Customer Review

743 of 777 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From an iPhone user..., 8 May 2011
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This review is from: Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II 16 GB Sim Free Smartphone (Wireless Phone Accessory)
**** 8 WEEK UPDATE ****
Having had this phone for two months now I thought I'd update this. There are several things now about Android and the GS2 in general that are now apparent to me and may be deal-breakers for some of you, though it should be noted that most of these are applicable to all Android phones, and not just the GS2:

1. If you use your phone as your primary music player (e.g. like an iPod) then this is NOT the phone for you - it (as far as I can determine) has no dedicated hardware to decode audio and so it uses a lot of CPU power to play music. The phone will get very hot in your pocket from the CPU heat and within 4 hours the battery will be completely dead. This turned out to be a deal breaker for me as I use my phone extensively for music playback, and the iPhone is still the only phone I know of that gives 40 hours playback.

2. Gapless audio playback is not supported by Android, though some players buffer the next track to simulate the feature (e.g. PowerAmp) if you're willing to pay for them. Gapless playback may be supported in future Android versions, though I don't know how or when one could find out exactly what version of Android will support it.

3. There is a very common bug in the GS2 whereby an application called 'Wifi Sharing' will randomly start itself in the background and consume a huge amount of CPU power (doing nothing) and drain your battery SEVERELY. Your battery will be dead in 6 hours if you don't 'force close' the application. The only solution at the moment if you have this problem is to install something like WatchDog Lite and set up an 'alert' to warn you when Wifi Sharing starts to overtake your CPU so that you can 'force close' it.

4. For all of Android's beauty and the Touchwiz inteface Samsung has put on top of it, I've become aware of some quirks of Android, especially relating to the (VERY) inconsistent use of the menu button. Many applications use this button differently (or not at all), showing different menu items on this button depending on what screen/section you are in on the application. It's definitely not intuitive in this regard compared to iOS, though some applications do use it appropriately and in a logical manner. On the other hand, the 'back' button is fantastic and I think Apple should employ one in their phones, too.

5. Screen burn-in. I've not seen many posts about this around the intertubes, but there is what can only be described as burn-in visible on the notification/status bar of the phone when you are using an application that hides the bar (e.g. having a white section where the status bar would otherwise be displayed). It looks exactly the same as burn-in looks on a plasma television; a slightly dark/grey area where the reception indicator, clock, and other indicators normally display. I suspect this is related to the super AMOLED plus screen technology though most people will probably never notice it - if they did it would be discussed in forums all over the internet.

6. Complications with applications are frequent. Unfortunately it would seem the Android market is severely fragmented due to the shear variety of different Android hardware (i.e. handsets) available. Almost every app you download will have comments attached saying things like 'won't work on HTC Desire... ' or 'If you get the so-and-so issue then uninstall, reset and reinstall' etc., etc., Coming from iOS, this is rather jarring and definitely does not fly on a 500GBP product. Furthermore, with the exception of the very common/popular applications, you are very likely to encounter flakey apps that consume too much battery power or randomly crash/force close (or 'FC' as it's commonly called in the Android community)

7. Speaking of battery power... In my initial review (below) I mentioned how awesome it is to have widgets on the home screen. This remains true, but generally at the expense of battery life. This, combined with the battery drain experienced when using the phone for audio playback will very quickly drain your battery. You will be lucky to last the working day if you also use the phone on the road to receive and respond to emails in addition to your music, surfing, widgets, etc. This may be considered an acceptable trade-off, but no one warns you of it beforehand (at least I wasn't aware of it, and just assumed I'd still get at least a full day out of the battery). I've since learned Android phones have a horrible reputation for poor battery life. Expect to last around 12 hours with medium-light use.

With all the above said, this remains an outstanding phone and by all accounts one of the very best phones available on the market. It is super-fast - faster than my laptop - and the physical design is beautiful. For any existing Android user this phone is a dream. For people coming from iOS, I hope the above update has warned you of some of the limitations on this otherwise outstanding product.

***********************

Coming from an iPhone background (iPhone 3G and iPhone 4) and I must admit I was hesitant to leave the iOS platform and ecosystem.

I got so fed up with my slow 3G and the general lack of improvement in the iOS platform over the last 6-12 months that I started contemplating switching to Android. In the past, when I've asked and Android user what they think of their phone the reply has been 'you get used to it'. Not very encouraging! However, after a bit of research I discovered that Android has changed a LOT in the last 12-18 months, and the awkward Android product I played with a year ago is no more.

ANDROID 2.3.3:
Brilliant. The software is surprisingly intuitive and does absolutely everything I need straight out of the box. Widgets on the home screen(s) are really useful (seriously Apple, you need to make this happen!) and you can even made contact shortcuts on your home screen(s) from which you can instantly call/sms/email/etc - very handy!

I understand that Samsung has put a layer over Android on this called 'Touchwiz 4.0'. I don't know what the vanilla version of Android 2.3.3 is like, but Touchwiz is really great and the experience is akin to that of iOS, though infinitely more customisable!

Generally speaking, it would seem that it's possible to configure the various home screens and app pages pretty much exactly as you want them. Plus, there are heaps of other widgets that can be downloaded and added to the home screen, too. I can't stress enough how useful it is to have an email and schedule widget ever-present on your home screen(s), reminding you at a glance exactly what's on the agenda and letting you see the first few lines of new emails. In my opinion this feature alone makes it a better business phone compared to the iPhone (though I hear the Blackberry is still king).

As for apps, the Android Market is definitely not as slick as the iOS AppStore, but it's not that bad, either. I was kind of expecting some horrible, unusable experience, but that's far from the truth. In reality, it's a pretty quick, usable market and there are loads of free apps available. Every major app I used on my iPhone was also available on this phone, often for free(!?) - for some reason the developers have chosen to sell the iPhone version of an app yet make it free on Android (though some of these are ad-supported).

Notifications are also a HUGE improvement compared to iOS. I no longer accidentally 'OK' a notification without reading it because it popped up as I was typing a message like I did with the iPhone. Instead, this phone puts little icons in the top status bar that alert you to any notification that's happening (e.g. email, sms, calendar reminder, app installation, etc.). You can choose if and when to dismiss the notification, or leave it in the notification menu to look at again later (very useful!). Again, this was a MAJOR issue I had with iOS and it's great to see this problem solved so intelligently in Android.

Getting data on and off this phone is a breeze compared to the iPhone. No more iTunes, though if you really still want it you can get software that will allows you to continue using iTunes with your Android phone. I just discovered an app in the menu called 'Kies Air', which amazingly lets you transfer everything on and off your phone wirelessly using a browser on your computer! There is also an installed Kies application on your computer that is somewhat akin to iTunes but about 400% faster at transferring music (in my experience).

You can buy music from Amazon MP3 as well, kind of like iTunes on the iPhone. Search, preview and purchase. The usual drill. Amazon seems a bit cheaper compared to iTunes on some of the albums I've looked at.

SCREEN:
The screen is amazing - easily the best mobile phone screen I've ever seen. Blacks are really black! There is no backlight in the display at all because it is AMOLED, so it makes the colour and contrast really stand out. When using the phone, a black background (e.g. in a menu) blend perfectly with the rest of the phone's body, making it sort of feel like it's all one giant display. There are also two touch sensitive 'buttons' at the bottom of the display, to the left and right side of the home button, which is physical. When you press these buttons they light up, and the phone very quickly and gently vibrates a tiny bit to provide further user feedback that it was pressed. A similar vibration happens with the on screen keyboard, and I really like it; it feel more like you're pressing physical buttons.

Speaking of which, the ham-fisted among us can rejoice! The 4.3" screen is so much easier to type on than the smaller screen found on the iPhone. My typing error rate reduced immediately and I rarely have to backspace/re-type words now because the keyboard is physically larger.

The pixels on the phone are small enough that you can read most web pages without having to zoom in; according to the specs it's not as pixel-dense as the iPhone 4 display, but my eyes can't really tell the difference to be honest, and whatever it loses on the spec sheet it surely gains back by virtue of it's vibrant rendition of colour and absolute blacks.

CAMERA:
For a phone, this camera on the back is quite fantastic. Easily matching the iPhone 4's brilliant camera, but surpassing it in resolution. The camera software has heaps of bells and whistles which I am yet to play with, but for quick point-and-shoot, it's easy, fast, and very high quality; good enough to replace a dedicated point-and-shoot camera for basic outdoor photos (e.g. at a BBQ for example).

It also records full 1080p HD video, though I'm not a big video fan and haven't really played around with it much.

I haven't really used the camera on the front, since I don't make video calls. However, at around 2Mpx it seems to take decent self portraits if the lighting is right, but it's really only designed for video calls anyway, so it's the back camera that really impresses.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
I'm sure a lot more could be said about the beautiful screen on this phone but it's best to experience it yourself. From an industrial design perspective this phone is a work of art - a beautiful, thin, black, flat slab with gun metal grey edging; it weighs in at only 116 grams.

This makes it lighter than the vast majority of phones on the market, and very noticeably lighter in the hand than the iPhone 4 which weighs in at around 137 grams. Holding one in each hand, the iPhone 4 feels like a brick by comparison, albeit a beautiful one. Interestingly, the lightness of the Samsung in no way cheapens it's feel; it's very solid and doesn't squeak, twist or give any indication that it's anything other than an extremely well built product.

Lying down and holding the phone up to your face to watch a movie or read news is noticeably easier due to it's light weight. In fact, lengthy phone calls are also noticeably less tiring on the arms - as strange as this sounds, after 1.5hrs on the phone you do feel the difference 20grams makes in your hand.

There is space underneath the battery cover to put in your SIM card and/or microSD card. I don't need the SD card because there is already 16GB of memory in this phone, which is way more than I'll ever use. Nevertheless, if you have absolutely loads of music and videos then this is an extremely cheap and easy way of increasing the capacity of your phone.

This phone also uses the new standard for phone chargers - essentially a microUSB port - located at the bottom of the phone (the headphone jack is at the top). This single multi-purpose port is used when connecting the phone to your computer, charger or whatever.

MAKING CALLS:
This phone is MUCH more comfortable against the ear compared to either the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 (which I found hurt my ear due to the rather sharp edge of the glass display). I also found the audio to be louder if not clearer, which was a pleasant surprise. Reception is strong everywhere so far and I've had no dropped calls and no antenna strength issues no matter how I'm holding the phone. The manual states that the antenna is positioned on the back of the phone near the very bottom, so if you cup your hand tightly around the very base of the phone it loses one bar of strength according to my experiments - though it would be difficult to hold the phone in this way against your ear for a phone call so I don't ever seeing this being a problem for anyone in the real world.

SUMMING UP:
In my opinion this is a better phone than the iPhone 4 and the best smartphone available right now. It is lightening fast, has an amazing screen, very intuitive, usable and customisable software, and seems to do everything really well. There is nothing in this phone that I can find to criticize and it actually feels worth the hefty price tag; no buyer's remorse here. It should be noted that this phone is actually CHEAPER than the iPhone 4 despite having a significantly higher specification in every regard.

If you are almost totally technically illiterate and in the market for a smartphone then the iPhone may still be a better option, but then again you probably wouldn't be reading this review if you fall into that category. So for everyone else this is almost certainly a better buy. Apple would have to do something truly 'magical' with iOS 5 to make me go back to it now...
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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 83 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 May 2011 10:59:21 BDT
D. Naismith says:
Thank you for a great review. I opened it because 0 out of 2 found it helpful. I have made it 1 out of 3. I then noted that most of the other reviews also have low ratings for helpfulness. I think there is another agenda going on like "I'm an Iphone man and I don't want to know if there is something much better".

Posted on 9 May 2011 12:50:54 BDT
Thank you Macca for your review.
Did you already check if that S2 model has NFC or not ?

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2011 16:46:37 BDT
Macca says:
Hi Bianchi,

No, the Euro (UK) model of the S 2 does not include the NFC hardware according to Samsung UK. I am not sure if or when this will be included, or if overseas models will have it, but it should be noted that a different hardware configuration exists for the overseas model whereby it uses a GeForce graphics chip instead of the ARM Mali-400 quad core chip used in the Euro version.

The benchmarks comparing the two GPUs are meaningless in all honesty as there are currently no 'every-day' games or apps that can be used to test the real-world difference between them.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2011 16:53:35 BDT
Macca says:
That's odd. Not sure what one needs to do before a review is considered 'helpful'. Anyway, thanks for the comment.

As I mention in the review, I was - and still am - an iPhone user and have nothing to gain personally by promoting either phone or operating system. I just thought it may be helpful for other people in a similar situation to mine.

Everyone will have a different opinion, but having had some experience with both phones now I must say iOS has got to improve if it's going to continue to be marketed as a premium operating system (the iPhone hardware itself is beautiful albeit overpriced). This Samsung phone is brilliant and the way it handles notifications is superb!

In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2011 19:19:04 BDT
D. Naismith says:
Thanks for getting back. I see your helpfulness rating has now soared. Perhaps I have pricked some consciences. Actually I got Galaxy S2 myself last week and was going to write a review, but you have said it all and I couldn't agree more. Only thing is that I don't think Kies is up to much but you don't have to use it at all if you just drag and drop everything; what a joy after Itunes! Perhaps it is my Windows 7 64bit OS that Kies doesn't like. My 2 sons have Iphones and they were very impressed with the S2. I already have an Ipod touch 64Gb which I think I should sell, any offers?

In reply to an earlier post on 10 May 2011 12:58:16 BDT
On the note of Kies, a friend at work running Kies on Windows 7 said he had problems installing. I've tried it on Linux Ubunut and it works perfectly.

A benchmark phone btw, without a doubt.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 May 2011 19:31:11 BDT
D. Naismith says:
Thanks for the tip. I had more or less decided to give up Kies but you got me thinking. I tried Ubuntu in virtual machine - no joy. XP in VM would not even load. Then I did what I should have done in the first place. I ran it in XP SP2 compatibility mode. Hey presto, no problems.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2011 12:08:46 BDT
Mark Kemmitt says:
I ran Kies on XP and in the end I uninstalled it. Not very useful at all!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 May 2011 03:30:39 BDT
R. Carvalho says:
Truth to be told I have never owned an Android, and just ordered this phone because I think it just the right time to get it, and replacing a much needed Sony Ericsson. However there is a great program that works with Sony Ericsson and supposedly Android phones called "Myphoneexplorer". It does wonders and also using Win 7 64bits I have no issue. Its blazing fast and hope it works with Android as its is said it does. Btw, its free

In reply to an earlier post on 13 May 2011 17:24:12 BDT
D. Naismith says:
Thanks R. Carvalho, I can confirm that this program works well with Win 7 64 and Galaxy S2. It is a bit slow in uploading files but syncs of phone calls, messages, diaries etc. are all excellent. I think Kies will only be used for firmware updates to phone.
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