Review: Samsung Galaxy S2, The Uber Droid

Friends! When I, the Symbian addict for last 5 years, got my first Android in my hand, I must say I was thrilled. And the droid was none other than Samsung Galaxy SII. So, I would love to share my experience with you people. So, read the space to have a glimpse at a new world of Mobile Experience:-

Hardware

The beast comes loaded with a 1.2 GHz dual core processor, fitted beautifully in 116 g device with dimensions 125.30 x 66.10 x 8.49mm. 8.49 mm thickness makes it look ultra slim and elegant. And due to the slim profile and very less weight it’s easier to carry. It’s powered by a 1650 mAh battery which makes it last for 10/8hrs in 2g/3g active usage (Although you must have heard about long battery life claims, but for me it works only that long). It comes with a 4.27″ Super AMOLED Plus touch screen having resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and 16m color depth. And, I must say that the whole experience something divine. The colors are so vivid and rich that it takes you to some other world.

Samsung Galaxy S2

The front of the Phone contains a Samsung Logo, Front Camera, Ear piece, Light & Proximity Sensors on the top, a menu, home & back key at the bottom and in between them, lies the 4.27″ Super Amoled Plus touch screen, the best touch interface I have ever experienced.

The back of the device contains a Rear Camera lens, Flash Bulb, Back cover and a speaker.

There is a 3.5 mm headset jack & Mouth Piece for Speaker Calls on the top, Mouthpiece & Multifunction Jack on the bottom. To the left is Volume Key and to the right is Power/Lock Key.

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Moving on…

Software

Homescreen

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) loaded SGS2 comes with 7 home screens, which give you a lot of space to add various icons, widgets, shortcuts etc. Every home screen will contain 4 icons at the bottom Phone, Contacts, Messaging, Applications. Apart from these icons, every home screen can get embedded with 16 other icons.

 

Pinch the screen and you can have a smaller view of all the home screens, click the one you need to open. You can also drag quickly between home screens, by pressing the dots at bottom and then dragging around.

 

Clicking on the menu key, gives you six options Add, Wallpaper, Search, Notifications, Edit & Setting –

Clicking on Add, Opens up four options- Widgets, Shortcuts, Folders, Wallpapers. Widgets give you an option to add online/offline widgets ranging from clocks, weather, news, twitter feed, Facebook etc.

By Using Shortcuts Option you can add various shortcuts on your home screen for applications, Bookmarks, Contacts, Direction and navigation and many more. And, Wallpapers give you an option to select wallpaper from Gallery, Live Wallpapers and Wallpaper Gallery. And you will get the same option if you click Wallpaper to the right of Add in the very first menu. So, they have wasted a slot, which could have been used for something else.

You can also add Folders like New Folder, All Contacts, Contacts with Phone Number, Polaris Office Recent, Received List from Bluetooth etc.

Search gives you an option to search content on All, Web, Apps, Contacts (You can get the drop down menu by clicking on ‘g’) you can change the searchable items on phone, by pressing the menu key and clicking on search setting. You can also do the voice search by clicking on the mic on the top right corner. You can also open the search by long pressing the Menu key. Also, one good thing about this Google powered search is that it syncs and remembers your web search too. Means the search you have done on your PC or Laptop on Google with your account logged in.

Next option is of Edit, using this you can edit the home screens, but this feature does not give u more options, you can only shuffle  the home screens i.e. can move the first one to second or other slot, can delete a home screen and later on add one.

Although the ‘Edit’ thing doesn’t give you much options, you can do a lot more with the touch interface. Like, if you want to delete a widget, icon or shortcut, just long press it and you will get the remove icon at the bottom, just drag the thing to be deleted to that remove box and its gone 🙂

Similarly you can move an icon from one place to another by long pressing it and then dragging it to the desired position. Similarly you can move it to the other screen by tilting your phone to the left or right as applicable.

But there is a thing which gave me a setback while using this edit option. You can only move the icon to an empty slot, you can’t swap two icons, you can’t insert icons in between two icons by shifting the earlier one to left or right. So, if you want to rearrange them, first, move it to the empty slot and then arrange it accordingly.

However the case is not the same with the icons in applications, there you can use the edit option by clicking on the menu key and then you can shuffle the icons, move it in between two icons by shifting the others to the next slot, add folder, add pages, obviously can not delete an icon (because all are applications).

Here, in applications the long pressing works in a different way. Select any app’s icon long press it and you will be able to add it on one of your desired home screens. It is something very useful. But again the problem is you can only add the shortcut to the empty slot on the home screen.

I have also come across with an interesting feature. Have you ever disliked the size of a widget, and wanted it to be of your desired size? You can do it on your home screen with certain widgets. Just long press the widget and you will get some rectangular outlines to resize your widget accordingly. But this only works for widgets, not for shortcuts for obvious reasons.

Notifications

One of the most important parts of mobiling with an Android is notification. So, SGS2 has small notification bar on the top.  Which contains time to the extreme right followed by battery indicator, Network bars and data network. And on the right hand side of the bar you get notifications for Power saving mode, message, email, Facebook notification, chat notification, push tweet notification, download, upload, download complete, update, missed call etc. If you want to check out any notification e.g. the new message just drop down the notification bar, it will take size of full screen and you can choose the option of New message and read the message. One more interesting thing about notification is that, you can open it from any running application. So, if you are using some application and you get a message which you think is important and you need to read it. Just drop down the notification bar and open the message, from whichever app you are using. Also, on the locked home screen you will get the notification of new message and missed call, you can simply swap it and open the message/missed call.

Also the dropdown menu, gives you the options of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and Auto rotation, so enabling or disabling any of the option is too easy.

 

Settings

Settings have following options and we will discuss few options which are important and different from ordinary options:-

First such option is Kies via Wi-Fi, it’s under wireless and network options and it allows you to connect to your PC using Wi-Fi to explore the phone.

Next, is USB utilities, in this you can connect your phone to your pc and explore the SD card and the internal memory just like a Pen drive.

Tethering and portable hotspot is a very useful option. By using any of these options, you can use the internet of your phone on your laptop or computer. So, either use the USB cable for your Old home PC or Wi-Fi hotspot for your laptop and few more devices. It really saves you few bucks for buying an external modem or USB dongle, and it works superbly. In fact I am doing this post using Portable hotspot only.

Now something really useful and different from ordinary call setting you get in SGS2 is Call Rejection. So, if you have it in your phone, you do not need any third party software to keep unwanted callers away. So, in call rejection, you have got an Auto Reject mode, which allows you to switch it off, reject all numbers or only black list. And, in Black list you can add unknown numbers (means the numbers which are not in your friend list) or set a match criterion which includes exactly the same as, Start with, Ends with or Include. This is pretty useful in the cases if some company tries to call you and they have a series of phone lines.

Then there is Power Saving Mode, Where you can set at what level of battery the Power Saving Mode is to be used, whether to turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sync in Power saving mode and at what level brightness should be set when Power Saving Mode is enabled.

‘Accounts and Sync’ manages all your account entered in various services like social hub, IMs, twitter, Mail client etc. You can delete, edit or sync your account from here.

Samsung Services

Samsung provide various kinds of services apart from Samsung Kies (In which you can manage your phone using PC). These services include Social Hub, Readers Hub, Game Hub, Samsung Applications and Kies Air.

Social hub allows you to check all incoming messages and updates of SNS accounts like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn in a single inbox. Then you can add multiple email account for the instant delivery of emails and you can also chat with your friends by adding IM accounts like Window Live Messenger, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger.

Readers hub give you an option to explore thro’ newspapers, books and magazines, download them on your shelf and read them. Each service i.e. newspaper, book or magazine are powered by different service and you can get few free and paid books, magazines etc. Similarly Samsung App is an application service which allows you to download and install various applications, games etc on your phone. Kies air is an application using which you can connect your phone to your pc and explore it using a web based interface without installing any software on your pc and without USB cable.

Using the Games hub, you can connect with people and friends online and enjoy multiple online gaming on your SGS2.

Google Maps

Google maps provide you mapping and navigation services. You can explore the maps, take directions and navigate thro’ the city. In additions to this you can use various Google services like Layers, latitude etc, which enables you to have street view, share your location with your friends. So that you can always stay connected. You can also search for Restaurants, Coffee, Pubs, Attractions, ATMs, Petrol Stations Etc and then navigate to your favorite location taking directions from Google Maps.

Android Market

No wonder Android market is one of the prime reasons for the real success of Android. It lures you with millions of productive apps, games etc. Android market interface is a beautiful one, with all apps categorized in different ways, like paid, free, top free, top paid, grossing, editor’s choice, staff choice and then the usual genre wise categorization of games , apps etc.

You can download, install, uninstall and update the applications using the Android Market. Above all, few other things I like about Android market is that, it has got a dedicated web interface login in it and choose your app and instead of sending the link via message, it will automatically start downloading on your phone which is very handy. Apart from that you get some apps like App Brain using which you can smartly manage your applications.

However, connectivity is the thing which can give you problems. The new version of Android market fails badly in 2g and unstable connection. There are lots of interruption and cancellation of download when you use an unstable or weak internet connection. In fact, I had to uninstall the update and switch back to the basic Android market application in moderate 2G/3G connection.

Input Method

So, another thing good about Android is, the input methods. Though being open source you come across tons of input methods but still the default input methods that come loaded on SGS2 i.e. Samsung Keypad and Swype are bliss in themselves. You can choose any of the input method.

Samsung Keypad provide you an option of portrait and landscape QWERTY keypad, the keys are well spaced. In portrait mode, you also get an option of alpha numeric keypad. There are also options for auto completion, auto space and auto capitalizations which are very handy at times. Also there are writing boxes, which works on handwriting recongnisation and could be useful for few out there.

Swype input method also works like a charm, you can use it both in portrait as well as QWERTY keypad. And you can set the accuracy/speed ratio. You can also have the suggestion box, which give you all possible words.

Camera

SGS2 comes with an 8 megapixel back camera supported with an auto LED flash, and a 2 megapixel front camera for video calling. The imaging quality of the 8 MP camera is very good. The interface of the camera is very good and it gives you a lot of options which take photography to a higher level. When you open the camera, you will get the following screen. To the left there is a small camera icon, this one help you to switch between the rear and the front camera. Below it is the flash option, from where you can set the flash to automatic, on or off mode. At the bottom left there is a key for settings. To, the top right there is an option to switch between Still photography and videos. Then there is a camera key, tapping on which clicks the photo and to the bottom right, there is a shortcut which shows the latest Image as Thumbnail and tapping on it takes you the gallery.

Settings give y0u various options, one of the important mode is shooting mode, which gives you options to take various modes like Single Shot, Smile Shot, Beauty, Panorama, Action Shot and Cartoon. Smile Shot is a good option. Select it, focus on a face, hit the camera key, it will start waiting for the mobile, and the moment you discover a smile on the face, the pic will be clicked. Similarly Scene mode sets portrait, landscape, night, sports or party indoor.

There are various other options which narrow down, when the front camera is used or during the video mode.

So, the camera of SGS2 gives you lot of options to play with and you can click some beautiful pics using the camera of the SGS2 using options like anti shake, auto contrast, blink detection etc.

Here’s a Flickr set –

 

Task Manager

You can open the task manager by long pressing the home menu, which will show the recent applications and an option to open the task manager. Task manager has Active Applications, Downloaded, RAM, Storage and help. From Active applications you can exit an active application or all the application, Downloaded show the applications downloaded and installed on the phone, the same could be uninstalled from this option, RAM shows RAM status and have an option to clear memory. Storage shows you free memory in System Storage, USB Storage and SD Card.

 

Similarly, the applications can be managed by opening Settings–>Applications–>Manage Applications

It shows downloaded and all applications, which could be stopped and uninstalled from here. It also shows applications on SD card and all running applications including the system and background applications. You can stop unnecessary applications from here.

Clock and Calendar

In this busy world, we need to organize our time and activities in an arranged way. Sgs2’s clock and calendar option provides you to organize and memorize it smartly.

Clock has got alarm, World clock, Stop Watch and timer

In alarm, you can set the time, alarm repeat, volume, tone etc. In advanced setting, you can set snooze intervals time and number of repetitions. In addition to this for the people who sleep tightly there is an option of morning alarm, in which duration of ringing of alarm can be set from 3 to 30 min, with different tones. So, with this you are surely going to get up.

Calendar has a monthly, weekly and daily view; you can add an event by tapping on respective date. You can add an event, can sync your Google calendar with the calendar of your phone, can tag a location using GPS or can also add a participant from your contacts can set the repetition of the event and can add reminders.

Browser

Although you get plenty of options of web browser on Android, but the integrated browser of the phone is also very good. It’s very fast, user friendly and stable. In options you get an option to set the brightness, add new window, can quickly shuffle through the open windows and add a new window to. It supports adobe flash and gives you a real browsing appearance. You can add bookmarks and do plenty of things in settings like block popup, set an option for loading images, saving passwords, landscape mode etc.

Polaris Office

SGS2 comes loaded with Polaris Office. This is an application use to browse/edit/create Microsoft office files. You can view your files, recent files. In addition to that, you can add and create a new file in Document/Sheet/Slide (97-2003)/ (2007). You can also upload the files on web and later on use them using box.net. You have to do one time registration for that.

Music Player

The integrated player of SGS2 is well designed and very user friendly. On, the very first screen, you have an option to scroll through, all songs, play list, albums and artists. You can quickly scroll through the songs using the vertical alphabet list on the right.

From the Current Playing song, you can adjust the volume, select the song or can see the whole list of songs. By pressing the menu button, you get an option to add it to quick list or Playlist, play it via Bluetooth or share it via Bluetooth, message, Wi-fi, etc. Also the music player provides a shortcut notification even on the locked screen, so you can easily shuffle through the songs.

Gallery

You might have heard that Samsung is in legal row with Apple on patents of gallery interface. And, when you look at the gallery, it seems worth fighting for.  It smartly organize the videos and images in different folders like camera, screen capture, albums etc. One of the interesting things about gallery is that you have an icon for opening the camera. You might have noticed the same kind of gallery icon in camera UI. So, these alternate shortcuts come out to be very handy. You can quickly shuffle between the folders; tap them to open the image.

You can set any image as contact icon, home screen wallpaper, lock screen wallpaper or send it via Bluetooth, email, Gmail, Wi-fi or messaging.

Open an image, press the menu button, select share via and bingo you get a hell lot of options to share it with ranging from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Picasa etc.

Gestures

SGS2 comes with some very handy motion gestures. Let us discuss them one by one. All these settings can be activated from Settings–>Motion–>Motion Activation

Turn Over

Just imagine that you are sitting on your desk, having an important talk and your phone starts ringing, and you want to mute the call. All you have to do is, just turn over your phone and it will automatically mute the ring.

Tilt

It’s a beautiful option which can be used to zoom in and out the web pages, images etc. All you need to do is hold your phones horizontally, place both of your thumbs on the either side of the screen and then tilt it back or forth to zoom out and zoom in and resize accordingly. Must say, this option works like magic…

Panning

This motion sensing option helps you to organize your home pages, application pages. Just hold and icon and move your phone left or right to move to alternate home screens.

 

Double Tap

This option helps you to open and use the voice commands, just give a tap on the top of your phone to use it.

At the end of the day, the Galaxy S2 is something I’ve fallen in love with.

PS: I might have left some common features. Please drop your queries, issues, etc in the comments section below and I’ll help you with it.

Hope you guys liked the review!