Customizing the home screens is made easier with a carousel-like setup that lets you move through the various panels to add and remove shortcuts and widgets at the same time. Previously, you had to do a long-press on one screen to change it and then repeat the process if you wanted to change another page. You can also now resize Samsung Live Panel widgets, and there's a more fluid motion when scrolling through widget lists and home pages.
Some of the changes are purely cosmetic, but they certainly add some polish to the UI. There are also some useful additions as well, such as an integrated task manager that displays all your active applications, downloaded apps with the option to uninstall, RAM status, and system storage. Also great: the ability to now capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.
The quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II offers a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone is compatible with AT&T's HSPA+ network and can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices. Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), and GPS are also onboard.
As we noted earlier, it is running Gingerbread and all of Google's services are accounted for: e-mail, maps, voice navigation, search, chat, Places, Latitude, and YouTube, plus basic tools like a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a timer. In addition, Samsung and AT&T have preloaded the phone with a number of extras, including the Quickoffice suite, Kies Air (a Wi-Fi-based PC-to-phone sync manager), AT&T Navigator, AT&T Code Scanner, and Yellow Pages Mobile. We're not a fan of having so much bloatware on the phone, but thankfully, AT&T now gives you the option to uninstall some of its apps, such as AT&T FamilyMap and Live TV.
There is no shortage of entertainment options on the Galaxy S II. In addition to the built-in music and video player, the smartphone offers Samsung's Media Hub where you can download movies and TV shows to rent or own. You can also shoot your owns videos and photos with the handset's 8-megapixel camera, which is capable of 1080p HD video capture. The camera app has plenty of tools, such as effects, white-balance controls, ISO settings, and more. Samsung also throws in a photo and video editor, which we appreciate. The video editor is particularly great, since it makes it easy to piece together clips with different effects and music, all from right on your phone.
Picture quality was impressive. Even under less-than-ideal lighting conditions, the camera produced bright, detailed, and clear images, and camera performance was fast. Video quality was also very good. Again, colors looked vibrant and there was very little blurring and pixelation, even during action sequences. Once you're done capturing media, you can store files to the Galaxy S II's 16GB of internal memory or to an SD card (expansion slot accepts up to 32GB). You can also share via the usual social network channels or to your HDTV using DLNA or with an HDMI adapter.
We tested the quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II in New York using AT&T service and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed clear audio with very little to no background noise. Occasionally, callers sounded a bit muffled, but overall, the voices sounded true to life without any kind of distortion. Friends were also impressed with the sound quality and didn't have any major complaints.
Samsung Galaxy S II call quality sample
Speakerphone quality wasn't quite as good. Callers said they could hear a bit of an echo, and on our end, they sounded far away and there was barely enough volume to hear them in noisier environments. We were able to pair the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Mobile S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and make calls and listen to music without any problems.
We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period. Data speeds on AT&T's HSPA+ network, which the carrier calls 4G, were OK, but not a standout compared with competing carriers' 4G networks. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of 2.36Mbps and 1.12Mbps up. With such speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 20 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 5 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. The phone was able to load and play high-quality YouTube videos in a couple of seconds, and playback was smooth and continuous.
Equipped with Samsung's 1.2GHz dual-core Exnyos processor, general performance on the Galaxy S II was fast and powerful. Navigating the phone was zippy, and we were able to launch apps and switch between tasks with ease. Whether it was playing games or viewing Flash content, the smartphone was up to the challenge.
The Samsung Galaxy S II ships with a 1,650mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 16 days of standby time. The Galaxy S II provided an impressive 10 hours of continuous talk time in ourbattery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Galaxy S II has a digital SAR rating of 0.36W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M3.
As we've already seen from the other series models, the Samsung Galaxy S II is an excellent Android smartphone, and it makes for a great addition to AT&T's lineup. The carrier already has a number of other great Android devices, such as the Samsung Infuse 4G, Motorola Atrix 4G, and HTC Inspire 4G, but the Galaxy S II brings the total package of an attractive design, great set of features, and solid performance to make it the top pick and Editors' Choice winner.