Samsung Galaxy S II - black (T-Mobile)
Typical Price: $259.98
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The Samsung Galaxy S II supports T-Mobile's faster HSPA+ network and has a dual-core 1.5GHz processor and an NFC chip. The Android Gingerbread smartphone also has a spacious and vibrant Super AMOLED Plus touch screen, 16GB of internal memory, and great camera performance.
The bad: The smartphone is high-priced and on the larger side, and you can't remove bloatware.
The bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S II ranks as one of T-Mobile's most powerful and feature-rich Android smartphones, but it's somewhat pricey.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluations of the other Samsung Galaxy S II models. Additionally, due to changes in the competitive marketplace, we've lowered the overall rating of this product from 8.7 to 8.3.
Just like Sprint and AT&T customers, T-Mobile customers now have the opportunity to pick up the popular Samsung Galaxy S II. T-Mobile's model of the Android Gingerbread smartphone is slightly different from the other versions in that it features a different dual-core processor, an NFC chip, and support for the carrier's faster HSPA+ 42 network. It's also slightly more expensive at $229.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, but if you're looking for high-end features and performance, the Galaxy S II is pretty hard to beat.
The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II is the fourth iteration of the Android smartphone we've seen to date, and in terms of build quality, it's the best one yet. This is largely due to the soft-touch finish on the battery door that adds a leatherlike texture. It's a small detail that makes a huge difference in making the Galaxy S II feel like the premium handset that it is, instead of a cheaper phone.
Like the Epic 4G Touch, the T-Mobile Galaxy S II has a large screen, so it's a bigger-than-average device at 5.11 inches tall by 2.71 inches wide by 0.37 inch thick. The width makes the handset slightly awkward to hold during a call, and it's not the most pocket-friendly. That said, the phone is relatively thin and lightweight at 4.77 ounces, so it's not horribly cumbersome.
The Super AMOLED Plus touch screen measures 4.52 inches diagonally with a resolution of 800x480 pixels. There are higher-resolution screens on the market, but the Galaxy S II's display is still sharp and shows off vibrant colors. The spaciousness of the screen also makes it great for viewing Web pages and multimedia.
The touch screen is responsive. The smartphone offers both Swype and Samsung's own virtual keyboard. 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 Gallery and browser. Flicking your wrist left or right (panning) can move a home screen icon when you're holding it. We can't really foresee using motion gestures all that often, but more useful is the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk app that allows you to compose and send messages, call contacts, launch the music player, and perform other actions using voice command.
Though most of your interaction with the smartphone will be through the touch screen, there are various controls on the handset to make some tasks easier. For quick access to the home, menu, back, and search functions, you have four touch-sensitive buttons below the display. On the left spine, you'll find a volume rocker, and there is a power/lock button on the right side. A Micro-USB port sits on the bottom of the device, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. On the front in the upper left-hand corner is a 2-megapixel camera for video calls and self-portraits. Meanwhile the main 8-megapixel camera is on back, along with an LED flash.
T-Mobile packages the Galaxy S II with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread along with Samsung's latest TouchWiz 4.0 user interface. We're often less than enthusiastic about custom interfaces--they sometimes add unwanted complexity, and are usually slower to update to new OS versions. However, TouchWiz 4.0 has things going for it, some being 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, silent mode, and autorotation.
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 widgets 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, 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 new and great: the ability to capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.
The Samsung Galaxy S II offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling via Qik, and text and multimedia messaging. The Galaxy S II also happens to be one of T-Mobile's first smartphones to support its faster HSPA+ 42Mbps network, meaning the smartphone can reach theoretical download speeds of 42Mbps--double those of its HSPA+ 21 network. Currently, this network is available in more than 150 markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, and covers 170 million Americans.
T-Mobile reports that in testing it has seen average speeds of 8Mbps, with peaks up to 22.7Mbps in solid 4G areas. Here in San Francisco we didn't hit such high numbers, but we were still impressed by the data speeds. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net, we averaged a download speed of 6.49Mbps, peaking at 9.61Mbps, and upload speed of 0.76Mbps, peaking at 1.59Mbps. Your speeds will vary depending on where you live, time of day, and other variables.
The Galaxy S II also features Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), and GPS, as well as NFC support. With the embedded NFC chip and the preinstalled Tags app, you can use the smartphone to scan, read, and share RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. In the future, once Google Wallet support is expanded beyond the Nexus 4G, you will be able to use the Galaxy S II to make mobile payments.
As we noted earlier, the Samsung Galaxy S II is running Gingerbread and all of Google's services are accounted for: Gmail, Google 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 T-Mobile have preloaded the phone with a number of extras, including the Quickoffice suite, Kies Air (a Wi-Fi-based PC-to-phone sync manager), T-Mobile TV, Netflix, and TeleNav Navigator. Unfortunately, unlike the other carriers, T-Mobile does not let you uninstall any of the preloaded apps.
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, from which you can download movies and TV shows to rent or own. You can also shoot your own 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, and ISO settings. 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, right on your phone.
Picture quality was excellent. Even under low-light conditions, images came out sharp with rich colors. Videos also looked great, with very little blurring or pixelation. Once you're done capturing media, you can store files in the Galaxy S II's 16GB of internal memory or on an SD card (the expansion slot accepts up to 32GB). You can also share via the usual social network channels or on your HDTV using DLNA or with an HDMI adapter.
We tested the quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was mostly good. The audio was very clear, as we didn't detect any background noise, but voices could sound a bit muffled at times. Several friends also made the same comment, but it was never bad enough that we couldn't understand each other or had to terminate a call.
Samsung Galaxy S II call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality is pretty decent. There's a slight tinniness to the voice quality, but it's still clear and understandable. There's enough volume to hear callers in a noisier environment. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music.
We were able to get 4G coverage in most areas of San Francisco, though there were parts of the city where the signal dropped to one or two bars. CNET's full site loaded in 20 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 6 seconds and 9 seconds respectively. High-quality YouTube clips loaded within several seconds and playback was continuous and smooth. We also streamed content from Netflix, but videos looked somewhat choppy.
Unlike the Sprint, AT&T, and unlocked versions of the Galaxy S II, the T-Mobile model is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S3 1.5GHz dual-core processor instead of Samsung's Exynos 1.2GHz dual-core processor. This is because the Qualcomm chipset can support T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 radio. Though Qualcomm's chip has a slightly faster CPU, we didn't notice a huge difference in speed in everyday use, and in fact the AT&T and Sprint models felt just a touch more responsive. Still, the T-Mobile Galaxy S II is a fast phone, as we were able to launch and switch between apps and tasks easily.
The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II ships with a 1,850mAh lithium ion battery with a rated time of 7 hours and up to 7 days of standby time. The Galaxy S II met the rated talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the smartphone has a SAR rating of 0.35W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.
Though some T-Mobile customers might have felt left out of the iPhone party, there's no reason to be sad. The carrier offers one of the best selections of Android devices, and you can now add the powerful Samsung Galaxy S II to the list. With its gorgeous display, smooth performance, and support for faster data speeds, it's one of the top smartphones in T-Mobile's lineup. It's also one of the pricier ones, so budget-conscious customers might want to take a look at alternatives like the HTC Sensation 4G. However, if money is no object and you're looking for a top-of-the-line smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S II certainly fits the bill.
|Cellular technology||WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM|
|Band / mode||WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900|
|Talk time||Up to 240 min|
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Combined with||With digital camera / digital player|
|OS provided||Google Android 2.3|
|Included accessories||Power adapter|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 21
4 Star: 6
3 Star: 2
2 Star: 1
1 Star: 1
Best android phone I've used yet!
Rating: 5 / 5
on October 15, 2011
12 out of 12 users found this review helpful
Pros: Very speedy, Great UI, very light, very thin, huge screen is gorgeous, great camera, some very good samsung specific additions, battery has been great so far, 16GB internal memory + expansion slot, very nice headphones + inline mic included in box (I was
Cons: Thin and light but alot of surface area (but no more than needed for the screen), some non-removeable bloatware included (as always), some very minor user interface annoyances (but only because I was spoiled by cyanogen mod on my last phone).
Summary: To be honest, I had a hard time even coming up with the cons list because they are all such minor issues (but I felt I should write down something). This phone has been my best android phone to date - I started with a droid incredible which was a great phone for a year (espcially with cyanogen mod), and then switched over to tmobile and got a g2x. It was an okay phone, but I traded it in after a few days because of a bunch of problems it had. I was a little nervous about getting this phone, but now I'm incredibly happy I did.
I was worried about the samsung's custom touchwiz UI (after coming from htc sense and stock android), and for the first half a day I didn't like it, but it grew on me very rapidly. They have alot of clever and thoughtful elements in it that I noticed and they make a big difference.
The screen is huge and beautiful - pretty much the best phone out there for watching movies on. And unlike on my droid incredible (3.7 inch screen), I can actually use remote desktop on it to my computer for more than a few seconds without getting annoyed. How iphone users survive with a 3.5 inch screen I will never know. The CPU is fast and rarely do I ever notice lag on anything. The 1GB of ram helps alot - the big problem I had with the g2x was that while it was very fast, the 512mb of ram would fill up way too fast and then it would slow down to a crawl. No problem on the S2 (plus there is a samsung integrated task manager that is wonderful and easy to use).
One big surprise that I was very happy with was the samsung included "Kies air" app. When hooked up to a wireless network, you active at the app and then type in the IP and port number it gives you into a web browser. This opens up a Kies air interface (the phone is basically acting as a web server) that lets you access and edit everything on the phone. Photos, video, music, ringtones, bookmarks, messages, call log, contacts, files, and other various settings. You can download, upload, view, and edit all of these right from any computer on the same network as the phone without installing any software. Very very handy.
That covers most of it. The camera is very good (8MP still, 1080p video) and has some good shooting options (touch to focus, panorama, etc...). I'm not much of a phototaker, so I can't go too indepth. And lastly the 4G speed is very good. I live in Orange County (south of Los Angeles),and I get consistently good recent and data speeds just about everywhere around here (usually 8mbps down, 1-2 up). I haven't tried it out in LA, but I hear tests have gotten up to 22mpbs in areas with great reception (even 8 seems like overkill to me for a phone, but who am I to complain).
It also comes with a voice control app - different than the normal android one, but functions relatively the same. It's a little bit fancier, but nothing that puts it too far past the default android voice control (which is already quite nice).
The phone itself is very nice to hold. Extremely thin and light (noticeably lighter than my boss's iphone 4) but with alot of surface area. Even so, I have no problem fitting it in my jeans pocket. I have small hands, but no trouble using or holding it. The construction of the phone is great - it's plastic to keep the weight down, but the back surface is soft touch and feels very nice.
Anyway, overall, a very good phone. You can tell when you have alot of trouble coming up with a cons list. Fast, light, gorgeous, extremely customizable - high recommended.
A great phone, but not without faults. Be careful!
Rating: 4 / 5
on November 11, 2011
4 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: Super Amoled Plus screen is tremendous, size is great, Android operating system is fantastic and TouchWiz 4.0 is actually very nice.
Cons: Super Amoled Plus Screens may have lines in them from poor calibration, Call Quality drops and echoing becomes a serious issue with any kind of case, battery life is absolutely terrible. Chance for your charger to be bad too (like mine).
Summary: Some Super Amoled Plus displays have "lines" on them from a poorly calibrated screen: it seems to be happening to a lot of the Galaxy S 2's, but thankfully not any of mine (and I bought 3 for the family). Call quality becomes terribles / echoing becomes outrageous when any kind of a case is applied to the phone -- google Samsung Galaxy S 2 Echo. No one can decide if its the mics being covered or if there's a faulty part being installed in this device. Also, my charger was broken -- it would reach 100% charge on the phone and then disconnect and reconnect over and over again. I took it to the T-Mobile store and the guy opened up another Galaxy S 2 box in the back and we exchanged charger bases, and so far that's fixed the problem. Additionally, battery life is abysmal. With heavy usage starting at 6 am in the morning, I was below 50% battery life by 10 am. I don't know what to do about this problem. Suggestions are welcome!
Overall, though, I'm still impressed by the phone even as I continue to look for call quality and battery solutions. If you're like me and you're coming from a Blackberry that has super battery life, though, be warned about this one.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 31, 2011
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Super fast, big gorgeous screen, great for video, excellent call quality
Cons: Short battery life
Summary: I am a 60+ woman who has walked away from BlackBerry after 5 devices in 10 years. I finally decided I was tired of not having a decent browser or being able to do all the cool things that others can do. My company pays for my phone so I'm free to choose whatever I want, and after being the last BlackBerry holdout, I decided to go Android.
I've had the S2 for nearly 3 weeks and am very pleased. It's beautiful, with a bright crisp screen. It's a bit large for my small hand but that's OK because it's extremely fast, my call quality is strong and clear, it's great for watching Netflix and reading my daily half dozen news sources, it has a decent camera, and it handles my 150-200 daily work emails effortlessly.
I happen to disagree with that flaky Steve Ballmer who says "you have to be a computer scientist to use Android." As a newcomer, I've found the Android OS to be simple and straightforward, just plain common sense IMO, and I haven't yet had to ask "how do you do this?" Yes, I could afford to spend less time in the Market, but there are SO many great apps!
The only significant negative for me is that the battery life isn't great. However, just about everyone I know with a smartphone of any brand wishes they had longer battery life. I guess that's the nature of the newer technology. I manage OK but have just ordered a second battery which I'll keep charged as a backup.
Of course for all of us, the good or bad in a phone depends on our personal needs. For me, the S2 works extremely well and is a phone I would highly recommend.
Updated on Nov 1, 2011
Instead of saying "short battery life", I'd like to update this to say PITIFUL battery life. I was able to see just how bad it is today. I took it off the charger, went out to deliver my rent check and drop off a package. I was back home in 65 minutes, and my battery life had dropped from 100% to 81%. This is with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS turned off and my display turned way down, as dim as I'm able to see it. If you go to SETTINGS/ABOUT PHONE/BATTERY USE, you can see what's using up your battery. Mine says 62% of my battery use is for the display, which I find astonishing; all the rest is used up for Android OS, cell standby, dialer, etc.
Bottom line: The S2 is still great for what it does, but I got spoiled having BlackBerry phones for so many years, where I could easily skip a day on the charger and never miss it. With the S2, now I can't go anywhere without a charger. I sure hope I never have a long night in the E.R.
Ulltra-fast 4G super-phone, slim profile, great screen!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 16, 2011
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Classy looking dark chrome trim that lines the edge of the phone. Long lasting 1850 mAh battery The 4.52 inch screen is great for movie watching and web browsing. Device Productivity Speeds/ multitasking, 4G Data Speeds (Mine peaked at just over 18 mbps d
Cons: Slightly thicker than its sister phones on Sprint and AT&T, although its a minimal difference. Barely noticable, occasional slight lag in TouchWiz interface transitions on home screens.
Summary: This phone is The REAL DEAL! It lives up to the Samsung Galaxy S II Hype and then some. Its availible at T-Mobile with unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of 4G data for under $80 bucks. T-Mobiles HSPA+ 42 is waaayfast! I averaged 11.3 mbps out of 10 speed tests I ran with a peek of 18.3 mbps. Thats Verizon LTE type speeds but for a bargan of a monthly rate. Super-fast 1.5 ghz dual-core processor, 1Gig or RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage with expandable micro SD slot. A 4.52 inch Super Amoled Plus Display, Built-In NFC and DLNA capability, Wi-Fi HotSpot capable, running Android Gingerbread 2.3.5 out of the box. This is the type of smart phone that keeps T-Mobile competitive and now the Verizon LTE Droids have reason to be scared.
Excellent piece of kit.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on October 13, 2011
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Light, bright and easy to use. Not nearly as big as the photos show, suggesting that most CNET reviewers have small hands. Worth exploring further as a PhD thesis, perhaps. Mini USB for everything, unlike Nokia smartphones. Android marketplace is great, i
Cons: Have had a fault twice where the phone wouldn't switch off. If you did, it just switched itself back on. It was not easy to identify how this arose, and even now, I'm not sure that it was that game I downloaded from the Android marketplace. However, it ha
Summary: All things considered, it's an excellent phone. It's not perfect - Google Earth works intermittently - but it's streets ahead of anything I've used before. My options were this or an iPhone 4, and I decided to go Android and open rather than Apple and closed. I have no hesitation in recommending it.
Updated on Oct 14, 2011