The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

The Galaxy S was a runaway success for Samsung, infact they couldn’t make enough of them. It went off the shelves for a little while and only returned with a Super LCD display, Samsung clearly wanted to concentrate somewhere else and the only thing that would make a company divert its attention from its most successful smartphone ever, would be its successor. The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

That’s exactly what the Samsung Galaxy S2 is, Sammy’s new superphone that aims to rule them all, if the original Galaxy S sold 10 million units, they want to sell even more of these. So does the Galaxy S2 live up all the expectations? We find out in our review.

Lets start with a quick unboxing and overview to give you an idea of the box contents of the S2, it comes with a pretty nice leather case that doesn’t add to the bulk too much, check it out in the video below. The device also comes with a microUSB cable and stereo in-ear headphones which will suffice for casual playback.

HARDWARE

The Galaxy S2 is Samsung’s premium smartphone, their most expensive and most powerful, so you would expect they would want to cram in everything under the sun. A 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual core Exynos 1.2 Ghz processor, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB of inbuilt storage with a microSD card slot, an 8 Megapixel Camera with an LED flash along with the usual set of connectivity options like WIFI, GPS, Bluetooth and so on. When announced, the Galaxy S2 was supposed to have NFC chips as well, but that’s been left out from the current batch of Galaxy S2 i9100 models that have hit shelves the world over.

The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

Building on such great hardware means that Samsung could add a bunch of features most other Android manufacturers haven’t incorporated. Things like 1080p HD video recording at 30 frames per second, WIFI Direct, support for USB on the go, Bluetooth peripherals like mice, and DLNA support that’s continued from the original model. To keep all the above humming along nicely, Samsung’s put in a 1650 mAh battery.

DESIGN

The Galaxy S line of phones from Samsung is focused on making fast, elegant and slim smartphones and the S2 has started from where the original left off. The device is slightly larger on account of the bigger 4.3” screen as compared to the 4” on the original, but is surprisingly even slimmer at just 8.5mm, compared to the 9.9mm on the S1, making it the thinnest and most powerful smartphone on the market today.

The design language is still very similar, a front occupied mostly by the screen with a physical home button at the bottom, flanked by the menu and back keys. No place for the search key means that the menu key doubles up to perform those functions as well, a long press on the menu touch sensitive key and it begins to work like the search button, working across all applications. Personally I like this setup as that makes for a cleaner design, and you won’t accidentally press any keys as the touch sensitive keys are separated by the physical home button.

The sides have minimalist buttons with the left packing the volume rocker and the right holding power/lock key, there is no camera key. The positioning of the power button is perfect, it is much easier to hit, immaterial of whether you are left handed or right, compared to a position on the top of the device where you’d generally find the power button. Reaching across a 4.3” display won’t have been a joy if it had been placed on top. Speaking of the top, all that it carries is a 3.5mm jack for plugging in your favourite headphones, while the bottom of the device holds a solitary microUSB port, which can also be used with the HDMI connector to connect to an HDTV.

The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

The back of the device holds an ever so slightly protruding 8 Megapixel camera with an LED flash. The bottom of the device bulges out towards the back and holds a mono loudspeaker. As you can imagine, keeping the device faceup blocks the loudspeaker and can cause you to miss calls, this problem is however mostly evident on soft surfaces.

SOFTWARE

The S2 runs the Gingerbread 2.3.3 release out of the box, with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz 4 overlay. The latest version of Gingerbread is 2.3.4, and the Galaxy S2 is expected to receive the update in the coming weeks, even otherwise 2.3.4 isn’t something you would miss dearly.

TouchWiz 4: What deserves special mention is the TouchWiz 4 interface that adds a lot of value to stock Android. A lot of people prefer a stock UI, but TouchWiz 4 really makes you reconsider that stand. It brings quick WIFI, GPS, Rotation and Bluetooth toggles to the pull down notification bar. Also present there are forward, back and pause buttons while the music is playing, you can even control music from the lockscreen without having to unlock the device.

Galaxy S2 Review

Next, it gives you upto 7 homescreens and plenty of widgets to play around with including agenda widgets with month and today views along with a bunch of clocks etc. Some widgets are resizable, so you can decide how much of the screen should say the weather widget occupy, or if you want to make the today view larger. You can quickly jump between homescreens by pinching out or dragging your finger across the dots on the bottom to glide between homescreens.

The apps are presented in a page based format, much like iOS and I am personally a huge fan of this approach. No need to keep scrolling up and down, and you can organize your apps by moving them across pages or within folders. You can glide between pages in the same way as homescreens. TouchWiz also has bunch of other tricks up its sleeve with a brightness control that can be activated to holding the pull down notification bar for a second and then dragging right to increase and left to decrease.

TouchWiz 4 also introduces motion based gestures, for example you can move widgets between pages by holding them and then moving the phone left or right to jump pages, or holding down two points on the screen to zoom in and out of the browser, pictures and so on. These things are more for fun than actually helping you save time, but nevertheless make for a great way to show off your new device to friends.

All in all, I’m a huge fan of the TouchWiz 4 interface and as surprising as it may sound to some of the Android purists, it adds a lot of value to the device. If you don’t like it, you always have the option to choosing a new launcher from the Android Market and forget about TouchWiz completely. Here is a video that takes you though some of the lesser know tips & tricks that are available of the Galaxy S2.

The one things that I don’t like about Samsung’s software is that they want to control how I use my battery once it is running low. Beyond a certain point, the camera kicks you out because the phone is running low on battery, or the music player shuts down and so on. Samsung does it to protect the basic function of the phone i.e. make and receive calls, but if I want to take a picture, the phone can simply warm me and then let me take the shot instead of blocking me completely. Fortunately, there are workarounds to this problem. A camera app from the Market solves the purpose, so does a third party music player.

Flashing: But if that’s not enough, you will be pleased to know that the SGS2 comes with an unlocked bootloader and is one of the most mod friendly Android devices on the market. There are already custom ROMS and hacks available, so if you ever feel something is amiss or you that would like to try something new, the modding community will keep you satisfied.

Some custom ROMs and hacks also let you get rid of the battery limitations I described earlier.

On the software front, as I mentioned earlier, the S2 brings new functionality such as USB on-the-go, so that you can plus in flash drives, portable hard disks etc to copy data across without needing a PC. There is also support for WIFI Direct, a technology that lets you copy data wirelessly, much like Bluetooth but at much faster speeds using an adhoc WIFI connection. Find a detailed write up here, and following is a video showing it in action:

PERFORMANCE

Considering it runs on a dual core processor and a gig of RAM, you would expect this thing to fly, and fly it does. Despite the days of rigorous tests, app installs and non-stop use, the SGS 2 has performed with flying colours. Everything is fast, there are no lags whatsoever, and even after days of use you do not need to reboot. The booting time for SGS 2 is a breath of fresh air and it takes about 10 seconds to get upto speed from a cold boot. The annoying Android file keeping on boot is also a matter of seconds.

Galaxy S2 Review

The device has about 833 MB of RAM available and on a fresh boot you will generally find that around 650MB is free, more than enough for anything you might want to throw at the phone.

If you had worries about TouchWiz slowing things down, you can get rid of them. The browser is fast, most apps load almost instantly, the camera takes 2 seconds to get ready to shoot, the scrolling is smooth and you don’t see jerks.

The browser despite being blazing fast to load pages, does manage to show a few check boxes while scrolling, this is a software bug and I would think that Samsung would be working to get it fixed with subsequent firmwares. Otherwise it handles flash just fine and that doesn’t really affect the overall smoothness of the phone. The Gallery app sometimes take a second to load, but once inside, flicking though pictures is instant.

But if you really cut to the chase, I’m yet to come across a single app that actually needs a dual core processor to show its true potential, the dual core chip is more for about being future proof than being a requirement for today. Still you feel good knowing its there.

CAMERA

The auto focus camera on the S2 is an improvement from the 5MP shooter on the original, and possibly one of the better ones across all Android devices. The S2 does not have a physical camera button, so all the controls are on the screen itself. You can touch a particular area to focus or use the camera key and let the phone take that into its own hands.

Galaxy S2 Review

With stills, there are a lot of options available, right from taking panoramas, to an action mode for fast shutter speeds and even a cartoon mode. Also present is a macro (close-up) mode, a Face Detention mode and the usual auto mode. For most documents scans and closeups, the auto focus mode is enough and you are saved from the bother of having to switch to macro each time. When you exit, the camera remembers your settings.

Galaxy S2 Review

The UI of the camera app is clean and simple, you can select which controls to show on the left hand side while the right holds the toggle for switching to video, taking a picture and jumping into the Gallery.

The S2 also has a 2 Megapixel front facing camera that is a very welcome improvement from the VGA shooters that we see on most smartphones. It is passable for portrait shots and will help improve video call quality if our networks and apps are upto it.

ISSUES?

When the Galaxy S2 launched there were quite a few rumors surrounding the screen, heating and WIFI performance, so its best to put those to rest as well.

First the screen, the alleged problem being that there is a slight yellow effect on the left hand side of the display. I have played with two Galaxy S2 devices and on both occasions I had a very hard time locating the yellow batch, sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t. It is allegedly visible in low brightness with a solid grey colour in the background. But for me it is not a problem, the screen looks great, even better than the original Super AMOLED display on the S1 and I am yet to see any the issue in any real world scenario.

Next is talk that the Galaxy S2 gets excessively hot. In peak of the Indian summer, my device has held up well, it does get a little warm at times, specially when you are charging it and using it at the same time, but this is no deal breaker and expected to an extent. Bottomline, don’t worry about it.

Next, some people are having problems with WIFI reception. In my tests using the default India firmware, the SGS2 performed well enough. My N8 and the the iPad 2 had better reception at the edge of my router’s range, but the SGS2’s performance is still passable. You’ll only have problems if you try and leech off your neighbour’s WIFI.

Galaxy S2 Review

Last, the original Galaxy S had problems with GPS performance and it looks as if Samsung has gone to great lengths to make sure that the GPS performance on the S2 is stellar. Infact after the using the device as my primary smartphone for the last 4 weeks, I am yet to see a show stopping bug, or even something that is a minor annoyance.

Battery Life: Finally lets talk battery life. After a few recharge cycles, the Galaxy S2 possibly has the best battery life of any similar device in its class. With 4 email accounts, WhatsApp, Gtalk and Tweetdeck running continuously in addition to a few calls, a bunch of texts, moderate browsing and 20 minutes of light games I still get a day’s usage from the device.

So if you leave the house at 8am with a full battery, you should still have some juice left over when you get back at 8 in the evening, it might even get you through the after work parties unless you really hammer it. Considering the S2 has a 4.3” display, it manages to last for an impressive amount of time.

GALAXY S v GALAXY S2

At this point a lot of original Galaxy S owners are wondering if it is worth it to update to the successor, here is what I think:

CONCLUSION

The good: While the S2 excels in most aspects, the following stand out:

  • Screen, the colours really pop out and the blacks are seriously impressive.
  • Size, super thin and very light.
  • Blazing fast, with a useful TouchWiz overlay.
  • Great call quality, one of the loudest in, in-call volume.

The bad: There’s hardly anything bad, but the following things would have been better:

  • The camera while being one of the best ones on an Android device, still doesn’t match up to the likes of Nokia’s N8. The single LED flash could have been brighter as well.
  • Some people would have preferred a more metallic finish, but Samsung’s compromised on that front to keep the weight and antenna performance better.
  • A loud enough mono speaker, let down by the placement on the bottom where it gets muted easily. The same plastic bottom is also prone to scratches if you aren’t careful.
  • The TouchWiz overlay will mean that updates come to the SGS2 a little later than the Nexus series of smartphones, but Samsung’s been stepping up its game recently with their speed of updates and judging by how popular the S2 will be, you can rest assured about getting the updates sooner, than later.

One the whole the Samsung Galaxy S2 is a superphone, to call it a mere smartphone would be an understatement. It has its niggles, but they are far outnumbered by the overwhelming positives in its favour. It is without a doubt the best Android smartphone on the market and depending on how you feel about Android, perhaps even the best smartphone today, certainly the most powerful.

The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

So if you were in the market for a high-end smartphone, would I recommend the Galaxy S2? Definitely.

102 thoughts on “The In-Depth Samsung Galaxy S2 Review”

  1. Hi

    I am having trouble finding out how to extend the ring time on the Galaxy S2, it only rings for about 10-15 seconds which is not long enough for me to get it out of my bag or run downstairs if I am upstairs!

    Can you help?

    Thanks

  2. @James
    Screen prtector, yes. Essential but I agree $3 from the guy on market selling cases, support a small businessman.
    As for if you need it. I would argue yes, having hit the screen quite hard on a sharp edge of the door handle when drunk.
    I have a small (size of pencil tip) dent on my screen, but no cracks and no pixel damage.
    If anyone wants to test their phone against a door handle and prove me wrong I’ll give the kudos to Samsung.
    For now I thank the guy on the market for saving my $400 phone.

  3. Quick Calls & Texts:

    Hi

    My swipe right to enter a text on contacts is not working. how to fix? thanks!

  4. Hi, I had a quick question for eithee the author or the readers. Is there a way to access the camera from the lock screen of the SGS2? I find it rather annoying to unlock the screen, choose the camera app and then click. It would be a lot easier to get the perfect shot of my daughters if I could just click from the lock screen. Thanks.

  5. I just bought Galaxy S2 from Tmobile and it’s fantastic, I am completely satisfied. I was going to go with iPhone 4S but couldn’t get use to the small lcd screen after getting use to my son’s htc sensation. My son even likes Galaxy S2 better then his new HTC Sensation. LOL

  6. I am facing the same issue as mentioned by Chidananda in his comments about picture quality. Wondering if you found any solution to that issue.

  7. Hey there… Great review.
    I have had an overheating problem, but tracked it to a cracked Micro-SD card.
    Others having similar issues can try removing the card and see if it still happens.

  8. Well I bought samsung S 2 and callers are not ablet ot hear after i reset the phone to factory reset.

    Can you suggest me waht to

    Tried below steps
    increased volume
    Mic is not covered while talking
    signal strength is full.

    Awaiting reply as soon as possible please help me fix the issue

  9. THE TALK TO TEXT IS USELESS

    I just bought this phone and I am retuning it. The talk to text is USELESS. I put an iphone next the GAlaxy and talked into both at the same time. The I phone understood my speech almost perfectly. And instantly.

    The galaxy s2 took 20 seconds to interpret my speech and it was so wrong that it made no sense at all.

    The way I look at this phone is that it really has no talk to text. Yes it is pretty and flashy but in the end bad talk to text is NO talk to text.

    This is just in 3 days of owner ship.

    I am returning if for that reason alone.

  10. Since yesterday, I’ve had a problem calling one of our family plan mobile phone numbers. When I use my own old samsung flip phone to call my husband’s new samsung galaxy S2 phone, it rings once and then I get a busy signal and can’t get through to him (convenient for him..!!), yet I can get through to all other numbers I call. When he calls me, he goes straight to my message centre. I’m worried we inadvertantly set a call barring/call filtering mode (my daughter plays with the 2 phones…). My carrier Bell in Toronto couldn’t figure it out and then we got disconnected while talking to their technical department. Wondering if it is something that is set on the Samsung Galaxy phone. Can’t find out on the internet how to trouble shoot. Any help would be great! Thanks

  11. I see a lot of complaints, but how many are silly! All of the issues can be resolved via correct use or other than defahlt software. I’m not able to read “bad design pouch” or “no built in fm aerial” without laughing. How hard is it to plug in a 3.5 jack ? No screen protector? That is because it has gorilla glass and unless you are a clumsy muthafuka, and keeping it in your jeans with keys in the same pocket – there is not much you can do to it. This phone is a beast, and if you kno Java you can make it chew & spit out any other mobile. I have no issues with my phone at all after using iShit and several nokias and htc handsets. All your silly issues are easily solvable, but if ud like perfect mobile – make one. And make it thin while having octacore processor 16 gb ram and 160gb ssd, plus of course your damn fm antenna f1.4 lens sensor with full frame and 32 point autofocus. I want it all still under 9mm thin and in a metal case that doesnt get hot. Make it so it comes with screen protector that you could return as a part of warranty if some senseless idiod would not be able to apply ot the first time, so instead developing new touchwiz or galaxy model we could get flooded with complaints and returns of your idiotic screen protector which is not needed anyway. Please do that, or just be quiet.

  12. Very nicely said Hebi. I just wanted to ask a few questions, hopefully someone gets back to me :-s

    1. I didnt get a CD with the mobile in the box so i connected the s2 via usb and it doesnt install anything just ask if i want to import anything and let me view the memory, should i buy a cd or download something?

    2. My battery life is pretty poor really. Have had the Phone for a few days and it only lasts 8 hours and im lucky for it to last that much if i dont use GPS. I hardly make any calls just text and Whatsapp to people so i leave Wifi or 3g on, use facebook and normal sites for about couple of hours. i let the battery rundown completely and Charge it to full with the phone, it has helped because on my first usage battery only lasted 5 hours and that was on saturday today it last a whooping 8 hours which is still pretty poor

    3. Does Wifi or 3g take up power? i want to continously keep one on for my whatsapp which one should i choose

    4. I cant seem to Upgrade software from the settings option it keeps saying failed network or something like that

    Please Help i love the phone otherwise it is too good better than the Iphone

  13. hi, does anyone know how to disable foreign languages, especially when in SMS mode? I am not a fast touch screen typer but am finally getting better, except when I accidently hit the language button next to the space bar (quite often!!)

    thanks

  14. Hi, am really enjoying the S2, especially the challenges of learning how to use it. I have just come upon something I can’t do and that is hide my own number sending. Any help?

  15. hi,how r u,i wana ask about a probleme i have it in my phone,samsung s2…baseband xxkf1 and kernel jpkg5 … my phone write arabic,and read arabic,but when i wana send an sms,it delivired by (??? ????? ???? ????? ???? ) interrogation marks…i have install a plugin arabic,and i tried many things , and now it give me message cant delivired ( failed ) , i dont know what should i do to make my phone send and receive arabic sms ?, and 10x for ur reply :) ..

  16. Hello Sharma,

    I have bought a new galaxy s2 and a cover too about 2 weeks ago every things goes okay.
    But today one of my friend toke it from to see it and he try to uncovered it, he pressed the screen a little more and also the corners to uncover it.
    after it get a little warm on the screen and also on the camera lower left.

    I don’t know whether he have done any thing wrong or its normal because of application and system process.

  17. I bought a galaxy s2 on the 1st of october, and rooted the phone after about a month. I installed alot of apps and tried many tweeks which will prevent the phone from starting unwanted app at boot. But most of the time it does not work, and it still boots. But recently my phone is acting really slow at times, like when browsing with dolphin browser, the phone will all of a sudden shut off the screen andpressing the home button will bring up the lock screen. This happened quiet a few times. I guess it hapoens when the ram is over loaded, though I didnt expect this. One more thing I noticed is, when I uninstall an app, some data still remains in the storage. And its hard to find and delete them, can u recomend me and app that can find these data and delete them?

    Thanks in advance.

  18. Hey People,

    I got the phone recently in Canada though its International version and have been trying to figure out since then, if I have NFC supported in this device or not. I haven’t found anything in the settings menu so far.

    Thanks for helping me figure out.

  19. i just got my s2 last week…what is the best apps for my phone?ist go launher apps?or i just using normal app that samsung gave?

  20. I was wondering if there is a way that the flash can be activated at the same time as the self portrait option on the Galaxy S2 phone I have tried but the flash keeps going off it remains only when taking normal pictures thank you for your assistance.

  21. Hi, I have purchased my phone in the US from tmobile. Is it anyway to gt the lcd to work? I have to keep turning on the screen to see if it have any miss calls or text messages or does this phone not have an lcd Light

  22. Please, please can someone recommend an affordable pair of media earphones that work with the Android OS Galaxy S2.
    I want to be able to move between tracks and alter volume.
    I purchased a pair of Logitech Ultimate Ears 200VI Noise-Isolating Earphones ( 3 button controlled ) but they were not compatible.
    Help please

  23. I have a gmail acct for email and am getting it in another language(arabic,farsi?) JUST to my Galaxy S II. When it goes to my home or on the server, it is in English.

    I have checked language settings on my Galaxy S II and it says Canadian English but, when I view it on my phone, it comes out as this other language??

    Any ideas? I have had the phone for a few months and this only happened starting yesterday and continues today??

    Thanx,Lynn

  24. Hi, I have noticed that there is a dead pixel in my screen on my SGS2 White phone. It is a very tiny black dot. What can be done about this please?

  25. hi

    i have the samsung galaxy s2 now for one week and it looks like my messages dont have the message skins options where do i get or downlaod it?

    thanks

  26. Amazing phone. Super, super fast – will run anything you can throw at it without breaking sweat. Great camera, 1080p video recording, very fast GPS pick-up, over the air updates of firmware and great flexibility. Swype keyboard is a joy to use and is quicker and more accurate than a physical keyboard.Display is very bright and accurate, as is the touch screen experience. Browsing the web is very near desktop speed.

  27. Vaibhav…..
    Nice to read ur post and its excellent…still can u compare HTC Sensation XE with SGS2…..bcoz i want to buy a best phone and plz comment abt headphone strategies plz…

  28. How can i copy and paste a post from facebook on my Samsung Galaxy 11?
    My phone looses reception. IT gives no waring so you don’t actually know this has happened. My friends does the same? You will get someone say don’t you answer your phone and you will get it out and oh its on but there’s no reception. Yet you are in an aea that you know gets perfect reception. Is there something wrong in the settings that makes it do this?

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  30. great work done guys…Galaxy S2 is a great phone i would say, not because of i own it but also on the basis of users comments and reviews. i have read n numbers of reviews and comments of people who have ever used this tremendous device, and you know what everyone has said its an excellent phone. i would also like to add one universal method for Galaxy S2, the method which resolves thousands of issues solely. yest you are tight i am talking about Hard reset, how to hard reset GALAXY S2. Let me share few of my experiences with you guys, I had some sort of problem on my Galaxy S2, it used to freeze quite often, initially I did nothing and felt its just a normal thing and will be all right on its own. But I was totally wrong because the phone became more drastic only after a week. This was the time when i started searching for a remedy, searched a ton on internet and finally came across a solution; I would say the best solution rather. Something that helped me to get rid of the problems was this http://howmobile.net/samsung/2150-how-hard-reset-samsung-galaxy-s2.html I got a strong feeling while I was reading your Blog and thought of contributing a little to help people like me. I mean those who are having problems on their phones like I have mentioned above.

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