The Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone was a Great Buy

Apr 27, 2012 (Updated Apr 28, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Nice wide bright screen, light and slim, well organized, intuitive, good camera, ton of apps.

Cons:Facebook integration with contacts, battery drains quickly.

The Bottom Line: I am very happy with my Samsung Galaxy S II smart phone (SGH-I777) that I bought from AT&T. I am using it for all kinds of things.

I bought the Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone from my provider AT&T at the beginning of February. I should say that this Samsung Galaxy S II is AT&T’s SGH-I777 variant. It is my first Smart Phone. However, since my wife and our three kids all has had an iPhone 3G it is not the first Smart Phone I’ve bought or used. Dad always gets nice things last. OK that is not really true.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Overview

The top reasons I bought the Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone are that I’ve read and heard a lot of good things about this phone and my first impression of it in the store was also pretty good. It is very thin and slim, nice looking, and it has a fairly wide and bright touch screen. The screen looked a lot better than my wife’s iPhone 3G and the layout also seemed to be more intuitive. It cost more than an iPhone 3G but less than a 16GB iPhone 4 and it features 4G connectivity.

The screen is black unless it is turned on and it looks slick. The battery cover is thin and easy to open and the battery is wide and thin. The SIM card is located right above the battery (but inside the battery cover). You can add SD cards (memory expansion) by sticking them into an opening right above the battery. It is possible to do this without taking out the battery.

The Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone has a power button in the upper right hand corner, a volume button on the left side. If you press the upper end of the volume button it raises the volume (marked with a plus) and if you press the lower end it lowers the volume (marked with a minus). There is an USB input and a speaker input at the bottom and a headphone jack on the top. The speakers are in the back and there is one camera in the back (8MB) for normal shooting and a front camera (2MB) for self-portraits (assuming the screen is facing you). At the bottom of the screen there are four touch buttons for menu, home, back and enter.

The phone is considerably wider than my wife’s iPhone 3G. However, it still fits just fine in my Jeans pocket and in my cup holder in the car. But you could probably not make it any wider for that to remain true.

Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone came with a USB cable and a charger that connects to the USB port on the cable. Therefore you use the USB cable when you charge the phone (via the charger) and when you download photos to your computer.

My Samsung Galaxy S II Smart Phone came with the Android Operating System version 2.3.4. The Android Operating System is based on Linux and is developed by an alliance of companies. It is the best-selling smart phone platform in the world. It is open source and there are a lot of applications being developed for the Android market. There are more than 450,000 apps available for Android. I can add that I have never had an unwanted reboot or crash.

Overall the phone is very intuitive. You can instantly start using it without knowing anything about it, at the same time as it has a lot features you’ll discover as you learn more about it.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Reception & Sound

The Samsung Galaxy S II phone features 4G connectivity, wireless connectivity and Bluetooth. In general it is fast enough and the wireless connectivity is pretty good at home (wireless network at home). However, I have had problems with certain web sites loading extremely slowly quite often so I would not compare it with the typical wireless connectivity speed of a computer. However, it appears to be faster than my wife’s iPhone.

In my opinion the sound is better than that of my wife’s iPhone. For the most part it is clear and it is easy to adjust the volume if you need to. My voice seems to be clear in most cases but it depends a lot on the other person’s reception. Sometimes it has not been good. Overall I think it is better than the iPhone 3G and better than my old Pantech cell phone.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Screen

The screen is bright and intuitively organized. It is adjustable and I have no problems with the touch functionality. It is pretty accurate and the touch screen buttons for keypads and keyboards are fairly large. However, I still found it easier to type things using my old non-touch screen Pantech phone, but it is easier than my wife’s iPhone.

When the phone starts up it comes up with a background screen that you swipe away with your finger to get to the home screen. The home screen features an icon for the phone, messages, web and apps. There are also other icons by default email, camera, calendar, and a play store, but this you can configure this. As you swipe the screen you’ll see other items but the four basic ones (phone, messages, web and apps) stays the same at the bottom. You can open a quick panel by dragging your finger down. It features flight mode, switch on/off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and notifications. The four touch buttons at the bottom (menu, home, back, enter) are always there. The menu is context sensitive but when at home it features settings, notifications, add, wallpaper, search (Google search) and edit. The icons and the associated text are pretty self-explanatory for all common features and apps.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Features & Applications

The Samsung Galaxy S II has many features and pre-installed applications, and you can download a ton of additional applications using the featured apps feature, the play store, or going on the web. Functionality you would normally consider a feature rather than an application like contacts, messages, alarm clock, etc., appear on the screen as icons just like the applications. So I am combining those under one heading.

I like the way messages work. The messages are organized in a list and when you open a message you have a nicely organized message history where your replies are in blue boxes and the other person’s replies are in yellow boxes. Typing a message is easy. You just tap the edit box and you get a keyboard featuring touch buttons that are fairly large. As you type you get a list of word suggestions but it will not auto correct by default. You tap the words in the list if you want to use them.

The phone features voice-to-text and a turn over feature (if it rings and you don’t want to answer, turn it over).The phone has a little helper widget, a photo editor, access to movies and music, and a nifty alarm clock, and much more. The alarm is very intuitive, loud, and you can set up alarms for the whole week. It is not easy to make a mistake when you set the alarm. I use it every day.

When you view your contacts you touch the contact icon (photo if available) for info and you swipe your finger to call. One thing I did not like about the contacts list is that if you install the Facebook widget it merges with Facebook and inserts all your friends from Facebook into your contact list. The result is that I now have the phone number of lots of epinions folks and others whom I don’t know well enough to call. Yeah that is a Facebook thingy.

One of the applications is the AT&T navigator which is a quite intuitive GPS. It is easier to use than both my Garmin and TomTom and it always gives me three different route choices on a map. It rarely loses satellite connection. Unfortunately it is quite inaccurate so in city traffic or in places where you have many rods next to each other you cannot use it because it does not know which road you are on. However, the same is true for the pretty poor GPS apps you find on iPhones.

Quick Office is an application featuring a word editor, spread sheet, pdf creation, and another interesting application and so is the AT&T code scanner. The AT&T code scanner scans UPC bar codes, QR codes and data matrix codes. For example, if you are at a restaurant and they have codes nearby their menu items you can scan the codes to get nutritional information. You can scan bar codes and get information about the product and read reviews (it goes to a web site). There is a lot more.

One feature, or rather setting, I find annoying is the “screen time out”. It does not seem to work. It comes off too often and even if I set it at two minutes it turns off the screen within seconds. It is a power saving feature but I seem unable to control it.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Camera

The camera is pretty decent it features auto focus and 8MB resolution. It has a number of different shooting modes (single shot, smile shot, beauty, panorama, action shot, and cartoon), scene modes (none, portrait, landscape, night, sports, and party/indoor), and there is focus mode, exposure value, timer a self portrait mode, and flash modes. You can also take pictures fairly fast (once a second without flash). The flash by the way is quite powerful (but costs battery). You can also take video and there is another camera in the front for taking pictures of yourself.

I’ve taken hundreds of photos and some video and in general I think the picture quality is pretty good for a smart phone and the video quality is also pretty good. It is clearly much better than the photo quality of an iPhone. However, it does not compare to a decent digital camera.

Samsung Galaxy II: Durability

Since I’ve only had the phone for two and a half month I cannot say that much about durability. However, I’ve made a few observations. The screen is recessed a little bit so you can set the phone down on its face without scratching the screen. I did not buy a screen cover and despite that fact the screen is still in mint condition. Well, I bought a Ballistic rubber case for it as well, so scratches are somewhat less likely because of that. The rubber case protects it mostly from damage when dropped, not scratches, and I’ve dropped the phone a few times and nothing happened. Naturally the rubber case protected the phone but one could imagine something still breaking from the sudden fall but that did not happen. So overall the phone seems to be robust. The battery cover is easy to open but it is also very thin and appears brittle. I have not cracked it but I could see that happening.

Samsung Galaxy II: Battery

Since the screen is large and bright, and the phone features in general are set to be powerful by default (loud sound, powerful flash, etc.) the phone drains the battery fairly quickly. The battery will typically last one or two days in my case and it takes several hours to charge. I should add that the phone has many power saving features, which I am not fully utilizing because some of them can be annoying (see above).

Samsung Galaxy S II: Concluding Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy S II is a nice phone with a lot of features, lots of preinstalled apps, and a ton more to download from the Android market. The screen is wonderful, the camera good for a smart phone, sound and reception decent, and it is well organized, intuitive and easy to use and learn. I think it is better than my wife’s iPhone in almost every respect. I got my smart phone last but I think I got the best one. I highly recommend the Samsung Galaxy S II.

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