It’s already been a few days since I started playing with my new Android-based smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S. The replacement for my old (well, not so old in fact) Acer Liquid placed itself as the flagship of Samsung’s top of the line, sharing the spot with the newer Google Nexus S (also produced by Samsung). Seems that after the Nexus One fiasco, Google replaced HTC with Samsung for making of its new Android label phone. In fact, the only important difference between the Samsung Galaxy S and the Google Nexus S is that the latter comes with Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” while the fomer is packed with Android 2.2 “Froyo”.
My observations will be largely made against my Acer Liquid experience, but might eventually include considerations against Apple’s iPhone 4 as well as Motoral Droid and Sony-Ericsson’s Xperia X10.
1. The display: is what one first notices about any phone. The Super AMOLED is the pinnacle of today’s mobile display technology. Great looking, responsive, easy on the battery, what more could one want? Samsung pioneers AMOLED into the consumer market, making a pretty giant leap in terms of quality. However, the technology is fairly expensive and with only one factory currently making AMOLEDs, Samsung Galaxy S has been having serious availability issues, underlying the great demand. The display is amazingly crisp, clear, beautiful colors. It is well on par with Apple’s iPhone, perhaps better on some accounts. However, the fact that AMOLED is much easier on the battery than Apple’s technology, makes the Samsung well superior (compare the 720 hours of standby on the Samsung Galaxy S with the 350 on Apple iPhone 4 – it’s a different galaxy, so to speak). Size isn’t everything but given that Galaxy S has 4 inches and iPhone 4 only 3.5, the fact that iPhone 4 spits its battery guts so soon is hardly good.
2. Performance: Google’s Android 2.2 dubbed Froyo has pushed in some performance updates that makes the system much easier on the resources. This finally makes Android competitive against Apple’s iOS which has been largely superior in responsiveness. Sure, one can blame this on the fact that there’s only one hardware platform the iOS needs to look at, but then again Android has been conceived as a hardware-independent system therefore this kind of optimization should’ve happened since day 1. Now, the game is a tie.
3. Connectivity: Samsung’s Galaxy S comes with several things over the iPhone 4. Among them, I will mention the presence of a radio, using Bluetooth v3 (instead of 2.1 on the iPhone), a micro SD card expansion slot, bringing the total maximum storage to 40Gb (more space for much cheaper over the iPhone).
4. Media: the camera doesn’t have flash. I repeat: the camera doesn’t have flash. Although good performance in poor lighting, a led wouldn’t have been the end of the world for Samsung. Oh well. However, the Samsung Galaxy S scores again with Picasa integration (and unlike with the Acer Liquid, this time geo-tagging actually works … and it’s so cool!) and with Flash support. Sure, you can have Flash on Apple iPhone, but you need to do a bit of hacking. The packed goodies include an Internet TV tuner (implementation depends on the market, I got one from Bouygues) which I haven’t tried yet and I don’t plan to do that soon (but it’s good to have the option).
5. Battery: even with the optimizations in Froyo, Samsung Galaxy S fails to beat my Acer Liquid (this bears note since my Acer Liquid only has 1350 mAh on its battery while Galaxy S has 1500 mAh). My good ol’ Acer Liquid took at least three days to discharge under average use, while the Samsung Galaxy S coughs at three. Sure, I wasn’t using 3G on my Acer Liquid, but I was talking on it (something I haven’t done much of on Galaxy). Granted, Acer Liquid greatly benefits from Liquid Community ROM, a Froyo modification which doesn’t have the visual appeal of the original Froyo but adds a lot of goodies and removes a lot of garbage (the battery-draining kind). Apple iPhone 4 is well below on this chapter, despite a competitive 1420 mAh charge.
I’m not going to make this a Samsung vs Apple fight, although if any smartphone out there deserves to be called an Apple-killer, then it must be the Samsung Galaxy S. In the Android world, The Samsung Galaxy S is the new king and it will reign alongside Google Nexus S for a while. HTC loses across the board while Sony Ericsson seems content with a spot in the average shady zone.
There is a lot to like about the Galaxy S. The Touch UI is great, the multitouch is usable, it is speedy and responsive, it has WiFi N as well as bluetooth 3, HD video, decent camera (a lot of megapixels aren’t always good). Most importantly, not onlt does it have a good battery, but you can also get spares (something Apple fans can’t do). Since smartphones should be mobile, this counts a lot while traveling.
Given today’s galaxy of smartphones, giving Samsung 5 stars is an understatement. Nitpickers will poke Samsung for more originality in design and UI but the bits under the hood and the bits over the hood pack a punch that while it doesn’t make Apple KO, the Android family and the Symbian family are left bleeding profusely.