This post was updated at 6:34 p.m. PT with additional information on pricing and availability.
NEW YORK--After a slight delay courtesy of Hurricane Irene, Samsung officially introduced the U.S. version of the Galaxy S II smartphone today at a media event in Manhattan.
Bound for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint this fall, the Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone improves on the first generation of Galaxy S handsets in a number of ways. On the hardware side, it offers Samsung's Exynos 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, a 10 percent larger battery, 4G support, and a Super AMOLED Plus touch screen.
Interestingly, the AT&T model has a 4.3-inch display, while the T-Mobile and Sprint versions will sport a 4.5-inch display. Samsung said this was a decision made by AT&T, presumably because the carrier already offers the 4.5-inch
The Galaxy S II will ship running the Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread OS along with the latest version of TouchWiz, Samsung's custom user interface. TouchWiz brings such improvements as the ability to resize Samsung Live Panel widgets, an integrated task manager, and an enhanced Social Hub. The smartphone will also offer more enterprise features; among them are on-device encryption, full Exchange ActiveSync support, and Cisco's WebEx mobile conference software.
When you need to be entertained, you can turn to Samsung's Media Hub for movie and TV downloads. You can view content from your phone on your HDTV by sharing it using the built-in DLNA support or with an MHL HDMI adapter. The smartphone also has Samsung's Kies Air service, which connects the phone to your PC or Mac via Wi-Fi so you can transfer files, manage contacts, and send text messages from your computer.
Other highlights include 16GB of internal memory and an expansion slot that supports cards of up to 32GB, the ability to capture screen shots by holding the power button and home key (yes!), an preloaded video editor application, and more voice command support.
Sprint will be the first of the carriers to offer the handset, which will go by the name of Samsung Epic 4G Touch. It will go on sale September 16 for $199.99 with a two-year contract. AT&T said its version would be available in the coming weeks, while T-Mobile only said "this fall." Both will keep the Samsung Galaxy S II name, but pricing for either models was not revealed at this time.
Just like the first-gen series, there's a bit of design variation between the different models, but AT&T's Samsung Galaxy S II definitely sticks out because of the smaller screen size. When we asked why it decided to go with a smaller 4.3-inch touch screen, the carrier confirmed what we thought earlier, which is because it already offers the 4.5-inch Infuse 4G, AT&T wanted to give customers another option.
Personally, I like my smartphones to be compact and the 4.3-inch screen is more than enough for me, so I don't have a problem with AT&T's Galaxy S II having a smaller display than the others. The phone's easier to grip and feels more comfortable in a pants pocket.
For some reason, T-Mobile kept its model captive under a Plexiglass display, so we weren't able to get hands-on time with it, but we did get a chance to check out the Samsung Epic 4G Touch for Sprint. The 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen is definitely eye-catching, not only for its size but also for clarity. I watched a couple of movie previews using a 4G connection and Samsung's Media Hub, and videos looked sharp and vibrant and ran smoothly.
The handset is pretty large and wide, but its thinness prevents it from feeling too unwieldy. I know some will be disappointed that the Epic 4G Touch doesn't have a slide-out QWERTY keyboard like its predecessor, but Sprint said it wanted to keep in line with the rest of the Galaxy S II family. Both the Sprint and AT&T models have a textured back, but the phones still feel a bit plasticky, especially compared with some of the latest devices from HTC and Motorola.
The Galaxy S II phones do feel fast, though. Equipped with Samsung's Exynos 1.2GHz dual-core processor, apps launched very quickly, and I was able to navigate through the phone's menus with no lag. My initial impression of the TouchWiz improvements is positive. The UI feels more fluid and slick overall. Moving through the various home screens and app pages is easier and also looks better. The ability to resize certain widgets is also nice, and I welcome some of the new apps, such as the preloaded video editor and Samsung Kies Air app for wireless syncing.
In all, the U.S. versions of the Samsung Galaxy S II are shaping up to be some formidable competitors in the crowded Android market. We're looking forward to getting them in for review and really putting them through their paces. We hope to have those soon, but in the meantime, feel free to check out our hands-on photo galleries and