Samsung Galaxy S II Review

Samsung Galaxy S2

* This is a product review of a loaned unit from Samsung Malaysia.

2011-06 Samsung Galaxy S2 Review 034In February 2011 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung announced and revealed their new Samsung Galaxy S II – the much hyped about successor to their extremely successful Samsung Galaxy S (that sold over 14 million globally) Android phone. The audience all gasp!

Flash forward to today, the rumours are circling in Malaysia that Samsung Malaysia will be officially launching this NEW phone on 22 June 2011. Even Maxis has started the Registration of Interest on their website.

I was super grateful that I got to be the selected 18 bloggers in Malaysia to be allowed a preview of this yet-unreleased device. Although not usually a Samsung fan, I have previously reviewed my own unit of the original Samsung Galaxy Tab. When I got hold of this phone, I was seriously blown away…

Thanks to all my friends, family and Facebook and Twitter followers with their questions and interest, I am putting together here, one of the most in-depth review of a gadget I have ever done.

 

Basic Specs

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Talking about specifications, this phone does not disappoint. Here’s a quick overview:-

  • 4.3 inch capacitive multi-touch Super AMOLED Plus screen
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread on top of the latest Samsung 3D TouchWiz 3.0 UI
  • 8 mega-pixel camera and camcorder with 1080p full HD recording and playback + 2 mega-pixel front camera
  • 16GB local memory (with expandable microSD slot up to 32GB.

For more information, do visit the Samsung Galaxy S II microsite here.

 

Hardware

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First thing you’ll notice as soon as you place the phone in your hands is how slim it is. It measures a mere 8.9mm thick, weighing 116g – BOY! THAT IS SLIM!

Actually, the phone is so slim that you do wonder if you can easily break it in two if you’re the type who keeps your phone in your jean’s back pocket and you accidentally sat on it. Eek.

Nevertheless, made of part metal, part plastic, it feels incredibly solid in your hand. The large 4.3 inch screen might seem like a bit big for some, but seriously, don’t knock it once you’ve tried it. It’s really handy and gorgeous when it comes to portrait two-thumb typing, video viewing and game play.

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There is a front facing 2 mega-pixel camera on the front top left of the phone. This made a comeback after manufacturers started removing them due to the lack of interest / usage in 3G video calls. Today, with new Voice Over IP (VOIP) apps like Skype, Google Talk video chat, etc – front cameras are making a comeback!

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At the front bottom of the phone, you have 2 touch sensitive buttons for Menu (Left) and Back (Right) and a physical hardware button for Home in the middle.

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At the back, you’ll find a delightful 8 mega-pixel camera with flash that will shoot 1080p HD pictures and videos.

At the sides of the phone, you get your standard fare…

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(Right side) Power On/Off/Standby button (Bottom) Micro USB charge and sync cable

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(Left side) Volume rocker (Top) 3.5mm headphone jack

 

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The back plate is removed to insert your SIM card, microSD card and the replaceable battery.

I have to admit I had some difficulty removing the back plate. It was rather flushed to the phone and the tiny little groove to open the plate proved difficult even for someone with fingernails like me.

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Also, the back plate is very slim as well. Which technically should be a good thing, but because I was already having difficulty with it, I feel like I was gonna snap it in two, sometimes. I don’t like how flimsy this seems.

 

The Screen. Oh – the screen….

The previous generation of Samsung Galaxy S showcased their superior Super AMOLED screen. It was screen technology breakthrough then. Now, with the SGS2 Samsung improved on their screens and introduced us Super AMOLED Plus.

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This time round, the images and colours are so much more gorgeous and vivid. It feels almost like holding a mini HDTV in your hands.

However, touchscreen phones users will always have the problem of the screen constantly being a fingerprint magnet.

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In this case of the SGS2 is no exception. However, the smidges are less obvious and annoying. As you can see from the picture above, it’s not as visible as the other phones I’ve used.

 

Software and Usability

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The SGS2 runs on Google’s latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread for their smartphones. On top of this, like with most manufacturers, there is a Samsung skin on top of the OS called TouchWiz.

Personally, I am not a fan of Samsung TouchWiz, I have been more of a HTC Sense fan. Regardless, I have always felt that the issue of Android skin UI by device manufacturers are mostly another matter of personal preference.

Having said that – the Samsung TouchWiz UI (or any skin, for that matter) makes it easier for new users to Android to familiarize themselves to the phone and non-techie task much more usable and pleasing to the eye.

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The new, super vivid lock screen is now easily unlocked by just swiping the image off the screen.

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You get up to 7 home screens here to place any widgets, shortcuts or folders that you like. At the bottom, you get 4 shortcut icons for Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications.

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Entering into the Applications drawer, you scroll sideways to view all applications you have installed in the phone. You can choose to organise the apps yourself by clicking Menu > Edit and rearranging the icons.

Looking at the layout of this Application drawer, I can see the alleged similarities for the on-going legal battle between Samsung and Apple. Hmmm….

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As for the keyboard, you get a choice of 2 options : the Android keyboard or Swype.

I have a feeling that, due to the success of Swype, Samsung kinda assumed that everyone else is using it. It’s the default keyboard. It has loads of tweaks and features to it.

Personally, I don’t like Swype. The original QWERTY two-thumb typing is my preferred choice. Somehow, T9 predictive text doesn’t work, even having enabled it. Maybe, it’s only my unit, but after testing this for the last few days, minus this basic function, it does get annoying.

Nevertheless, the keyboard is very nice to use. Both on portrait or landscape mode. Surprisingly, very little mistakes even without the predictive text on.

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The phone keypad is huge and nice. It has smart dialling (like on all my HTC phones) where you only need to type the name on the phone keypad to bring up the contact.

As you can see in the picture above, I typed “McD” (keypad “623”) to search for McDonald’s Delivery in my Phonebook. Very handy indeed.

 

Samsung specific features

Samsung Hubs consist of 4 major apps embedded in the phone.

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  • Social Hub includes managing all your Social Network connections and sync capabilities to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. These contact information can them be synced back to your Phonebook.
  • Music Hub allows management and listening to music (either purchased or streamed). But unfortunately, there’s a pop-up that informs me that this is “not supported in your country”.

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  • Readers Hub is as I highlighted in my previous Samsung Galaxy Tab includes News subscription (local & international newspapers downloaded to your phone), Books with syncs with books purchased from Kobo and Magazines subscription purchase powered by Zinio.

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  • Game Hub powered by mobage allows you to download and play games on this lovely Super AMOLED Plus screen.

Other than these “Hubs”, there are other Samsung specific features on this phone.

There is an app called AllShare that allows you to connect your SGS2 to any DLNA supported devices to allow you to stream videos, music, etc to any Samsung devices. Imagine, being able to wirelessly stream the movie from your phone to your Samsung HDTV. How cool is that?

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Other than the Android Market where you can download and purchase all types of apps, Samsung Apps is also another app store where you can find more apps. Unfortunately though, there are no more than 20 apps per category here. I assume it’s likely because of the country support issue again. Sad smile

The phone is supposedly Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled. This means that it has a chip built in that allows contactless payment. Think Touch n Go and Visa Wave. Google anounced their NFC service with Google Wallet in US recently. It’s not exactly widely used in Malaysia yet, but it’s good to know that this phone is ready.

 

The Camera

The 8 mega-pixel rear camera is amazing. Coupled with the awesome screen, the pictures and videos turned out superb.

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Check out the above picture I took of my sleeping doggie. You can literally see all the fine hair.

Above is a quick video I took (unfortunately at night) with the camera. Remember the camera shoots 1080p HD videos!

 

How’s the speed? Is is fast? Does it lag?

I have friends reporting to me that the previous Samsung Galaxy S have some speed and lagging issues. Naturally, they were interested to ask me if it was the same for this phone.

NO LAG! THIS PHONE IS EFFING FAST!!!

I can’t NOT tell you about the super-fast dual core 1.2GHz processor.

The speed of this phone is amazingly fast. Swiping across the different home screen is amazingly fast. Even with multiple apps running in the background, I can still open more and there doesn’t seem to be any lag at all.

There is truly a beauty to this whole dual core processor thing.

Internet browsing and syncing does get slow sometimes. But I (seriously) blame this on the mobile data speed. DEFINITELY not the phone’s processor fault.

Battery Life

The SGS2 is powered by a 1650mAh battery that supposedly boasts:-

  • Stand-by : Up to 710 h (2G) / Up to 610 h (3G)
  • Talk time : Up to 18 h 20 min (2G) / Up to 8 h 40 min (3G)

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Firstly, I need to highlight that I am a POWER USER. I depend on my phone a lot. I use my phone for almost everything. I am one of those who’s almost always buried in her phone.

After several days of stress testing the phone, I managed a maximum of 12 hours battery life. This includes data connection running on 30 minutes sync for Facebook and Twitter, Gmail email push (approx 50 emails sent and received), RSS news subscription sync every hour, phone calls (approx <10 calls daily) and some 1-2 hours internet browsing, occassional YouTube viewing, etc.

That is IMPRESSIVE battery, I tell ya. Especially when my old HTC Desire can now barely last me 8 hours!

For normal users, you can easily last a full day of using the phone. If you’re a light user, I am quite certain that the battery can last you all the way to Day 2.

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There is a Power Saving function that you can choose to enable and customise. This enables you to configure how you want the phone to behave once its on lo-batt – like what apps to kill, what connection to kill, how bright the screen should be, etc. Very handy indeed.

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One surprising thing happened when I was running low on battery. I can’t seem to take any pictures when the battery was low. I wonder if this was standard with all other phones, or just this???

 

Summary

Samsung has seriously set the bar very high with this phone. There are so many functions and features that they have built into this phone that I’m sure will appeal to a lot of us.

Hands down, this is THE Android Super Phone at the moment. I’m saying “at the moment” because you’ll never know with the speed of technology these days… Until then, the impressive specs and feature of this phone will tug at your purse (or wallet) strings, for sure.

Should you buy it?

“In Korea, the Samsung GALAXY S II sold 100,000 units sold in the first 3 days, 200,000 sold in 8 days, 500,000 sold in 18 days and over a million units sold in under a month. We expect the demand for the Samsung GALAXY S II in Malaysia to also reach a fever pitch.”
~ Mr. Kwon Jae Hoon, Managing Director, Samsung Malaysia Electronics Sdn. Bhd.

These numbers certainly speak for itself. Also, needed to remind you again that they sold over 14 million units of the previous version.

I’m unsure of the official RRP at this point. However, my sources are informing me that several unofficial / AP / grey import sets are being sold at RM 2099 – RM 2299.

Remember, you can now already register your interest on Maxis site. Furthermore, you only have a few more days to wait until Samsung Malaysia officially announce it on 22 June next week.

Official Press Pictures of the Samsung Galaxy S II

Here’s a slideshow gallery of the official images from Samsung Malaysia.

 

Comparisons and Other Reads

As thorough as I’d like to be, you might want to know how this phone compares to the other boys out there. Here are some other tech blog articles:-

PS. Some of you who likes destroying things, ask me if the Samsung Galaxy S II will blend. Unfortunately, the Will It Blend folks have recently blended iPad 2, but not the SGS2 yet. So, instead, you can read about the device being torn apart by the iFixIt guys here to satisfy your destructive personality.

 

Any Other Questions?

A few of you are very excited to get your hands on this phone. Some have even gone to name this the “Super Phone” or their “Dream Phone” and quite envious that I have my hands on this unit before the release.

Did I cover all your questions about it? Do you have anything specific you want to know about the SGS2 that I have not covered. Let me know in the comments.

I am quite proud of this comprehensive review here. If you feel the same, hit the “Facebook Like” button or help me “Tweet” this post or you can just tell me in the comments. Smile

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