The Samsung Galaxy S is one of the new breed of super-powerful Android handsets. Running on a 1GHz processor and pre-loaded with the 2.1 version of Android, the Galaxy S is one of the best specced phones on the market today. So why then does it feel so… mid-range?
The Galaxy S is gorgeous. There’s simply no other way to describe it. the 4-inch Super AMOLED screen is stunning to look at, both switched on or switched off. The phone has a slight reverse chin design which looks a little weird side on but you can’t actually feel anything when you’re holding it. There aren’t a lot of buttons on the phone either – a discreet power button on the side, volume rocker on the other side, a home button on the front plus two touch sensitive buttons – one for the menu and one to go back.
The Super AMOLED touchscreen is responsive enough. Like many touchscreen phones, taking photos using the 5MP camera is a bit awkward, although the results are pretty impressive if your subject is still and well lit. There’s no flash, so you’ll need to frame your photo subject pretty carefully. The 720p video looks pretty good as well.
The battery life is pretty respectable – with heavy use of email, twitter, internet and music playback, it manages to get through a full day. It’ll charge fully in a few hours as well, which is useful for power users.
One of Android’s appeals to carriers is that its extremely customisable, which is probably why the Galaxy S looks so different to the last 2.1 phone I looked at, the HTC Desire. You can completely customise each of the seven home screens with a combination of widgets, apps and shortcuts. The user interface looks eerily reminiscent of the iPhone’s grid-like structure, with the added benefit of being able to add in larger widgets. Although one annoying aspect is that you can’t change the bottom four shortcuts that are standard across all seven home pages.
The problem with carrier-customised phones is that you end up with a whole lot of crap that you can’t delete. The review phone I received had six and a half pages full of applications on it when I unboxed it, none of which I can delete from the device. Some of the apps are completely ridiculous – like Australia’s Top Model, which doesn’t even work when you click on it – although some are useful inclusions. The problem comes when you want to find a particular app in the app menu – having to scroll through 70 odd apps to get to the one you just downloaded is pretty poor form.
While we’re discussing apps, that’s another issue for the Galaxy S. There are literally three app stores on the phone, from Android, Samsung and Optus. At the moment all the Samsung apps are free, which does make the option a little bit similar, but having three different stores is an unnecessary confusion for customers.
Despite the fact the Galaxy S is overflowing with awesome specs, it does seem to have a whole raft of bugs. For a start, it will occasionally freeze, even without a whole heap of apps running. It’s not the most reliable phone when it comes to connecting to WiFi, and on more than one occasion I had to restart the phone in order to make and receive phone calls. on Optus’ network. As a Mac user, it also refused to work with DoubleTwist unless it was placed in USB debug mode, which seems like a stopgap solution to a fairly significant problem.
Like the Desire, the Galaxy S is available for $0 on a $49 plan over 24 months, albeit on Optus rather than Telstra (although a Telstra version will be released shortly). But it feels like it’s appealing to a different market – The Samsung model feels like a premium phone for younger people, while the Desire is more a premium phone for professional adults. Despite its impressive spec list, the Galaxy S also feels slightly underdone, as though you asked for a well-done steak and instead it comes out medium well, covered in condiments you didn’t ask for. It’s still an enjoyable piece of meat, but you still wish you could scrape those apps off before you eat it.