Getting Up Close with Samsung’s Galaxy S II 4G From Bell

Bell is getting ready to release the hot new Galaxy S II smartphone from Samsung. The Galaxy S II has already been released in some other locations around the world. Within 55 days, Samsung had already sold 3 million Galaxy S II smartphones, breaking the records set by the previous Galaxy S smartphone from Samsung.

The Galaxy S II smartphone will be part of Bell’s 4G line-up of devices. Theoretically you should see speeds upward of 20+ MB for download and 5+ for upload. Unfortunately, the pre-production unit that I’ve been using for the last little while has yet to get those speeds. The best I’ve seen using the SpeedTest.net app is a couple meg down. I’m guessing that Bell hasn’t enabled the 4G on my test unit.

The Galaxy S II features a Super AMOLED Plus screen for crisp, clean and bright display. An 8 megapixel camera / 2 megapixel front facing camera, 16GB internal memory,  1.2GHz processor, 116 grams, 8.49 mm thick, HDMI out using the MicroUSB port, accelerometer, 3 axis gyroscope, NFC, and USB Host, are just some of the amazing features that round out this device.

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In case you haven’t heard the news – Thin is in. And the Galaxy S II is a prime example of the awesomeness of thin. Coming in at an ultra slim 8.45 mm, the GS2 is the thinnest smartphone available on the market today. It’s mind boggling to think that something so thin can be so powerful. Samsung has managed to do it without the typical trade-offs of reduced battery or memory on the device. In fact, they managed to “up the bar” by tossing in a dual-core processor, 16GB of memory, 8 megapixel camera, and the list goes on and on.

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Prying off the back cover, and you do have to pry it off, will expose the nicely sized 1650 mAh battery. I routinely got 2+ days use out of the battery on this phone. During that time it was connected on cellular, with data enabled, and running 2 push email accounts. Of course, there was some gaming and other activities as well. I could easily make it 2 full days before even considering that I should charge the device. As is the case with Android, I did have once instance where the phone didn’t come close to lasting the 2+ days I had grown accustom to seeing. This happened after installing an app that quietly ran in the background chewing away at the CPU and data. Once I removed the app everything went back to normal. If you’re using the Bell Samsung Galaxy S II and you’re not seeing this awesome battery life, it’s my guess that there is some process that’s running wild on your device.

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The Galaxy S II is loaded with an 8 megapixel camera with LED flash, auto-focus, and allows for full 1080p HD video recordings. Overall the camera has preformed very well. The only problem I’ve had with the camera is when I’m trying to get it to focus on an object that’s close to the camera lens. Even putting it into Marco mode doesn’t seem to work. If the object was 8 inches or less from the camera, I found that it was extremely difficult, or nearly impossible to get the camera to focus correctly. Sometimes it would give me the green markers indicating that it was focused and ready, but the screen clearly showed that it was a long way from being focused.

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Cameras have been doing panoramic shots for a while. Typically they would have you line up the images and manually snap the next frame and then it would stitch the final images together. The Galaxy S II also has a panoramic feature on the camera. But with this camera the next frame is taken automatically when it detects that the next frame is in position, allowing for up to 8 images to be stitched together. While more and more cameras are doing this automatically, what truly amazed me was the speed of the stitching and how quickly the final version was displayed. From the second the last image is taken until the final image is displayed on the screen is something like 1 to 2 seconds. Clearly, the speed of the Galaxy S II is a huge advantage in getting this done so fast.

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Samsung has outfitted the Bell Galaxy S II with their very own Exynos processor. The Exynos is an ARM powered dual-core processor running at 1.2GHz. Why does this matter? Well, the Exynos processor has significant performance advantages due to the support for ARM’s media processing engine. In simpler terms, it’s really fast at decoding audio and video files for playback on the device.

Speaking of video playback, I copied a 700MB AVI directly to the device – no conversion, nothing special, and the media player on the device was able to open the file and play it without issue. The video was smooth and there was never any issues with audio dropping out of sync or stuttering. After being off charge for 15 hours, and in that time playing back a video (almost 2 full hours), the battery was still at 55% charge remaining. Impressive video capabilities and impressive battery power!

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Bell’s Galaxy S II is powered by Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), but as you would expect based on the experience of the original Galaxy S, Samsung has enhanced the default Android implementation with the latest version of their TouchWiz interface. TouchWiz takes the basic Android interface and enhances it with some very cool widgets, anchored applications that appear on every home page, enhanced notifications bar with quick access to toggle Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and the rest. But perhaps the best new TouchWiz feature is the integration with the physical device. Sounds confusing, right? It’s actually pretty simple. With TouchWiz 4.0, you can zoom in on web pages by putting two fingers on the screen and then tilting the phone up towards you. To zoom out, you tilt the phone back. It’s a very smooth process and it’s not just for web pages. You can use this to zoom while viewing pictures, or to navigate the photo gallery by simply tilting the phone from side to side. If you place the phone face down on the table it will automatically switch to silent mode.  So you can be sure the phone won’t ring and disturb you.

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Another cool integration allows you to launch voice control with a simple double tap on the top of the device, and it doesn’t have to be the screen. Take the Galaxy S II and tap twice on the top of the device, right where you would plug in the headset and -poof- the voice command software takes over. Easy to launch and easy to use.

The Galaxy S II also features Samsung’s DLNA sharing app called AllShare. AllShare allows you to send video streams from your device to any other DLNA enabled device. It’s still pretty new, and I don’t have a DLNA enabled TV to test it out with. Although, it’s high on my list of things to upgrade. ;)

Samsung has bundled a different keyboard from the standard Android version, which was less than stellar. However, they also included Swype – one of my favorite soft keyboards. So, while the default may not be great, the addition of Swype makes up for it.

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When you first pick up the Galaxy S II, your initial thought may be around the physical size of the device. While it’s thin, it’s not small. After all, it does have a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus screen, and it’s beautiful. However, the larger footprint isn’t too bad. Since it’s super thin and light, it’s still comfortable to slip into a pocket and forget about it.

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All things considered, you can’t go wrong with Samsung’s Galaxy S II Android powered smartphone. It has everything you could want in a device – thin, lightweight, big and bright screen, lots of power, loads of battery life, and 16GB of storage expandable by adding a MicroSD card. The physical phone is awesome. Internal, the phone is running Android with Samsung’s TouchWiz, providing a great experience, and running on Bell’s HSPA+ network so there’s plenty of speed for downloading and streaming.

The only thing that I’m disappointed with on the Galaxy S II, is the cameras ability, or lack there of, to focus on objects that are close to the lens, even when using Macro mode. I imagine that’s something that most camera phones would not be able to handle. Regardless, it’s not something you do very often, so I wouldn’t use it as a reason not to buy this phone. The Galaxy S II provides excellent value in a small, powerful, and light weight package.

 

About Mike Temporale

Mike Temporale has written 614 posts on Mobile Jaw..

Mike Temporale grew up fascinated by computers since an early age. His first hands on with a computer came when he was 7 years old and a travelling lab of Commodore PET computers made a stop at his school. Hooked on the new world these devices offered, he took any chance possible to get in front of a computer. When Compaq launched the iPaq 3600, he was hooked again. This time on a whole new world of mobile computing. Today, Mike spends his day helping clients deploy and manage their mobile device around the world. From installing custom software, to locking and securing data, and everything in between. He is also the Editor in Chief at Mobile Jaw - a site focused on today's mobile world.

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  • http://www.techendeavour.com/ Rahul Aggarwal

    Pleasant update here! Bell provides the access to the best network in The Socialist Dreamland (Canada of-course!)! Canada is technologically advanced nation and the Canadian leading mobility company has a package surprise for the people of this nation. NFC is a short range service similar to Bluetooth. This technology can perform a contact-less transaction that is catch the world in a viral fashion and almost predicted to dominate the retail market. The new Android Gingerbread Smartphone will be accepted with great enthusiasm and I feel it will be a super hit owing to the various carrier having their own versions of handsets.