microphone to speak of, there was no super fancy noise reduction, but that wasn’t a hindrance, because all of our contacts were able to hear us well, except in very windy conditions, or with a lot of traffic nearby.
Calling options are also out in force, with the ability to make a second call, access the keypad, put the call on speaker or mute, transfer the call to a bluetooth headset, or end the call all together.
Nothing special there, but we are still glad to see them.
Samsung’s biggest winner here is the set of post-calling options. All too often we have made a call and then forgotten to mention something, or have said "I’ll text you the details".
The Koreans must have known this, because for a second after the call has ended, there are quick buttons to recall, video call or text that contact. It may be a small feature, but Samsung phones really benefit from it.
Within the Phone app, a large white T9 dialler greets you. Continuing Samsung’s functional theme, there is very little to say about the looks.
Thankfully, smart dialling is on offer – typing 323 bringing up both Dad, as well as any contacts with 323 within the phone number.
While many people would consider it a staple of the smartphone diet, its inclusion on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is well received given that it doesn’t appear on iOS or Windows handsets such as the Nokia Lumia 520.
With the inclusion of a front-facing camera, the Samsung Galaxy Fame is also able to support video calls.
These can be made normally, although we’d suggest that the majority of conversations will take place over apps such as Skype.
With the feature phones of old relying on a very heavy mix of SMS and calls, smart handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy Fame rely more on IM and email services such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Gmail.
If we start with the SMS app, again this is another functional and unattractive app. This is highly disappointing, because LG has shown on the Optimus L3 2 just how nice the app can look.
The blue and yellow bubbles can be changed, as can the background. It’s a bit of a shame that one of the others isn’t set by default, since we don’t see many people actively searching these changes out.
One useful feature of the SMS app is the ability to change the text size by using the volume keys, which is ideal for older users. Given that we see the Samsung Galaxy Fame being heavily targeted and used by much younger audiences, this feature may prove to be a little redundant.
Group messaging is also very easy. For this, selecting the small icon that looks a little like the contacts icon brings up your contacts list, meaning you can choose to text multiple people, even from your list of favourites and recently contacted people.
Because SMS is slowly being replaced by alternate messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, BBM and iMessage, Samsung is keen to get in on the action.
WhatsApp is proving to be very popular across multiple operating systems, and is thankfully available on the Samsung Galaxy Fame. BBM has been announced for iOS and Android phones, though Apple’s iMessage is unavailable on devices other than iOS-powered ones.
Samsung has also provided its own option, dubbed ChatON. While having all the right ingredients to prove a successful IM app, the large amount of other OEM devices and other IM services, coupled with the lack of contacts we found, make ChatON a little disappointing.
Google Talk has also been replaced with Google Hangouts, its newly branded instant messaging and video calling service.
This service links in with your Google accounts, making it easier to find contacts who are online and available to message. There is also a dedicated Google+ Messenger app, which is highly confusing.
In order to type all the messages, you need a decent keyboard. We can’t put our finger on the exact reasons why, but we found that the Samsung Galaxy Fame keyboard was a little sub-par for what we hoped.
The smaller screen makes the whole keyboard a little cramped, and the autocorrect feature is hardly the best we’ve ever seen.
Samsung’s offering does give you continuous input (the Korean firm’s answer to Swype) and we were also impressed with the ability to swipe the entire keyboard to the side in order to switch between different keyboard inputs – it’s a slightly easier option than finding the tiny button in the corner.
One of the major bonuses of the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s screen size is that it means you can use the keyboard one-handed. Unfortunately, the compromise is that it makes it slightly more squashed, which given the poorer autocorrect meant we had to type a lot slower.
On the flip-side, we’ve commented before that on 4-inch screened phones, landscape typing can be a little more difficult, given the size. The smaller screen on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is the complete opposite, with the screen size being nigh on perfect for two-handed landscape typing.
Email is also well catered for on the Samsung Galaxy Fame, in much the same way that it is on every Android phone on the market. Google has created Gmail and Email apps that are very functional and very easy to use.
The newly updated Gmail app is a far cleaner and more attractive option than before, and is still highly usable. The new colours make it brighter, and it comes packed with all the features that you can get from the desktop version.
The update also throws in contacts’ pictures, making the whole app feel clean and well put together. Labelling and archiving emails also shows just how intuitive the Gmail app is.
For other email accounts besides Gmail, the stock Android Email app is available, and is very easy to set up. Pop in your account information and the necessary details are all drawn in automatically. On the odd occasion, you may need to manually input POP or IMAP settings.
Inside the app is just about everything you could wish for from an Email client, including an aggregated inbox to handle multiple accounts.
We’ve said it before, and we can say it again, that both browsers are pretty much identical, with the stock Android browser having come on in leaps and bounds since its inception.
Unsurprisingly there is no 4G LTE chip in the Samsung Galaxy Fame. Yes you heard that right. Shame really. Well, not really, because the 1GHz internal chip is able to cope with 3G speeds, but the speeds of 4G would still be hampered by the slower clock speed.
The 1GHz internals really do seem to slow the whole internet experience down, more so than we have seen on other, identically specced handsets. The LG Optimus L5 2, for example, has the same size chipset yet provided a much smoother experience.
The screen was also a problem when it came to using the Samsung Galaxy Fame. 3.5 inches is just not sufficient for anything other than very basic use, such as light reading on a mobile site, or checking up on your team’s scores on a sports site.
When surfing the net (do they still say that?), we’d recommend the standard internet app for once, even though the Chrome app ties in a lot better across multiple devices and platforms.
That said, both browsers can pull in your saved Google bookmarks if you sign in with your Google account, and both browsers offer incognito browsing too.
Creating and accessing bookmarks is thankfully as simple as it always has been. Next to the small URL bar is a banner with a star, which you tap to gain access.
This brings up the standard bookmarks that come along with the Samsung Galaxy Fame, used to sell you things such as games and ringtones. Below these come the bookmarks imported from your Google account(s).
To create a bookmark, believe it or not, just tap the Create Bookmark bar. This enables you to title your bookmark, and change its save location.
Default is to save it to the Samsung Galaxy Fame only, but you can choose to pop it into any of your Google accounts, so you can access them anywhere.
The bookmarks tab also gives access to your History and saved pages, which collates your browsing history from the past day, and past week. It also intuitively brings up your most visited pages. We don’t see a massive need for this last feature, but it might come in handy.
It’s a real shame that we couldn’t find a way of getting text reflow to work on the Samsung Galaxy Fame – all the methods we could think of, such as a double-tap on the screen, didn’t work. There was a certain level of zooming that worked, but the text didn’t reflow itself.
A useful feature of the native browser is offline viewing. This is useful to an extent, because pages are saved as images. While functional, this means that there is no ability to open links within the page, even when your data connection returns.
Standard Android options present on the Samsung Galaxy Fame include the ability to select text easily, by long-pressing on an area of text. This brings up two sliders, marking the beginning and end of highlighted text.
These can be adjusted so you can select as much or as little text as needed, then tap again to copy the words you’ve highlighted to the clipboard, to be pasted into another app.
Elsewhere in the settings there are varying toggles, such as the useful ability to turn off image loading and disable plug-ins, which is ideal for those on restrictive data plans.
Settings also highlights the security features on offer, such as password management and location features.
The internet experience on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is generally very poor. It might just have been our review handset, but we found Chrome almost unusable, as every page we went to load just gave us a black screen.
Speeds over Wi-Fi and 3G connections were generally acceptable, although for serious web browsing, the Samsung Galaxy Fame is definitely not the phone for you.
For a phone that comes in significantly cheaper than some of its higher-end rivals – such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, Huawei Ascend G510, Sony Xperia J and LG Optimus L5 2 – the Samsung Galaxy Fame also packs in a 5MP rear-facing sensor, complete with a front-facing camera that was notably omitted on the latter of the aforementioned rivals.
Being able to launch the camera from the lock screen initially seems to be a major bonus, one that seems to be making its way over to many smartphone operating systems and interfaces.
The lack of internal grunt is a major problem, however. We swiped to unlock to the camera, and were given the home screen, leading us to believe that we hadn’t opened the camera, but then a second later the camera opened.
This is a really frustrating problem. We’ve seen that it takes a few seconds on other smartphones, but it really did seem to take an age to load the camera app. That funny cat pose, baby’s first steps and that pretty butterfly will have long gone before you even get the camera to focus.
The lack of a dedicated shutter button for the camera app is also an annoyance, but one that we have come to accept, since it is so often omitted on smartphone cameras.
We were very happy to find that customisable autofocus points can be selected by tapping on the screen, and we found that the volume rocker can double up as a zoom changer.
There isn’t a massive level of zoom available on the Samsung Galaxy Fame – it just goes up to 2x. We know that a digital zoom is hardly worth having anyway, because it reduces the image resolution, but for those who like to use it, only zooming in to 2x is really poor.
In terms of features, the Samsung Galaxy Fame camera has just about all you would expect – a flash, image size, geotagging, three colour effects (black and white, sepia and negative), scene modes, ISO, white balance and a timer.
Generally we found that these features aren’t of much use on phone cameras, tending to be for the more serious photographer – someone very unlikely to use the Samsung Galaxy Fame.
Samsung does provide different shooting modes, such as Single Shot, Panorama, Share Shot and Smile Shot. We see the Single Shot being the one you’ll most frequently use, because Share Shot shares your photos via Wi-Fi direct connections (something that is only really prevalent on other Samsung Galaxy devices), and Smile Shot is dedicated for portrait pictures.
As with just about every smartphone these days, the Video app here is just a continuation of the camera app. The Samsung Galaxy Fame therefore includes the same black and white, sepia and negative effects alongside white balance and exposure adjustments.
Samsung has also provided the Galaxy Fame with the ability to limit video sizing for MMS, fitting in with the idea that the video isn’t designed for the big screen, but more for messaging to friends.
That becomes even clearer when you find out that the video recording is limited to VGA resolution (640 x 480). Video recording is also at 25fps, meaning that action is not always very smooth.
In all, the video app is very lacking. Given that we see the Samsung Galaxy Fame in the mitts of the younger generation, being used at high school to record the day’s nonsense, we highly doubt that any other features would have been used anyway.
Having a flash is not only a bonus for the camera, but also for the video. While there is no way of turning the flash on and off while recording the video, you can choose whether you want it or not beforehand. Recording with flash yields very high contrast.
Looking at the Samsung Galaxy Fame, it is immediately obvious that media consumption was not at the fore of the designers’ minds. The smaller screen being too small, with a lower resolution, makes it a poor choice for watching anything other than short YouTube clips.
Plus the tiny 1.95GB of storage available after Android and others have taken up a chunk of the 4GB memory is uninspiring, though it can be expanded via the phone’s micro SD card slot or cloud storage via the Dropbox app.
The Music app is again another basic affair, with some of Samsung’s touches popping up. The most notable special touch is the Music Square.
This is a very peculiar piece of tech, one that we have seen before in other phones but that we have very high reservations about nevertheless.
In simple terms, the Samsung Galaxy Fame will sort your music by its mood, so that you can select the appropriate square to match the way you’re feeling, and have the phone play songs to match.
Open the music player and you’re greeted with a rather fancy stock Android player.
This also brings up a little bar in the notifications area, as it has on Samsung Galaxy phones for years. From here you can play/pause and skip tracks.
Samsung’s music player is relatively well equipped to play media, with more file types than you can shake a stick at being supported. Samsung list these as MP3, OGG, FLAC, 3GP, MP4, M4A, IMY, MIDI, AMR, AWB, WMA and AAC (ADTS).
There is also a widget to accompany it, which again we were glad to see. Our only slight disappointment was the inability to control it all directly from the lock screen.
Within the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s music player are the usual shuffle, skip and repeat functions.
The music player also offers equaliser settings that have been put into a Sound Alive screen, which includes quite a long list of settings, such as Pop, Rock, Jazz through to Virtual 7.1 and Concert Hall. There’s even a custom setting, should you really feel the need to go to town with it.
You’d hope that with all of these settings, then, that the Samsung Galaxy Fame would not have trouble with sound quality. We weren’t left disappointed.
Sound out of the rear speaker is rather loud, although it can get a little tinny at the highest levels. Plug in a decent set of headphones and the sound quality goes up about five notches. Obviously the quality of your headphones will play a part, but Samsung has got the sound right with Fame.
When it comes to video, we were a little shocked to find that the Samsung Galaxy Fame didn’t wish to play our test video. We’ve found on a few of the lower end handsets that we are greeted with a warning on the desktop showing that the phone might not be able to play the video, but until now they have all managed it anyway.
Thankfully there is the option to convert it, however the estimated conversion time of the 90 minute video was around an hour. We left the video to convert, but in its new WMV format, the Samsung Galaxy Fame was still unable to play the file.
Samsung claims that the Galaxy Fame can play MPEG4, 3GPP, MKV and WebM file types, yet our test video was originally in MP4 format.
The video player itself is a basic affair, offering play, pause and manual selection of timing placements. Don’t expect to see pop-up play on the Samsung Galaxy Fame, although with a screen that small we’re not entirely surprised or bothered.
Radio and photos
Samsung has equipped the Galaxy Fame with an FM radio, however. We found that it had some trouble picking up some of the stations that we expected it to, which was a little disheartening. The app itself is well designed, again being perfectly functional.
The Gallery app is again another functional app.
Tiles show each folder, with the Samsung Galaxy Fame able to pull in our Picasa/Google+ photo albums, though not our Facebook shots.
Editing photos taken on the Samsung Galaxy Fame is, unfortunately, not possible.
Battery life and connectivity
When we were told that the Samsung Galaxy Fame was only being graced with a 1300mAh battery, we admit we scoffed a little. Dealing with flagship phones with massive screens must have left us with the idea that massive batteries were the in thing.
When compared alongside the 1540mAh battery offered by the LG Optimus L3 2, the 1300mAh battery in the Samsung Galaxy Fame fades a little in comparison. In truth, with a tiny screen and a lower clocked processor, 1300mAh should be more than sufficient. We did find ourselves leaving the screen on maximum brightness most of the time, because the lack of an auto brightness feature meant that we forgot to turn it down.
With the small screen and the low powered processor, the whole use of the phone is geared towards stretching out a longer battery life. Media consumption and game playing were kept to a minimum as the Samsung Galaxy Fame struggled to cope with anything too strenuous, although it coped admirably with our need to update social media accounts and send messages to all of our friends.
When we did throw some gaming in there, we have to say were left wanting. We threw 13 minutes of Temple Run 2 gaming its way, and we found that it ate 10% of the battery. This left us feeling a little let down, especially given that we can see the Samsung Galaxy Fame in the hands of teens – the people who are most likely to play games.
Samsung’s TouchWiz interface has meant for a while that there is access to quick settings via the notifications bar. This is a feature that we have long admired, since it enables you to turn off Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and other such battery draining settings at will.
There was, however, no way of viewing the battery percentage in the notifications bar, like we have seen before. It might only be a minor niggle, but we have always found that the little battery icon is never entirely accurate, often showing that there seems to be more charge than there is.
Within the Samsung Galaxy Fame’s setting menu, it is also possible to change the duration of the backlight on the capacitive touch buttons, as well as being able to change the screen-on duration. It’s only a minor feature, but every little helps.
The 1300mAh battery offering is by no means outstanding. If you intend to use the Samsung Galaxy Fame for gaming (we don’t get why you would) or, in reality, anything other than light web browsing and messaging your mates, the Samsung Galaxy Fame starts to struggle, especially in comparison to the LG Optimus L3 2.
When it comes to connectivity, the Samsung Galaxy Fame comes packed with everything that you could imagine a phone at the bottom end of the market would.
3G/HSUPA is supported to HSDPA 7.2Mbps and HSUPA 5.76Mbps, along with Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, NFC, Bluetooth with A2DP support and GPS/GLONASS.
Wi-Fi Direct, which has already been available across Samsung Galaxy phones for a while, is also available.
For those who are unaware of what GLONASS is, it’s a Russian developed, slightly less accurate location system, that we’ve heard is necessary to avoid import taxes to Russia. It does mean that location tracking is even faster.
Connection to a PC is done via the supplied micro USB cable, with file transfer available via mass storage or via digital camera software. Mass storage is the easiest, so you can hook up the Samsung Galaxy Fame as a standard USB storage device for dragging and dropping files. On the Galaxy Fame, Samsung has provided a file manager, meaning that any files you put onto it are easily located.
Samsung also has its proprietary Kies software, should you want a desktop manager for your Galaxy Fame. We’ve used Kies before, and it’s not a bad piece of software. We do think, though, that it is far easier to just drag and drop files using Windows Explorer. Kies is usually necessary for software updates, but we don’t see the Samsung Galaxy Fame being treated to any, given its really low price tag.
Maps and apps
With the Google Play Store pushing Apple further than ever, and holding off the Windows app store too, apps are very easy to get hold of on the Samsung Galaxy Fame.
Usefully, games and apps in the Store are viewable by Top Free, Top Paid, Top Grossing, Top New Free and Top New Paid groups, helping to filter out the excess rubbish.
Pre-installed apps are kept to a minimum, with Samsung’s Game and Apps hubs on offer alongside the standard Google offerings in the way of Google+, Hangouts, Gmail, Google Play, Play Music and YouTube, and alongside the Mapping apps such as Maps, Local and Navigation.
The Samsung Galaxy Fame comes with very little in the way of S-inspired apps that have made themselves famous on larger, more powerful Samsung Galaxy handsets. So there’s no S Translate, S Travel, S Suggest or S Voice, but there is the S Planner, which is a fancy name for a calendar app.
Facebook also comes pre-installed, making it easier to set the Samsung Galaxy Fame up from the very start. Twitter, however, must be located and downloaded from the Google Play Store.
Dropbox is also included, in order to help relieve the stress on the tiny 1.95GB of storage available from the 4GB that is initially stated.
When it comes to gaming on the Samsung Galaxy Fame, we must again mention the smaller processor. With modern mobile gaming becoming increasingly popular, a theme has emerged, with graphics that compare with last generation consoles. This means that the Samsung Galaxy Fame struggles.
One of our games of choice is Temple Run 2, because it’s highly popular, addictive and simple to play, coupled with half-decent graphics. We were pleased to see that we could download it, but the phone took a while to load it – we timed it at 24.6 seconds before it was playable.
In order to download and install apps, Samsung also offers its own app and games centres, creatively titled Games Hub and Samsung Apps. We’ve seen OEMs input their own stores onto phones before, but we have yet to see a massive point in any of them, because the Google Play Store is so well populated. We were also a little disheartened by the fact that there was no video or books store that we have seen on prior devices, though given the phone’s tiny screen, we can see why.
We have no reason to suggest why you shouldn’t or wouldn’t use the Samsung offerings, since the apps are both clear and easy to use. We’d even go so far as to say that the app is better looking than its Play Store compatriots. Unfortunately it doesn’t come as heavily populated, or with as many features.
Being less populated and less used also means that apps come with fewer – or in some cases no – user reviews, so you can’t tell whether the app is going to be worth splashing your cash on or not.
As you have heard it all before, we won’t go into much detail with regards to the Google Maps app. If you’ve used the desktop version, you’ll have a fairly good understanding of how the app works and what it can do.
Being possibly the most well-known Google product, after its search function, Google Maps was always going to get a lot of love and attention. As with every iteration on every device, the application is absolutely superb, if hampered by the really poor processor.
GPS lock on was rather snappy, aided by the GLONASS system.
Google Maps also includes Navigation software. We’ve always been impressed by Google’s effort here, not least because it’s free. There are other sat nav apps available from the Google Play Store, of course, but when you’re in a spot of bother, Google will easily sort you out.
One feature we are fond of is that it taps into traffic data, and can tell you how long your route is set to take in those conditions. This means if you pull to the side of the road – we’re safe drivers – you can easily reroute. We’d have liked active rerouting, but for a free app we’re not arguing.
Hands on gallery
The Samsung Galaxy Fame is another Galaxy handset designed to sit towards the bottom of the range, competing in the challenging budget smartphone market. This leaves it to play against the likes of the LG Optimus L3 2, the Nokia Lumia 520 and Samsung’s other offering, the Samsung Galaxy Young.
As the song goes, we looked, and now we’re going to tell you what we saw. Given time though, we really don’t see the Samsung Galaxy Fame making us forget the rest.
If we see it, we like it. We’re talking about microSD card support. We put it in our "we liked" section a lot, but that is purely because it is omitted from so many modern smartphones. Having support for microSD cards really boosts the internal storage, of which the Samsung Galaxy Fame has very little.
We also like the TouchWiz interface. It has got a lot better since its early days, increasing to become a highly usable and intuitive UI. It gives Android Jelly Bean a really nice feel, being simple enough for novices, yet with enough features to satisfy more seasoned users too.
The design is also very nice. It sits nicely in the hand, is easy to use one-handed, and fits very well into the existing Samsung Galaxy range, being very much the baby brother to the flagship phones. The plastic feel suits the Samsung Galaxy Fame too, given the much smaller price tag.
NFC is also making its way onto the lower-end phones, so it is nice to see that the Samsung Galaxy Fame is another handset that includes it even at the low end cost.
Our biggest bugbear is the processor. We’ve used phones with a single-core 1GHz processor before, and it wasn’t too long ago that they were gracing the likes of the HTC Desire or the Samsung Galaxy S.
They have since popped up in the cheaper devices and been fine, yet the Samsung Galaxy Fame really seems to suffer. Loading the camera app from the lock screen is the biggest culprit, with it taking more than a few seconds to kick into gear.
The tiny screen is also a problem. It is low resolution, has no auto brightness feature, and results in a tiny keyboard. This made it very fiddly to use, and the autocorrect function is not really up to the standard we have come to expect from a modern smartphone.
The camera is also really poor. The 5MP sensor takes decent enough photos in the right lighting conditions, but on a bright sunny day, light areas lose a lot of detail. Video recording is also really poor, with the 640 x 480 VGA resolution not enough for filming anything of note.
The Samsung Galaxy Fame is not a phone that will live forever, and it hasn’t quite learned to fly. It is clear from the very outset that Samsung has used the ingredients to create a lower-end smartphone, such as the smaller internal chipset, the smaller screen and the low internal storage.
In doing so the Samsung Galaxy Fame, in a continuation of the Samsung Galaxy range’s design, feels a little underpowered. The feel of the Samsung Galaxy Fame, with the TouchWiz interface and external design, is reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, and makes you want to see it as a more expensive handset.
The smaller chipset generally nipped along fairly well when swiping between home screens, but when waking up to the camera or loading slightly larger apps, the Samsung Galaxy Fame struggled really quite noticeably, to the point where we were feeling rather frustrated.
We can see the Samsung Galaxy Fame selling a fair few units, especially given its super low price tag, and we don’t see that as a bad thing, given that the majority of users will likely be young, and wanting a way of connecting to Facebook, but for anything more substantial, the handset really struggles.
First reviewed: June 2013
By Gareth Beavis, TechRadar