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Samsung Galaxy S Hands-On Review

Douglas Carter
3

I got the Samsung Galaxy S on last Wednesday, and let me tell you, it is completely different than any phone I've used before. The phone is very thin, and it is touted to be the thinnest Android phone available now. It is large though, because of the 4” touchscreen on the device. It is almost too big for my taste, due to the 4" Super AMOLED display.

The packaging for the Samsung Galaxy S is very nice. The phone and accessories come in a black cardboard box with the Galaxy S logo printed on the top and side. The phone comes with the usual array of manuals and pamphlets, along with a nice looking pair of Samsung ear buds, a micro USB cable, and a wall outlet charger.

Hardware

Hardware-wise, the Samsung Galaxy S is a heavy-weight. The Hummingbird graphics processor is also a great feature of the phone. It is very powerful and hasn't visibly struggled with anything so far. The phone comes with the option of 8GB or 16GB of on-board storage (in addition to the 32GB capable microSD card slot), which is great to store apps and other data on.

The backing of the phone comes off without struggle, and feels like it would take deliberate effort to remove it. Unfortunately, it also feels a tad loose in a couple of places at the sides of the phone. When I squeeze it a bit, I can sometimes hear bending noises coming from the phone's backing.

Gallery of the Samsung Galaxy S

The buttons/interface on the phone work well. The power button is situated on the right side of the device, and has not caused any problems so far. The black polymer volume rocker functions perfectly without any accidental presses so far. The phone's case fits my hand well, but can be a tad slippery at times. A protective case for the phone is probably not a bad idea.

The front of the Galaxy S features a menu pad, a home button, and a back pad. The phone has a proximity sensor that detects when you bring the phone up to your face and when it is taken away. It works most of the time, but other times it doesn't, resulting in having to press the Home button to end the call, unless the other person hangs up first. There is also an ambient light sensor. Missing from the phone is an LED notification light, which I had on my G1, and miss.

The Super AMOLED display does a great job at displaying images and video. The colors are vibrant and the screen is very responsive to my touches, working admirably, even in direct sunlight. Pictures are reproduced wonderfully on the screen and the colors look great.

The 1500mAh battery lasts a long time, much longer than the battery on my G1. I can get two days or more of frequent usage out of the phone on a full charge. Some sites attribute this to the 45nm manufacturing process of the of the processor, and due to the power saving advantages of the Super AMOLED display over LCD and AMOLED displays.

The micro USB port at the top of the Galaxy S has a slide-out covering to keep lint and other things out of your phone. An important point for some might be the lack of an HDMI out port on the phone. However, there is another way to output video from the device. An interesting feature of the Samsung Galaxy S is the ability to transmit video from the 3.5mm audio jack using an RCA cable.

Due to the recent debacle with the iPhone's signal strength, I decided to test the Galaxy S to see if it also suffered from a spot that killed the signal strength. The antennae, located at the bottom rear part of the handset, can have issues when deliberately held in a manner to cover the antennae. I was testing it at a friend's house and was holding it in a typical manner, messing around in some apps when I saw the bars drop from 3 to 1 and sometimes none. The signal strength here in the office is almost always four bars, so it is hard to recreate the problems.

Software

The software is pretty good. The Samsung Galaxy S comes loaded with Android 2.1 featuring TouchWiz UI 3.0, with a promise by Samsung that the phone will be upgraded to Android 2.2. The apps menu is too similar to the iPhone for my taste, but I'm surviving.

There is a Samsung app that comes with the phone called Daily Briefing, and while it can show stock reports, weather, and news, it leaves me frustrated. For one, regardless of how small you make the widget, it always takes up all possible locations to place an app on the homescreen. Additionally, it seems that I can only choose AP News stories on my phone, if I was in America, would be fine, but I'm not. Living in Berlin, (or anywhere outside the US), having the ability to choose where my news comes from (location and source) would be nice.

The phone's software can support up to seven homescreens, and there is a reminder at the top of every homescreen showing which one you are on. Selecting a specific homescreen directs you to it. Unfortunately, the main homescreen is always the left-most screen, even if you try to add screens to the left. I would prefer if the main homescreen was always in the middle.

Typing on the Samsung Galaxy S is a breeze. The phone comes preloaded with Swype, but I haven't used it yet, as the regular Android keyboard works great with the 4” screen. The navigation feature in the phone is also a great addition. Check out the video and pictures below:

Thanks to the Wi-Fi b/g/n capability, Wi-Fi speeds are great here in the office. The phone also has wireless tethering abilities.

Audio and Camera

The speaker-phone function works, but the first time I tried it, the quality of the call sound was horrible, due to some issue. Thankfully, all other times the issue didn't repeat itself. The music player plays the music back fantastically and looks good too, but the issues regarding what the phone thinks are songs is more than troublesome.

The speaker on the back of the phone is amazing in my opinion. It is powerful and sounds great. A small bump on the back of the phone between the two sound openings props the phone off of flat surfaces for better audio. However, the tiny bump on the back of the phone, which keeps the speaker propped up is already starting to wear away some, and I am curious to how long it will last before it is worn down.

Camera And Camcorder

The camera takes great pictures. It has a touch-to-focus ability so you can choose what is important in the photo. Unfortunately, the lens covering sits almost flush against the surface it ls laid on. The lens itself looks fairly large and does admirably in dark situations, considering the lack of flash. However, a flash would be a great addition, as it could double as a good flashlight.

Pictures from camera

I have only used the front facing camera on the phone a few times so far, but it seems to work okay. The resolution isn't great, but from what I understand, it isn't supposed to be high resolution, as it is for video chat mainly. The Galaxy S can also record up to 720p video, and it is very smooth.

Video Examples

 

The audio playback through the 3.5mm audio jack works great with my headphones and with ear buds, producing enough sound to be heard easily in nearly any typical setting and the audio jack firmly holds the plug in place. The FM radio reception works great and picks up the Berlin radio stations easily.

Wrap-Up

As for the price and availability, in the US, the four big carriers should already have a variant available or will be releasing a variant of the phone in the next month or two. T-Mobile and AT&T are selling theirs for $199 on contract, and in Europe, it really just depends on the carrier. However, if you are planning on buying the phone flat-out, expect a price range between $500 and $700.

The Samsung Galaxy S is the best phone I have had the pleasure of using so far and can recommend it to almost anyone. The size may be an issue for some, but it is just fine for me, and makes it function as a great multimedia device. It feels good in the hand, and the display coupled with the processor makes the Galaxy S stand out from the other Android phones on the market. In my opinion, it is hard to imagine going wrong with this phone.

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Comments

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  • Niels Christiansen Jul 25, 2010 Link

    I guess it boils down to how people likes TouchWiz 3.
    The combination of the properties of the Super AMOLED screen and the properties of the CPU/GPU chipset from a hardware perspective alone makes it a phone to watch.
    If only the AMOLED technology was more widely available. Hello, Samsung?
    They certainly benefit from the scarcity of screens, they obviously get first choice.

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  • Douglas Carter Jul 26, 2010 Link

    Yeah, I have touched on the super AMOLED scarcity dilemma in the past. It sucks if you don't like Samsung phones, but want a fantastic screen.

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  • Douglas Carter Jan 19, 2011 Link

    Looking back, the Nexus S is what the Galaxy S can be when TouchWiz is removed and only vanilla Android is left.

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