If smartphones can have sequels, then the Samsung Galaxy S II is The Empire Strikes Back of the mobile world—a follow-up that improves on every element of the original, and stands out as an exemplary representative of its ilk.
The first Samsung Galaxy S was the thinnest, fastest Android phone in the world when it launched in March 2010. It also sold impressively, shipping 10 million units worldwide. The S II is faster and, rather improbably, thinner. It’s a mere 8.49mm thick and weighs a little over 100g. It looks almost impossible from an engineering standpoint. In a necessary trade-off, it has a plasticky frame, but with a pleasingly polished and textured finish. The extreme thinness also means the speakers aren’t great, and the sound is tinny and washed out.
The S II’s super Amoled display is absolutely fantastic. One can argue about factors such as exact pixel counts and colour density, but this is the best screen I’ve seen on a smartphone yet. Yes, better than the iPhone 4. It’s vivid, large (at 4.3 inches) and a searingly bright beacon of light in dark places.
Top dog: The Galaxy S II.
Inside, the phone is more powerful than many netbooks available in the market today. It sports a dual-core 1.2 Ghz processor, and a humming graphics processing unit (GPU) that handles any video or 3D content you throw at it with merciless ease. As a result, the Android version 2.3.3 (“Gingerbread”) runs without a hint of stutter. The only point of contention arises from Samsung’s TouchWiz 4.0 interface, which they insist on slapping over all their phones. To be fair, a lot of thought has gone into this version of TouchWiz—you can jump directly to a missed call or message when unlocking the phone, the SMS app is arranged in tabs when the phone is held horizontal, and the default keyboard is excellent.
However, this being Android, you’re not stuck with TouchWiz if you don’t like it, and dozens of other options clamour for your attention on the Android market (now 100,000 apps strong).
The camera is an 8-megapixel shooter with flash. It’s not bad, but it’s not the Nokia N8 either. The lack of a dedicated camera button is annoying.
The phone has a gyroscope and accelerometer built in, which lets you do cool stuff like flip the phone over to mute it immediately (which works great) or zoom in and out of pictures by moving the phone backwards and forwards (cool, but pointless). The phone misses no chance to show off all the things it can do, and why not, when it’s been put together with such supreme confidence?
You’d think with all this power, the battery life would be woeful. It’s always been a sore point for Android phones in general. The S II fares reasonably well here too. It can get you through a day with medium use.
The S II is priced at Rs 32,850. Cheaper than the iPhone 4. More expensive than the HTC Incredible S or Optimus 2X. It’s the best phone Samsung’s ever made, and one of the best smartphones you can buy.