If you haven’t heard by now, the Samsung Galaxy S II is among the best of the best of Android smartphones available on the market today and thanks to some very awesome people we have the device right here in the clutches of our Geezam studios. Pretty sweet right?
Equiped with a Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9, 1 GB RAM, Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, 4.3 inches of Super AMOLED Plus greatness, all pack into a 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm frame slim enough to make your girlfriend jealous, its no mystery why dear old Uncle Sam was able to move 10 million of these bad boys off the shelves. When you think about it, who wouldn’t want a device your girlfriend is jealous of?
Lets dive in!
If you haven’t held a Galaxy S II in your hand you probably will never know what it feels like to touch the hand of God. This device is gorgeous, thin, and powerful.
Taking a look at the Galaxy S II you might think perfection. Clean lines and a thin profile with subtle curves around the edges to give the user the illusion that the massive 4.3 inch is smaller than it actually appears to be and with the device weighing in at a measly 116 grams, its hard to believe the phone is ever there in your hand at all.
On the sides of the device they took the very minimalistic approach with volume rockers on the left and the power/lock screen button on the right.
At times when removing the device from my pocket I had to ensure that I had a firm grip on it in fear of dropping the device. But Samsung clearly had that in mind when designing the device by adding a slight hump at the base of the device and a tactile surface on the battery cover for added grip when holding the device in hand. Smart move if I do say so myself.
It’s hard to express in words just how gorgeous the 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus screen is but I’ll take a shot at it nevertheless. If Darth Vader, the Dark Knight and Lucky the Leprechaun gave birth to a child, the results are exactly that of the Super AMOLED Plus screen; deepest of blacks and the brightest of colours. Visibility in direct sunlight was very impressive as well, with text showing perfect legibility by adjusting the brightness to the highest setting, give or take.
Viewing pictures on the Super AMOLED screen look absolutely astounding and with all the real estate provided by the large screen, you’ll never miss a detail on your favourite shots (or those not so flattering ones).
One thing I noticed with the display of the Galaxy S II is its auto-brightness. Whether it has to do with the software on the device or the hardware itself i.e. the ambient light sensor, there were times when I noticed that it struggled to find the right brightness level especially when indoors. But all that is not important. You can manually set the brightness to the setting that you’re comfortable with; see crisis averted.
What good is a phone without its battery and the tale of the two, both device and battery, cannot be told without mentioning the Galaxy S II’s superb screen. Being an OLED panel, the 4.3-inch display doesn’t use one single backlight as LCD screens do, instead, only illuminates the pixel that are needed to display the content on screen. This is how the screen is able to offer up truer blacks than that of regular backlit panels, but it also permits the user to use a few tricks and trades in order to squeeze every last bit of lithium-ion juice out of its battery pack by doing things such as switching to a darker wallerpaper or reading ebooks against a darker background, for example.
All in all, I was able to squeeze 19 hours of battery life before it screamed for its umbilical cord. This was with poking around at Gmail, Twitter, occasionally checking Facebook, with other apps also running in the background while actively using WiFi.
The loud speaker is…surprisingly good. I was most likely seduced by the gorgeous screen but video playback without the need of headphones is absolutely brilliant (unlike the daunting task that it is on other smartphones). Samsung was kind enough to couple a solid pair of in-ear headphones that do a stupendous job at both isolating external noises and delivering among the best audio I’ve ever heard from bundled headphones. Including an in-line mic that doubles as a music pause/play button is a lovely addition as well.
I am however a bit disappointed with the position of the speaker — two tiny slits into the phone’s buttocks — laying the device down on a flat surface will immediately alter the sound and a single stray finger, can almost mute everything.
The voice quality on the device was excellent in noisy environments thanks to the two microphones that offer up Active Noise Cancellation with the secondary mic used for audio capture when recording video. Calls sounded great on our end and equally as good on the other side. As it relates to network speed, I was unable to test the GSII’s 21.Mbps HPSA+ speeds on my carrier LIME, for obvious reasons, but all in all reception was good even in areas where other device would normally struggle. I.E. inside my room at home.
The Galaxy S II is fast. I mean wicked fast. With its Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A9 coupled with Samsung’s Exynos chipset, it zips through TouchWiz 4.0 like hot knives through butter. Animations and graphics were smooth and fluid. Rarely did I experience any lag what so ever when jumping in and out of apps or swiping through a long list of photos or contacts. The only time I got the GSII to choke, but only for a millisecond, was in enacting a pinching gesture at the home screen to bring forth an Exposé-like overview of all homesscreens. Depending on the amount of homesreens that you have (I have 5), that’s 5 fully loaded homescreens with information updating live — miltiple clocks, plus news and weather feeds — and the only thing that warranted a slight drop in memory performace was a slight stutter in the animation and zooming effects.
Samsung made vast improvements with TouchWiz 4.0 and we get off the starting block with the inevitable, the lock screen. The lock screen might not offer all the pizazz and somewhat unnecessary flair that HTC’s Sense UI does — and for some that might be a good thing — but it does come with some pretty awesome functionality of its own. Missed calls and unread messages for example appear as little tabs on the sides of the lock screen and a simple swipe into view will unlock the device right into the message or call that can’t do without your attention. It’s simple yet effective. While we’re on the topic of calls, your options when receiving one are to pick up, hang up, or reject with a text message. There is also a slide up menu for pre-set messages in the event that you’d want to be polite about not answering the persons phone call.
Once an onslaught of calls have been rejected, its time to now settle down and make those calls to those people of greater importance. Swiping right on their name in the Contacts list will initiate a call, while swiping left will start the composition of a text message. Another cool feature about your contact card is each of them comes with a history of communications between you and the other party — think of it as a gentle reminder of just how much you neglect your precious friends. Cool right?
Pressing and holding the Home Button app switcher showing you six of your most recently active apps, with a task manager lurking just below waiting to wreak havoc on unsuspecting apps eating away at your precious memory. The Task Manager allows you to view active task along with the RAM usage and CPU consumption with the option to inflict murderous intent — if necessary — an to then dissolve the body in acid if you’re into that kind of thing. Not that there will ever be the need for you to do that since you have 1GB of RAM but what ever floats your boat right?
Other cool additions are the motion sensor-assisted functions which are pretty damn cool if you ask me. The first is one that I was familiar with from the days of owning a Nokia N82, granted this was with the addition of an application whereby flipping the phone over would mute all sounds whether it be an incpomming call or media being played in the background. It feels natural, almost as natural as stretching over to hit the snooze button on your alarm clock.
The other two motion controls are truly spectacular and in my own experience, proved to be quite the show stopper when showing off the Galaxy S II to some friends.
Tilt-zoom (as its so affectionately called) is a new way to zoom within the browser and picture gallery app, whereby you place two fingers on the screen simultaneously and tilt the device up to enlarge or down to shrink. You can adjust the sensitivity from within the Settings listed under motion to better suit those not so graceful folks. Second in line to that of Tilt-zoom is Panning. Panning allows you to transition through the multiple homescreens by using the accelerometer to recognise the phones lateral motion and react to it by moving according to the direction you tilt the device in. This motion-aided panning in only accessible when you’re editing your widgets and/or moving icons around however.
In my honest opinion, the Galaxy S II’s onscreen keyboard was not the greatest that I’ve used. Coming form an Apple device I must say that the two are similar but my typing speed on the GSII as compared to the iPhone was slower in most cases; but that’s just on a personal level.
The keys are evenly spaced and easier to gain access to than that of much smaller Android couter-parts with the addition of a dedicated button for voice-to-text input which would have been splendid if it worked the way that it ought to. Vlingo-powered Voice Talk is more of an exercise in frustration than anything else. It’s also been given priority by dedicating a double-tap of the Home button (from wherever you are on the phone), but once you actually get into the app itself, you clash with slow (purely because of the software) operation, a consistent failure to properly recognize common words, and a generally unrewarding user experience.
Samsung Apps (Games, Social Hub and More)
Samsung pre-loaded some of its own software on the device. Games Hub, Music Hub, Readers Hub and Social Hub; I did however find that they didn’t make much sense other than the ebook reader. The Games Hub doesn’t offer anything different from just popping into the Android market a decking it out with the search bar, The Music Hub tries to sell you stuff without giving you a real reason for you to hop into another music online music store, and The Social Hub tries to convince you that you’re multitasking abilities are sub-par and you can only manage your social feeds, messages, and email from one app. Such centralised control works flawlessly on Windows Phone 7 but the experience feels a little jaded here and it might have worked on Android in the earlier stages but the native Gmail and Gtalk apps have grown to provide trouble-free use, and with the vast amount of Twitter apps available, the entire inclusion of the Hubs almost seems like redundant functionality.
I did find myself using the Readers Hub however, thanks to the inclusion of the Kobo e-reader software although it did appear to be trying to sell me stuff half the time , more than actually serving my needs.
While I may have been an Apple user, I’ve always wanted to try Android out for size for the sake of saying I’ve done it all. There are a few things I noticed about Android — or namely TouchWiz 4.0 — that I wasn’t very happy about.
Starting off with the whole menu structure. I often times found myself stuck at a crossroads trying to figure out how to access the advance settings, or even the settings for that matter, inside apps or the setting menu itself. This could be partly because of my iOS addiction but Android (or TouchWiz) is not as intuitive as I had originally hoped. Sure it can be argued that Android is for power users so simple minded Apple users won’t get it but I don’t see the sense in having to select a menu button to access settings then hitting menu again to access more settings, inside settings. As time progresses, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned to Geezam.com and subscribe to the RSS feed, follow @Geezam on Twitter and like us on Facebook for more reviews of the Galaxy S II and other phones, gadgets, video games and much much more as time progresses
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