Samsung strikes mobile gold with a phone that combines both hugely powerful hardware with a UI that makes Android 2.1 easy but also incredibly intuitive to use
After the excitement of the Apple iPhone 4 and the power of the HTC Desire, we’ve been waiting for one of the other big brands to step up to the plate, and Samsung has done just that with the Galaxy S.
Featuring a 1GHz processor and a sumptuous 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, the Galaxy S is a tip top phone running Android 2.1 and Samsung’s own TouchWiz 3.0 overlay.
The interface is a dream to use, reacting to merest finger flicker across the surface, and the large expanse of screen means you can throw a large number of widgets and icons across the seven screens. Apart from the ridiculously high resolution of the screen, it’s also a lot better to view in direct sunlight - something that other handsets, like the Nexus One from Google, have really struggled with.
Samsung Galaxy S: Calling and Messaging
While it’s clear that Samsung has really thought about what it’s putting together with the Galaxy S, there are still some elements that grate.
For instance, while it’s really easy to search for a contact using the alphabetised list on the side (simply slide your finger down to reach the name you’re looking for easily) but you’re unable to remove the SIM contacts in the list in favour of those on the phone - meaning you either stick with SIM numbers and therefore limited information or copy things to your phone and deal with dual entries.
However when it comes to messaging, things are a little better - the keyboard is wide and expansive in both portrait and landscape modes, and there’s also Swype on board too.
For those unfamiliar with Swype, it works by sliding your finger around a QWERTY keyboard, hitting the letters of the word you want to spell. It’s eerily accurate - although obviously some words don’t work as well as others, it’s still a cool way to input text on a touchscreen one-handed.
In terms of messaging options, the Galaxy S ticks all the right boxes - Exchange, SMS, MMS, Google Talk, webmail... basically all you need is right here, as well as Facebook and Twitter integration and contact synchronisation (although you’ll need to download the Android Twitter app to access the 140-character service).
Samsung Galaxy S: Internet
The internet browser on the Galaxy S is pretty darn good, as you’d expect from a modern Android phone - true, it doesn’t pack Flash video but that’s coming in forthcoming Android 2.2 upgrade.
Pages load very quickly over both 3G and Wi-Fi, and text looks great on this larger screen as you’d expect. However, you’ll initially think there’s no text reflow here, as when you zoom in the screen stays where it is - you have to double tap again to activate it, which is a little laborious. But with pinch and zoom and the forthcoming Flash 10.1 upgrade, this is a very adept phone indeed for internet browsing.
Samsung Galaxy S: Multimedia
But where this phone really shines is when its working with media - it’s stunning. Video is sublime - we can’t think of a better phone for watching movies on. The contrast ratios and playback smoothness are superb, and the 5.1 virtual surround sound actually adds something to the playback.
We noticed that DivX files actually judder a tiny bit during playback, but most of the time things work nicely and you’ll be using this as your main PMP in no time.
The music playback is equally as good - sonically you’re getting clear bass and treble, with stable mid tones too. The virtual surround sound is an option here too, but that actually detracts from songs, especially those heavy on vocals.
There’s a lot of storage packed into the phone as well, with up to 16GB internal memory on board. Our sample came from Vodafone, and while this doesn’t come with a microSD card on board you can expand the memory up to 48GB with external storage.
Applications are actually fairly light on this Galaxy S, although there are an odd five available from the Samsung dedicated portal, including a ‘Today in History’ application.
Why these aren’t pre-loaded, when the likes of Layar (for augmented reality browsing) and Mini Diary (a convoluted effort at tracking your days through pics and text) are, we don’t know. There are of course downloads via the Android market, including a reasonable range of games, such as Asphalt 5, Splinter Cell: Conviction and GameLoft's most recent, Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus.
Samsung Galaxy S: Battery
As you can imagine, the Galaxy S is a phone that you’ll want to play with a lot, thanks to the options on board. But the annoying thing is we found battery life varied wildly - some days we barely reached 8PM before needing to charge, others we nearly got two days out of the battery.
It’s the same story as usual - turn off things like push updates and you’ll save a lot of power, but weirdly watching video didn’t seem to suck juice as fast as we’d imagine.
One of the downsides of the Galaxy S is the price - with great power comes a great cost too. On Vodafone it’s the same price as the Nexus One, at £35 a month before you get a free phone; although that’s still cheaper than the iPhone 4 by a long way.
But blow for blow, the Galaxy S stands up pretty well to the best in the business - smart screen, excellent media player and strong messaging mean this is an all round winner for anyone looking for to get the latest cool technology in phones. Its performance is marred by a few little foibles, but at the end of the day it’s Android at its best and will only be improved by imminent updates.
The Samsung Galaxy S is out now on Vodafone