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Samsung Galaxy S Review: In Depth

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The Galaxy S appears to be Samsung’s answer to the likes of the iPhone and the Google Nexus One. It has definitely taken more than a few design queues from Apple’s ubiquitous smartphone, but running Android it has more in common with its Googly counterpart. We’re keen to see how Android looks in crystal clear Super AMOLED on a screen that dwarfs that of the bada-running Samsung Wave.

What we like

You can’t not like that screen. It’s big, its sharp (4-inches), colours are great and we had no problem using it outside in bright sunlight. We turned the brightness right up and compared it to the iPhone 4 with its retina display – the iPhone was brighter but in terms of crispness there was just nothing in it. They’re both amazing to the naked eye.

When we weren’t swooning over the screen, we were marvelling at the Samsung Galaxy S’s speed. The capacitive touchscreen is very responsive, and opening and switching between applications is pain-free.

We can’t help but rejoice that the Galaxy S is running the stable, established, probably-not-going-anywhere Android rather than Samsung’s own bada OS.

The Galaxy S offers you seven marvellous homescreens all with the scrolling wallpaper behind them. This gives you plenty of room for apps, widgets and favourite contacts shortcuts. You can also control connections and stuff from your notifications bar which we found very handy.

In this post-iPhone 4 world, it’s hard to classify a handset as slim without a little voice in your head going ‘yeah, but… the iPhone 4 is slimmer’. That’s as may be, but we like the dimensions of the Galaxy S – it’s big without feeling too big and it’s surprisingly light.

The music player is a pretty basic affair, but we were dazzled by its pretty colours and enjoyed having quick access to things like our most recently played and added tracks.

Contacts syncing with Twitter, Gmail and Facebook, great but leads to a few duplicates plus a load of people you don’t often really need to contact. But lovely contact images ☺ Also little icon lets you see where it’s pulled the info from, so if you have a contact on Gmail, Facebook and Twitter it does try to group them into one. As this becomes a bit unwieldy, you’ll probably want to set up some roups of favourite contacts; easy job. And you can do shortcuts to specific contacts from your homescreens.

There’s one other thing we really enjoyed using on the Galaxy S – the handwriting input method for writing text messages. After a bit of practice, we found it fun, fast and kind of intuitive. We’re not sure we’d use it all day every day, but it’s a nice addition for when you’re sick of traditionally typing. Of course, there’s also Swype which you can use if neither typing nor handwriting is your thing.

What we don’t like

The downside of the handset being so light is that it feels a bit plasticky and cheap. Generally, if you’re after a high-end phone, you want something that feels a bit more premium in your hand.

The styling is old hat and, dare we say it, a little boring. When that gorgeous screen is hibernating, it’s literally just a slab of black, with rounded corners which put us in mind of the now-outdated iPhone 3G and 3GS models.

We’d like to see more widgets on the Galaxy S – although you have access to both Samsung’s and Android’s widgets, there’s still not a great deal going on. What is there could be a little more intuitive and better designed too.

The 5-megapixel camera takes perfectly adequate photos and offers a range of settings to play with, but shutter speed is really quite slow and it doesn’t show you an automatic review of the picture you’ve just taken so you’re left worrying about whether or not you captured that once-in-a-lifetime shot of a squirrel eating a banana.

Typing using the onscreen keyboard is a bit weird. That hugely responsive screen becomes somewhat of a double-edged sword; sometimes we could swear we hadn’t even touched the screen before the key registered – all well and good, but this hardly ever resulted in the letter we were actually aiming for. It became quite frustrating – which probably explains why we were so thrilled with the handwriting recognition tool.

Conclusion

It’s brilliant to see Samsung come out with a serious smartphone contender, and the Korean company has done a great job. It’s a handset we wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with, and managed to keep up with us every step of the way. A definite contender for anyone currently considering the likes of the iPhone 4, Google Nexus One or HTC Desire.
 

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