Samsung Galaxy S2

Samsung’s second attempt to dethrone the smartphone king – Apple’s iPhone – has finally arrived. Talked about for months and previewed with much fanfare, Samsung’s S2 is thin, spec’d up, and the flagship of Samsung’s range this year. Is it enough to topple the iPhone juggernaut?

Features

The top of Samsung’s current crop of phones, the S2 is almost overloaded with more features.

For starters, the engine has taken a speed increase and is now a dual-core 1.2GHz processor. It’s not the fastest phone on the market by the specs, but we expect it will still manage to outperform much of what is currently available. You’ll also find 16GB of memory on-board, with a microSD slot for throwing in up to 32GB more memory.

More upgrades on the S2 include a switch from a 5 megapixel to an 8 megapixel camera, 1080p Full HD video recording, the latest version of Android OS (2.3 “Gingerbread”), and a very fast HSDPA modem capable of 21Mbps.

Aesthetically, it’s a fairly minimalist affair on the S2, with a large 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus screen dominating the handset, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera up top, a centre button at the bottom, and two light-up soft buttons for menu and going back to the last item. Physical buttons do exist on the S2, but they are few: a volume toggle on the left-hand side and a power button on the right.

While the original Galaxy S was fairly thin, the new S2 has managed to shed some weight, dropping from 9.9mm to 8.5mm thin and sitting pretty at 119 grams. The construction feels a little better this time around, the slippery plastic material used to house the phone replaced with a textured plastic back.

You’ll also find Gorilla Glass protecting the screen, as well as Bluetooth 3.0, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, and GPS.

Performance

So much has been loaded into the S2 that it’s hard to compare it to other Android devices. This isn’t “just another Android phone,” because some serious attention has been paid to its interface.

Widget screens and an applications menu remain, and we can still see some iPhone inspiration in the menu, but the look of Samsung’s TouchWiz 4 overlay feels generally better than what we’re used to seeing in Android devices. When you decide to add something to the home and widget screens, simply hold your finger down on the screen for the “Add to home” section to pop up at the bottom. From here you can swipe through the widgets, wallpapers and shortcuts easily.

Samsung's TouchWiz overlay sports some cool new additions, including the ability to sort your applications menu in a similar way to your widget screens.

Samsung’s S2 program menu can be sorted into your own screens – a first for many Android phones – adopting the same design as the widget arrangement screen to make it easier for you to manage your apps. Simply pinch on either of these screens and they will reform into panels for you to move them into different positions.

The messages and email application works in portrait and landscape orientation, the latter opening in a desktop style that reminds us very much of what the Galaxy Tab does with email.

Samsung’s “Reader’s Hub” – with support for ebooks over Kobo and magazines through Zinio – carries over from the original Galaxy S, but Samsung has added a way for you to browse through your phone’s files and move music and images to and from the device by way of your web browser. Using the “Kies Air” app found on the S2, you’ll find that any computer with a WiFi connection – Mac or PC – can connect to the handset with a web browser to send and receive files from the phone.

Little things like swiping left on a contact in the message screen to make a call, or swiping right to send a message make us feel that an extra layer of control was added by a designer who cared. The widget and home screen controller looks and feels different to any other handset we’ve experienced, throwing out the normal ‘power’ user mentality and replacing it with something anyone can understand.

Battery life even manages to snag a little under a day if you’re an avid user of social networking sites and email. Like most phones in its class, you’ll probably want to charge it up every night, but it doesn’t fall short as you work, and we like that. Turn off Bluetooth and hold off from checking Twitter every ten minutes, and you’ll find the battery lasts into a second day.

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