Samsung Galaxy S Review

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 Hardware

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.

The Software

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.

Bugs

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.

Overall

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.


Comments

    Funny, but it looks almost exactly like a iPhone.

    It couldn't look more like the iphone 3G/s if it tried. Didn't Apple get or at least tried to get a patent for the general look of the iPhone? Samsung might have thought they'd take a risk considering its got their bits in it

      haha serious clam?

      Let me ask you a question, when designing a touch screen phone.. how else can you design a whole touch screen phone without looking like an iphone? Iphone did release it first, but to be honest.. From an aesthetic and engineering point of view, a big 4 inch touch screen phone can not be made differently. Samsung did put the big screen on, but atleast they made it their own style.

      Im not biased.. i owned an iPhone 3GS and now own a galaxy.. :)

        you gotta be kidding.. iphone is not the one started off with touchscreen phone.. please know your facts!!

        You realise most phones have a similar look when a popular design comes out, right?

    Great review. Thanks.

      Umm no they weren't, I was using an HTC touch before the iphone even saw the light of day...get your facts straight.

    A friend was lent one of these from Samsung to try for a week by Optus, and he gave it to me for a couple of days. You're right, I don't know how many people confused it for an iPhone. It did indeed have a lot of flaws, like stuttering, inconsistent experience across the UI. That said, as soon as I gave it back, I was sad. The screen is amazing, killed the Desire (particularly outside), made my 3GS screen look washed out. It feels nice in the hand and it's light. I suppose it would be nice with Sense, personally I'd prefer vanilla Android which is almost what it was with Launcher Pro. On Telstra, with Froyo it'll be interesting to see what it's capable of!

    why the hell would I want 6 PAGES of apps I cant delete off the thing. Australia's Top Model? Purlease. My pet hate is having useless clutter on my phone so that in itself would make this one a no brainer for me.

      You can delete all the apps off it and remove the homescreens so you only have one.

        "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."

        Hurr durr. You reading the same article?

        PS: I own one. I think i know what you can do to it.

      I've got a Galaxy S
      none of these apps came on it, plus if you like apps you can always move them around to make them more conveniant to access

        completely agree Nozlaf.

        I am an Optus dealer, i work for Optus and have sold over 75 galaxys so far and i start them up and put the customer's contacts on. And i can say for certain they come with 2 to 3 pages only.

        I have a Galaxy and they came with non of them. When we were given a galaxy demo handset, it did come with 7 pages of apps.

        So obviously, the demo handset comes with apps previously installed to show customers that you can get apps for it.

    Good review (and summary lol). My wife got this phone recently (on Optus) and it was interesting to see that she took to it really well, considering she's not a techy nerd.

    Although a massive iphone copy-cat it is a gorgeous phone and hopefully they will iron out some small issues like slightly flaky wifi.

    A fair review. I have a few things to add to it.

    I use Advanced task killer free probably twice a day which saves me having to reboot it. It definitely IS buggy but with a task killer, it's more than reasonable. I say that because the 2.2 update will hopefully fix all of that so it's only a stop gap measure. I'd be annoyed if 2.2 doesn't fix those issues. Android forums tell you everywhere that you don't need kill processes. It handles it automagically. It doesn't and you do.

    It suffers from the iphone 4's death grip. Not a huge concern for me, buyers should be aware of it.

    Ultimately it's a geek phone. There hardware is spectacular and the capabilities of Android are fantastic but you couldn't recommend it to your mother. Geeks, get one of these. You will love it and hate it but mostly love it. Everyone else, start practicing holding your phone differently so you can buy the new iphone.

      I see no drop of reception however I hold the phone. I tried to replicate the problem by covering the entire phone but saw no drop in reception.

    thanks for the review Nick.

    seems like typical PC OEM BS. except at least with a PC you can wipe all the crap the OEM does to it. it seems like they have managed to take the most open a fully customizable OS out there, and produce something that is even less customizable than the iphone... good work samsung...

    how does performance compare with the desire performance wise? from everything I've seen the desire seems a bit lacking in the GPU department.

    as a developer,(and extremely casual phone user) I would be willing to overlook these annoyances if the performance was much better (as it seems to be)

    did you test any performance taxing games on it? (are there even any performance intensive games on android..)

    maybe I'll just wait for the next HTC / google nexus that comes with the awesome tech specs of the galaxy s. the big question being, how far is that away?

      QUAKE 2
      http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/Android/Galaxy+S/news.asp?c=21979

        yeah I know, pretty awesome! I hadn't seen the quake 3 one.

        to be honest, I would have though the 3GS would have been able to run this smoothly. though, it has a lower res screen I suppose.

        basically, I think there is even more potential in the galaxy S, but this brings up to interesting points:

        1) how is the desire that crap!? (ok, I suppose it also sports the same res screen, if its GPU is only equive to that in the 3GS, or even worse, that may explain it) if that is truly the performance you can expect out of it, I'd have to pass.

        2) how terrible must the samsung software be to make the interface jittery when a full 3D GAME can run that silky smooth...

      Mine came with asphalt 5 and I have to say that i was blown away by how smoothly it played. The people i have shown the game too have also been impressed.

      the Galaxy has a *much* more powerful GPU in it.. 3 times more than it's competitors..

      See: http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/17/2010/06/original.jpg

    i had this phone for two weeks now. used to be own a iphone 3G. I don't like the samsung UI. Its terrible as the reviewer described, finding the app u just downloaded because it orders it by time it was downloaded. But that is not a problem now because i replaced the UI with a Launcher Pro Beta.
    Which makes the experience way better.

    But there are things the iphone had the Samsung doesn't which i miss. ie in iphone when you edit an sms and u want to go back a few words and position the cursor. Iphone will show this magnify glass to allow u to easily move the cursor to the correct character. Well the samsung does not have this and i imagine it be quite hard for people with big fingers to point to the correct character. Whats missing is a trackball like the HTC phones.

    One other thing i dont like is that its only a 512MB ram. Because of the large display and the apps that it runs in the background, most of the ram are consumed. I downloaded this TaskKiller app (the red one) and had a widget shows the MB left. Most of the time it be like 100MB to 75MB. At most it will be at 200MB if u kill all the fore ground apps. But compare this to the Garmin A10 which has 512MB RAM aswell, which only have 350-200MB left all the time.. it goes to show that this phone needs more RAM. All at least have a way to disable some of the service that you dont need.

    But it has a front camera which the desire does not have.

    I like the position of the power and the micro USB. Thought it was strange at first but now find it heaps easier.

    Does anyone one know how to turn off the SMS reading out the sender's name? There are just so many settings in Android is making it so hard to find a way to turn something off.

      wow, samsung really have mastered OEM bloatware haven't they! don't they realize that really only geeks are going to buy this? GEEKS HATE BLOATWARE!!!

      You shouldn't be using a Task killing app. You can see what apps are running in the background from the 'Running Services' section under Applications in settings.

      You have turned on the option to have the messages read aloud to you. This is not a default setting.

        yeah i probably had it turned on some how.. but now i dont know how to turn it off *LOL*

        sure you dont need to kill the apps cause they will just start again. But if you had more ram then it will be faster to launch another app if u got enough memory. That is why the iphone 3g is running so slow on os4 because its is running out of ram.

        I think i manage to freeze some of the services that runs in the back with Titanium Backup app.

      I think you will find that Android 2.1 does not support 512MB ram, it will only be able ot use the full amount when 2.2 update is released for it... or you root and install it yourself.

    I'm also a huge convert to using swype as text entry. I tweaked some of the settings to get it exactly as i like it and it takes a bit of practice to get good at it. Now holding the phone and swyping with the thumb on that hand is just natural. It's a MASSIVE feature. U don't need to be exact. just scribble out words as fast as you can and it generally just works it out. As an example, I swyped the word australia in about 2 seconds with my eyes closed. It's simply the fastest and most natural way of writing on a phone.

    Also, voice recognition Vlingo is sensational. Using my natural speaking speed and pronunciation, I said "TEXT Joanna MESSAGE This is the fastest way to send an sms message. you can just say what you want instead of typing it which certainly makes things a lot easier". It worked 100%. Even if it makes a mistake, which obviously does happen, you double tap the incorrect word and it shows you a list of alternatives, or you simply start typing and it replaces the incorrect word with what you've typed. no back spacing or selecting. If it doesn't sound impressive, in practice it's just brilliant.

    In my opinion, it's these types of things that can really make a phone

      I didn't mention Swype - which was foolich of me - but I was planning on doing a more in depth look at Swype (plus the Samsung apps) later this week. Like you, I thought it took a while to get used to, but after a bit of practice I love it. Doesn't really work in landscape mode though...

    Just wanted to add some more bits about the phone:

    - Wireless Access Point.... freaking awesome inclusion that "just works" :)

    - Battery life can go from great (2+ days) to pretty bad (12 hours) depending on what apps / services are running. I find using an app killer such as white killer that does not interfere with the phone going into idle mode helps massively. Once you sort this out, the battery life is pretty good for a screen with a monster display.

    - 720p video out with a nokia headphone to composite cable is a pretty impressive feature, but makes trying to find an inline remote headset next to impossible (Nokia ones do not seem to work).

    - One annoying issue is the GPS is very average to say the least. I use endomondo to track my runs and have to enable Google Skyhook to get a solid fix. While this is a workaround, it is annoying.

    Aside from that, it is a bloody good phone once you scrap the Samsung launcher and get Launcher Pro Beta. Will hopefully be even better once a few updates roll out.

    If anyone has any other queries, reply and let me know.

      yeah, i got a question.
      how do you turn off the voice notification of the sender's name from an incoming sms?

        I really don't think that is a standard feature. What messaging client are you using? And what is your alert tone set to under settings in your messaging application menu?

      720p isn't possible over a single composite line. Are you sure you don't mean component?

    7 Pages of Apps? I bought this phone recently and it had 1 page of apps on the home screen. Which I can move or delete from there. The application pages, most of the apps cannot be deleted but they are apps for the phone. Never got Australia’s Top Model app ..

    I personally have seen no problems with the phone itself, and if I were in the market for a new handset, would consider it a worthy replacement for my iPhone 3GS. Android is pretty darn good, IMO.
    My biggest gripe with it (and, it seems, many other users) is the Samsung Kies software that it uses to sync with Windows. It takes about an hour and a half to install (taking into account all the prerequisites), 10-20 minutes to simply start the program, and then it rarely detects the phone when it is inserted. Needs a complete rewrite, I'd say.

      oh god... you don't have to use syncing software do you?

      can't you just plug it in and access it like a mass storage device?

      even my ancient sony phone lets me do that.

        you can use windows explorer to view the internal and external SD card when you plug it in. But you will need to have the sync software installed first because it comes with the drivers. And provided that you are on the samsung launcher.
        I have Home Switch app so i can go between Launcher Pro

        You simply select "mass storage" as an option for when you connect the phone. You don't have to use their software at all.

    Well considering samsung makes apples A4 chips and many other things that make up the iphone 4 spec wise. Apple isn't going to be dumb enough to sue the hand that literally makes them. Think about it, the iphone is a samsung/lg product.

    you don't really have to use kies at all, if you look around ,many android sites will tell you how,. It can be synced in two ways, the first is to place the MicroUSB port in to debug mode so that u can just mount the internal and external memory cards at you leisure , or set the phone up so that it asks what you would like to do with the phone rather than launch samsung Kies

    i am using handcent sms.
    i turned off everything except the sms tone i set it to which is a simple postman sound.

    I recently got this phone and also don't have the large amounts of apps. Only one screen of them (not six) and I could easily remove them. All I can say is this phone is awesome.

    My wife has an i9000 (which is a rather large blow to my manhood given that I only have an i7500) and the only bug she's come accross so far is that swapping from Wifi to 3G seems to randomly not work for a while. Usually it comes back after a phone call, or by disabling and then re-enabling Wifi but this is not something you should have to do. My i7500 doesnt do this - it seamlessly swaps from Wifi to 3G.

    Otherwise she loves it, and loved it even more once I removed as much Optus and Samsung Spamware (is that a term?) as possible and installed Launcher Pro to remove the iPhone-copy app drawer.

    Wishlist: An official Samsung firmware release of 2.2 in pure vanilla format. Luckily, even if this wish isnt granted the incredibly active Android mod community will provide a solution instead :)

    Get it through your head, carriers - we dont want your crap on our phones!

    I dumped my Iphone 32gb 3gs and my ipad 16gb wireless in favour of one device, the Samsung Galaxy S i9000 and being absolutely delighted with the outcome. This device will do everything required of it and is a pleasure to use.

    As far as apps and games go, it has been stated that the number of Android owners will be greater than the total number of iphone owners by the end of this year andthat, in the near future, there will be more app downloads on Android than on Itunes.

    Already the quality of games appearing on Android is at least matching those of Iphone and Ipad.

    This phone kicks butt and will be the biggest selling Android phone to date worldwide.

    just got the phone today from optus on the 49 social cap...and found out that id u wish to terminate ur contract, it will only cost u $560...so pretty much paying 560 for the handset...BARGAIN

    wow wanga u were lucky to recieve. I ordered a week ago from optus and after they screwed me around for 3 days saying it would def be there the next day, i had a big go at em... they admitted it wont be here for a while, now. would have been quicker to get iphone 4g. still cant wait to recieve this one.

    Just got this phone.

    Still unable to get a flash player for it. Supposedly the phone is unsupported.

    The samsung application software that comes with the phone, also says the phone is unsupported, showing only the Wave models instead. You can do basic file transfer but not load any of the samsung apps.

    Since I bought this phone primarily for browsing im fairly dissapointed. Shoulda got the nokia n900 instead. Hopefully all these unsupported and lack of apps issues are resolved soon. There seems to be a vast difference between the amount of apps shown on the android market on a pc browser, compared to when on the actual phone. Hell if you go to the site on the browser you cant even scroll down!

    Hi, Just brought home my new galaxy S. I'm having trouble with the Kies software its not recognising the Galaxy S. I have run all the updates and still no luck. Uninstalled and re installed. It only has the Samsung Wave's as phone options.
    Has anyone else had this issue? Any ideas?

      I had the same problem, i just restarted my computer and it seemed to fix it :) good luck

    By far the best phone I've used and my previous phone was the iPhone 3G. It was disappointed at first but that's before customising it. I've customised all my homescreens and now works like a gem. You really need to try layers and google sky map to be blow away at how well the phone performs.

      Do you or does anyone know when the android 2.2 upgrade will be available in Australia?

      Kies software must be latest version form samsung site. Check files on phone to clear all caches in all applications as file length of 16 characters or more will stop the mtp application from connecting to pc. Deactivate the kies program to only come on when requested not when you connect phone. Connect phone first then start kies.

    I am keen to buy this phone but the only reason that i would want the iphone is that all my songs are on itunes. Am I able to convert my files on itunes on my computer so they can be played on the Samsung?

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