Samsung Galaxy S I9000
This review comes courtesy of James @ Tracyandmatt
With a 4 inch display the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S is a monster of a phone but when I took it out of its box for the first time I was astonished at how lightweight it is. At only 119g it feels as light as a feather and even though I have been using it for a week I still notice it nearly every time I pick it us. For most people this will be a huge benefit as it will sit within a pocket without any discomfort. Combined with the Galaxy S being only 9.9mm thick it feels like no other phone that has a 4 inch display. Quite remarkable. My only slight concern here is that whether the build quality will stand the test of time. We will have to wait for the verdict on that one.
Looks wise the Galaxy S is an attractive looking device. Its appearance is nothing special, just a black slab but i think that due to its size it looks a bit of a beast.
Using the Galaxy S for the first time you will need to start off with unlocking it. This is achieved by using the lock button on its right hand side. This button is fairly traditional for Samsung, which is a shame for me as I hate it! Unlike on the Samsung Wave you can not hold down the button and the screen be unlocked. Instead a press will kick the screen into life and you are then presented with the lock screen. Here you can swipe in all four directions to unlock. What a palaver!
You are however rewarded for unlocking. The reward is the Super AMOLED display. I said this in the Wave review and I will continue to say it here - it is truly amazing. The colours are so rich and bright they almost jump off the screen at you. Apple wowed us recently with the release of the iPhone 4 with its retina display but I must say that sat alongside the Galaxy S the winner in my opinion is the Samsung by far. The colours are just that wee bit more vibrant.
So the device is now unlocked. Most actions are clearly done on screen but there are three hardware keys under the screen. On the left we have a menu button which will allow you to alter settings and delve deeper into whichever application you are in. Over on the right is a back button. These two are touch sensitive but in the centre we have a proper button and a click of this will return you to the home screen wherever you are.
Like on all Android devices you will find all the usual important things you need to know at the top of the screen. Battery, time, signal strength etc. Of course you also get the notification bar that you can drag down. Here you will see any messages you may have or downloads pending/completed. Samsung have also included some shortcuts here for turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off as well as switching to silent and vibrate.
Down at the bottom of the screen are four icons and these are really your most common shortcuts. You can customise them and whichever home screen you are on these four icons will always be present. The only one that cant be removed is the one that says applications. This takes you into the menu so you would not want to lose that one.
The beauty of the Android platform is that it can be heavily customised and on the Galaxy S you can choose from both Android widgets and Samsungs own ones. As you will see in the screenshots below I chose to have shortcuts on my main home screen and then widgets on the others. Like we have seen before, moving through the home screens is done by swiping the screen to the right. I think the device had three when I started but I am now up to seven.
Still with the home screen I was pleased to see that live wallpapers were present. It really brings the home screen to life and there is a nice selection to choose from. If you are not familiar with live wallpapers then to sum it up they are animated and most contain calm gentle movements of different sorts. They is well good!
Back to widgets. If you have used an Android device before you will be familiar with Android widgets and the fact that further ones can be downloaded from the Android Market. So, lets have a closer look at a couple of good ones Samsung have added on.
Similar to what we have seen before on the HTC phones running Sense UI the eAccuWeather Clock incorporates current weather conditions at your location. A tap of the clock will take you to the AccuWeather web page where you can quickly access some more detailed weather information. Although the widget is reasonably attractive if you have it on your main home screen there will not be much room for any other shortcuts.
I first saw Daily Briefing when I reviewed the Samsung Wave a couple of weeks ago. The app gives you up to date info on certain news/weather. Although you can view the info as a widget you can enter the full app by pressing the widget for more detailed information.
Screen one is AccuWeather and as the name suggests it shows you both current and forecast weather for where you are. Scroll to the right and you get the next page which is Yahoo Finance. If you follow stocks and shares this will show you if your shares are going up or down. Not much use to me though! You can remove the ones don't want. Next is AP Mobile. This is a news service. The app will bring you up to date headlines and if you want to read more about a certain story you can click it to be taken into the web browser. The fourth screen I had set up was Schedule. Here the app shows you any forthcoming appointments from your calendar.
It's a decent app, in particular when used as a widget.
Jumping into the main menu on the Samsung Galaxy S you are presented with 16 icons on screen. Scroll right and you get 16 more and so on. Now, is it just me or does the menu look rather similar to that on the iPhone?
Lets see what we have in there:
Aldiko eBook is plain and simply a eBook reader. Due to the 4 Inch screen on the Galaxy S reading is actually very good. As well as pinch to zoom you can alter the font size to suit your needs. Changing pages is achieved by swiping from right to left but you do not get the actual animated page corner flipping like on iBooks. Works okay though.
As usual with a Samsung phone the calendar is not only an effective tool but it looks good too. In keeping with many things on the Galaxy S the calendar sits on top of a black background. Weekdays are shown in white, Saturdays in blue and Sundays in red. As you can see below you have the option of viewing month, week or day and this is altered by tabs at the top of the screen.
Setting a meeting or appointment is dead simple. Just press the day you require and fill in the boxes. You also have options to alter the alarm settings as well as adding a location for the event. You can even mark the location in Google maps.
Emailing on the Galaxy S is as easy as you would expect from an Android device. You have the option to use email or Gmail (both have home screen shortcuts), or both. Setting up is straight forward and only takes a couple of minutes. Having a Gmail account I have opted to show you screen shots from it but both methods are very similar.
The Samsung Galaxy S comes with a built in FM radio and once connected to the supplied headphones you are able to receive stations. You have the option to bookmark stations on the screen so switching from one to another takes just one screen tap. Nice.
The web browser on the Galaxy S is excellent and this is really due to the 4 inch Super AMOLED display. Pinch to zoom is present so navigating around a web page is as nice as it could be. With the device in landscape mode you really do get a pretty much full web experience and I cant really fault it. You can open up multiple windows and then within the options you have the option to see the current running pages. Located in the settings of the browser you can change the default size of the text if you so desire, change the default zoom as well as a few options to help load pages quicker such as blocking pictures. All in all web browsing on the Galaxy S is awesome.
No Google phone would be complete without Google Maps so getting lost while in possession of the phone is not an excuse. With its 1Ghz processor it is things like Google Maps which really show you how quick and flawless some exercises on the device can be. Using the app is much the same as on all other Android phones but the added bonus here is how big and bright the map looks. We also have Google Navigation on the device but as full turn by turn navigation is not yet supported you only get the route shown to you on the map. Ok for basic one off stuff but you wouldn't want to use it every day. If driving you would spend more time looking at the phone than looking at the road!
If you have not used an Android phone before then you may not be familiar with the Android market. This is simply where you can download applications for the device, both free and paid. You can browse by category, by top paid, top free or most recent as well as a search option to help you find what you are looking for. In addition you can view comments from other people that have downloaded the app so at least you can check if it is any good.
The Mini diary is another Samsung app which appeared on the Wave recently. If you like the idea of recording your activities you can do so here and the added bonus is you can also attach a photograph of the occasion. Once done you can even export the diary entry to Facebook or MySpace. A neat little app if you like that sort of thing.
A fantastic music player is to be expected with a Samsung phone. I always say this but the headphones that Samsung supply are fantastic. Sound quality is awesome and they are so comfortable. Of course if you do want to use your own then you can as the Galaxy has a 3.5mm headset jack. Within the player you have five tabs at the top of the screen. Here you can find your music by viewing all, playlists, albums, artists or genres. Jump into the settings and you can tweak the equalizer to give you the sound you want from rock to classic. Effects can also be changed and here we have options for wide, concert hall, music clarity, bass enhancement and externalisation (whatever that is!)
The interface is nothing to complicated, just the way I like it. You do get album cover work although not shown in the screen shot as I took the shots before putting some music on the device. An all round super duper music player. Nice job Samsung.
Samsung have had good cameras in their phones for a long time now and things are no different on the Galaxy S. The interface is typical Samsung with lots of different settings and tweaks. Taking pictures is achieved by pressing the onscreen camera button. You can tap anywhere on screen to auto focus and it takes the photo very quickly. In fact it was a joy to use. Only downside is no flash so night time photos are out the question.
The video recorder was pretty impressive if you ask me. Recording HD at 720P the quality was fine watching it up to a certain size on the computer. Once full screen on my Mac it was a little grainy and to be honest I think my iPhone performs just a little better.
Sporting its nice big screen, watching videos on the Samsung Galaxy S is a must. It is capable of playing 720p HD movies which it needs to as it also records in HD too. DivX support is also present and movies look great on the device. Here I go again - the Super AMOLED screen is fantastic.
Galaxy S sample video
The Android YouTube player is in my opinion one of the better ones and once again we see it set on a black background. On the home screen you are presented with the most viewed, most discussed, most recent and top rated videos. Head into the settings and you can then log in so you will be able to see your subscribed videos. This is again one of those apps where the Galaxy's Super AMOLED display really kicks butt! The speaker on the device is pretty loud and produces a good sound. Stick in the headphones and your mobile YouTube experience will be taken to a new level!
Lets have a look at the social networking apps on the Galaxy. Facebook is probably the most common and the Android app is more than capable of taking care of your Facebook needs on the move. You are first off greeted with the menu where you can choose the section you wish to visit. News feed is where most people will head first as this is where you can be nosey and see your friends status updates etc. A simple tap on an update will allow you to comment. At the top of the news feed page there is a status bar to allow you to update and beside this is a camera icon. This is a shortcut to the camera so you can easily take a picture and upload. A fine idea.
Overall it's a really good Facebook app and certainly on par with that on the iPhone in my opinion.
Twitter is next. Although, as you will see below, I downloaded Twitter for Android you don't have to use this app. There are many others in the Android Market. Some good and some not so. Twitter for Android suits my needs so I have opted for that one. Like on the Facebook app you have a similar looking menu with a list of shortcuts. The tweets one is where you will see your friends tweets. Next to each one is a small arrow pointing downwards. Press this arrow and you are given the option to reply, retweet, favorite or share. If a tweet has a link in it you wish to open you can press it straight from the Tweets screen. No need to press the arrow. The app is fairly user friendly and attractive to use. Not the best i have used but a nice free alternative to some of the paid ones.
Being a touch screen device the onscreen keyboard will be extremely important as it is used in so may apps. The one on the Galaxy S is luckily very good in both portrait and landscape modes. Having the 4 inch screen really helps and typing is assisted by the keys beeping and also haptic feedback. Unlike some Android devices, if not all, the Galaxy S comes preinstalled with Swype. If you have not seen Swype in action before I will try to explain. Imagine writing each word without taking your finger/thumb of the screen. So for example if you are writing the word 'and' you would press the A key and then drag your finger over to the N key and then onto the D key never removing pressure from the screen. When you finish the word and do remove pressure from the screen the word appears in the text box. Pretty clever! As you make each movement you leave behind a blue line. To help, if you misspell a word then a selection of possibilities appear for you to choose from. It certainly requires a bit of getting used to and it is not for me but I have spoken with people who use it and they love it and can achieve some awesome typing speeds.
If you are typing numbers or symbols on the Galaxy S you have two ways to do it. Option one is to hold down the key with the symbol on for just over a second and it will use the symbol or number instead of the latter. Option two is to press the SYM key on the bottom row. This will switch the letter keys to numbers and symbols. I have one critism here and that is the layout of the number keys. They are arranged like on a normal phone keypad. Now this wont be an issue once you get used to it but all other touch screen phones I have used before have had all the numbers on one line. The bonus here and more than likely the reason this has been done is it makes for easier number use when using Swype.
Being an Android phone you have the option to not only dial by voice but also to perform a Google search. I was surprised at how good this function was as I have not used before.
Overall the Samsung i9000 Galaxy S is a splendid device and worthy of being a flagship one. In terms of its competitors I suppose its main rivals are currently the HTC Desire and Apples iPhone 4. So how does it compare?
HTC Desire: If you love HTCs Sense UI then I would say it is worth sacrificing the Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S for. If you prefer the naked Android feel then the Galaxy S will be the one to go for. In terms of performance they are pretty well equal. I do feel that the build quality on the Desire is better but the only real way to tell we be over time. Camera wise I would go for the Samsung. I just liked everything about it.
Apple iPhone: To be honest I think most people with either fall in love with the iPhone or not. Love it or hate it it's a fantastic phone but it is not Android and sales figures prove that the Android platform is growing month on month. If you are torn between the two I think you need to have a play with both devices in store.
There are clearly benefits to using an Android phone and Samsung have once again done a sterling job with the Galaxy S. Nice work chaps!