Product Type: Samsung Smartphone
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Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II
Member Name: Dryad
Samsung i9100 Galaxy S II
Date: 27/01/12, updated on 27/01/12 (91 review reads)
Advantages: A magnificent piece of technology that is intuitive & a doddle to use even for a technotwit like me
Disadvantages: Expensive if bought sim free, some bugs but fixes are available.
I'm not a highly adept techy so I hope you'll forgive my lack of trying out some of the features, the ones I do use get a hammering.
If you buy this sim free is currently available from Amazon from around the £370 mark (other sellers). The price varies and I've seen it for around £480-500 elsewhere. At the lower price I honestly think it isn't bad compared to some smart phones. I managed to get mine on contract with my provider at a monthly cost less than my previous phone (with some haggling) with no upfront cost of the handset or I could never have afforded it.
My box contained only the phone, the charger some rather nice in ear headphones, and the usual paper information. I was happy to see that the usage instructions came in a small thin 'Get to know your Samsung Galaxy SII' booklet and quick start format. I'm not very good at following instructions and tend to jump straight in and look at the booklet only if 'trouble' occurs. Even when something weird happens or I want to use an application that I'm not familiar with I tend to use Youtube as my first port of call for guidance, a big thank you to all those wonderful sharing techno geeks out there.
I didn't own the predecessor the Galaxy S so can't write this review from a comparative angle.
The Galaxy SII is a multi award winner (one being the T3 top smartphone 2011 award), and runs on the Android operating system. The phone is super sleek and one of the thinnest phones of it's type out there 8.5mm for most of it's length with a slight curved thickening near the bottom adding only a millimetre of so. The screen takes up the entire front surface with the home button (which also opens the screen once it's on 'idle') set in the glass bottom centre is the only physically moving control on the front of the phone. On the left side of the chassis is the call/ringer/alarm volume switch which also act as a zoom (up to 4x) when using the camera, on the right is the power on/off switch.
The back of the phone is a thin plastic, which is textured and provides good but subtle grip in the hand. I thought I wouldn't like this as I've been used to a metallic chassis and enjoyed the heft and quality feel it gave the phone. I was surprised to find that I don't mind the plastic back, the phone though lightweight at 117g still feels well made and 'dense' I suspect by dint of the 'gorilla glass' screen. The cover removes and reattaches easily unlike the titanic battles I've had with some of my old phones, yet sits firmly in place once on and it's yet to pop off unexpectedly even when I (gulp) dropped it.
The screen is 4.3 inches and super amoled (amoled stands for Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) and is made from toughened 'gorilla glass' The gorilla glass has made a huge difference to how the phone wears, I'm not very easy on my phones and tend not to use protective covers (I know it's bad especially for a fancy pants phone but I never seem to get around to it). I've had this phone since October which is plenty of time to have built up a fair array of scuffing etc but there is not a mark on the screen.
The screen has an oleophobic coating which I'm guessing means it repels oil and claims to stay smear free for longer too, and considering the amount of molesting it gets from me I would say this is true. It does have the odd swipe mark across it but its easily wiped away with a soft cloth (or rubbed against your clothes). I've yet to notice a specific finger print on it I'm sure they are there in spades but I simply don't notice them. The gorilla glass though good at resisting scratches and fingerprints isn't impervious to being shattered if dropped or hit awkwardly.
Although the phone is thin it is quite wide and long (125.3 x 66.1) but I don't find it difficult to handle at all, quite the opposite this is one of the easiest to handle phones I've owned, and I have quite petite hands.
The battery life on this phone is very good. I'm not a gamer so the phone doesn't get battery draining use in that field. However considering all the things it does in a day my phone will often go two days at a push without needing charging and that's with having the e-reader running most of the day and heavy use as a phone, and watching streamed material. I don't always use it as an alarm as I usually use an old phone for that so I switch it off at night (something I haven't done with a phone before, ever!). With my heaviest use it will reduce to a day and a half, with light use I've gone three days.
There are 7 screens in total which you can access in several ways, simply sweep a finger (or thumb) across the screen and the screens slide along smoothly and quickly, or near the bottom of the screen is a series of 7 dots if you tap one it will take you to the screen corresponding to each dot, or you can simply draw your finger along the dots. If you want to see all your screens at a glance simply 'pinch' the screen you are on and it will reduce and all screens will be shown and you just tap the chosen one to go into it.
The interface is brilliant, very responsive, tactile and works smoothly and super fast. I've always liked the option of a physical key pad and was worried I'd find the touch screen only difficult this is my first device without one, and I love it!
The most important thing for me is does it work as a phone and for texting, basic I know but if it doesn't do that then good as everything else is I wouldn't want it, as the rest of the stuff I can do with other equipment. The call quality on this is the best I've experienced with a 'smart' type phone. I have to say that I've only experienced Nokia and basic Samsung smartphones previously so can't compare it with other high end brands such as the i-phone. However as long as my signal strength is ok the calls are crystal clear with no issues at all.
I thought I would miss a physical key pad for texting and have to admit that I did at first. However the on screen keypad for this phone is very good indeed, and the sensory touch feed back you get when you press a key (or do anything else on the phone) is perfect, the feedback can be changed in intensity in settings if you wish. I prefer to use it turned on its side in landscape format to give me bigger sized 'keys'. Now that I'm used to it I think it's great. I have noticed that I'm having to cut up some of my texts into smaller chunks when communicating with my sister as it won't send long messages, I never had this problem with my Nokia phones which would send my ramblings without complaint.
It has a decent internal memory of 16gb and has a speedy 1.2GHz dual-core processor, that's more than my recently retired ancient laptop had! I noticed the difference in speed of loading to any other smart phone I've owned instantly. It's clearly a different animal than my previous devices, very very fast indeed.
I can browse the internet pretty much as it's meant to be seen, I've done pretty much everything I would normally do on a lap top on it even claimed Dooyoo miles (but not written a review as yet) it's just as fast as my lap top too.
My first screen (you can customise all seven if you wish) is preloaded with all sorts of handy apps, there's a planner, internet search bar and so much more. I haven't changed it as I like it as it is. The phone is great for social media (according to my family). I very rarely use this kind of thing myself so I can't really say exactly how good it is from personal experience, but when my older niece gets hold of my phone I don't see it again all day, she twitters her face off. If I properly knew how twitter worked I'd try it out for the sake of personal experience in the review, but there are some things that will remain a mystery to me. However the 'social hub' on the device seems to be intuitive and simple to use as far as I've taken it.
Connecting to wifi hot spots whether it's your own hub at home or out couldn't be easier. You sweep your finger down the screen and it brings up a drop down menue including sound, bluetoot, wifi amongst others. Just tap and you're connected.
The thing I think I love about this phone most is the e-reader app, it's shown as a short-cut on one of my screens as 'readers hub', you can of course also access it by going into apps and flipping through the amazing 4 pages of applications pre loaded on the device. The reader in question is 'Kobo' and there are a huge range of books available through it. The screen is very subtly backlit so your eyes aren't strained, and the print is clear, the page being small only contains a few paragraphs or so, but I don't find 'turning the pages' to be a chore. It works pretty much like any e-reader so my friend who owns a kindle informed me. I even love the page turn it's very aesthetically pleasing even to the extent of being able to read the 'print' in reverse faintly on the back of the turning page. The text size can be changed and I find reading on this easier than from paper, because the subtle back lighting and contrast makes everything very clear. I have not downloaded any books with colour prints so I can't whether it renders them well or not. Downloading books takes seconds which I think is one of the new wonders of the world.
The headphone jack is 3.5mm and is on the top of the phone. There is of course a music hub, you can import music you have loaded on your computer, (via Kies air I think. Kies syncs your laptop and your phone very easily) buy from the pre loaded online store or generally by browsing the internet. I have bought a couple of albums already from the online store. It is very easy to manage your music either through Kies on your computer of on your phone.
The music function on this exceeds what I was expecting. My Nokia N97 mini had great music playback, but I would say that the Samsung Galaxy has the edge. The depth and detail of the music on the Samsung is excellent.
Youtube and BBCi-player are pre loaded and I use them quite a bit. The image and sound quality when watching streamed or downloaded items is superlative; pin sharp and much better than my non HD laptop, the colour saturation is perfect. Though the phone is very intuitive and the instructions good I have yet to find out how to adjust the brightness while viewing videos etc. The shortcut suggested on Youtube doesn't seem to work on my phone, I don't know whether it is my specific phone that is the issue or a general one. There is no stuttering of the image or pixilation, there may be the very occasional second or two of 'jerkiness' but that is more down to my broadband connection I think than the phone. I can watch my favourite programmes in bed now with the lights off and my headphones in and not disturb the snoring beast beside me. A TV screen apparently is too bright for his majesty when he's trying to sleep.
Apparently there is HDMI out facility with this phone for gaming and watching stuff (which my trusty laptop doesn't even have), via the micro usb port at the bottom, (which is also where you charge the phone). I'm not sure whether you need to connect to a hdmi converter or if there is a 'micro' hdmi cable that will fit? I haven't tried this as I don't have a HD T.V. neither do I quite 'get' what is involved. I was going to include a web address to an android forum that appeared to be discussing the issue but it was too long, if you Google the issue I'm sure you'll come across the same place. I'm sure that if you're interested in that facility though you could well know how to achieve it anyway.
One function I've been a little disappointed with is the 8 megapixel camera, though I may be being a bit nitpicky as it's such a fantastic device generally. Outdoor photography is great in all weather conditions with colours being realistic and pictures beautifully sharp, there are also plenty of options to adjust the settings to get the effect you want. The macro setting is one of my favourites and close ups as long as you don't get camera shake are good with plenty of tiny detail. There is a panorama function too where you can sweep the camera steadily around to capture a vista. I haven't explored this thoroughly enough to comment on how it works yet though.
Indoor photography is ok as long as there is bright light, however the camera struggles to cope in low lighting conditions. I've had some truly dreadful results with indoor night time photography, the flash is a single LED and though it looks good as it deploys the resulting pictures are poor. The background is black with the subject only partly illuminated, seemingly cut off. I know how to adjust the settings to compensate for the poor flash etc as I've been interested in photography since I were a nipper. So was initially pleased to see LOTS of settings options and thought that surely some adjustment would address the issue, especially as there was a choice of iso settings, lighting condition options and white balance. However despite tinkering with the settings the results are still disappointing. Also the red eyed monster can appear with the flash. and though there is a photo editing option there is no option to remove 'red eye'.
A friend has told me that there may be firmware available at the Samsung app store to correct the flash problems. I haven't looked for it yet as I've literally just been told but will update the review when I am able to check this out.
Options for sharing pictures are available.
The video is full HD and excellent I have no complaints about that at all it's the best I've come across. There is also an option to upload video to Youtube and other sharing methods.
There is also a forward facing 2 megapixel camera for whatever you want to use if for, I believe it can be used for video calling though I haven't tried that function.
There are one or two little bugs as there are with most phones, as mentioned above brightness issues, and the flash, but there are fixes for most of these. It would be nice though if I didn't have to fiddle with accessing these fixes as I'm not the most technically adept and it would be nice if things just worked. However these in my opinion are small issues (especially as they can be dealt with) and doesn't dent my all round appreciation of this phone.
I haven't covered half of what this magnificent phone can do as the review is quite long enough already I've tried to give a general impression of the phone and some of the functions and apps that I use most, and I'm still discovering new applications and uses. Suffice it to say this gorgeous piece of tech is a multi award winner for good reason. Would I save the husband or phone in a fire?.... Ummm. Well the husband *is* able to walk on his own..... When I inevitably kill this phone in some ludicrous way due to general clumsiness I will be devastated.
* This phone is 2 and 3G
* Full specs can be viewed here http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_i9100_galaxy_s_ii- 3621.php
Summary: A gorgeous technically tooled up phone that I can't stop stroking.