Announced in February 2011 at Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona, Samsung’s Galaxy SII (GSII henceforth) grew to become one of the hottest and most wanted Android smart phone of 2011. It is not the first ever dual-core Android smart phone but that did not stop it from becoming popular, very popular. Here are the more important (impressive) specs for this monster of a phone.
4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus screen
16GB built in storage
1.2GHz dual-core processor
8MP camera with LED flash
1080 (Full HD) capable video
Full specs can be found over at GSM Arena.
This will not be a normal review of its features and specifications as I am not an expert in mobile phone technologies. Furthermore, you can already find complete and comprehensive reviews over at GSM Arena or Mobile Review. To the average user, the numbers mean little. They would be more interested in how it works, feels and ease of use. What I will be covering in the review will be based on my own usage of this phone and my own thoughts.
If you are looking for an average user’s comments, read on.
One of the first things you will notice about this phone is how big and beautiful the screen looks. Forget the Super AMOLED Plus vs Super AMOLED vs Retina Display vs Super Clear LCD vs NOVA Display arguments. Let’s face the facts, if you didn’t like the screen, you probably wouldn’t have picked up this phone anyways. If you got this phone as a gift, congratulations and I think you can learn to love the display. If the contrast is a little too much (too much strain) on your eyes, you can adjust the brightness and see if it helps. I usually don’t run my phone at full brightness. For me, I like it at 3 notches above the minimum. Minimum brightness does help save battery but I find that it is a little too dark for me. This brings me perfectly to my next point.
The next thing you would probably notice is the battery life. When you first charge it to full and use it, you may find that your phone has horrible battery life. This is normal and expected. The battery life gets noticeably better from roughly the second or third full charge onwards. This is because the phone’s battery needs a few cycles of charge and discharge to be conditioned. Also, certain settings (like display brightness mentioned above) will help you save battery power. A few of the more common settings that people adjust for power savings are as below.
Display –> Set to the lowest acceptable brightness setting and use dark (STATIC) wallpapers as AMOLED will drain less power the darker the display is. Typically, brightness can be set to minimum or minimum+1 and still be viewable.
Auto Sync –> Turn off Auto Sync unless you really need the syncing to be done. You can also disable individual syncs if you need some of them. More sync = more power used.
WiFi/Bluetooth/3G Radio –> Use WiFi where possible. It has been reported that WiFi uses less power than 3G radio. Alternatively, use 2G only. This results in lower surfing speeds but saves power. Keep WiFi turned on instead of turning it off and on will also help save power. For Bluetooth, turn it off unless you are using it.
Location Services –> You don’t really need the location services to be turned on. Turn it off.
Wall Paper/Theme –> As mentioned in the Display section above, use dark or black wallpapers. Ideal case is black as this will turn off the LEDs (in AMOLED) resulting in power savings.
Widgets –> If you use auto-update widgets like mail, facebook, weather, you are draining the power constantly or at least periodically. Removing these or lowering the refresh rate will save power too.
In addition to the above, it will be helpful and highly recommended to install a power management app. There are quite a few of those apps around and two of the more popular ones are Juice Defender and Green Power. Pick whichever you like and install it. Note that there are free and paid versions of the apps. The free version of Juice Defender comes with a set of its own predefined settings which should be good enough for the regular user. I recommend that you download it and use the balanced profile. The only time when I would recommend not installing (or disabling) a power management app is when your phone’s performance suffers (becomes sluggish and not so responsive). This shouldn’t happen with a GSII but it may happen with a lower spec phone. Everyone’s tolerance and needs are different. Whilst I do not discourage reading the apps reviews, ultimately, I would recommend downloading the free app and try for yourself. If for some reason it does slow down your phone, you can always uninstall it with relative ease. No harm done.
One thing to note about power management app. Typically, the power management app will turn off radios (3G, WiFi, Bluetooth) when the screen is inactive and turning them on periodically only to check for new email/messages. This behavior may not be what you would want and for that reason, you may prefer not to enable or install the power management app. While I understand the reason behind, I still feel that the pros does outweight the cons in this matter. The paid version of Juice Defender does offer the option to disable the scheduling of radios which you can use to disable the periodic wake to check and have the radios always on. This does not totally negate the use of a power management app as the power management app still does help conserve battery by turning off the radios when you sleep (fixed time period for free, adjustable time period for paid). Think about it. For most people, they sleep an average of 6-8 hours a day. That’s 6-8 hours where you will not need to use your phone. Having the power management app automatically turn off the radios during that time does save some power.
On my typical day’s use of 2 hours of gaming, 2 hours of web browsing, 13 hours on WiFi, 11 hours on 3G with Juice Defender running, my GSII can last about 2 days before I would need to charge it again. Other people have been able to get even more hours from their phone by rooting it and then installing Titanium Backup Pro to freeze unneeded applications (Samsung’s bloatware as they call it) but since I have decided not to root my phone at the moment, I cannot verify how much longer it can last. As you may notice, there is no calls or messages listed in my usage. This is because I do not typically send or receive much calls or messages a day for it to be significant. In fact, I may go the whole day without any calls or messages. This is also why DiGi’s Smart Plan packages are perfect for me. (Note: DiGi has just released their revised Smart Plan packages. Gone is the RM33 for 300MB package and in its place is the new RM48 for 1GB package.)
On a daily basis, this phone has been very responsive. However, I do occasionally have some trouble unlocking the screen which usually happens after I wipe the screen. I’m not too sure why this happens but I think it could be due to my screen protector which makes it a little harder to slide my finger across the screen after wiping it. When I first looked at Galaxy S (yes, the 2010 model), I thought that it looked a little too big for comfort. However, I have no complaints when using the even bigger GSII. The size is not the most comfortable for me (coming from Wave S8500) but it is still good enough to handle. What I particularly enjoy on this phone is the very large and beautiful screen. Looking at websites is very enjoyable on this phone for me.
I initially had some issues with using WiFi on my home router and tried various WiFi fixers and what not with no success. If any of you are experiencing constant disconnection (or connected but unable to browse any website), do check your router’s FW and download a new one if possible. Mine was the TMNet provided DLink 2640B modem+router. The FW was very dated and had a LAN connection issue (it simply would not allow me to see other devices on the network) aside from the WiFi connection issue with my Samsung phones. After updating the FW to a standard DLink release, everything worked fine. My phone can connect without issues and I can now see other devices on the network. There have been a few reports on the Internet that some routers have issues with GSII. Do try to update the FW on your router if possible.
When gaming, the back of the phone (particularly near/around the camera module) may get a little warmer than usual. I have noticed this happening only a couple of times so far. Other times, the temperature difference is barely noticeable. Speaking of which, the camera is able to capture some good photos even at night (well, good enough for me anyway). Here are 2 samples taken at night and 1 sample taken in the day. One in normal mode while another is using the night mode.
I have tried capturing video’s with this phone and I find that the detail and smoothness is very good. However, due to 1080p or even 720p recording, do expect the file sizes to be on the high side.
In conclusion, I can say that this is a great phone. A lot of people complained about the lack of metal body being a downside but to me, it is negligible due to the fact that most people (myself included) will protect their phone using a rubber/metal casing anyways. Once encased, how often does anyone truly take out their phones to admire the metal finish? Besides, a metal body may add to the weight which I do not think is a good thing. Each person has their own likes/dislikes and you need to be sure of what you want before you purchase the phone. As with any other purchase, your needs and wants should dictate whether you buy this phone or not. For me, this is a 10/10 phone. It is simply perfect.