Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S II as my primary smartphone for about two weeks now. It has been a pleasant experience. It is both the second dual core device and the the second 4.3-inch display device that I am reviewing.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

The Galaxy S II In Summary

Strengths:

  • Superb 4.3-inch display
  • Lots of 3rd party apps from Android OS

Weaknesses:

  • Needs to be charged several times daily
  • Data consumption on the high side

SGSII-Home
The first thing that you fall in love with about the Galaxy S II is that large 4.3-inch display. If you have been used to less than 4-inch displays, it will simply wow you. But its not just the size.

The SuperAMOLED Plus display gives you vibrant colours. Everything looks good. It beats most of the competition. It beats the Nokia N9’s display too. The touch response is nice too. Those who think that there’s little difference between budget, mid-tier and top-end smartphones need to use a Galaxy Gio and then a Galaxy S II – there is a world of a difference in the displays both in terms of visuals, feel and responsiveness. No contest.

Size-wise though, the 4.3-inch display makes it easy to type while holding the phone in portrait mode. I hardly ever needed to switch to landscape mode. This was my experience too when I had the HTC HD7 months ago.

Trust me, give a 4.3-inch (or higher) display a chance, and you are likely to fall in love too.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Review: Operating System

The Galaxy S II unit here came with Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread on board. An update later and it was brought up to speed with version 2.3.5. There may be minor changes in the OS/UI, but nothing earth-shattering.

However, it must be mentioned that it added the ability to take screenshots without the need for a 3rd party app to the device. Nice. Long overdue.

Quick How to: hold down the Home button and immediately hit the Power button. It must be done fast enough so the display doesn’t return home from wherever you are. A little tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it.

Your screenshots are saved to a ScreenCapture folder on your device.

Gmail, email and Web browsing on the SGSII is standard Android fare – meaning that Gmail is stellar, while email and web browsing are good.

SGSII-Web-Browser

3rd Party Apps

With Gingerbread, you have the best of Android minus IceCreamSandwich (which is available on only one other device for now).

It is standard Android fare, and there is no need detailing all that Android does here. It does mean, for example, that using the S II gives you access to hundreds of thousands of applications in the Android Market.

There is a lot of trash in there, honestly, but there is next to nothing that you need that you cannot find there.

Android-WordPress-App

One of the favourite 3rd party apps on Android is the WordPress app. It is sleek and highly functional. The user experience is really lovely. I fell in love with it instantly.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Review: Performance

The SGSII is the first Dual Core smartphone that I am reviewing, as the Apple iPad 2 which I reviewed earlier isn’t a smartphone.

The SGSII runs on a Dual Core 1.2 GHz processor. You would expect super-quick responses, right? Wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. The responses are quick. But they are not super quick. I will explain.

Putting a 680 MHz processor E7 beside the SGSII and launching a number of apps from dormant state shows that the SGSII is marginally faster in most cases, and in some cases the apps take exactly the same time to launch. For the most part, you won’t notice the Dual core processor.

However, when push comes to shove – during heavier tasks like game play and video playback – you will bump into the power of the Dual Core processor of the SGSII. This was pretty much my experience with the iPad 2 as well.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Review: Multimedia

Music playback on the SGSII is loud and good, but not stellar. Compared to the Nokia 701, for example, it sounds boxy. I certainly prefer to listen to music on the 701.

Video playback is where the SGSII shines like a super star. Combine that 4.3-inch size with the SuperAMOLED Plus nature, with a wide range of video codec support, and I daresay that the SGSII is unmatched in the video playback department.

If I am to buy a smartphone for watching videos on the go, this is the one I want to have in my pocket. Of course, note that your battery will suffer even more.

The 8 megapixel camera is good. It is one of the finest I have seen, but you will have to wait for my 8 megapixel camera shootout for my conclusions on that. I pitched it against the Nokias N9 and 701.

Suffice to say though that I rate it better than the two Nokias in picture taking except for one nagging area – this camera takes an eternity to snap and get ready for another shot. You tap the on-screen shutter button, then wait a bit before its done and ready to go again. That has been very irritating for me.

Samsung Galaxy S2 Review: Conclusions

Like every other Android device on the market, you have to manage data and power consumption. There are a number of widgets and apps available in the Android Market to help you do that. But even at that, I found myself charging this beauty an average of 3-4 times a day. As a matter of fact, I consciously keep a charger on me every time. I hate that.

You can imagine that the beautiful 4.3-inch display doesn’t help with power consumption either. Like most things, its strength is also its Achilles’ heel.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is an outstanding smartphone. It does many things well and has few niggles.

It comes highly recommended. As always, its your prerogative to determine if you can live with its weaknesses.

PS: The SGSII costs between N80,000 and N85,000 in the market.

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  1. Thank you Mister Mobility for a well written article though the review came out somehow late. I have been using SGSII as my primary smartphone for the past four months now, the initial battery experience is challenging but when you get to know how to handle that it will take you for a day on a single charge. When you don’t need data, switch it off. Install task killer to take care of the background tasks that drain the battery. My SGSII is currently running on Gingerbread 2.3.6. On the overall, the device is a good phone to buy and I recommend it to any one that love supper-fast browser on mobile phone.

  2. But even at that, I found myself charging this beauty an average of 3-4 times a day.

    Wao! That is unfortunate.

    There are higher_powered batteries available for this beast to since that. See http://is.gd/pd9yNe

    That should plug up this particularl Archille’s heels

    Why cant Samsung provide better batteries for the ones headed for third world countries- where stable power is not guaranteed?

    The data gluttony solution ?- get a galaxy running a less-greedy OS.. (say WindowsPhone 7)..

    Also heard the SGSII tends to overheat – under certain circumstances.

    These weak heels are definite dealbreakers for me, though..

  3. little too late for your review I will say bros. I kno if SII had come with 12Mpx camera, u would have done this cnc. Its a good review. Personally I love the fone, not for the OS though,but for the screen size, display and battery size(but I wonder y u still talk about d battery life). If I may ask, for the same usage, which battery last longer(N8 & SII)

  4. It takes a little knack to master data consumption on Android, but once you learn it, life becomes more fun with your device.

    Another good news is that some of the steps taken to control data consumption also helps to improve battery life considerably.

    The world of Android is to sweet that I’m not going to let data consumption and battery life issues to keep me off of it.

    If you ever use apps like File Expert,TouchPal keyboard, K9-Mail, etc, then you will understand what I my mean.

  5. I use a Galaxy SII. I want to say having it as a primary device is torture if you’re constantly connected to the Web and always on the road like me.

    I would give anything for a better battery life without having to be a watchman and trick performer.

    Don’t go near this device if you can afford to charge in 2 or 3 times daily if you are a heavy user constantly on need of push and internet. That is my 2 Naira.

    Aside those points, it is a device I relish.

  6. @Eye.Bee.Kay

    Wonder if ‘Swyoe’ came with you ’re Ambroid phone.

    if so , how does TouchPal keyboard compare with ‘Swype’?

    I’ve used Swype but prefer TouchPal. Swype is good but TouchPal offers more features. Swype doesn’t do context prediction when I tried it last and that’s what TouchPal does very well both in QWERTY and regular keypad mode.

    Again, TouchPal prediction in my opinion is better than that of Swype when in swiping mode. TouchPal also combines context (look ahead prediction) and swiping prediction.

  7. @Mr Mobility, will first want to correct the screen type, its super Amoled plus and not super amoled. There is a difference there. The super amoled plus is more power efficient.

    I have been using the sgs2 for like 3months now and it just does everything for me perfectly. You can learn to handle it so it doesn’t run your battery down easily. I charge once daily had to switch off background data. I don’t loose anything.
    Also on the time frame for taking pictures,its not bad,but with night mode on you can notice it a bit. The ICS update has taken care of that according to those that are running the alpha.

    Its a phone I can recommend anytime to anyone has it delievers very well in all areas except for the battery issue.

  8. “Switch of data to conserve battery life”.
    One of the main reasons I would be using a smartphone is to receive my emails as soon as it is sent. Switching off background data would defeat this aim. I like the phone and have been thinking of getting one, but this battery life issue is a serious deterrent. This is the same issue that I have been experiencing on my N8 since I upgraded to a Symbian Belle that was leaked through Navifirm. Even after buying a new batterer from Nokia care centre, it does not last more than 6hrs before needing a charge. In fact I have been tempted to revert to PR1.2, but for the Belle split screen keyboard and pull-down notification board.

  9. wonderful phone.. its been my primary phone for 5months now.i”m running on gingerbread 2.3.5 and I charge once a day.just switch off data when not in use with “Data Enabler”
    customise your power saver. this is my first Android phone after Nokia N97 and seriously i have no regrets.
    this is a beauty one would fall in love with everyday.

  10. @Austin, you don’t have to necessarily switch off everything. Even when background data is off, my mails still comes in as I wish. Every 30mins, 1hr, push, e.t.c. You can even decide on what to auto-sync and what not to. You can customise as you like while still getting good battery life. The super amoled plus screen sure aids in reducing battery drain. I remember while using the sgs (with super amoled screen), u get probably only 60% battery life of what I get now.

    Amongst all androids, I think sgs2 commands the best battery life for now.

  11. funny, i didnt know SGS II was plagued with ‘android weakness’. Most sites (gsmarena, fonearena, pocketlint, slashgear…..) dont identify the battery life as ‘weak’…..unlike the HTCs and Motorola droid…

    Can one actually still sync apps like twitter, email etc with datat off? That would be awesome if possible

  12. Can one actually still sync apps like twitter, email etc with datat off? That would be awesome if possible

    Sure;; if u set your sync interval to- say- 15minutes, or thirty minutes, and turn off background data, you will get your emails, etc periodically pushed / ‘batch_synchronised’ whenever you next turn on background data.

    If you must absolutely have data on permanently, (IMs, instant push_mails), gud lok to you with Android devices like SGS II..

  13. @Cypher_dot, you cannot sync anything with data off, but your mails will sync with background data off. The reason for not mentioning its battery issue in those sites you mentioned is because it does so well amongst its android peers. HTCs are terrible when it comes to battery efficiency compared to sgs2.

    I love HTC a lot especially because of its sense UI. But I also suspect that is the main reason for its battery drain. I was looking out for some HTC quad cores at the just concluded CES 2012 but was disappointed. Learned those quad cores are more battery efficient than the present dual cores.

  14. Great review, Mr. Mobility. I would want to bid my time before jumping into the Samsung Galaxy train. The demerits inclusive of poor battery life and a few others is an obvious deal breaker for me. A smartphone is not something I want to beg, and cuddle before it satisfies me. I want to push it to the limits. I want to use it any way I wish and I still want it to last until at least 5pm when I’m back home.

    I want to wait to see the Galaxy SIII or the Lumia phones and see what it would have to offer.. That said, the devices on my mind at present are the Experia S, and the monster Quadcore Asus transformer Prime.

    By the way, Yomi; you never reviewed an iPad 2 on this site. It was the original iPad that you reviewed. I stand to be corrected!

  15. Android version 2.3.5 handles battery power much better than 2.3, and 2.3.6 is even much better than both. I updated my SGSII to 2.3.6 last two days and I can tell you the battery power is ok, at least its taking me through the day.

    1. Jikong1,

      My standard setup includes the following: Background data on, Gmail and another email account active, plus being logged in to WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.

      Can you try that setup on 2.3.6 and give us feedback on battery performance please? I am very certain that you cannot get a full day with my standard setup.

  16. This is why I am skeptical about joining the android platform. Why do I have to keep monitoring what’s left of my data plans. I can’t surf the net or download with peace of mind. That’s the wahala I don’t think I can leave with jare..I’m dumping symbian cos I need to explore another platform. I think blackberry is a better option at the moment until android solve the data issues or our networks provide better plans

  17. @miister mobility
    I connected my SGSII to wifi network in my office since 8am till 4pm when I left and then switched to data network with gmail, yahoo mail, ovi mail, twitter and facebook sync turned on throughout. I still had about 30% battery power at 7pm. Version 2.3.6 is more power efficient than other android versions.

  18. Jikong1,

    Sounds impressive. Still, we need to clarify some issues.

    At the office, were you regularly using the phone, checking and responding to mails, same with Twitter and Facebook, r it was idle for the most part?o

    Also, using Wi-Fi instead of 3G is more power efficient, so we may need to run it on 3G instead.

    I will love to give version 2.3.6 a go and see exactly how much improvements it brings to my schedule.

  19. @Mr Mobility, I have all the settings you mentioned on except background data and getting full day with average to heavy use. I have also had the background data on too but that was when I was on 2.3.5 and was probably only short by like an hour compared now. I will go ahead and put on background data on present 2.3.6 ans let you know my findings by tomorrow.

    @eye.bee.kay, my IMs (whatsapp & ebuddy) are always ON while I still get full day.

  20. nice review Mr Mobility…kind of expensive but still worths buying and for the battery issues would still wait for a while before choosing an android or WP as my next mobile OS platform…

  21. I just had a sugggestion from twitter via @emmagine79.

    He said he increased battery life of his original Galaxy S by underclocking it to 800MHz.

    That is definitely something I would do if (when) I had (own) the SGS2. I don’t see myself fully maximizing the use of the 1.2GHz dual core processor except with heavy games. And I’m not a gaming freak.

    I would root it, install a power efficient ROM, and underclock it to 1GHz.

  22. Very nice phone most certainly but for the battery life I would have been glued for all eternity. ICS update may well solve the problem. This phone in my opinion raised the bar in 2011. I am having issues updating my copy of this beast. Update gets stuck each time I tried.

  23. @arumob
    Go to http://www.androidadvices.com, positio the pointer on Samsung and click on galaxy s2 on pull down menu. Scroll down and you will see official update of SGSII to 2.3.6. Download and unzip the Rar file to your computer and follow the direction given there.

  24. OK let me give update on today’s battery life as promised earlier. Phone was fully charged and unplugged by 8:35am today. Had my background data on. Data set to 3g preferred. Yahoo Mails to sync every 1hr while I check in my office exchange mail manually (like every 10mins) while out and about. Browse for like 1hr. Check twitter every now and then. My Facebook was updating automatically. Listen to like 1hr of music. Used navigation for like 30mins while finding my way around that tight Lagos business district at Marina. Took few pictures. Was chatting both on ebuddy and whatsapp every now and then. Some took as long as 40mins. Hhnnmmm… what else..

    Well, right now I am on 47% battery life and its 7:18. That is why I say this phone will take you all day at full charge. I am on stock firmware 2.3.6

  25. I forgot to mention that although I set the data to 3g preferred, it was permanently on 3g virtually all through the day at work and while I went out to some other parts of Lagos . I only suffer 2g when I get home. Like right now.

  26. I also forgot to add the calls made during this period. Just checked my call logs, approximately 17mins of call. Two sms messages.I actually use my IMs more to communicate.

  27. Belushi,

    Android 2.3.6 is sounding revolutionary in terms of battery life. I will upgrade our review unit as soon as I can and give it a spin.

    Perhaps finally, we can remove power guzzling permanently from the list of Android’s weaknesses.

    Cheers.

  28. That’s impressive. Far better than I get from my Nokias N8 and C7 both running Symbian Belle.
    I’ll definitely go for Samsung galaxy note once it lands on our shores. Heard it boasts better battery life than all Android phones. That means better than SGSII.

  29. Galaxy Note otherwise knows as Samsung Galaxy “Journal” comes with 2.3.5 out of the box and can be upgraded immediately/officially to 2.3.6 via kies.. it also comes with a 2500mah battery.. its readily available in any etisalat customer service outlet but its locked to the network… N125k
    I’m waiting for the unlocked version

  30. @fortespy, the unlocked version is also being sold at IKeja for same price. Though I gathered from insider source in Samsung that they will be officially launching the Note in March. You might wanna wait for that.

  31. @jesse, the 2.3.6 is not available via lies. you can check the link jikong1 provided, download the firmware and flash using Odin. Its pretty simple. I actually don’t wait for official release of updates, just get one that can work for you (mainly European) and flash away.

    For those that are still bothered about the battery life, just get the 2000mAh battery, its like $20. With that, you should have more than enough juice for heavy use.

  32. I do not have a sg2 but currently use something similar, HTC sensation and just like the sg2 the battery life sucks sucks and sucks more, I always have a spare battery one me and it is always connected to a home charger at the office and car charger in the car, so i guess this is a issue with most android powered smart phones. Seriously considering changing to the blackberry bold 9900.

  33. @Jesse
    Its not available in kies yet, but upgrading to 2.3.6 firmware through odin won’t void your warranty. If I can have your email I will send you the firmware file, the rar file is 307MB. Go to androidadvices.com for procedures on how to update the firmware.

  34. @quam, the HTC android smartphones are worse than those of Samsung. Fingers are pointed at the sense UI. I was with a friend that was using one of those HTCs and right before my eyes I could see the level going down while he was browsing . That was some hell truly.

    The sgs2 super amoled plus screen helps greatly in battery efficiency.

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