So with the Galaxy S only just going on sale I have been very lucky to be able to get hold of a device to review for the site and test it out in real world use. This has been my only phone to use so had to put up with all my daily use of a phone.
So this is what the phone looks like when looking straight on, very plain and simple which is where a lot of touch screen phones are going now after the iPhone was launched, why have lots of buttons when there is a large screen to do this for you?. The screen is a massive 4 inch and is made from glass, now normally the first thing I do with a new phone is put on a screen protector like from Zagg to make it last longer but with none available yet to fit this phone unless you get a cheaper generic one I was going to have to do the unthinkable and just leave the screen bare. And actually I am very pleased I did because with some days of use using the phone and putting it in my pocket the screen does not have a single mark on it. This is down to the glass being scratch resistant.
The left side of the phone is also simple with just a volume switch for putting volume either up or down. This is used for the speaker when in calls or anywhere else to adjust the ringtone volume. A nice touch with Android is from putting the volume down to 0 you can still press it and put the phone into a vibrate mode all from the same button.
The top of the phone has a Micro USB port which is used for charging the phone and also for connecting to a computer to use as a modem or transfer data although when I did plug this in it was not as easy to move photos over as I was used too on other Android phones (by the way I am using an Apple Mac Mini). Instead when the phone was plugged in an application launched on the phone and did not come up as a portable drive on the computer. However I expect users of Windows to not have this issue as you can install the software provided online. There is also a handy slide cover so you can stop and dust or dirt getting in this port when not in use, this is simple but a great idea
Next to the Micro USB is the 3.5mm jack which is used for the provided headset so you can listen to music or the built in FM Radio on the move. As with other phones you can also use this headset for calls.
The Galaxy S has HD Video which can be shown on a HD TV but not via HDMI which you would expect, the Galaxy S does not have HDMI but instead uses this same 3.5 port for video output.
The right hand side of the phone just has a simple power button which as expected turns the phone on and off. it is also used to put the phone into lock mode so when in your pocket you dont call anyone by accident.
The small hole on the bottom of the phone is the microphone which is for making calls and also used for capturing audio in camcorder mode.
The back of the phone is where you find the Samsung logo, the speakerphone and the 5 megapixel camera which also shoots 720p HD video. The biggest let down of the Galaxy S is the lack of even an LED flash on the back which would help in low lighting. Even the HTC Desire had a flash and although no one really raved about it, it did help when taking photos anywhere with less than perfect conditions. The sample photos later on in the review were taken either inside on a sunny day (the coffee photos) or in a shop with lots of lighting (the speaker). However as someone who takes lots of photos on a mobile phone I was impressed with the close up photos which take advantage of the tap to focus feature but was also very let down with the decision not to include a flash.
There are 2 touch buttons at the botton of the phone on the front, these are for loading up the menu, getting straight back home or for going back a screen. To be honest I forgot all about the ‘home’ button and just keps pressing the back arrow to get back to the main screen. These buttons are not clickable, they are like the touch screen but thankfully are very responsive.
Looking at the top part of the screen you find the sensor which is used to detect lighting and this auto adjusts the brightness setting so you do not have to worry about that, this also helps the battery by dimming the light when not needed. There is also a front facing camera which is used for video calls over the 3G network. A lot has been made of the new FaceTime feature of the iPhone but that is WiFi only, actual 3G video calls have been around for a long time but never really taken off due to the cost. This is the only Android phone I can think of that I have seen which has the video calling camera that can be used over 3G and is a welcome addition to the features. Those who have never used it and do not want too will not but it is great to have it there for those people who DO video call.
This is a quick video overview of the phone to show you the size, speed and a few features of the phone which are listed in this review.
(Sample Close-Up Photo)
The main homescreen is split into 7 pages but the main difference with the Galaxy S is that the main page is page one right on the left hand side where as on other devices the middle page is the main one and you can swipe left or right to get too the extra pages. Nothing major but something to get used too if you are already used to Android. Apart from that the homescreen is as you would expect from Android, you can add your own Widgets, shortcuts and really customise the phone how you like it. Samsung have also included a handy widget called Daily Briefing which shows local weather, stock prices and some news from various sources on the internet.
Something that is handy is at the bottom of the screen you have fixed shortcuts for Phone, Contacts, Messaging, Applications. These cannot be changed but it is nice to have them on screen at the bottom for one touch access to the main features.
Once you load up the list of applications you see this has also changed, instead of having a massive top to bottom list of all your apps, the Galaxy S scrolls left to right with all the pre-installed apps being on the first few screens and then you get all your installed ones. Again nothing major but something to get used too.
There are lots of ways to input text without needing to install any 3rd party applications. I decided to use XT9 on a traditional layout as seen above but there is also handwriting and QWERTY layouts to choose. The most annoying thing about texting with the Galaxy S is the space bar is not in the middle at the bottom as it is on nearly all other phones, Samsung decided to put it slightly to the side and this meant when I was writing long texts I would often switch off XT9 and have one massive confusing pile or letters where my text message should be. However the biggest text feature this phone has is built in Sywpe input which we have covered recently. Swype is a clever way of inputting text without needing to activate predictive texting or tap every letter you want. Think of Swype as the ‘dot-to-dot’ of texting, just slide your finger over the letters like you are joining them up and Swype will do the rest for you.
It takes some getting used too but once you have mastered the technique you will be texting in no time at all and really enjoying what Swype has to offer.
This is a VERY handy feature which was talked about at Google I/O as being a feature coming to Android 2.2 but Samsung have managed to do it in 2.1 and that is WiFi Hotspot & Tethering!. Basically it allows you to share your internet connection you have on your phone with any WiFi device. How frustrating is it for those iPad owners who are restricted to getting online by only being able to use WiFi hotspots?. Well now with one simple tick of the box you have your very own hotspot. This was tested by using a Mac Mini to use the connection and it was very simple to setup and worked perfectly. This is a feature I am very impressed with and would have like to have seen on other phones.
Just a small disclaimer though, watch your data use!. If you are on a set limit data package it is easy to run away with using as a modem and you might get extra charges when you go over so if you plan on using this, check which data bundles are available from your chosen network.
The lock screen is simple but effective, no little phone to slide over to unlock, no blue arrow like on the X10, to unlock just swipe the screen in any direction and the ock goes away and gives you your homescreen. The lock screen does have some important information though such as Time/Date and you can still see the top status bar even when the phone is locked.
As with all Android phones you can slide the status bar down to reveal items like missed calls, texts, downloads and some other basic bits, but Samsung have gone one further and customised it so you can turn on WiFi, Bluetooth, Silent or Vibrate modes all from a single tap on the option. This really does save time especially for WiFi as you don’t have to go into the settings and don’t have to add an extra icon to the homescreen for this feature, it is there up top when you want it.
— CONCLUSION —
Overall I was impressed with the package Samsung put together. The main plus points are the bright high resolution screen using AMOLED technology it really does make a different. The screen was super strong and sensitive which was great for web browsing and for just navigating the phone and having a 1GHZ processor most of the time the phone was running really fast. Close up photos were very clear in good lighting and being able to use the Galaxy S as a MiFi hotspot was an added bonus.
There the phone let me down was the lack of LED/Xenon flash for taking photos. This was actually the biggest let down for me and I was very surprised when Samsung decided not to include a flash even just a basic LED one. On a £450.00 phone a Flash should have been fitted or why shout about the HD video and 5 megapixel camera if the lighting effects the outcome of your recording.
There also were times the phone just….well… lagged it was almost like for a few seconds the phone had to catch breath and carry on from where it left off. This was in no particular screen it would just at random stop for a few seconds then catch up.
Although the front of the phone was great using glass, the build quality of such as expensive device such as this was questionable as it was made from cheep feeling plastics which not only attracted a lot of fingerprints but just made what should be a premium device less premium feeling and when you compare to the HTC Desire or Nexus One there is a world of difference.
Could the Galaxy S be improved?, Yes. Add HDMI for proper HD video output, make the materials stronger and put at least an LED flash and now we are talking a serious top end device.
The main contender to the Android Flagship crown is the HTC Desire so before you decide which to buy check both these phones out as some people might prefer the Samsung over the HTD but others might not.
It is just unfortunate with a spec list as great as this that I cannot call the Samsung Galaxy S the best Android phone there is.