Until the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Panasonic ELUGA is ready to roll out, users will have to make do with Gingerbread. Android 2.3.5, that is – mostly stock, yet treated to a few light cosmetic modifications. Users can choose how many icon slots to have on their home screens, with 3 by 3, 4 by 4, and 4 by 5 grids being among the available outlays – a nice little touch that we quite like, although it requires manual rearrangement of icons and widgets every time you tweak it. Pre-installed and downloaded applications are sorted in two different lists, which makes finding a particular app a bit more convenient.
There are five home screens at your disposal with the middle one coming up when the home button is pressed. Widgets are pretty much stock, and the few included by Panasonic are neither good looking nor too useful.
If you are used to typing on portrait virtual keyboards with both thumbs, forget about doing that on the Panasonic ELUGA. Typing with a single finger instead is a lot more comfortable in this case. Alternatively, the on-screen keyboard is pretty easy to use in landscape mode. It is nice to see that an auto-compete bar has been added. When enabled, it greatly increases typing speed with its suggestions, and if you make a typo, it will be corrected on the fly.
Processor and memory:
The Panasonic ELUGA is powered by a 1GHz dual-core OMAP4430 chipset by TI paired with a whole gigabyte of RAM, but the software obviously does not make the most of that otherwise decent hardware. That is because interface transitions are noticeably choppy, especially when there are more than a few icons and widgets on the home screens. Oh well, at least the several games that we installed ran smoothly. Hopefully, this performance issue will be addressed once the Ice Cream Sandwich update is out.
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The 8 gigabytes of storage might be enough for a casual smartphone user, but after you throw some music on there, install a few apps, and take a bunch of photos, space will start to run out. The actual user-available memory is as follows: 1.6 gigabytes for applications and 4.3 gigabytes are allocated for storage (media, documents, etc.) Sadly, there is no way to expand the smartphone’s storage capacity with a microSD card, so users should keep an eye on how their storage is being used.
Software and functionality:
With the help of the pre-installed Data Security app, users can disable unauthorized access to certain features such as e-mail, documents, photos, and videos. There is a good variety of code- or pattern-protected screen unlock widgets as well. Setting up these features is a somewhat tedious process, but if your personal data is of importance, we recommend taking advantage of these features. Another goodie that Panasonic has thrown in is the so-called “eco mode”, which is basically a battery life preserving utility that adjusts display brightness and disables certain features should the battery level drop below a certain level. The pre-installed PC Backup app is another software tool that we believe you will find useful.
Internet browser and Connectivity:
For the most part, the stock web browser gets the job done well, but it leaves room for improvement. Heavy pages can be somewhat laggy to scroll through, but we didn't have that issue with alternative browsers such as Opera or Firefox. Other than that we don't find anything wrong with the stock browser. Adobe Flash is supported, along with features like tap to zoom, pinch to zoom, text reflow, and support for multiple windows.
The Panasonic ELUGA can connect to the internet either via Wi-Fi b/g/n or over 3G at up to 21Mbps on the downlink, which is a pretty good rating. Of course, you get the usual connectivity features like Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, A-GPS and DLNA. The microUSB port allows you to hook up the smartphone to a computer for charging, internet sharing, or easy data transfers in mass storage mode. There is support for NFC as well, and a single NFC tag has been included in the set. With the help of some pre-installed software, you can have various settings altered and/or a program launched upon tapping the tag and the phone together – a feature that some users will surely find pretty useful.
While playing with the smartphone outdoors, we tested the responsiveness of its GPS radio. Our location was pin-pointed within a minute and a half from a cold start, but that is not as bad as the 15 seconds or more that it required each time we launched Google Maps afterwards. That may not sound like much, but 9 out of 10 of the phones we review take no longer than a couple of seconds to do that.