You’d think that the best phone couldn’t get much better than this, but Samsung have entered some kind of crazed accelerated development program and have introduced loads of improvements over the original Galaxy S. The first thing you notice is the absolutely incredible screen. This has grown from a huge 4 inches to a mega-enormous 4.3 inches, matching the HTC Desire HD and making this the biggest screen on any phone. The Apple iPhone 4 has 3.5 inches of screen. But it’s not just size that counts. The Galaxy S2 introduces a new technology called Super AMOLED Plus, which is eye-popping in its brightness and clarity. The Super AMOLED display of the original Galaxy S was leagues ahead of most smartphones, so to leap forward to yet another generation of display technology is mightily impressive. It’s certainly a match for Apple’s Retina display, even if the S2’s resolution of 480 x 800 pixels isn’t quite the highest.
The surface area of the phone has grown to cater for the enlarged screen, but the phone still rests in the hand nicely due to its incredible thinness. At just 8.5mm, it’s the thinnest smartphone on the market (the iPhone 4 is 9.3mm). Below the screen you’ll find a single home button flanked by two touch-sensitive buttons for Menu and Back. It’s a minimalist design that gives you everything you need. At 116g the phone is pretty light for such a high-powered beasty, and that’s thanks to the plastic construction. It lacks the high-end feel of a metallic case, but avoids the reception problems that have plagued the iPhone 4 and also to some extent the HTC Desire S. Something called Gorilla Glass is used to protect that all-important Super AMOLED Plus display.
The operating system is the latest version of Android – 2.3 (Gingerbread). Android is our top choice for smartphone OS, and global sales of Android phones seem to be overtaking iPhone quite decisively. The number of apps available has exceeded the 100,000 mark and is continuing to grow rapidly. Android 2.3 is combined here with a new version of Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface – version 4.0. Along with various home screen customizations and Skype text input for faster typing on the QWERTY keyboard, this introduces a number of hubs into the user interface. The Social Hub, which we’ve seen on previous Samsung smartphones brings together contacts, calendar and email with Instant Messaging, facebook and twitter. Reader’s Hub is a platform for ebooks and magazines, with access to over 2000 newspapers in 49 languages and featuring interactive features like page curling effects. Music Hub is a combined music player and Music Store – we’ll have to see how that works out. Perhaps more interesting is the Games Hub where you can download premium HD games (and some free games) optimized for the S2’s dual-core processor, Super AMOLED Plus screen and 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope sensors. The phone also comes preloaded with social games – We Farm, Safari, We Rule, We City. Being an Android phone, the S2 comes with pre-installed with all things Google, including Google Maps 5.0, Gmail, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Picasa integration.
The headline grabbing feature of the S2 is its dual-core processor. It isn’t the first dual-core phone to be released (that was the LG Optimus 2X) but it’s the most highly anticipated. Anyone who’s experienced the instantaneous response of the single-core Galaxy S might question the need for a faster processor, but the 1.2GHz dual core processor opens up new possibilities in video – particularly the Full HD video recording capability and the enhanced gaming experience.
It’s logical then to talk about the camera next. This has been dramatically improved, with an 8 megapixel sensor and an LED flash (which was incomprehensibly missing from the original Galaxy S.) The camera has plenty of features taken from Samsung’s digital camera range, including autofocus, touch focus, face detection, smile shot and image stabilization. As already mentioned, the video camera has been updated so that it can now record at Full HD resolution – that’s 1080p format. Only the LG Optimus 2X can match that, and the Samsung does a better job with a sharper, more detailed picture quality. A secondary front-facing video camera is available for making video calls. There’s a pre-installed image and video editor too.
The media player brings a great deal of functionality to the table and is capable of playing DivX and XviD format movies. The Super AMOLED Plus screen and the dual-core processor are a match for any video you might want to watch. 5.1 virtual surround sounds is also supported. There’s also an FM radio with RDS for listening to music on the move. Naturally a 3.5mm headphone socket lets you plug in your choice of headphones, and you can also connect the phone to a Full HD TV via DLNA and play movies or even games on a big screen.
Another area where Samsung have taken a great leap forward is in internet connectivity. The Galaxy S2 has an updated implementation of HSPA enabling downloads of up to 21 Mbps where a network supports it (3 have just rolled this out.) That’s faster than home broadband! This really is a phone created by speed junkies. And when it comes to web browsing, the fast internet access combined with a crisp, large display, multi-touch zoom and the super-fast Android web browser with Flash support and BBC iPlayer compatibility make it top dog.
Signal strength and call quality are good too (hey, it’s a phone as well?) and battery life is excellent. For a device with so many features, you’ll probably be playing with it all day and night, but Samsung have recognized the need for a monster battery and have stepped up to the mark. The S2 has a 1650mAh battery, which is the largest we’ve seen as standard in any mobile. Amazingly it doesn’t seem to add any great weight to the phone (have Samsung secretly captured an alien spacecraft and stolen their technology?) Nevertheless, as any smartphone user knows, overnight battery charging will be required for the first couple of months at least. Once the battery – and the user – has been properly conditioned, the battery may last 2-3 days. That’s pretty good going.
We’re totally in awe of the Samsung Galaxy S2. To our minds, this is without question the best phone on the market today. The only reason not to buy it is the cost.
Features of the Samsung Galaxy S2 include:
• Full HD video recording (Up to 1080p)
• Display: Super AMOLED Plus, 16 million colors, 480 x 800 pixels (4.3 inches) capacitive touch screen with auto-rotate
• Music player
• Stereo FM radio with RDS
• MP3 & WAV ringtones
• Integrated hands free speaker
• AGPS with geo-tagging and Google Maps
• Messaging: SMS, MMS, instant messaging, email
• Personal organizer functions
• Document editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
• Memory: 16GB plus 4GB MicroSD memory card (up to 32GB)
• Connectivity: Dual channel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, DLNA, TV-Out, NFC
• Internet: Layer Reality Browser, Chrome-Lite web browser with Flash support, GPRS, EDGE, 3G, HSPA (21 Mbps download)
• Quad band GSM (850/900/1800/1900), dual band 3G (900/2100)
• Size: 125 x 66 x 8.5 mm
• Weight: 116g
• Battery: 1650mAh battery