My First Week With The Samsung Galaxy S2

My business mobile phone contract was due for renewal a week or so back. I was originally going to go for a Blackberry, simply because I've not tried one before but, given that I'd started to do some Android development, it made sense to stick with that and I opted for a Samsung Galaxy S2.

I had a Dell Streak from last year but, to be honest, I'd pretty much abandoned it. I just couldn't get it on with the inconsistency of apps in relation to UI's etc on Android, nor the sluggish device, and had returned to my iPhone 3GS. At least with iOS, you pretty much know what you're going to get. Hence, I'd been pretty much out of touch with the current state of Android over the past 6 months or so.

My, how things have changed! The S2 has totally transformed my thoughts about Android. Sure, there are still the UI inconsistencies within apps, although things do appear to have improved somewhat. But the real eye opener was what good hardware can do. In a nutshell, if you throw a shit load of hardware at an Android device, it completely transforms the user experience. Gone are the sluggish delays when switching or loading apps. The 1.2Ghz dual-core of the S2 makes everything, and I mean everything, as near as makes no difference instant. This thing really flies, to the point where my iPad (V1) now actually feels sluggish and my iPhone 3GS feels almost antique (which is understandable - it's 2 year old hardware now).

I can't over state how much of a game changer this is. This is as close as I've seen so far to being the perfect smart phone, partly due to the following (and in no particular order):

  • The display is just superb. And what the heck have they put on it to keep it so clean? It never, ever seems to get dirty. No fingerprints, no grime. I've no idea how, but it seems to remain perfectly clean, in stark contrast to the iPad and iPhone.
  • It's light. Although it's physical larger than the iPhone, it's considerably lighter, to the extent that I often need to physically check it's in my pocket to make sure it's there.
  • It's super fast, like sci fi kinda fast. It behaves like those devices you see in movies that respond instantly. The speed extends to all aspects of the device. As well as just general response of the UI, Internet access is markedly better than, say, my iPhone (on the same network).
  • Having 1Gb of RAM on board seems to help considerably, as does, I imagine, the improved memory management of Android 2.3.3 over the 2.2 I last used. In a week of use, I've only had to kill one app (see below). Everything just seems to take of itself.
  • A quick search of the forums will show plenty of folk who seem to have battery issues with the S2. Happily (for me!), I don't appear to be one of them. It seemed pretty poor for the first couple of days but, since then, it'll cope with a full day (about 6am to around midnight) on a single charge and with pretty heavy use. I could only dream of that with my 3GS.

Of course, its only "almost perfect" as nothing is, well, perfect. Having said that, the only real issue I've had (and even this isn't causing huge problems) is that, as soon as I switch WiFi on, it fires up the WiFi sharing service, which then proceeds to consume excessive battery power, even though I'm never using sharing. You can kill the process, but it comes straight back if you're still on WiFI. The only way to get rid of it (temporarily) is to switch off WiFi and then kill the sharing process. This appears to be a known issue. I must admit, though, that I tend to just ignore it. I could probably get another 10% use during the day if I judiciously killed the process every time I was out of WiFi but, frankly, I can't be bothered and I don't really need that extra 10%.

One of the things I really love about this phone (and what I love about iOS devices) is that you can pretty much just leave it to look after itself. With the Dell Streak, I was constantly playing around with it, trying to optimise battery life without switching everything off to the point where there was basically no point in having it. With the S2, I seem to have all the benefits of iOS ("It just works") with the advantages that Android can bring. Don't get me wrong - I love tinkering with stuff, but I don't like being forced to tinker just to make something work properly.

Conclusions? Well, put it this way - the iPhone is now an alarm clock.