There is no question that the Samsung Galaxy S2 I9100 has an impressive spec sheet.
Dual-core 1.2 GHz Samsung Exynos ARM Cortex-A9 system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor, Mali-400 MP graphics, 4.3-inch WVGA Super AMOLED Plus display, quad band 21 Mbps HSPA+, 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash.
Samsung’s latest Android “superphone” is set to hit South African shores in July 2011 and has an estimated retail price of R6,699; but will it be worth the money?
Design and build quality
The Galaxy S2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor with a design that’s strikingly slim and light. Even with the fairly large capacity battery (1650 mAh) installed, it remains light with the fully assembled device weighing in at around 116g.
Compared to the original Samsung Galaxy S, the S2 is a little taller, wider and flatter. Samsung also (thankfully) changed the glossy plastic back cover for a textured one that feels like a kind of composite material.
The back cover of the Galaxy S2 is also incredibly thin and some might find removing it to be slightly harrowing.
There is an argument to be made for just a little more weight in the device, though. Despite the substantial computing power packed into this light-weight device, it doesn’t feel substantial.
In the end, however, it’s not about how heavy the device is in your hand, but its feature set that counts.
Unfortunately we cannot officially post the results from our Quadrant benchmarks; suffice to say that the Galaxy S2 leaves most other devices in the dust.
Those interested in the potential of the Samsung Exynos SoC should take a look at AnandTech’s benchmarks of the hardware.
Battery-wise, the device performs acceptably, but don’t expect to get more than a day out of the device even with moderate usage. Doing just a few calls, some text messaging and mail, some social networking, a few app downloads and some browsing had the device sputtering for juice after 13 to 16 hours.
One does expect a little more from a top-tier device, with some Android smartphones even lasting well into a second day under moderate usage conditions.
Another issue that made itself obvious on far too many occasions is that the auto-brightness feature is a little finicky. The screen dims and brightens at odd times – as if light sensor isn’t quite sure how much ambient light is in the room.
The camera on the Galaxy S2 is also one of the best smartphone camera’s I’ve ever used.
How it stacks up to the iPhone’s combination of good sensor, optics and software is in the eye of the beholder, but for once you won’t be disappointed with the quality of your low-light happy snaps.
We also have no complaints about the camera app – it performed its function well. If there’s one thing I’m sad to still not see, it’s a dedicated camera button, or a way to launch the camera from the lock screen.
The text messaging app is competent, but the built-in e-mail app is worse than ever. In fact, Samsung’s “Social Hub” is generally poor, and you’d be better off installing the apps for the various services separately and installing a third-party e-mail application.
Samsung also offers a push e-mail service, but it didn’t play nice with our mail server at all – resulting in “on-demand” mail. Your mileage may vary, but I still strongly recommend a third-party e-mail app if e-mail is even remotely important to your daily routine.
All the expected Google messaging applications such as Gmail and Google Talk are available and work as expected.
Kies, the PC client software Samsung has for its devices, is infamous among users of Samsung devices.
In an effort to offer syncing software that runs on platforms other than Windows and Mac and doesn’t require your device to be tethered to a PC, Samsung has shipped Kies Air.
Kies Air effectively runs a web server on the Samsung Galaxy S2, which serves up an in-browser app to any device with a supported browser on the same local network as the Galaxy S2.
Despite its issues and relative lack of features compared to other Wi-Fi syncing options, Kies Air is a noble attempt. Unfortunately it highlights one of the pitfalls of Android’s openness.
Instead of just showing you your photos, videos and music, Kies Air picks up every piece of media stored on your device and SD card, making it nigh impossible to find what you want to copy off.
For example, your grid of photos is cluttered with every version of the avatars of your Twitter and Facebook contacts, as well as the photos Facebook automatically downloads to display in the app’s notification area.
This is something app developers (and Samsung themselves in some cases) could relatively easily address, I’m made to understand, by simply adding a file called “.nomedia” in directories
Samsung bundles their devices with “hubs” to help users find apps and services with more ease, but they end up being of most use to the Android newcomer.
As mentioned previously, Social Hub is not worth using and you’re much better off using the official (or even other third-party) apps for services such as Twitter, Facebook, and even e-mail.
We covered the features of the the Readers Hub in some detail in a previous article, but in brief, it is little more than a portal for three apps: PressReader, Kobo and Zinio. Zinio is an interesting app to have bundled as it is only available for Android Honeycomb (i.e. tablet) devices from the Android Market.
The game hub includes social games from Mobage which may appeal to some, but also offers demos for a number of Gameloft games such as Assassin’s Creed HD: Altaïr’s Chronicles.
Music Hub was not available in South Africa at the time of publication.
Samsung has attempted some admirable things with TouchWiz such as resizable widgets, folders in the application launcher, and a power control widget built into the notification drop-down.
New mail and text message notifications are also displayed on the lock screen, but that is where the compliments for the lock screen end. It acts as a pane and gives no indication of when you’ve swiped it far enough away that the screen will unlock.
For those users who won’t be putting a custom ROM on their Galaxy S2 my recommendation is to switch to an alternative like LauncherPro. It offers greater functionality and customisability and looks better to boot.
Samsung has sent a Galaxy S2 to Cyanogen, so it would seem that the modders out there can look forward to an officially sanctioned CyanogenMod for the Galaxy S2.
- Swype and Zinia bundled
- Android 2.3.3 (not 2.3.4)
- About 2GB mapped as “internal storage”, the other 14GB mapped as “USB storage”
- Memory expandable: microSD up to 32 GB
- Camera – 8MP and excellent quality even in low light
- TouchWiz still not great; Social Hub and the e-mail app that goes with it are really bad
All things considered, the Samsung Galaxy S2 is an excellent Android device and certainly worth considering for your next upgrade.
I for one am certainly looking forward to seeing how the HTC Sensation stacks up against Samsung’s powerhouse.