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After dumping my beloved HTC Wildfire, which had served me well for over a year and 3 months, I got myself decent, mid-tier yet powerful Samsung Galaxy W(onder), GT-I8150. Since I knew I would definitely root the device and installed custom ROMs on it, I didn’t mind that it is a single-core processer phone, but with 1.4Ghz Scorpion, it would be more than powerful enough to fulfill my day-to-day use cases (I don’t intend to play graphics-intensive games or for that matter, I rarely ever play games on anything, mobile/desktop, at all).

Without much digression, let’s jump straight into the review. Cyanogenmod has been my choice of ROM ever since I rooted my first Android phone, so there’re no complaints about it this time around as well. Considering myself a seasoned Android user, I admit the changes in Android 4.0 are HUGE, in positive ways of course, and I did take some time to explore every part of the OS and was hooked to it for hours. The all around performance of my device has sky-rocketed upon flashing the ROM; you gotta see it for yourself if your device has CM9 support. If you are also a Galaxy W user, the ROM is available here.

Additional links: Root Guide, Installing ClockworkMod Recovery.

Note: I won’t be showing any Antutu or Quadrant benchmarks because benchmarking doesn’t give you realistic performance ratings of a device, and you know what, there would be no benchmarks at all in this review. I would focus more on the user experience under the real-world usage, which is what matters more anyway.

Device Specs

Name: Samsung Galaxy Wonder, GT-I8150

Screen Resolution: 480 x 800 (252 ppi density) on a 3.7” Gorilla-glass screen

CPU: 1.4 GHz Scorpion

GPU: Adreno 205

Storage: 1.7 GB Internal, with MicroSD expandable up to 64 GB.

More info on GSM Arena website.

The Launcher

The stock launcher on ICS is easily the best I’ve ever used (including all 3rd party launchers). Previously I was a big fan of Go Launcher as it offers the best combination of flexibility, functionality and looks; honestly I was thinking of installing Go Launcher after installing the ICS but after an hour of use on the stock launcher, I didn’t see the need to do so. The most noticeable difference is that every time a new app is installed a shortcut of the app will be created on the home screen that you are on or any available space on 1 of the 5 home screens; yes just like in iOS but well whatever works is great. Dragging an app icon onto another to create a folder is also implemented in ICS.

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Apps and Widgets

Pinning widgets onto the home screens has become an all-new business now that long-pressing on an empty space on a home screen would only bring up the options to set wallpapers. Widgets are integrated into the app drawer under a different tab, which doesn’t make pinning any easier or more difficult than it already was in the earlier versions of Android. You just need to drag the widget onto the home screen (like you would with apps) and edit the settings afterwards from there.

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Widgets implemented right within the App Drawer

Data Usage chart in the built-in Settings

The inclusion of “Data Usage” section in the native ICS settings would probably make the most popular data-monitoring app with impressive features, Onavo, lose future Android users who just need a simple overview of how much data is used. I have 12 GB of bundled data with my mobile plan each month and I have barely ever gone over 4 GB mark, so this is a non-issue for me.

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Performance, Battery Life, Memory management and more Screenshots

Being unable to connect to the camera has been a known bug for many of the CM9 builds, so it will definitely be fixed in the Beta release very soon enough. The overall performance of the device is so impressive that I am willing to live with this alpha build since the Beta release is just around the corner after the bug fixes. The memory management has been much better on ICS too as the device never has a single freeze or blank screen due to the overuse of 512 MB RAM. Depending on whether I have time over the weekends, I would probably put up a video tour of the current CM9 build I have on my Galaxy W (if the new release hasn’t already come out by then).

Battery life is one area which concerns most, if not all, smartphone users as people can’t stop putting down their power-hungry mobile devices on a day-to-day basis. I will not say it lasts for 10 hours or 15 hours or anything like that because 10 hours on moderate to heavy usage is considered impressive and 10 hours on minimal usage is considered pathetic. To give you a more realistic estimation, I will show a rough breakdown of how much I used my phone on any regular day. My phone left the charger at 9 am in the morning; throughout the day, I played music for about 2 hours with equalizer-enabled PowerAMP player with 3G up and running. Moderate usage of Twitter, Google+, Path, Instagram, Feedly, Whatsapp, Gmail throughout the day and towards the end of the day, I did some heavy web browsing on Chrome Beta, loading one article after another from my Twitter feed, and at 8 pm (after 11 hours of moderate to heavy usage), the battery was at 22%. Nothing spectacular but it’s more than good enough for someone who previously had trouble going through a day without looking for wall plugs at around lunch time.

More screenshots

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In-Folder View

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Notification Center with Widget Buttons

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ICS Settings

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Performance Settings: built-in Frequency Scaling

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Recent Apps (one swipe to close any recent apps)

Stock Apps

Many native Google/stock apps also get a makeover to better suit the ICS user interface. In fact, more and more third-party apps are also switching to ICS-inspired interface, as I believe Android is going for the approach of being more user-friendly.

Native SMS UI

Calendar

ICS Browser’s tabbed browsing (swipe to close tab)

Revamped Gmail UI with much easier controls

UPDATE (14th August 2012): After several iterations of improvements, Alpha 7 is up! (check out the video here). Stable, fast and camera is working perfectly well.