Rough around the edges but has the potential to become the best Android Smartphone
I’ve been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S for almost a week now and, at least on paper, it seems to be THE Android mobile phone to get. It arguably has better specifications than any other Android handset available in the market while being the slimmest one as well. About the only area it lacks is its design- it copies the iPhone blatantly.
Packaged in a nice little black box, the Samsung Galaxy S comes with your quint-essential charger and headset. A small user manual is also included to familiarize yourself with the unit.
The Samsung Galaxy S is quite sleek and light for its configuration. It just 9.9mm thick and weighs 119 grams which is thinner and lighter than Google’s Nexus One or the iPhone 3GS. The top of the phone has a USB connector with a sliding door that is not the least bit flimsy along with a 3.5mm jack while the right side has a lock/power button and the left side volume buttons.
The front of the screen is powered by a gorgeous 4.0” Super AMOLED screen which is the first of its kind. Super AMOLED gives you a more readable screen in bright sunlight which is true, however it was still not as easy to read as I would’ve liked in the UAE sunshine. This new technology also takes lesser power which should result in increased battery life. Above the screen, you have a front facing camera as well as proximity and light sensors while below it you have a home button as well as two touch based keys for back and menu. Finally, the back features a 5 MegaPixel camera that does HD video recording as well.
Specifications-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S seems to be the phone to beat. Along with the Super AMOLED screen, you also get a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU which is faster than the 1GHz SnapDragon CPU found in Google’s Nexus One or HTC’s Desire. Samsung does well to equip the phone with 512MB RAM that sounds enough to run multiple applications with ease while the built-in 16GB storage should be plenty for your apps and media. On the radio side, you get the 7.2Mbps HSDPA 3G connection along with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0.
Coming to the software and application side, the Samsung Galaxy S is equipped with Android v2.1 however, Samsung has promised to issue an upgrade to the latest 2.2 “Froyo” version in the coming months. For the user-interface, Samsung has added their Touch Wiz interface running on top of the Android platform that allows up to seven home screens to place your shortcuts and widgets. While not a bad interface, it once again, looks like something borrowed from the iPhone with a fixed four icon dock and the other icons placed in a grid above it.
Under general usage, the Samsung Galaxy S works quite well. I had no issues with the signal or the voice quality of calls. Bluetooth connections to a car also worked without any problems. One thing that I did find missing on the phone is a notification LED that blinks whenever the phone wants your attention such as for a missed call or text message. This is present on every other Android based mobile phone that I’ve reviewed. On the Samsung Galaxy S, you have to power up the screen to see if you have any notifications.
With regards to the interface and applications, the following video will give you a much better idea than reading a few more words
As you can see from the video, Samsung bundles a lot of applications on top of what is offered on most stock Android phones. One thing we forgot to show in the video is that Swype is also offered on the handset which is the new form of “typing” on the soft keyboard without lifting your finger.
Sadly, as mentioned in the video, the unit starts to lag as the day progresses and as more and more applications are launched. One would have thought that 512MB of RAM should be enough to juggle many applications, however this does not prove to be the case. I think there are two things that cause issues- first the software and Android itself needs to be optimized- an area that v2.2 shows tremendous improvement in and the second is the slow built-in storage of 16GB that you install applications on. Samsung is continuously issuing updates and patches to help with the performance and Froyo will allow you to move your applications from one storage to another making both of these problems disappear over time.
Coming to the camera, the Samsung Galaxy S has a 5 Megapixel version however without any LED flash so your best shots will be ones taken during daytime or with plenty of light. Hi-def 720p recording is also supported but we noticed a couple of frames were skipping during playback on our PC. Samsung might also need to work on optimizing the battery. Even though they have used a 1500maH battery, I could not get one full day of usage even after conditioning the battery for a week. The phone would last around 12 hours where other handsets such as the iPhone 3GS give me 16 hours.
Priced at AED 2699, the Galaxy S is a diamond in the raw. It has a beautiful screen and incredible horsepower. However, the software side needs to be optimized heavily- an area where HTC excels with their SenseUI. I’m sure that Samsung will get there with their Touch Wiz and hopefully by that time their v2.2 Froyo update will be ready as well at which point this will become an excellent device for everybody. Until then, the Samsung Galaxy S is for geeks like us that like to kill processes to keep the ride smooth.