As I mentioned in prior posts, a few months ago I was tired of my old phone and was ready for an upgrade. As much as I hate Apple, their fan boys, and iTunes, I was just about resigned to go to the nearest AT&T store and pick up the new iPhone 4S because there wasn’t another Android phone that caught my eye. Unfortunately I was not upgrade eligible until the 1st of December so I had to wait.
While waiting for December 1st, I continued researching phones. I started learning more about the Samsung Galaxy S II which was recently released on AT&T. The phone had tremendous success in Europe and Asia. However it took forever to come over states-side. When it was finally December 1st, I found that Radio Shack had a sale for it for only $100! Great specs. Long feature list. Awesome price. It was a no brainer!
I am so glad I decided to buy this phone instead of the iPhone 4S and here is my review:
Screen – The first thing you would immediately notice when using this phone is its beautiful 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus screen. The picture quality is amazing. I love the color contrast thanks to the deep blacks. Watching movies such as Avatar is a real pleasure.
The screen size (4.3”) is pretty close to what I consider the ideal size for phones. Any larger and it starts to look silly up against your face. The screen makes the iPhone’s 3.5” screen look tiny in comparison. Even though this phone is larger, it still feels great in your hand, and can fit easily in your pocket.
Having a larger screen makes everything from going on Facebook, Twitter, surfing the web, watching videos, or playing games a lot easier on the eyes. I definitely could not go back to a smaller screen size.
Performance – This phone is fast! Navigating through menus, home screens, and the browser is quick and responsive. This is the first Android phone I’ve used that I did not feel sluggishness between my finger and the display. Apps and games load quickly. 3D games look great and run smoothly.
Wireless Radios – The Wi-Fi, HSPA+, Bluetooth, and GPS radios all worked as expected. Data connectivity is very fast on my 802.11n home router. HSPA+ is a nice upgrade over normal 3G speeds. I wish I had 4G LTE but it is not available in my area anyways.
The Bluetooth radio works flawlessly with my wireless headset which I use for hands-free calling. It also works great for transferring files between other Android devices. I also use the Bluetooth radio with my friend’s PS3 controller for playing video games.
I am so happy the GPS actually works unlike its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S. It really sucked not having a working GPS so having a working one makes you appreciate it that much more.
Cameras – The phone’s dual cameras are great. The rear 8MP camera takes high quality photos that some experts say rivals those taken with the iPhone 4S. The auto-focus is a little sensitive but generally works. I also wish the shutter speed was a bit faster. I also like the addition of the LED flash for taking photos in ultra low light.
The rear camera also takes great videos at 1080p at 30 fps. I use it a lot to take videos of my kids just being cute. I should really use this feature more often just to capture them growing up but I digress.
The 2MP front-facing camera is also great for video chat apps such as Skype. The picture quality seems to be pretty good and definitely is much better than the front-facing camera on my wife’s iPad 2.
Other Hardware – Voice and call quality are good. I haven’t had any issues making or receiving calls.
The speaker is sufficiently loud. I like its placement along the bottom of the phone where it is less likely to accidentally muffle the sound with your fingers.
TouchWiz 4.0 – Samsung has updated the phone’s interface to their custom TouchWiz 4.0 UI interface. Overall I think it is really good. The icons and apps look good and work pretty well. The settings menus are large and easy to read. Screen transitions and navigation feel smooth.
The stock apps work pretty well for the most part. I use the email app for work. I use the video player a lot to play video clips for Daniel. I like how the video player uses the power button as a screen lock. The stock browser stinks (e.g., crashes a lot) compared to the iPhone’s Safari browser. Fortunately, there are plenty of free 3rd-party browsers to download and use instead. I personally prefer Dolphin HD.
I really like how the home screens are arranged and managed. You can have up to 7 home screens which is more than most people could realistically use. Similar to the previous version of TouchWiz, unfortunately it is still a pain that you cannot dynamically rearrange apps on a home screen or within a folder. It is now 2012! Why hasn’t this feature been implemented yet?!
The dock icons at the bottom are nice defaults. For the adventurous type, you can swap out these icons with other apps but it takes jumping through some hoops. I replaced the stock browser icon to open Dolphin HD instead.
Apps – This phone has great compatibility with the majority of apps and video games. I don’t know why but the old Samsung Galaxy S had so many compatibility issues. All of the popular apps and games work. I think this phone is so popular worldwide that many app developers were able to physically test their apps on this phone.
Battery Life – The 1650 mAh battery is more than sufficient to last through an average day of moderate use. Android phones aren’t always known for good battery life but the battery life on this phone seemed at least on par with my previous iPhone 3G. I like that the phone also uses a microUSB connector so it was easy (and CHEAP) to buy additional charging cables to leave in my car and at the office.
Bloatware – One of my minor complaints about this phone is it came with lots of bloatware. Thanks AT&T for nothing…jerks. Actually you can blame just about any carrier for this mess. It was relatively easy though to root the phone and to remove all of these apps. I just wish I didn’t have to but c’est la vie.
Conclusion — Overall the Samsung Galaxy S II is a great phone and is easily the best phone that I have ever owned to date. It is very fast and can easily handle 3D graphics in games as well as everyday tasks. The phone has a great screen size while remaining super thin, lightweight, and pocket-able. This phone is exactly what the first Samsung Galaxy S should have been. On top of great features and specs, this phone can be bought on sale. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for their next smart phone is open to something other than an iPhone.