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Phone Review: Samsung Galaxy S

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A phone has not wow’d me in a long time like the Galaxy did!

The first impressions of the Galaxy are impressive. With its big 4-inch, colorful and crispy AMOLED screen, you have a hard time taking your eyes off the screen. Made in a form factor which closely resembles the iPhone, but a little larger but lighter phone just made me want to switch to a Galaxy! After all, it resembles the iPhone!

It’s not just the display. The Galaxy packs a 1 GHz processor inside its tiny, lightweight form factor. Come to think of it, it’s half the speed of my laptop! And I can definitely remember my first computer which was just one tenth the speed of the Galaxy! This phone packs quite a load of computing power into your hands.

Galaxy S was also my first hands on experience with the android OS. And I have to admit, I dispelled most of my skepticism. The Galaxy S comes with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI skinning over Androids native UI.

The UI has a dual home screen concept, which is very similar to what you get on Samsung Wave as well. There is the home screen with the widgets which can span to multiple screens based on the number of widgets. And then there is the application screen, which lists the applications. The widgets sometimes can take up one whole screen based on its size. But the applications screen is very iPhone’ish.

The Galaxy had some interesting Widgets. The ones I particularly liked was the Buddy Messenger and the Twitter client. With back ground services running, this widget can is always upto date, just like a streaming client. I loved this as it no longer required me to refresh the Twitter client to see the latest updates from the tweeps I follow.

The notification bar on the top of the phone, apart from showing the usual notifications for new mails and other application notifications, also has buttons for WiFi, Bluetooth and Silent/Vibration. This is a very handy feature. On the iPhone I use a jailbroken app to get this functionality. But one little irritant I experienced was once you view an SMS, it doesn’t always clear the notification. Seems like a little bug, but confusing nevertheless and somewhat defeats the purpose of the notifications as after a while you tend to ignore the notification.

Calling on the Galaxy was pretty standard. I like the iPhone’ish phone menu. One thing I noticed was the need to keep the answer and end buttons pressed for about 3 seconds to answer and terminate a call. Maybe this is done to prevent accidental call answering and terminating with the unintended touches on the screen. But I am not sure whether this is a smart move or a nuisance. But it sure needed some getting used to.

Galaxy S allowed me to sync up all my four email accounts and 500 odd contacts from my Google Contacts. The email interfaces were very intuitive and thanks to the larger screen, the keypad was also more thumb friendly. One thing I still noticed was the lack of predictive text support while you type. But this phone being an Android, you are able to replace the default keypad with something that does have predictive text support. But I think this is something that should have been enabled out of the box.

And the phone tended to slow down with my mail boxes, contacts and the calendar synced up. Given that it is a brand new phone which was in use for just a couple of days, and also the fact that it is powered by a 1GHz processor, this was something I did not expect. When I researched, I found a few complains on line as well and the answers generally pointed towards the Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Maybe if it had the default Android UI things would have been better.

One area that the Galaxy really shines is the Camera. It is a pleasure to snap away on the Galaxy, with its 4-inch AMOLED screen. I had more fun taking pics on this phone than I do on my digital camera. It is a pleasure to take pictures on this. With the ability to select the area that you want focused on the picture with a tap on the screen, and the multitude of camera modes, and the decent 5MP camera, if you are a person who carries a digital camera along with you, with the Galaxy S, you can leave your camera at home, during the day. But sadly, due to the lack of a flash, you may still want to take your camera during your night escapades. But the Galaxy gave me pretty decent picture in the night in well lit up spaces.

The other feature that goes along is its video recording capability. With the HD video recording can capture pretty amazing footage. With video playback the Galaxy S shined as well. It supports a multitude of video formats MPEG4, DivX, Xivid being the formats I tried out. According to the specs the Galaxy also supports H.264, H.263, WMV, AVI, MKV formats among others. The audio playback on the Galaxy was decent. I tried it out with a third party audio headset as I was not given the Samsung headset that comes with the Galaxy.

One more handy feature I liked was the radio with auto-scanning and the ability to preset radio stations. This is something I would have used, as I prefer the radio to my own music collection.

Galaxy S back

My data connection is on my phone is a Dialog Broadband Data package. The Galaxy indicated a little H instead of the usual 3G on my iPhone, which means that the Galaxy supports HSPA, which is a pretty cool feature. I did not try tethering, but it will be a boon for those who want to tether Internet connections.

One limitation I faced was the inability to sync multiple calendars with the phone calendar. This is something the iPhone does beautifully and since I have four different calendars, on four different Google apps domains, I rely on my phone calendar to show me the consolidated view. But I was told by an enthusiastic android fan that there are third part apps that can accomplish this.

One big disappointing factor of the Galaxy S was its battery life. Though the phone packs a ton of features, it drains the battery like a express workout. It hardly lasted 8 hours on a full charge. Of course I had the background (push) services enabled and did a bit of data usage. But I hardly made any calls. It was mainly twitter and emails. It’s awful battery life made me nervous about the phone. I like my phone battery to last a day with me. That means staying alive for at least 12 hours. But the good thing is, unlike in the iPhone, you can swap the battery. So if you are going to use data services heavily you might as well get additional batteries and a stand-alone charger.

On a final note, it is phones like the Samsung Galaxy S that will allow Andriod to gain its market share in the smartphone showdown. It is a well designed phone that will sure win many converts to the android platform.

Image sources:

http://www.wootmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Samsung-Galaxy-S-Android-2.jpg

http://stuff.tv/csfiles/blogs/future/GalaxyS-back.jpg

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