So I currently have my hands on a little device that goes by the name of “Galaxy S“. Now, this phone isn’t big news, besides the fact it’s one of the best phones that has made it’s way to our great country this year.
This is my long awaited review with a Q&A post to follow. If you’re not interested in reading it all (forgive me for the long review, it won’t happen again, I promise!) just skip to the conclusion. 🙂
Click “Read More” to get into it!
The Samsung Galaxy S is the next step up from the Samsung Galaxy, and what a big step it is. Optus have opted (puns have started already) to have the Galaxy S as a 1 month exclusive, which is a tad short, but could lead up to a greater device (surely not) being launched in the near future.
The Galaxy S is a direct opponent to the HTC Desire on Telstra and the Nexus One which will be on Vodafone in the near future.
On Ausdroid.net, the Galaxy S page has managed to jump from one of the lowest viewed pages, to the number one viewed device page, so that may be a hint to me that there are a lot of you guys & gals out there who are wanting to know about the device & I hope this review, and Q&A post that will follow, fills you in on nearly everything you wanted to know.
- ‘Super AMOLED’ 4″ display — amazing technology
- 1GHz Hummingbird CPU
- 720p video recording
- FM Radio
- None of the MultiTouch problems the Desire/N1 suffer
- Android 2.1
- 16GB Internal memory + MicroSD slot
- Front-facing Camera
- It’s the iPhone without being the iPhone — I’ll get to this later
- No LED Flash!
- Cartoon-like UI
- Constant stalling — Randomly it will just go to a black screen and not do anything for a couple of seconds
- No ‘hot-swapping’ of MicroSDs
- Have to download a 140MB program to get your computer to recognise the device
Unboxing & Design
The box in which the Galaxy S finds itself confined to is quite a good use of small space. The box is a bit smaller than that of the HTC Desire but manages to pack in more stuff. The box (below) is dark, with a dare I say, sexy looking “Galaxy S” logo printed atop of it.
In the box are the following:
- Samsung Galaxy S
- 1500mAh Battery
- MicroUSB to USB Cable
- Wall Charger
- In-Ear Earphones (w/ Call Answer/End button & mic)
- Instruction Manual/Health & Safety Manual etc..
At a quick glance, the front of the device could be easily mistaken for a flattened out iPhone. The placement of the speaker, home button & silver outer bezel are exact replicas of those on the iPhone. The device has no sharp edges which is crucial in a device as big as this one, as it can really dig into your hand when you hold it whilst in a call (X10 is the worst in this area). In terms of how large this phone really is, see the photo below comparing it to the Desire & X10.
The volume rocker & power buttons are placed superbly to coincide with where you fingers sit naturally when holding the device, so you don’t have to reach around to unlock the phone. The volume rocker is placed in the usual spot on the left hand side of the device and the power button can be a quarter of the way down the right hand side of the device.
I’m not 100% certain whether the display is glass or plastic, but I am certain that it’s a bloody fingerprint magnet, even the back is. But like most devices, once the display is switched on, you can’t notice any smudges made by fingerprints at all.
The front of the device is black with two white icons denoting where the touch-sensitive buttons are located on the bottom, but what I love about the front being black, is that when you have the screen on showing a black image, you don’t know where the screen begins & ends thanks to the deep colours of ‘Super AMOLED’.
As usual, this is where all the buttons are located:
- Menu (Long press for search)
- Front facing Camera
- Ambient light sensor & proximity sensor
- Right Side
- Power/Lock button
- Left Side
- Volume Rocker
- MicroUSB Port (With sliding cover)
- 3.5mm Headphone Jack
- Where you open the back cover
- 5MP Camera
- ‘With Google’ Logo 😛
LED FlashNot a thing..
The two things that annoy me most about the design is that there is no trackball/optical trackpad and that there is no flash for the camera, but those aren’t a problem for everyone.
The display on the Galaxy S is nothing short of incredible. I’m extremely fussy when it comes to the display on my phone, and the ‘Super AMOLED’ in the Galaxy S nearly ticks all the boxes. It’s vivid and the colours are really, really deep. For example, if you have a black image up on the screen, you could be mistaken for thinking the phone was turned off. My only gripe about it is the clarity, now call my a ‘fusspot’ but I can still make out the pixels in the screen quite clearly, but when I gave the Galaxy S to workmates & friends a majority of them couldn’t notice the pixels, so it’s not a big worry for most people 😉
“Buzz, does it have MultiTouch!?” Of course it does, who do you think made it? Sony Ericsson?
In all seriousness, Galaxy S is fitted with a capacitive display capable of two finger (DualTouch) gestures such as everyone’s favourite, “Pinch 2 Zoom”. The dual finger approach also makes it that tiny bit easy to type on the keyboard and is also used by a lot of newer applications.
In addition to this, the Galaxy S does not suffer from the MT problems suffered by the Nexus One & Desire, where it would misplace touches when fingers intercepted each other.
The screen is quite responsive and so far hasn’t missed any presses. The only time it becomes unresponsive is when you open an app and the whole phone will freeze for 1-3 seconds, but I’ll go into that later. Otherwise, the responsiveness of the screen is up there with the Desire.
Clarity & Brightness
In comparison to the Desire, the ‘Super AMOLED’ renders normal AMOLED obsolete. It’s far clearer, has deeper colours & better sun visibility (I couldn’t take photos of this, but you can take my word for it).
Although in comparison to the TFT display in the X10, they’re pretty bloody even. Although TFT makes colours look “washed out”, it’s still crisper. But only just. So if you want a beautiful screen on your Android device, this is the one you want.
Touch Wiz, or Total Waste, as I like to call it, is for the lack of a better word, crap. It’s a complete iPhone clone, so there isn’t much innovation here at all. If you want an Android Device with the iPhone look and feel, get the Galaxy S.
As with the iPhone &
Total Waste Touch Wiz, nearly all scrolling menus have that “bounce-back” action you’ve come to know and love in the iPhone & HTC’s Sense UI.
Touch Wiz also manages to slow everything down, when you go to open and close most applications, the whole phone will become unresponsive for 1-3 seconds. It’s enough to send you insane. It’s quite a shame that a phone with such a fast CPU & GPU manages to completely cease up every now and then. For those of you willing to ‘Root & ROM’ the Galaxy S, you shouldn’t have a problem running an AOSP build at full speed 🙂
There are the now normal, seven homescreens on the Galaxy S, which is more than enough to fill with all your weird & wonderful widgets, folders & apps. At the top of the homescreens there are 7 (or however many homescreens you have) circles that represent each homescreen available. Pressing on any of them will slide you straight to that homescreen.
It’s also easy to add & remove homescreens. By pressing the menu key then select “Edit” from the contextual menu, all your homescreens will come up as cards (see below), to remove one or more you just tap on the red minus sign and they will be removed. To add a homescreen back, you tap on the “+” button at the bottom and it will add a homescreen to where ever you scroll to. For example: If you want to add a homescreen to the first slot, scroll to the first slot, then press the “+” button.
The 3 icons on the bottom of the homescreens/App Slider can be changed, by going into the “App Slider” then hitting menu then edit 🙂 *thanks for pointing this out to me*
As Samsung wishes to completely copy the iPhone’s layout, the “App Drawer” has now been turned into an “App Slider” which is identical to that of the iPhone. You just tap on “Applications” on the homescreens and it will bring up your apps 4×4, and you slide across to get to all your apps. Alternatively if you have a lot of apps to scroll through, you can tap on the circles that appear just like on the homescreen.
In the “App Slider”, applications aren’t listed in alphabetical order, which I found quite annoying at times. Instead it will list them from when they were installed, with only System Apps being listed alphabetically.
If you find both the idea of scrolling sideways and disowning the alphabet annoying as hell, I have the solution! When in the “App Slider”, press menu then “List View” in the contextual menu, this will present all your apps to you in a list you can scroll up & down in, and all the apps are listed in alphabetical order.
Touch Wiz Apps & Widgets
Samsung have done their best to keep the iPhone look and feel here, so they chucked in an eBook reader, which is quite cool and made books pretty easy to read. Included is an app which is quite a good idea, it’s called “Write and Go”, and what it does is you simply write up whatever you want to say, and you can choose to send it as a text message, email, or status update to Facebook & Twitter, all in a very simple interface.
Another supposedly big feature that Samsung wants you to love is “Social Hub”, now this is possibly the most over hyped application ever. It basically does the same thing as “Text and Go”, except you choose where to send the text, then write it. And it lets you click on each social app (Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter) you have, and it opens it. Yep, pointless.
Samsung have included some pretty widgets of their own. 4 of those being clocks in one way or another:
- AccuWeather Clock
- Calendar Clock
- Dual Clock
- Y! Finance Clock
- Buddies Now
- Daily Briefing
- Feeds & Updates
As per most UI’s these days, Samsung have added the usual social networking widgets & app, that allow you to view & send status updates, so there isn’t anything new here.
As you will see below, the Galaxy S kicks some butt, too bad the bloody TW UI slows it down!
Note: Higher is better on Linpack & Neocore. Lower is better on BenchmarkPi.
This is where the Galaxy S trumps the iPhone, you see, no matter how you hold the Galaxy S, you can still make calls! Revolutionary.
The Contacts app is slightly modified version of the default app in Eclair (Android 2.1), so you can sync all your contacts to your Google Account and view them at http://google.com/contacts and if you change phones you can sync them to that device as well. Google <3. When viewing a contact it will tell you all the info you entered, but unlike Sense UI, it doesn’t sync to Facebook & Twitter. Although the official twitter app does sync from inside the app.
If you’re an avid Gtalk user, it will show a green or orange icon next to the contact to specify if they’re logged into Gtalk or not.
Searching through your contacts is pretty straightforward, you can slide your finger down the alphabet located on the right of the list or you can long press on menu and it will bring up the search box and you can then simply type in the name of the contact you’re looking for.
Adding a contact is also easy, you just press “Create contact” and it lets you choose whether to save this contact to the phone, your SIM card or your Google Account. A feature not on all Android Devices I’ve played with.
In almost every review, I forget about testing the actual calling capabilities. But not this time, I made a few calls with the phone, and I found it quite clear on my end, and they had no issues hearing me on their end. So yes, this phone can make calls! Although I did not test conference calling.
Like most mobiles, you can put people on hold and call others, nothing new to see here. The proximity sensor also does it’s job well, turning off the devices display when you put it up to your ear so you don’t accidentally hang up. Something Sony Ericsson bypassed in the X10.
The Loudspeaker is very loud & relatively clear, I had no problems understanding people although sometimes it sounded a bit muffled. In addition, people could hear me when I spoke from a distance.
Email / Messaging
As per most Android Devices, Gmail is the main Email used on the device, unless of course, you don’t have a Google Account. And if you don’t have a Google Account, you’re missing out on heaps!
The Gmail app is no different to the one I spoke about in the Telstra Desire Review, so there still isn’t any support for zooming and copying text, although we know those two features are available in Android 2.2. Which by the way, Samsung will be updating to at a later date.
Android 2.1 also comes with a regular email application you can sync all your other email accounts to.
Unlike the Gmail Application, the default Mail App allows you to Pinch-2-Zoom in and out of the email so you can view all your emails the way they were meant to be viewed, instead of having to pan around and miss half the text. It also allows you to have a combined inbox of all your email account you have added, which I think is nice. In the combined inbox each accounts email are colour coded for easy viewing. Very cool!
The Messaging app on the Galaxy S does what it’s meant to, but does have some issues with notifications. For example, if you receive a text message, and you get the usual notification in the notifications bar. When you press on that, it will take you to the message. But if you press home to get out of the message, it won’t mark the message as read, so you have to go back into the app, find the message and then press on it to mark it as read. This does not happen if you get out of the message by pressing back.
Other than that, everything is in it’s usual place. Press “New message” for a new txt, choose who you want to send it to and away you go. You can choose to send it to an individual, or to a group of people. You can also choose to lock a message so you don’t accidentally delete it.
Music / Video / Images / Radio
Just like some of the apps on the phone, the Music Player is a slightly customised version of the default Android Music Player. At the top there is a slider with 5 options:
All 5 are pretty self explanatory. Each category is listed alphabetically and has the alphabet down the right side that you can slide up and down to get to a song/band/podcast starting with what ever letter.
The main failure in the Music Player is that it doesn’t sync missing Album Artwork. So if any songs are missing their Album Artwork, you will be met with a random looking colourful image. But everything else is there: play, pause, back, next, volume, scrubbing, shuffle, repeat & my personal favourite 5.1ch.
The 5.1ch button only works when you plug your headphones in, and then makes everything sound like it’s in 5.1 channel surround sound. Now, before everyone goes crazy over how awesome that is, it only sounds great on some songs & not others. I found song with a lot of bass sounded great, but if a song had mainly vocals, it didn’t sound good at all. So it really depends on what you listen to personally to get the best out of it.
I’ve also found that when you’re battery begins to go flat, the Galaxy S will stop you from listening to music to prolong the life of your dying battery. Pretty good idea, but it needs an option to turn that off, which as far as I could see, doesn’t exist.
Another absolute fail, is that the Music Player has no widget whatsoever. So Samsung has even removed the default one that comes with Android, smart move that, Samsung :|.
The Video Player is a part of the Gallery which is the default Android 2.1 Gallery. So there is nothing new to report here. For anyone who hasn’t used it, the Gallery brings together all your Images & Videos into one place and arranges them in folders, just as they’d appear on your MicroSD Card. Videos appear amongst the Images, marked with a “play button” in the centre of them.
The Galaxy S supports the following formats for video: DivX, XviD, MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, VC-1
format: 3gp(mp4), AVI(divx), MKV, FLV, H.263Sorenson. But for some reason, I couldn’t get it to play any DivX files. So I’m not sure what’s going on there. Other than that, nearly every other codec under the sun is supported
The Image Viewer is just the Gallery as I said above. Images obviously don’t have the “play button” in the centre so you know they’re images. In the Gallery, you press on an image and it will bring it up in full screen, with a few menus to play with.
When you’re in viewing an image, you can pinch it to zoom in and out, and swipe left and right to go through other images in the same folder. Pressing the menu button whilst in a photo will bring up a few options:
- Set as
- Rotate left
- Rotate right
Image details (size, format)
Set image as wallpaper, contact display picture
This lets you share that image via eMail, Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail etc..
Obviously deletes the selected image (Long pressing inside of the gallery allows you to delete multiple images)
So there’s certainly a bit you can do with the image, or you can download Photoshop.com Mobile and go crazy! 😛
There is also an option to play a slideshow of all your images, which is a cool idea if you have pictures you want to show off.
Not to let the Desire take the limelight away, the Galaxy S also has an FM Radio which will tune into all your most loved stations. It let’s you save all your channels into presets for quick listening later on.
If you’re an international traveller, the radio can tune into frequencies specific to certain countries, so that’s always a good thing.
The FM Radio works by having your headset plugged in and using it as the antenna, so it won’t work without headphones, but don’t think you can only listen to the radio via headphones, there is an option to play via the loudspeaker. All bases covered!
Camera / Video
The Galaxy S comes packed with a 5MP Camera and enough options to have you playing with it for hours on end. I have a few shots I took with it in the picture gallery below if you want to check them out.
For a phone I think the picture quality is pretty bloody good, until it starts to get dark, then you’re stuffed. Samsung thought it would be a cool idea to make a great device, and not stick any form of flash on it. But it does come with an option that attempts to take photos in low light with alright results.
If you don’t have a steady hand (like me), you’ll find it impossible to take photos in the “low light” mode, but the stability in other photo modes is fairly good and allows you to take mostly clear pictures.
720p goodness! Mmmm. Video quality on the Galaxy S is pretty superb (quick example below). You can also choose to take videos in a lower resolution if you don’t have enough room on the internal memory or on your MicroSD.
The front facing camera is great for making video calls over the 3G network, and is even better over WiFi using an application like Ustream.
After taking a video, uploading it to YouTube is as simple as always & is processed almost immediately by YouTube for viewing worldwide.
For people wanting more examples of the Video Recording & Camera. They’re coming in the Q&A tomorrow 🙂
Browser / Data
The browser is, once again, the default Android Browser with a few more options and the ability to save RSS Feeds straight from the webpage, so there is nothing new for me to report here.
The Galaxy S supports UMTS Bands I/II/VIII or 900/1900/2100MHz UMTS, which means it works flawlessly on all networks apart from Telstra’s NextG network. But Telstra are going to be getting a 850MHz UMTS version, so wait around for that if you need the extra coverage
Now, I’m a pretty heavy user. I listen to music, browse the web, download stuff & having nearly everything running. With all that going on, I managed (just) to get a full working day (7am – 7pm) out of the battery.
I found that when your battery gets below 10-15% it won’t let you run certain apps such as the Music Player to stop you wasting battery so you’re able to receive texts & calls for that little bit longer
Not to be outdone by Apple, Samsung made sure they copied the iPhone keyboard to the pixel. As you can see in the picture below, there is no long pressing on characters for numbers and secondary characters, instead you have to press on “?123” to bring up all the other characters you need.
iPhone Default keyboard doesn’t float your boat, Swype is pre-installed. For those not familiar with Swype, it allows you to swipe your fingers over the letters to make up the word, and it guesses (quite well) what you’re trying to type.
If you’re not an Android Newbie, I hope you skipped to here.
The Galaxy S is an amazing light weight device, with an extremely fast CPU & GPU that is let down only by the UI it runs. The UI, which is an iPhone clone, makes the phone feel ‘cartoonish’ and not elegant & powerful like it should be. If this phone was running AOSP 2.2, I would be out buying it, no problems at all.
Super AMOLED kicks arse, there is no other way to put it. It’s giving TFT a real run for its money. the Galaxy S also needs a trackball or optical pad for a way of correcting mistakes in typing, as now you have to keep pressing with your finger until you get the right spot.
The lack of a flash for the camera is also a real shame, especially since the Galaxy S’s strong point is its camera/video capabilities.
Other than that, I am overall pretty impressed with what Samsung have done with the Galaxy
Buy the Galaxy S
You can buy the Galaxy S from them for just $849 which includes local warranty
Alternatively, if you’re on a contract with Optus, you can get it from them on the $59 Social Cap 😀