Wow, just wow: Samsung Galaxy S II review

So everyone talks about a phone being an iPhone killer. Which smartphone will be the one to topple Apple’s touchscreen wonder off the smartphone tower? The Samsung Galaxy S II is probably the closest we’re going to see this generation.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is a super slim smartphone running Android (Gingerbread) customised heavily with Samsung’s TouchWiz 4.0 user interface. While some third party UI’s can be hit or miss TouchWiz is one of the first we regard as a genuine pleasure to use. Ultimately these UI’s are there to make using the phone easier but they often just make it more confusing – Samsung’s done all the right things with its design. Love it.

It’s complemented by a content system that’s exclusive to Samsung called “Hubs”. A Game Hub with a selection of free-but-simple games plus a number of paid games and demos the Social Hub which combines social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter with your email IMs and contacts. There’s also a Reader Hub with access to e-Books magazines and newspapers. Along with a Music Hub but its streaming music services aren’t available in Australia at this point.

Samsung has also seen fit to include turn-by-turn GPS navigation from NAVIGON which is a pleasant surprise seeing GPS is one of the first things I tend to buy on a new mobile platform. You also get free maps for 2 years if you register.

All of this is overshadowed by the Samsung’s hardware. This phone is super super sleek. At its thinnest it’s a mere 8.49mm and weighs in at a paltry 119 grams. But what you’ll really notice is the Galaxy S II’s screen. It’s a 4.3in “Super AMOLED Plus” display that is extremely crisp and clear and it doesn’t blast your eyeballs with super brightness. Even though this is a big phone after all a 4.3in screen isn’t small it doesn’t feel like a slab as it’s so thin and very pleasant in the hand.

The unit’s camera is a top notch 8MP model and the picture quality surprised us (considering the images came from a phone). Due to the limitations of the form factor it’s never going to be as good as a “real” camera but this is a perfectly acceptable stand in for on-the-spot shooting.

There is one downside to the phone and that’s battery life. With such a vanishingly thin design combined with high end hardware (it sports a dual core 1.2GHz processor!) it’s bound to have a few juice problems. With a full days use making calls a couple of games on the bus and some web browsing we’d find the phone dipping very close to red-alert battery levels by the end of the day. This is a phone you’ll be charging every night without fail. And remember a phone with no charge in it is just an expensive brick. If you can live with that then there’s almost nothing bad we can say about the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Available from Samsung retailing for $840 or on plans with Telstra.
APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)