Think Samsung's Omnia, but squatter. It's no surprise that two Samsung touchscreen handsets released in short succession should look so alike. There are subtle differences in the shape and size of the mechanical keys, and the Omnia's 3-inch display is a 2.8-inch touchscreen on the F480, but otherwise these guys are like twins separated at birth
The F480 has a pleasing weight and its brushed metal finish feels nice to hold. Samsung has opted for a capacitive touchscreen in the F480, as opposed to the resistive touchscreen technology it tends to employ, and while these technologies are vastly different, the end result subtly favours the F480. Capacitive touchscreens react to fingers only (or contact with any part of your body), so you cannot use a stylus, but the upside is a more responsive display.
Samsung has designed a good touchscreen interface for this handset. Incorporating the company's TouchWiz widgets homescreen and large colourful menu items, we've had no significant difficulty in navigating the menus or performing basic phone functions. We're still not sold on the usefulness of the TouchWiz widgets, though our review unit came with four Telstra widgets which are great links to Next G services.
Comparisons with Apple's iPhone are inevitable, on the merit of the touchscreens and colour menus mostly, but there are important differences to note. Firstly, the F480 isn't a smartphone. It runs on Samsung's proprietary operating platform and as such you cannot develop or install third party applications to this phone, other than Java-based software.
Also, the F480 doesn't include Wi-Fi hardware or a GPS receiver, like Apple's smartphone. Instead the F480 sports strong consumer phone features, including a 5-megapixel camera with an LED flash and access to Next G services and mobile Foxtel.
In unison with 7.2Mbps HSDPA data speeds the F480T has an excellent pre-installed web browser. Its interface is simple and clean, and it does a great job of rendering pages in a single column mobile view, which is lucky because zooming requires more keystrokes than the finger gestures iPhone users will be accustomed to.
The F480 supports a range of multimedia including DRM-free MP3 and AAC music files and MPEG4, H.264 and H.263 video files. The music player interface is serviceable, but it has nothing on the slick iPod Coverflow menu found on the iPhone.
Unlike the Samsung Omnia, the F480 has fewer feathers in its cap, but we've been mostly impressed with how each of these features has performed. Making and receiving calls is good with a loud, if slightly muffled, speaker at your ear. Creating messages is a breeze due to a well-designed onscreen T9 keypad. Some people may be disappointed to discover the F480 doesn't use a virtual QWERTY keyboard, but from our experience with other touchscreen phones, this is not a feature we'd make use of anyway.
The speed of menu navigation and processing in applications is mostly sufficient. The time between selecting an option or application and seeing the results is typically about one second. This pause is smoothed over somewhat by animated transitions, though these tend to stutter and lag.
The F480 does an excellent job of behaving like a portable media player, though with matching file recognition and no significant internal storage or 3.5mm headphone socket on the phone (it does come with a cumbersome 3.5mm extension adapter), it's hard to recommend the F480 over the iPhone as a media player.
On the other hand the F480 may be the best Telstra Next G handset we've come across. Watching Foxtel TV on this phone truly shows off how great this service is; the streaming is fast and without interruption and the picture and audio is as good as to be expected — which is about YouTube video quality.
The 5-megapixel camera certainly seems to have all the settings and adjustments that have become common across the higher-specced camera phones. The F480 has a variety of shooting modes and white balance settings, picture quality and focusing mode adjustments. In the field we found the camera took photos that represented the colours we saw well, but tended to flare in sunlight and often struggled to focus. As far as 5-megapixel camera phones go the F480 is a mid-range shooter and will pass the test for Facebook bloggers, but not so for people who may want to print these photos down the track.
At CNET we love to see phones that know exactly what they are, and don't fail pretending to be something they are not. This describes the F480 exactly. The F480 is the perfect match for the first generation iPhone, before Apple filled its phone with MS Exchange support and a GPS receiver.
If you're in the market for a chic-looking touchscreen phone, with responsive input, a decent camera and a standard range of media playback, then the F480 is worth checking out. If you're looking for a business-capable smartphone, look elsewhere.