HTC and Samsung have been duelling for the top position in Android phones for the last year or more. With the Galaxy S II, its first dual-core smartphone, Samsung has set the bar very high indeed.
Before you even switch it on, the S II looks like a winner. Extremely thin at 8.49mm, it is quite a size at 125.3 x 66.1mm. It has to be in order to house its 4.3-inch screen. Yet it weighs a very pocket-friendly 116g. If we have a niggle about the build, it is that the backplate, which doesn’t quite stretch across the full back of the handset, is flimsy – and fiddly to get on and off.
At this end of the market we’d have liked a groundbreaking high screen resolution
There’s a front-facing camera with a decent 2-megapixel rating above the screen, while below it there’s a button which looks like it ought to be an optical trackpad but which in fact is just a Home button. It is only when the screen is in use that two touch buttons, Menu and Back, become visible. There’s no Search button – instead you use an on-screen search tool.
The screen is fabulous. Super AMOLED Plus makes it sharp, clear and bright, while its 480 x 800 resolution ensures there’s no pixellation. At this end of the market we’d have liked a groundbreaking high screen resolution, but in use
we had no real complaints. The screen is, of course, capacitive, and response to screen taps is super-fast. You get the feeling that animations, fades in and out and so on are only holding back the 1.2GHz Samsung dual-core processor.
That processor is at the forefront of a host of dual-core offerings that will soon pepper the top end of the smartphone sector, and it quite simply whizzes along. Video streamed from the BBC website and other sources plays beautifully well,
while the sound quality and volume through the loudspeaker are superb. You really could watch catch-up TV on the Samsung Galaxy S II with ease.
There’s 12GB of internal storage to fill with media, and apps, and a microSD card slot for adding more storage. One of the few faults we could find with the Galaxy S II is that the card slot is under the backplate and you have to
remove the battery to get to it.
There’s an odd zooming procedure which involves holding the screen at two points then tilting back and forth. This can easily be turned off in favour of the also present pinch-to-zoom.
Samsung’s newly updated TouchWiz 4 skin for Android 2.3 is fairly user-friendly, and with seven home screens on offer to pepper with (sometimes resizeable) widgets and shortcuts, you aren’t going to feel short of surface area to customise. There are ‘hubs’ which bring together data in a theme (readers, music, game, social), and you can pull down the notifications bar for shortcuts for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, sound and a screen rotation toggle – so you can turn off the autorotate if it is not currently wanted.
An 8-megapixel camera sits on the back of the chassis, with an LED flash. It is capable of 1080p video recording at 30 frames per second. DLNA and HDMI (via the micro-USB port on the bottom of the chassis), are both supported.
To keep the handset running, a 1650mAh battery provides power. That’s one of the highest-rated we’ve seen so far, but still it did not quite manage a full day’s usage for us. Par for the smartphone course.