Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T)
Typical Price: $214.99
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The Samsung Galaxy S II boasts a beautiful display and a thin design. With a dual-core processor, the Gingerbread device delivers fast performance, as well as good battery life. Camera quality is excellent.
The bad: Some parts of the phone feel flimsy.
The bottom line: With its dual-core processor, vibrant display, and great performance, the sleek and powerful Samsung Galaxy S II rises as AT&T's top Android smartphone.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
The Samsung Galaxy S II is making the carrier rounds, and its next stop is AT&T. Available on October 2 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, the Samsung Captivate successor boasts a faster dual-core processor, sharper display, and better cameras. It more closely resembles the unlocked Galaxy S II than the T-Mobile and Sprint versions, since it features a smaller 4.3-inch touch screen (versus 4.5 inches), but we actually think that's a good thing since it offers a more appealing design. More importantly, the Android Gingerbread device delivers great performance in almost all aspects and earns itself our Editors' Choice Award. If you're an AT&T customer looking for an Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S II would certainly be our top choice.
The Samsung Galaxy S II joins AT&T's lineup as the carrier's thinnest (oh, if only we got a dollar for every time we heard that superlative) 4G smartphone. The handset measures 4.96 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.35 inch thick--a whole 0.1mm thinner than the Infuse 4G, if you're counting. The difference in thickness is negligible, but still, the Galaxy S II is much easier to hold and pocket since it's not as wide or as tall as the Infuse or the Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the phone.
This is because the AT&T Galaxy S II has a smaller 4.3-inch (versus 4.5 inches) touch screen. Screen size is certainly a personal thing, but we found 4.3 inches to be enough to comfortably view Web pages, video, and messages. Plus, the AMOLED Plus, 800x480-pixel display shows off deep colors and sharp images and text.
The touch screen is responsive. The smartphone offers several virtual keyboards, including Android, Samsung, and Swype. It registered all our taps, and we were able to easily navigate through the menus. In addition to using the standard touch interface, you can also use motion gestures. With the settings turned on, you can flip the phone to mute it. With two fingers on the screen, you can tilt to zoom in and out in the photo gallery and browser. Flicking your wrist left or right (panning) can move a home screen icon when you're holding it. However, panning and zooming weren't as responsive as we'd like. While most of the motion controls may not figure into your daily use, this type of gesture functionality adds welcome options in general. You can also perform certain tasks, such as composing and sending a message, calling a contact, and launching the music player, using voice commands with the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk app.
Below the screen, you'll find the menu, home, back, and search buttons. On the left side, there's a volume rocker and a power/lock button on the right. The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the bottom features a Micro-USB port.
Just above the screen in the left-hand corner is a 2-megapixel camera for video calls; the main 8-megapixel camera and flash sit on back. The microSD expansion slot is located behind the very flimsy plastic battery door. The latter aside, the Galaxy S II feels nice in the hand, and because of its more manageable size, we think it will be an attractive option for a wider audience than the Infuse 4G or other Galaxy S II models.
AT&T packages the Samsung Galaxy S II with just the basics: an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread along with Samsung's latest TouchWiz 4.0 user interface. We're often less enthusiastic about custom interfaces; they sometimes add unwanted complexity and unremovable apps, and are usually slower to update to new OS versions. However, TouchWiz 4.0 has a few things going for it: some carryovers from previous versions of TouchWiz. There are seven home screens, for example, and the notification pull-down menu has icons for easily turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, flight mode, and screen rotation.
Customizing the home screens is made easier with a carousel-like setup that lets you move through the various panels to add and remove shortcuts and widgets at the same time. Previously, you had to do a long-press on one screen to change it and then repeat the process if you wanted to change another page. You can also now resize Samsung Live Panel widgets, and there's a more fluid motion when scrolling through widget lists and home pages.
Some of the changes are purely cosmetic, but they certainly add some polish to the UI. There are also some useful additions as well, such as an integrated task manager that displays all your active applications, downloaded apps with the option to uninstall, RAM status, and system storage. Also great: the ability to now capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.
The quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II offers a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone is compatible with AT&T's HSPA+ network and can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices. Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), and GPS are also onboard.
As we noted earlier, it is running Gingerbread and all of Google's services are accounted for: e-mail, maps, voice navigation, search, chat, Places, Latitude, and YouTube, plus basic tools like a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a timer. In addition, Samsung and AT&T have preloaded the phone with a number of extras, including the Quickoffice suite, Kies Air (a Wi-Fi-based PC-to-phone sync manager), AT&T Navigator, AT&T Code Scanner, and Yellow Pages Mobile. We're not a fan of having so much bloatware on the phone, but thankfully, AT&T now gives you the option to uninstall some of its apps, such as AT&T FamilyMap and Live TV.
There is no shortage of entertainment options on the Galaxy S II. In addition to the built-in music and video player, the smartphone offers Samsung's Media Hub where you can download movies and TV shows to rent or own. You can also shoot your owns videos and photos with the handset's 8-megapixel camera, which is capable of 1080p HD video capture. The camera app has plenty of tools, such as effects, white-balance controls, ISO settings, and more. Samsung also throws in a photo and video editor, which we appreciate. The video editor is particularly great, since it makes it easy to piece together clips with different effects and music, all from right on your phone.
Picture quality was impressive. Even under less-than-ideal lighting conditions, the camera produced bright, detailed, and clear images, and camera performance was fast. Video quality was also very good. Again, colors looked vibrant and there was very little blurring and pixelation, even during action sequences. Once you're done capturing media, you can store files to the Galaxy S II's 16GB of internal memory or to an SD card (expansion slot accepts up to 32GB). You can also share via the usual social network channels or to your HDTV using DLNA or with an HDMI adapter.
We tested the quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II in New York using AT&T service and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed clear audio with very little to no background noise. Occasionally, callers sounded a bit muffled, but overall, the voices sounded true to life without any kind of distortion. Friends were also impressed with the sound quality and didn't have any major complaints.
Samsung Galaxy S II call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality wasn't quite as good. Callers said they could hear a bit of an echo, and on our end, they sounded far away and there was barely enough volume to hear them in noisier environments. We were able to pair the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Mobile S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and make calls and listen to music without any problems.
We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period. Data speeds on AT&T's HSPA+ network, which the carrier calls 4G, were OK, but not a standout compared with competing carriers' 4G networks. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of 2.36Mbps and 1.12Mbps up. With such speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 20 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 5 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. The phone was able to load and play high-quality YouTube videos in a couple of seconds, and playback was smooth and continuous.
Equipped with Samsung's 1.2GHz dual-core Exnyos processor, general performance on the Galaxy S II was fast and powerful. Navigating the phone was zippy, and we were able to launch apps and switch between tasks with ease. Whether it was playing games or viewing Flash content, the smartphone was up to the challenge.
The Samsung Galaxy S II ships with a 1,650mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 16 days of standby time. The Galaxy S II provided an impressive 10 hours of continuous talk time in ourbattery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Galaxy S II has a digital SAR rating of 0.36W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M3.
As we've already seen from the other series models, the Samsung Galaxy S II is an excellent Android smartphone, and it makes for a great addition to AT&T's lineup. The carrier already has a number of other great Android devices, such as the Samsung Infuse 4G, Motorola Atrix 4G, and HTC Inspire 4G, but the Galaxy S II brings the total package of an attractive design, great set of features, and solid performance to make it the top pick and Editors' Choice winner.
|Cellular technology||GSM / 3G|
|Band / mode||GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband) / 3G 850/1900/2100 (Tri-band)|
|Talk time||Up to 180 min|
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Combined with||With digital camera / digital player / FM radio|
|OS provided||Android OS|
|Included accessories||Battery, Travel adapter, Travel adapter cable|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 26
4 Star: 10
3 Star: 6
2 Star: 5
1 Star: 3
Not perfect, but pretty fantastic
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 11, 2011
11 out of 11 users found this review helpful
Pros: in summary
Cons: in summary
Summary: Had mine since day 1. Believe it or not, this is my first smartphone and I couldn't be more pleased.
Call quality is excellent. Calls are clear and seem to cancel some of the background noise.
Beautiful screen. Screen is vibrant, bright, and clear.
Fast. This is perhaps the only piece of electronic equipment that responds on command. No lag.
Intuitive. Android is easy to use. Having never used a smartphone there isn't a significant learning curve.
Light-weight. Some may complain that the build quality is lacking, but I appreciate the light-weight design. Light as a feather compared to the iPhone 4.
Phone lock. Known issue with the lock screen. You can bypass without PIN, etc.
Battery life. Relative to other smart phones it may not be bad, but it will take getting used to charging every night.
Still relatively new so some issues may arise that haven't already become obvious. Until then I can recommend this phone without reservation.( you can see best deal suggestion for this Galaxy S II at www.flixya.com/blog/3862424/Samsung-Galaxy-S-II ) Good Luck Cowboy!
Real review: Beautiful display but not good as iPhone
Rating: 2.5 / 5
on October 12, 2011
7 out of 10 users found this review helpful
Pros: - Awesome AMOLED screen
- Good sized screen, not to small, not too big
- Thin and light weight
- Google integration
Cons: - Battery Life
- Software glitches causing poor user experience
Summary: I was quite disappointed in Apple's ability to keep up and the lack of an iPhone 5 so I decided to get the SGS2 after reading many great reviews. I needed a bigger screen as my eyes were having trouble with the iPhone's screen size and the SGS2 was realy awesome there. But, since I've had it for 2 weeks I'm missing my iPhone now.
First, I had moved all my data to Google (gmail, contacts, calendars, tasks) in preparation for the move and once I synced the SGS2 to my google account all my data came over without a hitch. But, in order to get tasks synced I needed to set up my google account with Microsoft active Exchange instead of the standard method. Well, The SGS2 doesn't support that as a standard option and I ended up resetting my phone to clear the default settings and manually set up exchange. This worked fine for my work account but It would not work for my Google account. I messed with it for hours and after no luck I went searching on the internet forums. After some research I found this is not a new problem for the SGS2 and there doesn't seem to be a solution out there. I ended up resetting the phone again and going back to the standard Google setup. I found an app (Gtasks) that would pull my tasks from my google account so I was feeling pretty good.
My next software issue was with the clock. Poor design of the alarms made me pick a day of the week for a one-time event and it defaulted to today, meaning that when I set my first alarm for tomorrow morning to get up for work it picked today instead of tomorrow and I didn't get an alarm and was late for work. I'm looking for a better clock app now...
Next, I noticed some of my calendar appointments were not showing up on my phone. I tried multiple things to fix this with no luck. I ended up deleting my Google account from the sync and then adding it back again which fixed the problem (temporarily?) but with a nasty side effect. Now I have the original Google sync account and the new Google sync account in settings and I can't get rid of the first one. I'm not sure what would happen if I picked it when creating a new calendar event, so I'm trying to be careful and pick the second one consistently. This is horrible. I'm wondering if I need to reset the phone again to fix this. I hesitate now as I have HOURS of work into setting it up how I want it and a reset is not appealing.
Next on the software list is the security issue with the lock screen. Yes, I know if I set it to reset immediately that's the workaound, but what a pain. That coupled with the powersave mode that when activated sets my screen to timeout in 15 seconds means I'm always having to swipe my pattern to unlock the phone again. What a PAIN.
Speaking of power saving mode. I originally though this was a cool feature and set it to come on when the phone got to 30% battery. That worked fine but what I found is once it came on it doesn't come off... meaning it resets your settings and even if you turn powersave off you have to go back into settings and set things back to how you had them before powersave (i.e. I like one minute screen timout normally but 15 seconds on powersave. I have to reset this each time powersave turns on).
And, talking about powersave leads me to my final issue with this phone. Battery life SUCKS. I could easily get 2 days (i.e. 48 hours) with my iPhone 4, but I'm lucky to get 16 hours with the SGS2. I usually unplug the phone at 5:30 in the morning and by 8pm I'm looking for the charger cord again. Yes, I know it has a bigger screen, faster processer, 4G, etc but this is not enough battery life for me. I need at least a whole 18 hours worth.
Bottom line: Cool phone on paper, great screen; but the user experience is not as good as an iPhone.
The best Android phone
Rating: 5 / 5
on October 1, 2011
5 out of 6 users found this review helpful
Pros: Super AMOLED is just great, even on direct sunlight
Cons: Too light, leaves the impression it is not a phone!
Summary: I haven't seen better Android phone, and is also not so expensive too.
AT&T neutered, no OS upgrades?
Rating: 3.5 / 5
on October 16, 2011
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Superb Super AMOLED+ screen, blazing fast. One of the better Android phones, and an almost completely up-to-date OS, for another 2 weeks anyway!
Cons: The free AM/FM radio built into the international version is just "missing" on the AT&T version. I've heard the hardware is still there, but AT&T had Samsung gut the AM/FM Radio app so people will pay $10/mo for "AT&T Radio".
Also, Galaxy S2
Summary: A powerful phone that may NEVER live up to expectations because of AT&T. Is there nobody in media today to hold AT&T's feet to the fire over so MUCH of their total BS: free apps removed in favor of "for pay", apps the user can't remove, slow pace of OS upgrades if at all. And that doesn't even discuss the dropped calls, overcrowded network, and glacially slow 4G roll-out....
Updated on Oct 16, 2011
Samsung told me that basically it's up to AT&T to decide IF the AT&T Galaxy S2 *ever* gets an OS upgrade. You know, the same AT&T with the poorest record of Android upgrades of all major U.S. carriers?
Top of the Line
Rating: 5 / 5
on October 1, 2011
4 out of 6 users found this review helpful
Pros: Smooth, fast, and capable.
Cons: Not the best casing (being plastic), but this is typical of Samsung.
Summary: A great phone.. Way better than the Infuse, in every way. Top of the line for AT&T. I've had a blast playing with this phone for the past week. I will be making my purchase tomorrow.
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