The Samsung Galaxy S2 has been out now for a few months ago and it’s been reviewed to death. For that reason I’ll keep it short
My HTC Hero (or T-Mobile G2 Touch in my case) has got to the end of its 18 month contract and has served me well. But the Android phone market has moved on considerably since and mine is looking heavy, small and, in particular, slow.
After finding an amazing deal for a Galaxy S2 on O2, I bought it a few weeks before my T-Mobile contract expired to give me plenty of time to transfer over any phone content. Not that I needed to. My S2 set me up more smoothly that I had setting up the Hero for the first time – everything copied in from Google without a hitch and the transfer of my SD card gave me all my music, photos and video.
The S2 is an absolute pleasure to use – it’s incredibly quick in use and has a beautifully bright screen. It’s a 4.3″ Super AMOLED screen with a 800×480 resolution. Most people rave about the screen in particular but I find the colours a little too, well, colourful – I really could do with some kind of contrast option. As a result I find it reveals imperfections in images more than it maybe shouldn’t.
But that, I have to say, is one of only a few minor complaints.
I’ve not used the TouchWiz front-end before but have no complaints. I particularly like the way you can group the list of applications in folders and on their own separate pages. With the HTC I ended up putting shortcuts on the front screens so that I could group them – with the Samsung I leave in the applications list but organise them there instead.
Samsung bundle a number of “Hub” applications, none of which I find useful but other people may. Their book and games apps are simply tools to get you to spend money – download Aldiko and the myriad of free or cheap games from the Marketplace
The S2 also has a number of features that, although have been available on others phones, are new to me:
First up, you can use the phone to create your own wi-fi hotspot. So, for instance, I can switch this on when I’m in the car and my daughter can play online games on her Nintendo DSi by connecting to my phone’s wi-fi hotspot.
Quick tip here…I’ve installed and used an app named Widgetsoid2.x. This allows you create your own rows of activation buttons – give them a quick stab to cycle options or simply turn things on or off. The range of available options is huge and, amongst others, I’ve added a simple button to switch the wi-fi hotspot feature on and off.
Secondly, the S2 has USB On The Go (OTG), which means you can connect up external USB devices – memory sticks, keyboards, etc. Samsung doesn’t provide a cable to allow this but for a few pounds it’s easy to find one on eBay (search for “USB OTG Samsung Galaxy”).
I miss the lack of any kinds of lights on the S2 – no charging or indicator light. I don’t miss not having the trackball, which I hardly used on my HTC. There is only the usual array of buttons – side volume and power. On the top is a headphone socket and the bottom a micro USB. On the front is a physical home button and 2 touch sensitive buttons either side for menu and back.
2nd tip… hold down the home and power buttons simultaneously to take a screenshot! The screenshots are then saved into a folder with the same name.
Weight wise, the phone is just 116g – the much smaller HTC Hero, in comparison, is 135g. However, having said that HTC Hero is smaller, it’s not. Dimensions wide, although not as wide or tall as the S2 it’s a lot thicker. Overall the dimensions of the S2 are 23% less than the HTC.
Battery life isn’t brilliant but appears to be better than my Hero – I’m charging it every other day unlike daily with the HTC.
Wi-fi supports all bands and seems to be incredibly sensitive – just walking a metre away from G-band router can make it drop to 2-3 bars on the signal. However, even showing 0 or 1 wi-fi bars it still gets a strong and quick signal – this is because how much signal is required for each bar is down to the phone manufacturers software. As this supports N, they need to calibrate that appropriately. It’s not an issue, though, just an interesting aside.
The S2 has both a back and front camera, the front being a simple 2Mp one for video chat and the back is a mighty 8MP with its own flash. It supports auto-focus and full 1080p video. Both the pictures and videos are superb – the camera is quick and easy to use and has a huge range of useful features (e.g. the panoramic option allows you to take superb wide shots by simply moving the camera round in a slow sweeping movement!).
In the small black box that the phone came in is a set of very nice headphones, a USB cable and a separate power cable. There’s a quick start booklet and, annoyingly, no reference to the fact there’s a full manual on their website to download! Indeed, there’s even the Kies software available from there too (which is required to get firmware updates).
Kies is the latest software for Samsung phones and, unlike many others that I’ve tried, will connect via wi-fi. Indeed, there is 2 types of Kies software provided with the phone – the standard Kies (this is required to interface with the PC software) and Kies Air. The latter turns your phone into a web server – it gives you an IP that you can type into any browser on the same network and you can then view files, contacts, etc, from the phone on the browser. You can both download and upload to the phone using this and is superb to use.
Along with the phone I ordered myself a cheap desktop dock from eBay, some screen protectors and the official Samsung mesh case (all of which will be reviewed separately). I wouldn’t let the phone out of the house until the latter 2 were in place. The phone is big, expensive and could be prone to being damaged (although I’m sure the makers of the Gorilla Glass screen might say otherwise).
Summary of Samsung Galaxy S2It’s fast, slim and has an excellent screen. Because of its slimness it gets away with that large screen (and remains pocketable). I’d highly recommend it – particularly if you can get it for a good price!
Reviewed by David Artiss on 29th July 2011.