Getting to know the Galaxy S II

samsung-galaxy-siiI got a new smartphone a few days ago, a Samsung model, as my evolution from the HTC Desire, the phone I’ve had for the past eighteen months.

It’s not the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus that launched in the UK (and across Europe) on November 17, the Android phone I’d sort of decided upon when I heard it announced a month or so ago.

No, the phone I went with is the Samsung Galaxy S II you see pictured here. Also an Android phone, this was my original choice before I heard about the Nexus.

But after all the research and in the final furlong of decision-making, I discussed specs of both phones at length with the knowledgeable sales assistant at the Three store in west London, and we concluded that for what I was looking for, the S II was the better choice, and one that I’d be comfortable with having made over a two-year contract. Plus it was about ten percent cheaper on the contract deal I chose.


Both phones are richly specified, from fast dual-core processors to rich and vibrant colours on the large screens, to excellent cameras and high-definition video-recording capabilities, and plenty of internal memory storage space.

Given that the Nexus runs the very latest version 4.0 of the Android operating system known as Ice Cream Sandwich – which no other Android phone yet has – that offers some compelling new features, and the device has a bigger screen in higher resolution than the S II, you may wonder why would I not go for that one?

Three specific reasons:

  1. The Galaxy S II has the ability to expand memory storage with a microSD card of up to 32Gb capacity. Add that to the device’s internal storage capacity of 16Gb and you have 48Gb at your disposal – plenty for all the apps, HD video, photos, music, etc, that you might wish to have on your phone. In contrast, the Nexus has no such expansion capability – you’re stuck with the internal storage only. In the UK, that’s just 16Gb (there is a version of the Nexus that offers 32Gb of internal storage, but it doesn’t look like that model’s coming to the UK). Now looking forward to no more low-space warnings when I try and install any app, an unwelcome feature of the HTC Desire with its low 576Mb of internal storage.
  2. The S II has an 8-megapixel rear camera, compared to the Nexus’ 5-megapixel camera. On the front, the S II’s secondary camera is 2 megapixels while the Nexus offers one at 1.3 megapixels. Small practical differences, you might argue, yet they are significant if you take lots of photos as I do and want to use video-calling eg, with Skype (which I already tried: it’s terrific!).
  3. The lure of the coolness of Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t especially compelling to me as Samsung has said that it’s coming to the S II soon as an upgrade to Android 2.3.4 aka Gingerbread that the device currently runs. If that means not for two or three months, I’m happy to wait.

In the meantime, I’m very pleased to have a Samsung Galaxy S II that I’m getting to know. I’m well impressed with its thinness and light weight, excellent build quality, very good battery life after a couple of days of playing with it extensively, and its robust yet highly responsive Gorilla Glass touch screen (clever tech from Corning Glass: just take a look at what they see glass doing in the future).

There’s also the practical aspects of using such a phone in a business setting. I’ve yet to install many of the apps I run on the HTC Desire but already email’s up and running with various email accounts, calendar, contacts, etc, nicely sync’d with Outlook and Google apps in the cloud using the nifty Kies air app that syncs your phone wirelessly: no USB cable connection needed. I have the phone on Three’s The One Plan which, among other things, offers unlimited data use and tethering. That’s a huge appeal for me.

Earlier this year, Three produced this neat video introducing the S II including a simple explanation of Kies air at about the 1:40 mark

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

So lots to see and learn about the S II; I expect to post further thoughts here in this blog. If you have an S II, a Nexus, or any other comparable device, care to share your impressions?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Ian Nock

    You will not be disappointed particular as despite its thinness I find the battery life as great and better than what I experienced on the iPhone. As for its robustness … I have dropped it onto pavement from head hight and not a single scuff could be seen despite the whole phone exploding its battery out. Like you I was limited for application memory on a previous phone and this is my first Android that I install apps on with wild abandon with its 2GB of Device memory (the 16GB is partitioned but not in a bad way). I wish ICS was available now despiter the likelihood that this upgrade will make 2 of the hardware buttons redundant.

  2. Branedy

    You now have the same features I have, plus some more, that I have on my two year old Nokia N900. But not to quibble, the Skype video calling is nice, but it’s one of those ‘things’ that just hasn’t caught on, aside from the “Jetsons” novelty, it is a bandwidth killer. Besides the Skype does NOT connect to Apple’s ‘FaceTime’ video calling.

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