The best Android phone in the world is available in South Africa now
Samsung has made excellent televisions and fridges for a long time, but I have never really thought of their smartphones as being good. If you say smartphone, I think iPhone, HTC, Blackberry, SonyEriccson, Nokia. I don’t think Samsung. Or at least, I didn’t use to, before the Galaxy S came along.
The Galaxy S is the best Android phone in the world I think. Here’s why:
It has the 1GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor. Lots of phones have 1GHz processors these days, but when you add the Galaxy’s PowerVR SGX 3D graphics processor to the mix, you end up with a phone that does 3D graphics at 56 frames per second, more than double the 3D speed of the Google Nexus One. And some okes at xda-developers have managed to over-clock the Galaxy to 1.6GHz!
Then there is the screen. At 4 inches it is bigger than most, but not as big as the HTC HD2′s 4.3 inch monster screen. As a result the device still fits nicely in the hand, while the extra screen size, when compared with the iPhone and other smartphones, makes a difference when watching videos. It is of course an AMOLED screen and the colours are gorgeous. Resolution is very good at 800 x 480 and as it is made from Gorilla glass it is pretty tough and scratch resistant. It is of course multi-touch and is fantastically responsive. Zooming in and out in the browser is something worth repeating over and over.
The body of the phone is sleek with rounded edges a-la iPhone 3G and a slightly curved back. It is an all plastic affair except for the screen, but it doesn’t feel cheap. It is very thin and very light.
At the back it has a 5MP camera that can shoot video in 720p at 30 frames per second. The camera is nothing special but it does take photos quickly. Front facing VGA camera also present for video calling.
The battery is a 1500mA affair, another plus point for this phone. I don’t know why other manufacturers, including Nokia lately, are not all putting at least 1500mA batteries in their smartphones. These phones need a lot power. Thus far I have been quite impressed with the Galaxy’s battery life. I get through a day easily, and that while running Whatsapp messenger which keeps the data connection open all the time. I also sync two mail addresses (gmail and Lotus Notes Traveler) every 15 minutes, receive tweets every 30 minutes, browse the internet from time to time, watch youtube many times, and so on. I suspect that Samsung has made a few tweaks to Android as well in order to improve the battery life. Compared to my other Android phones the Galaxy S opens surprisingly few apps automatically in the background.
It comes out of the box with Android 2.1 installed, and I have heard that Froyo 2.2 is being rolled out. Not in South Africa yet, as my phone is still on 2.1. Not that there is anything wrong with 2.1. As with its other Android phones Samsung has skinned the Galaxy S with the TouchWiz UI. Not everyone likes this skin, and it is generally reviled by the Android purists. I have also in the past preferred the much more elegant HTC Sense skin, but I have to confess that once you look past the slightly cartoonish icons the Samsung UI works well. I especially like the general look that TouchWiz gives the phone, even though the app menus were overtly modelled on the iPhone’s. The colour schemes of many built-in apps, like Messaging, are very colourful and pleasing on the eye. There are a few painful aspects unfortunately, such as the four icons that appear at the bottom of all the home screens (Messaging, Contacts, Browser and one other which I can’t remember right now, actually I do remember, it is the Phone app), which cannot be removed by dragging to the trash bin. This means if you decide to use one of the Android Market downloadable messaging apps such as ChompSMS, you can, but you are going to end up with two Messaging icons on your home screen. What a drag. I can sort of see why Samsung did this, wanting to stop the novice Android user from deleting those critical icons and being unable to find them again. Still irritating though. Talking about novice Android users, two of my friends bought this phone recently. Neither are geeks and could be regarded as technophobes by some, but both are in love with the phone and are finding it very easy to operate. So there is some method in Samsung’s UI madness.
The cool stuff
The Galaxy’s video player is without equal. It plays XVid and Divx formats people! And if you put the excellent earphones on it produces sound in 5.1 Dolby stereo surround. The sound quality will surprise you.
It also sports a little know feature known as DNLA which means you can stream video/audio to the phone from a PC and other equipment. You can also stream same from the phone to your Samsung DNLA equipped TV. Over wifi. Ok, so not many people have Samsung TVs equipped with Wifi and DNLA, but still. Nice to know you could if you had.
If you are one of the many without a DNLA TV, the Galaxy S does TV Out via its earphone jack. All you need is an AV cable with a earphone jack on the one end and you can play content from the phone on your TV. Nice. Very nice. Yes, I know the Nokia N8 has a very cool HDMI output (and HDMI cable in the box), but the N8 does not support nearly as many video formats as the Galaxy. It doesn’t do XViD or DivX. I think I read somewhere that it is supposed to support MKV but I tried a few MKV videos with no success.
The killer feature
I have always struggled to type on phones that do not have physical qwerties. I have tried them all, including the iPhone, and kept going back to the qwerty models. Until the Galaxy S. It comes pre-loaded with an app called Swype and will change the way the world enters text on a phone. Instead of pressing on the keyboard you swipe your finger through the letters making up the word you want and the software figures it out. It is fantastic. I can now swype faster than I can type on my Blackberry. I can swype with one hand while holding the phone in the other, and even better, I can swipe with my thumb while holding the phone in the same hand. The world texting speed record was set by someone swyping on an N8. Swype is the best thing to hit screen-based mobile phones. Buy the share if you can get it. Samsung has already sold more than 3 million Galaxy S’s each one pre-loaded with Swype. My new G2/HTC Desire Z also came pre-loaded with Swype, and this phone has a slide out qwerty keyboard lol.
The best news is that the Galaxy S is freely available in South Africa, on contract and without contract. I bought mine at Incredible Connection, where it was sitting quietly in a glass cupboard giving no hint of its prowess. The Galaxy’s availability in South Africa has been decidedly low key, but now you know. So get one.