Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Review of Samsung Galaxy S II i9100. Part II
The model runs under Gingerbread (2.3) with some alterations for TouchWiz4 interface. The differences from previous models are quite numerous. Standard features are implemented similarly to other models on 2.3, so feel free to read an appropriate review. We also offer screenshots of every feature for you to appreciate the model.
Samsung changed the work and number of widgets. They are now located in the lower part of the screen with many unique and proprietary widgets. In the menu you can create your own pages for icons and folders for apps.
Task manager is represented by a separate application where you can both shut down apps and empty the memory. This utility successfully replaces a standard one. The keypad comes equipped with Swype for horizontal and vertical orientations. The text input is fast and convenient and the keypad can be considered successful.
During the dialing you can use smart search. Enter the first letters of a name and the phone offers the list of names with the number of dials to the right. This list can be accessed in one touch. For a particular contact you can use any number from the phonebook, which is a welcome addition to standard Android features. During the incoming call it can be ended with a one touch SMS.
The phone boasts Samsung App Market and Android Market.
Google Maps 5.x is the latest version and the hardware GPS receiver is ideal.
By default the handsets offers to save contacts in the phone memory, but not in Gmail. I think it is not the best solution, though LG also followed this way. Luckily, we can select actions by default. For example, you can save contacts in one type of memory only. There is also a white/black list in contacts. In the general list you can swipe against the number from left to right and the default dialling will start. If you make a similar move in the opposite direction you will activate a message creation. It is a minor improvement, but it makes the use of the phone faster. The same principle is used in the list of latest contacts, dialled numbers, etc.
Press the central button to activate the voice dialing based on a Vlingo application. At first you will be asked to agree with the terms of service and afterwards the app will start immediately for text input or calls. One press of a button allows you to start speaking. The phone reacts to standard commands Ц make a call, SMS and so on. Examples of activities are given. Voice recognition is decent and simple English texts are formed into SMS, which can be sent immediately. It is a good option for drivers behind the wheel. Do not forget that you need attentive dictation and pauses between words. Unfortunately, it is not quite comfortable and so far this feature is only good for the fans. In SafeReader mode the phone reads out received SMS, pronounces the name of the caller or his/her number. It is necessary for safe driving. In general, there are no complaints here. Voice control is decent. On the downside, if you do not use the feature it will still crave for memory. Are you happy with that?
This is an automatic translation tool from Google. You pronounce a phrase in one language and it is translated into another. The results for English are plausible, but in other directions you can receive many funny variants. You need to be online for this feature to work. As it has no alternatives we can consider it to be acceptable with some reservations.
Polaris Office allows viewing and editing MS Office files. This solution is rather simple and while in prototypes we had QuickOffice in the final release it was dumped for some reasons.
Pictures Editor. This useful app allows adding various filters to pictures, change them and add text among other things. This editor is good enough to change a photo on the phone when you do not need a PC, but a simple operation must be made nonetheless.
Video Editor. The first and key advantage of the editor is an opportunity to select the video resolution of the end product. The available range is pretty impressive. Select a default theme, add photos or music to video. You can also cut a piece or connect several tracks. Despite a simple and intuitive interface you get the maximum features. This option is not a mandatory requirement, but it was implemented well.
AllShare is a standard uPnP to transfer files to a PC and back via WiFi, watch and listen to them both on a phone (if the format is supported) or a PC.
This application combines three functions Ц reading newspapers, books and magazines.
Newspapers are represented by PressDisplay service. You can filter the list by countries or languages, select the papers you need and download them. You can subscribe for particular periodicals. The price is affordable, but can vary depending on the place you live. Initially up to 7 free downloads were planned. You can try newspapers before committing to the service.
I liked an opportunity to receive fresh papers to my phone, but the main downside was caused by an attempt to keep the original layout of newspapers. It is not adapted to the screen of mobile phones, hence the reading is not always an enjoyable process. Unfortunately, you cannot save separate articles, sections of the text and send them by mail.
Magazines use Zinio, which exploits the same idea, but the implementation is more attractive. Alternatively, you can also subscribe to the necessary magazines or buy separate editions. This service is well known to everybody who uses Android, so I will not concentrate on it for too long.
Books are provided by Kobo. You look for titles in different languages, download or buy books. The choice is wide and some books (predominantly classic titles) are free. This app is handy as a book reader, but sadly we cannot download our own titles, so you may need a dedicated reader for that.
Depending on your location music stores vary. The minimum number of available tracks should be 800,000. From the app you can play the track, buy it and download on the phone. The central page hosts tips and links to the most popular choices. This piece of software is rather unobtrusive and can be easily ignored if you don't need it that much.
This is a standard app store to browse available games, read description and buy them. Different markets have various games providers and content. I was surprised to see this section as there are no additions here in comparison with Samsung store, which is available as well. Quantity does not always increase the quality.
One of the most controversial issues in the phone is Social Hub, which was actually moved from Bada to Android. Users do not see it, but all accounts are stored on the Samsung server to allow for mail push. In the app itself you see mail and SMS/MMS messages together, which is clumsy and doubles usual SMS and mail. Then come Feeds, which hosts messages from Twitter/Facebook if set up. Those who have more than 10 friends in social networks and active social life will not find the app useful as it is turned into a mess within minutes. It is impossible to follow the events bar or easily answer particular messages. I would prefer to have dedicated apps for Twitter and Facebook. Luckily, they are available for Android. I do not see much sense in inventing the bicycle again. Social Hub is a weird feature.
In the phonebook there is a section Activities where you can see latest entries from social networks associated with your contacts. Media shows pictures from social networks, which is quite useful. You can explain it, but the overall purpose of Social Hub is not clear and I am not sure many users will resort to it often.
Do you know what I lack in a traditional Android calendar? Days of the week should have their numbers. Samsung adds this trifle in all calendars. Well done! The calendar in the model was also thoroughly redesigned in comparison with the previous version. When you are in the month mode days with events are highlighted by small squares, which increase in numbers if there are many such events. For a particular day you can view three events displayed at the bottom. The calendar is convenient and differs much from the standard Android offering.
Tasks are classified by priority levels and you can select the time of alerts.
Music capabilities of the model are predictable: 5.1 mode for the headphones to add volume and equalizers you cannot customize. There are filters based on musicians and track titles. Music playback offers medium quality and the handset sounds similarly to the first Galaxy S, but loses out to Apple iPhone 4. To my mind it is not the ideal music phone. Unfortunately, Samsung could not provide a better quality in this respect.
There are not many visual effects. In fact, there is only one. Albums covers are displayed in the list, but you cannot browse the covers horizontally. The player interface was given a facelift. FLAC support is no standard.
FM radio. You can store up to 99 radio stations with frequencies ranging from 87.5 MHz to 108 MHz. All stations can be set automatically, but separate channels cannot be named and they are always represented as a frequency information. Radio can work in the speakerphone and background modes too. Radio works well, but not all stations offer equally good quality, but it is comparable with other manufacturers.
RDS displays not only the station title in the general list, but other information as well. Radio programs can be recorded into the phone's memory, but it depends from the market.
DivX/XVid is supported and you can also disable subtitles. Files less than several GB in size can be played well. In the files list you see a miniature of a video, below the green line, which is displayed to indicate where you have stopped inside the file. Mosaic Search is no longer here. The video is adjusted to the screen and you can also change the screen backlight. This phone is almost ideal for the use of a portable player. Key ingredients for success are a large screen and SuperAMOLED+ technology.
Mini Diary. This application helps to keep the diary about one's life, add photos, weather and location information to publish on Facebook. This app is quite useful and easy to use.
The speaker is loud and does not differ from that of Galaxy S. If you liked this parameter in the first Galaxy the second one should also do fine. The vibro is weak and it is not always heard from inside the clothes.
I like the phone without any reservations. Technologically, it is the best offering on the market. This top Android handset has the fastest performance, best screen and the ultimate combination of communication networks Ц UMTS, HSUPA, WiFi direct, VoIP and voice recognition different from standard Google features). No other manufacturer can bridge the gap with the technological leader in the coming months.
The handset costs around И650-700, but on the other hand Galaxy S is cheaper and customers can choose between the two of them. Do you need the best combination of features and apps Ц go for the second Galaxy, but if you just require a strong solution Ц choose the first Galaxy.
The song remains the same. The original Galaxy S turned Samsung into an Android leader with others chasing shadows. Samsung S II means that many rivals will not be able to offer anything similar. If Sony Ericsson decides to follow suit the end product will not be profitable and the same is true for others.
Vocal discussion of the model on our forum confirms the fact that it was not left unnoticed. Similar emotions were obvious after the announcement of the first Galaxy too. Some claim that the phone is too expensive and offers nothing new, so it would be much better to buy the first Galaxy. As always both models will coexist on the market quite happily for some time.
Samsung Galaxy S II can have such an alternative as Optimus 2x built on NVIDIA Tegra2. Models have comparable hardware, but the phone from LG has an inferior screen and cannot offer the same number of additional features (I do not mean the interface or additional apps, just hardware issues), while the price of the phones is identical. In summer we will see i9003 based on NVIDIA Tegra2, but with a more humble SuperClear TFT screen.
Another alternative I like is Ericsson Arc (И550). It is also thin, convenient and stylish. One core processor is likely to be not enough for techies though. As to interfaces and features the handset from Sony Ericsson is also not as advanced as Samsung Galaxy S II. The life cycle is shorter and its key feature is design to the detriment of other elements. This phone will repeat the fate of Sony Ericsson X10, which sold well during the first months and then stalled. Sony Ericsson Arc should compete against the original Galaxy S and HTC Desire HD. Moreover, the camera in Arc is much weaker. Models with hardware identical to that of Galaxy S II will appear only in the autumn of 2011 and Samsung again created a benchmark for the market. The phone is iconic and generates opinions. In autumn the model may get a facelift. Samsung Galaxy S3 will receive a 4.5" screen with a different matrix and the resolution will be probably changed as well. This model will not have hardware buttons on the front panel and the body may be made of metal, but this parameter has not been finalized yet. In fact Samsung will position its new solution as the rival of Apple iPhone 5. In terms of technical parameters both models will be similar. The short period between updates is determined by the fact that Galaxy S will become rather accessible and soon leave the market. Samsung is planning to promote Galaxy S2 aggressively, which means fast price fluctuations. The story of the first Galaxy S will be repeated and every consumer group will be able to buy the product sooner or later. Somebody will pay for the best technologies, while others will get hold of them later on when the price moderates.
Unfortunately, there are no ideal phones, but this Samsung model is a good bet as an all-in-one solution. It can be recommended to everybody who needs a phone for 1.5-2 years and do not want to update it soon. The phone in question can be rivalled by HTC Sensation as other comparable models are not available at the moment. HTC boasts its proprietary shell Sense, a metal body, but has slightly inferior screen and operation time (judging by first impressions) and the performance must be measured with the help of a commercial sample of Sensation. Samsung has a much better camera, as always HTC is weak in the area. I think both handsets will be popular, but as before Galaxy will enjoy much better sales. Undoubtedly, Galaxy S2 is one of the best phones of 2011.
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Published 10 May 2011
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