Issue: 10.2 (January/February 2012)
Author: Tam Hanna
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Article Length (in bytes): 6,709
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RBD Number: 10204
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IN BRIEF Product Galaxy SII Manufacturer Samsung Price Around 400 Euros Contact Info http://www.samsung.com Pros Nice screen with solid subpixel architecture; powerful CPU; ample memory; open-source OS; less attractive to thugs due to lower resale value Cons Can't sync with Outlook; can suffer from "insomnia"; charges slowly; less attractive to female barflies Rating (1.0-5.0): 4.5
When users think about a high-end phone, they tend to think iPhone. However, some devices can be more expensive than the "jesusPhone"—the Samsung Galaxy SII is one of them. But can it stack up?
At first glance
Like most cellphones, the Samsung Galaxy SII ships in a box similar to the ones used by Apple. The included accessories are standard, with a headphone included for kicks.
Annoyingly the "screen protector foil" is printed full of Samsung advertising collateral, and thus can not be used as an "interim" screen protector. This joyful experience is staple food among all Samsung devices; Nokia and other manufacturers take a more customer friendly stance.
The handset is extraordinarily slim and literally weighs nothing; gone are the days when high-end phones were heavy. Taking off the back reveals it to be of an ultra thin plasticky nature; which does not feel extraordinarily trustworthy or qualitative.
Even though the back cover appears cheap when taken off, the actual device feels well-built (especially when in a case). The physical buttons are well-built as well. The only nuisance is the lack of a camera button—if you want to make a photo, it's menu time.
From the moment that the handset is powered on, the huge screen will win your heart. The large organic screen is extraordinarily bright; and no longer suffers from the PenTile matrix which plagued devices like the original SGS and the first-gen Wave. Small text appears clear, the large diagonal makes work easy.
Furthermore, charging the (high-capacity) battery is an exercise in frustration. A dedicated charger takes three hours, while a workstation takes six to eight hours to top off the device. However, one can then expect to have a day's worth of Skype and email push usage.
The camera has served me quite well. It had no issues acting as a "document scanner" in every day usage, which—for me—is the main reason to use a cellphone camera in the first place.
Android OS can be loved or hated. Samsung's customizations are not too aggressive; the main nuisance is the inclusion of 20 programs which nobody will ever need and which take up space in the launcher.
After having cleaned up the phone by shoving the "Samsung hub " applications into a junk folder, a surprisingly lean GUI remains which brings it very close to the stock Android desktop. Widgets, Apps and web links can now be loaded onto the desktop (see Figure 1).
In addition, an application list is also available. Neither of them are available in landscape mode.
The Android browser is excellent. The high-speed dual core processor makes for an ultra-slick browsing experience, and the excellent Flash integration means that you can access most web sites without issue. Google Maps and the SMS client are very usable, too.
Finally, allow me to shed a word on multitasking. Well-done applications can be paused and resumed at will; the powerful processor and ample amount of RAM ensure smooth operation.
Unfortunately, Android OS also has its weaknesses. First of all, expect to see dialogs like the one shown in Figure 2 often—the Activity system allows you to customize your phone, but can become a nuisance if you need to get something done quickly.
Syncing the phone with Outlook is impossible without third-party products. These tend to be nastily expensive. If you want your data synced with an industry standard PIM program on the desktop, expect to cough up an extra 50 USD.
The default keyboards aren't too good either. The default Samsung version lacks keys, while the Swype one is difficult to use as it sometimes sees strokes where there are none. Finally, the included Polaris Office suite tends to "eat" changes from time to time.
The Android Market
Hitting the market solves most of the above-described issues. Excellent keyboards can be had for a few dollars. Better email clients and office suites don't cost too much money either.
There literally is "an app for everything." If you need to use your phone for something, expect that an app will already be there.
Developing Android applications is a joy. Java developers can use Eclipse, and create C++ modules when higher CPU performance is needed. Experienced C++ developers can alternatively use third-party frameworks like Qt; which have reached a decent level of stability by now.
The SDK can be downloaded for free, and runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux alike. No fees are required unless an application is to be submitted to the Android Market. No paid signing is required either.
From a hardware perspective, the Samsung Galaxy SII most definitely outperforms the iPhone 4. Its dual core CPU is significantly faster than the single-core CPU found in the iPhone. Battery life has been no issue for me except for the super-slow charging process, and the camera works well.
Android OS is a complex operating system. Its power is unrivalled, but the OS can be difficult to use due to the enormous flexibility. The lack of a proper local sync capability is a major nuisance for people coming from easily-syncable platforms like Symbian or Windows Mobile.
On the other hand, Android applications tend to be dirt cheap. A PDF viewer with commenting facility can be had for two to five dollars.
If you can live without a physical keyboard and without local syncing, the decision between iPhone 4 and Galaxy SII is a question of taste and personal political position ("open" vs "closed" ecosystem). Play around with both phones in a store, and pick the one you prefer.
Figure 1: The Galaxy desktop.
Figure 2: An Android dialog.
End of article.
Article copyrighted by REALbasic Developer magazine. All rights reserved.