Even Samsung isn’t sure if the Note is a phone or a tablet, but that isn’t stopping them from selling it by the truckloads. At least in India, everyday I see more and more people buy a Galaxy Note. That brings me to the question, what about the S2? It is no longer Samsung’s flagship Android device? The S3 isn’t coming till summer, so clearly there’s still some life left in the device. So if you were in the market for a high end Android, what should you to looking at? A Galaxy Note or a S2? If you already have a S2, should you consider upgrading to the Note?
Hardware: The Note clearly has an advantage here, it has an amazing 5.3″ HD (1280 x 800 pixel) screen, compared to the 4.3″ (800 x 480 pixel) screen of the S2. The extra width makes web browsing and reading documents a much better experience. However, the larger screen does come at a cost, the size.
Next, it has a larger 2500 mAh battery, which despite the larger screen, performs a little better than the S2. On the inside, its powered by a 1.4 Ghz dual core processor, compared to the 1.2 Ghz dual core on the S2, in real life the boost isn’t really visible.
Software: Both devices run Android Gingerbread with TouchWiz on top, and both will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich. However the S2, due to its sheer popularity, enjoys much better developer support which means a wider selection of custom ROMs and the like. The Note does have a few additional apps and modifications to TouchWiz that utilize the larger screen and S-pen support.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So if you were in the market for a high-end smartphone, would I recommend the Galaxy S2? Definitely.
HTML5 seems to be the new buzz word for the cool kids, with most manufactures moving from Flash to HTML5 for their video streaming and other needs. So with that in mind, I though it’d be good to see how MeeGo/Harmattan, Android and iOS perform in an HTML5 faceoff.
The devices used for the purpose are an N9, the Galaxy S2 and Apple’s iPad 2. Here is how each of them perform. The tests were done by pointing the browser to html5test.com and noting the score out of a maximum of 450 points. You might be surprised by the results!
Lets start with iOS and the iPad 2, running iOS 4.3.3:
Followed by Android and the Galaxy S2 running Gingerbread 2.3.3:
And finally the MeeGo/Harmattan and the Nokia N9 running pre-release software:
Surprised by the results? Its some times hard to believe that Nokia is the same company that makes the Symbian browser! To recap:
MeeGo/Harmattan: 283 and 14 bonus points.
iOS: 217 and 7 bonus points.
Android: 184 and 1 bonus point.
Finally some trivia, the latest Firefox 5 turns in a score of 286 and 9 bonus points, Safari tuns in 253 and 10 bonus points and the Symbian^3 browser, barely manages 36 points!
The Nokia N900 had a great browser and it seems Nokia’s made it even better with the N9!
[Update: Some people will say that its unfair to compare existing products with upcoming ones, and I agree. So for some perspective, as @coolkamio informs me on Twitter, iOS 5 manages a score of 304 + 9].
One of the brand new features that the Samsung Galaxy S2 brings is the support for WI-FI Direct. WI-FI Direct, if you remember, is the technology that lets you transfer data between other WIFI Direct devices by creating an adhoc WIFI connection between them. In other words, it allows WIFI devices to talk to each other without the need for wireless routers.
It works much like Bluetooth, just faster and has better range. Symbian is supposed to get WI-FI Direct this year as well, but Samsung beat everyone to the chase with the Galaxy S getting certification last year itself and now the SGS2 becomes one of the first smartphones (if not the first) to ship with WIFI Direct support out of the box this year.
I have played with WIFI Direct for a while and it is definitely a very welcome feature, one you probably wouldn’t be able to live without once you get used to it. Transferring an mp3 (5-6 MB) is virtually instant and very large files also take mere minutes. For example, you could transfer a 700 MB movie wireless in the middle of the desert in under 5 minutes using WIFI Direct.
That’s not all, if two Galaxy S2 devices were connected to the same network, then I could also send files between them without having to activate a peer to peer network which meant I didn’t have to disable the WIFI connection from my router and could browse the web meanwhile.
I cannot wait for WIFI Direct support to other devices. What do you think of it?
The Samsung Galaxy S2 just hit the global markets a few days ago after having sold in the millions in Samsung’s own country, South Korea in under a month. A lot of people are looking at what is essentially a superphone, as their next smartphone and why not! It packs a 1.2 dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, a beautiful 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus display, is thin as you like, feels extremely light and is power by the latest in Google’s software.
But there are also a lot of people who still like the predecessor to this device, the original Galaxy S. Some would wonder if it is worth the upgrade if they already own a Galaxy S and some would wonder if it makes sense getting the now much cheaper Galaxy S original if it meets their needs. In this post I’ll attempt to put the two Galaxy S devices head to head to see if the successor has enough extras to make it a compelling upgrade. You can jump directly to the all encompassing video, or get the background in text below.
Physical: The all apparent physical bits first, both devices have essentially the same design with the S2 going a little easy on the curves. However, the S2 is slightly larger on account of the bigger 4.3″ display as compared to the 4″ display on the original. But the thing to note is that despite the boost in specs, its now much thinner 8.5mm v 9.9 mm and is also lighter by 3 grams, 116g to the original’s 119g, making it the thinnest and most powerful smartphone on the market.
Finally, because of the light weight and the slim profile, the Galaxy S2 doesn’t feel much bigger than the original. If you are used to the S1, you shouldn’t have any problems adjusting to the S2.
Display: Its not just the size of the display, but the technology behind it that’s improved as well. The 4.3″ screen on the S2 is ‘Super AMOLED Plus’, compared to the original’s ‘Super AMOLED’. Does this make a difference? Yes. Everything is better, the colours, the sunlight visibility, the viewing angles, the blacks. When you first move from a Galaxy S to a S2, the difference isn’t obvious, but when you move back to the Galaxy S, it then that you realize that Samsung’s new display does deserve the ‘plus’ moniker. That’s not all, the sub-pixel count has improved from 8 to 12, so this means that despite having the same resolution 800 x 480, the S2’s display will be sharper and the corners smoother than the original.
Power: The S2 is powered by a 1.2 Ghz dual-core exynos processor that literally blows the competition away on benchmarks. It also comes with a gigabyte of RAM with about 833 MB being useable. Compare this to the 1 Ghz processor on the original and the 329 MB of available RAM on S1.
Camera: The S2 comes with an 8MP auto focus camera with a single LED flash. It also shoots in video in 1080P at 30 frames per second. The S1 on the other hands has a 5 MP AF camera without any sort of flash and shoots at video at 720P, 30 FPS. Needless to say, the camera on the S2 is better, but the one thing to note is that when shooting at 1080p, the frame is slightly zoomed in, watch the video below to get a better idea of what I’m taking about.
Software: The S2 runs Gingerbread 2.3.3 out of the box with a TouchWiz 4 overlay. The S1 originally ran Eclair, but with the recently leaked 2.3.4 Gingerbread release, the S1 runs the absolute latest in Google’s software, even bettering the S2, which is supposed to get 2.3.4 is the coming weeks. Officially the S1 now also runs Gingerbread and newer units ship with it. TouchWiz 4 on the other hand is a very welcome improvement over TouchWiz 3 that runs on the S1, making it my favorite Android launcher/skin by far. A bunch of things have changed, the messaging app has skins, the memo app is better, the homescreen layout and switching is faster, you have music control from the lockscreen which itself has improved and looks much better. See the video to get a better idea.
Battery: The S2 comes with a 1650 mAh battery (compared to 1500 mAh on the S1) and slightly better battery life than the original running the latest Samsung ROMS. Also, the back on the S2 is matte and non glossy, giving it a premium feel. However, removing it does show you how thin it is and that can cause some anxiety. Overall, its still a definite improvement.
Connectivity: The S2 immensely benefits when it comes to connectivity. First it has HSDPA support for speeds upto 21 MBPS, compared to the 7.2 MBPS cap on the original. It also has USB on-the-go and WIFI direct support (more on that later today), not to forget the HDMI out with the microUSB adapter.
So these are the broad difference/improvements that the Galaxy S2 brings compared to its predecessor, I have outlined all of these and more in the video below. What is my final conclusion? Watch the video to find out!
The Galaxy S II is Samsung’s latest and greatest superphone and judging by the rate at which these things are selling, very soon millions around you will have a one. The device packs a dual core 1.2 Ghz processor, a 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus display, runs Android 2.3.3 out of the box with Sammy’s TouchWiz 4 on top.
TouchWiz is Samsung’s custom UI layer that differentiates the SGS 2 from the myriad of other Android slabs and Samsung has managed to add enough value to it to make it a very welcome addition. Some of its benefits become obvious, but some tweaks and shortcuts that can make your experience even better are tucked away. This post aims to showcase a bunch of tips and tricks that every SGS 2 user should know. Some of these might even work on older TouchWiz devices.
Hit play and tell us in the comments section if you think I’ve skipped any must know shortcut/tip!
Quick Calls & Texts: Once you have the contact you want to call or text in front of you, instead of entering it and then carrying out the operation, you can simply swipe left to place a call or swipe right to enter a text.
Homescreens: TouchWiz supports upto 7 homescreens and jumping between them can quickly become a problem, but you can easily pinch to get an overview and then quickly jump to the screen you want.
Screenshots: Taking screenshots on Android devices is a pain, but on the Galaxy S2, you can simply hit home button and then the power key while holding onto home to take a screenshot. You can then see them in the Gallery.
Brightness Adjust: The notification bar can serve as a brightness scroll on the Galaxy S 2 if you are not using the auto brightness option. Just hit the notification bar, hold for a second and swipe left to decrese and right to increase the brightness. This is one of my favourite tweaks.
Browsr Text Wrap: Out of the box the Galaxy S2 doesn’t automatically reflow the text in the webpage if you zoom in. But if you just goto settings and check the ‘auto-fit pages’ option, all is well again.
User Agent Change: The browser lets you change the user-agent without needing an extra app, just type ‘about:useragent’ and you can choose between the iPhone, Nexus One, Desktop, Galaxy S or even enter a custom string.
Pinch Based Tab Switching: While you are viewing a webpage, just pinch out and you will be shown the other tabs that are open, or you can even open a new one. Handy, finally possible on the Galaxy S2.
Custom Fonts: The Galaxy S2 comes with inbuilt support for custom fonts. Just goto Settings -> Display -> Screen Display -> Font Style and choose from the three options or follow the link to download more from the Android Market.
Change Bottom App Drawer: Its just easier to explain if you watch the video, around the 03:28 minute mark.
Quick Slider: Whether you are in the homscreen or the app list, just roll your finger over the dots at the bottom of the screen and see the screens fly by. Beautiful and functional.
Video Lock: Pressing the power button in video player locks the screen, now you can hold the device any way you like, no accidental presses.
Testing Mode: *#0*# in the dialer enters the LCD test mode, useful if you are hunting for dead pixels or a few other things.
Search Key: The SGS2 like the SGS doesn’t have a dedicated search key that all other Android devices have, but if you long press menu, it doubles as a search key and pulls search up, wherever you need it.
Quick Dialing: On the dial pad spell the name of your contact and see it popup, great when you need to make a quick call.
Bluetooth Mouse: The SGS 2 supports using a bluetooth mouse, the functionality is more of a proof of concept vis-a-vis being actually useful. TV out presents a useful senario.
Any others you would like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!