The Samsung Galaxy S has been long overdue. While Apple and now even HTC have a sterling rep for smartphone software, the South Korean giant’s trump card is its ultra hot hardware. That’s been missing from the company’s Android line up for the last year, but this phone changes that, and puts it right back at the front of the smartphone pack. See what we mean in our full Samsung Galaxy S review.
Read the rest of our Samsung Galaxy S review
Samsung Galaxy S review: Android 2.1
Samsung Galaxy S review: Super AMOLED screen
Samsung Galaxy S review: Build and battery
Samsung Galaxy S review: Ultimate buyer’s guide
While we’ve had to make do with mediocre Android efforts like the Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Portal until now, Sammy has finally pulled out just about all the stops with the Samsung Galaxy S, a phone that’s every bit as powerful as the Dell Streak, and as consumer friendly as a HTC Desire.
We say just about, as Sammy has still failed with the casing of the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S’ build is by no means unpleasant, but it is uninspiring. To its credit, it is very slim – under a centimetre – and the slight ridge at one end is barely noticeable in day to day use. But while we lavished praise on the new look Samsung Wave, the Samsung Galaxy S falls back on Sammy’s traditional cheap plastic look with clacky buttons you can hear vibrate after they’ve been pushed, and worse, it’s shaped like a slightly broader iPhone 3G. Not iPhone 4, mind, but a two year old iPhone 3G.
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Most of these issues fade away however once you turn the Samsung Galaxy S on. This is the only phone with a screen that can possibly match the iPhone 4’s astounding Retina Display. It’s large, sharp (WVGA), and a Super AMOLED panel (A more expensive technology than LCD but one capable of producing rich, vivid colours), and the biggest one we’ve ever seen on a phone. Websites, apps and videos look fantastic and multitouch pinch to zoom gestures work on pictures and webpages without a hitch.
Android 2.1 meanwhile runs like a dream. At a glance, the Samsung Galaxy S appears to be running stock Android, but Samsung’s skinned it, and for once, come up with a cracker of a phone that uses a TouchWiz UI. The homescreen layout has barely changed, and the menu icons are straight out of the iPhone OS (right down to the little notification numbers that appear in the corner), but the neat little options we loved in Bada on the Samsung Wave are here too: the drop down notification tray now lets you toggle Wi-Fi and sound profile, and even gives you track control when music is playing.
When you’ve got full signal, pages and Google Maps just plop into view on the Samsung Galaxy S instantaneously, and you’ll be able to get around at speed thanks to an excellent on screen keyboard too (There’s even the option to use Swype text input, which some people swear by). But just as welcome are the extra features Samsung’s bunged in on top of those Android supports natively.
We’re not just talking about the option to link your Facebook and Gmail contacts easily, in the same way you do on the Wave, or those neat twists to the notification tray. Samsung’s extra media support will please those with large digitial music and video collections. Instead of basic H.264/MP4 support, the Samsung Galaxy S opens just about every video format you can throw at it, including MKV, and DivX/Xvid AVIs, which should please Android’s more hardcore audience. Not only that, but it’ll stream them over DLNA too, so you can watch a movie on the way home, then watch it on your TV – it worked without a hitch streaming to our Sony PS3.
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Combine this with everything Samsung has stuffed under the bonnet of the Samsung Galaxy S (TV-out support, a five megapixel camera that takes excellent 720p HD videos and up to 16GB of internal storage alongside a microSD slot), and what you’re looking at is one of the most powerful multimedia smartphones ever, and certainly the best phone Samsung has ever crafted.
That’s not to say we didn’t spot a few hitches. The GPS signal strength on the Samsung Galaxy S is not the strongest we’ve seen. And for some reason, Android Market downloads would fail more than they completed, when tested over Wi-Fi, 3G and 2G on two different networks – though Samsung says this isn’t a widespread issue, and since the unit we tested last month didn’t have this glitch, we’re inclined to believe them. Still, this and the plasticky build are the only things that should hold you back, and we think the power of the Samsung Galaxy S will more than make up for it.
We don’t have the HTC Evo 4G here in the UK, HTC’s great slab of an Android smartphone available in the US. The Samsung Galaxy S should easily sate anyone longing for the form factor, and if you know the iPhone 4 and its closed environment aren’t for you, the Samsung Galaxy S almost certainly is.
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