The Samsung Galaxy S II comes with one of the fastest interfaces, with the TouchWiz 4.0 and Android coming in with the 1.2GHz processor, and the 1GB RAM to hold a lot from within!
The Android OS with the TouchWiz 4.0 gives a brilliant interface, with something that makes the user experience very easier and better. When compared to the Sony Ericsson, HTC and LG phones, the TouchWiz is played a lot more and resulted into a custom user interface which you can fall in love with, at your first few hours of usage. Plethora of options, arranged in a well mannered fashion, the multiple home screens, the mix of colors, the list of pre-loaded apps, the Android Market (yeah, really worth a mention), a few Samsung apps, the Social hub, and if the list is extended, it would never end!
When the SGS II was started up for the first time, we saw 7 home screens which could be slided left-to-right and vice-versa, and they were beautifully filled with the widgets of social sites, news apps, mail, bookmarks, finance and a few shortcuts to folders. Overall, you can set up the stuff you want on the home screens, and make changes to the wallpaper, can place a live wallpaper with all the glitter moving on the background. Unlike the other Android phones, you can edit the multiple home screens by long pressing the screen and there you get the list of options and widgets in the bottom, with the movable home screens above it.
In the earlier versions, i.e. Samsung Galaxy S, Ace and LG Optimus 2X etc. you need to edit the single home screens and move to the next by starting it all over again. Samsung and Android together brought in a lot of apps already, before you start using it. The best ones include the default Gmail, the Social hub, the readers hub, the game hub, latitude, Google talk, news and weather app, Voice search and voice command, FM radio and the other basic office applications. Mind you, this is an Android phone so you would have to see the abundance of Google services and apps, but none are worthless.
Talking about the specifications that come internally, the Dual-Core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex processor speeds up the phone, and the Galaxy S is snail speed when compared to the SGS II. The device is optimized in such a way that the multiple app usage, switching the apps while they are still running, and anything that might put a load on the speed, would still be handled well and there is a minimum lag while performing any tasks.
Comparing the interface with one of the best around – the HTC Sense, the TouchWiz 4.0 still needs some touches to make it look more appealing, but it is still good enough. The apps list can be seen in either a grid view or in a list view, the grid being an option of choice where you can have the several pages with arranged apps in various categories. The personalization options have a big list, where you can take the usage of the phone to the next level. Voice commands and the Sensor-powered gestures are a couple things we are quite impressed with – after a heavy usage of Galaxy S, where these were not present.
Motion Specific Options
A section called “Motion” in the settings, is a bliss. Wide range of options where your actual movement of phone in the hands would shake off things in the interface. Let’s check each option of its –
- Hold down the application icon and move the phone physically left or right, and the app icon would roam around in the direction you move the phone – This is called Panning. In this option, you can move the icons on the home screens, or do the same while editing the app pages, and arranging the app icons.
- Turn Over – This is an option using which you can silent the incoming calls, and any sounds being played in the phone, instead of using your fingers to press the volume button and silent the ringtone for an incoming call. When you are receiving an incoming call, just turn the phone upside down and back to normal and the ringtone gets silent.
- Tile – Using this option, hold 2 fingers on your SGS II screen and tilt the phone back and forth, to enlarge or shrink the images while you are browsing them in the gallery, or while browsing the web pages in the Android web browser.
No Android smartphone would be able to manage with 7 homescreens filled with shortcuts and widgets, but the SGS II does that well. There is barely a lag seen, thanks to the 1.2GHz Exynos chipset of Samsung. This is added by 1GB of RAM, where we see 837MB available. The benchmarking tests (we did one, shared in the images below) did show the results having SGS II having a score more than double than that of the standard Android smartphones – Galaxy S, Nexus S, LG Optimus 2X etc.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread and the Android Market
The Samsung Galaxy S II has the latest version of the Android OS, i.e. the Gingerbread and with this, there is a certain improvement from the previous versions, which the users who had a good hand on Froyo, would understand. For those who would have a first time touch on Android, this is the best version of the Android OS you would be using. There is an Android market, with the free and paid apps available in various categories. Can’t compare the Android Market and the Apple App Store, both are nearly the same – Download, Review, Rating, Categories etc. The main page of market shows a carousel of the best apps that you can download, and there is a section where you can check the applications that you downloaded.
The Lock Screen
Sammy and Android, just like the other brands and OS, have tried to be innovative even with the lock screen. The unlocking pattern is different, you can set the shape gestures as password, or without that the lock screen looks beautiful with the wallpaper of your homescreen replicating here, and apart from that the notifications of missed calls, unread SMS, and the notification tray showing the battery, network and the other notifications on the top (though the notification panel cannot be pulled open when the phone screen is locked). While the phone is being charged, you would see the charging status and the battery percentage on the bottom left of lock screen. The call screen has the contact’s latest social share, you can check the example below – The facebook status of the contact who is calling.
Messaging in the threaded view, would split the screen when you are on a landscape mode. Changing the font size is possible, and the background color can be set to either white or black. There is an option to limit the number of text messages per conversation, and the limit of multimedia messages. Delivery reports, and automatically retrieving of the messages, MMS creation mode and a lot more options. So the blackberry users who would always boast about their messaging and QWERTY would get a smash on the face. Messaging section in the SGS II is a charm.
Swype and typing
The default Samsung Keypad is what represents the normal touchscreen keypad, nearly similar to the iPhone keypad. But Swype, the best way to type using the touch interface, and one of the features where SGS II (infact all the Android phones) beat the iPhone. There are quite many swype settings that can make the experience a lot better and easier. You can select between the swype response speed and accuracy, select the swype language, predict text and suggestion of words while you are swyping the fingers over the keys, vibration on pressing of keys, auto capitalization and auto spacing between the words.
This is a widget that you can place on any homescreen, and it would alarm you with its glittering red color if the phone is using too much of RAM and won’t be able to handle more. A list and count of running applications is also shown. Here are the features the Program Monitor has –
- Active Applications – Shows the list of apps that are active, running the background, the RAM being used by each app, CPU usage, and the apps that are putting a load on the CPU – become red colored in the list.
- Downloaded apps – The list of the downloaded applications, with the size of each app and you can choose to uninstall any app directly from there.
- RAM Status – This shows the RAM being used, out of the 837MB given totally for usage. When you see that a lot of RAM is being used, you can choose to Clear Memory by closing the inactive and background apps, and this would free the RAM, in the end making the phone faster.
- System Storage – This shows the phone memory capacity and usage, SD card memory capacity and usage, and the USB internal storage.
Listing out a few other bullet shot points about the apps and interface –
- Download section to list out all the data, files etc. that you have downloaded from the internet. You could have used different browsers to download them, and they could be at different locations but from the Downloads section, you can have an access to all of them.
- The same Program monitor that we talked about, would be available as the Task Manager in the apps list, so you don’t need to use it as a separate widget.
- Apart from the Gmail app that comes pre-installed, there is also a Samsung mail client using which you can login to any mail account of yours and check for a better interface.
- The notification panel has a lot of stuff to show, the options to control the sensor, the connectivity etc. It has the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, Sound and Auto Rotation.
There are a lot of options that you would see in the Settings section, most of which would be related to the connectivity of the phone. We would be reviewing that separately.
Overall, it is a sleek and beautiful interface. We give a 4/5 for this, better than the 3.5 that we gave for the Galaxy S II design.