Samsung Galaxy S 2 pre-loaded apps tested: Fine fare or bloatware?

With the Samsung Galaxy S 2, Samsung's given Android a unique twist, adding a slew of its own applications to Google's mobile OS. But which ones are worth your time, and which ones are rubbish?

Luke Westaway
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
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So you're thinking of acquiring yerself a Samsung Galaxy S 2, eh? Smashing choice -- we reckon Samsung's latest smart phone could be the slickest, most alluring Android mobile ever crafted. Samsung's put its own stamp on Google's robot-powered operating system, adding a bunch of extra apps on top of the standard Android offering. Are they any good?

Some are better than others, to be honest, so we're going to talk you through which ones are worth using, and which ones should be discarded with a callous flick of the finger. Use that very same finger to click through our photos above, and check out these apps in action.

Task manager

We really appreciate Samsung's Task Manager app, which lets you see which apps you've got running in the background, and shut the lot of them down. That's extremely handy if an errant app has crashed and become unresponsive, and you need to take it out back and give it the Old Yeller treatment.

Secondly, if you're trying to conserve battery life, you won't want loads of apps running in the background, chugging through data and draining juice like a dehydrated infant. Hit the 'exit all' button to shut down everything.

Samsung apps

Radically less useful is the Samsung Apps, er, app. This is something of a bugbear for us -- when you've got access to the Android Market, home to many thousands of excellent, often free apps, why would you clutter and confuse things with a secondary app store?

We can understand why manufacturers are keen to sneak their own app stores on to mobiles, and to some extent we're grateful that not every Android mobile looks the same -- that would be boring. Nevertheless, simplicity wins out, and our advice here is to stick with the default Android Market app.


Any busy businessman with an iPhone will tell you their tales of woe trying to open or edit Microsoft Office documents on their mobile. But the Galaxy S 2 doesn't have the same issues, thanks to Polaris Office -- an app Samsung's pre-installed that lets you open, create and edit Office documents.

Needless to say, you won't get the same wealth of editing options as you would if you were using Word, PowerPoint or Excel on a desktop computer, but we imagine this app will come in extremely handy if you're rushing to a meeting and just need to quickly swap a few words around, or flip through a slideshow to refresh your memory.

Kies Air

Know what we hate? Really, really hate? Alright we'll tell you -- it's Kies, the desktop software you use for syncing your Samsung mobile with your computer. It's maddeningly buggy, and prone to crashing, which makes whacking a few movies or songs on to your Samsung phone considerably more effort than it should be.

Kies Air solves many of these problems. It's a way of wirelessly connecting your Galaxy S 2 to your computer, and exploring what's inside.

Here's how it works. From the phone, open Kies Air. You'll be presented with an IP address -- type this into a Web browser on a PC or Mac that's connected over the same Wi-Fi network as the S 2. Bob's your uncle: you'll see an exploded view of everything on the phone. From here you can download files that are stored on your phone, or upload media files from your PC to your mobile, with all data being streamed magically over your Wi-Fi connection.

It eliminates fiddly cables, and makes adding media to your mobile infinitely easier. Best of all, because it only requires a Web browser you can use this app with any PC on the same wireless connection, without needing to download any cumbersome bloatware.


Samsung's added four extra gadgets to the list of pre-installed apps, called Hubs. There's a Social Hub, a Music Hub, a Readers Hub and a Game Hub. A couple of them are useful, but for the most part they offer little over apps you can download from the Android Market.

The Social Hub pulls your social circles into one big feed. That means your email, Facebook and Twitter activity all popping off in one long stream of sociability. The app itself is pretty slick, but to be honest we'd prefer to use the default email client, and download apps that can handle Twitter and Facebook integration (such as TweetDeck) from the Android Market.

The Music Hub lets you search and download MP3s. It's powered by 7Digital, so there's a decent amount of music available. Unfortunately we found it wasn't easy to actually find what we were looking for, with loads of duplicate entries showing up in the search results. It's also worth noting that the Amazon MP3 app on the Android Market performs essentially the same task, but the choons are often cheaper.

The Gaming Hub suffers the same problem. It's a decent bit of software that lets you cruise through mobile games and download a lot of free trials, but there's little reason to fire up this app over the good old Android Market.

Finally, the Readers Hub is the best of the bunch -- letting you download books (powered by Kobo), magazines (from Zinio) and even newspapers (thanks, PressDisplay). Everything's arranged on virtual bookshelves a la Apple's iBooks app, and there's enough virtual content to leaf through to justify a second visit. If you're not taken with it, we'd recommend downloading the Kindle app from -- you guessed it -- the Android Market.

It's no easy task to create an interface and app selection that challenges the default Android offering, but we dare say Samsung's done a rare old job. Some of the Samsung apps are a bit naff -- steer clear of Samsung Apps and the less impressive Hubs, but the task manager app and marvellous Kies Air are reason to choose the S 2 over a phone running vanilla Android, like the Google Nexus S.

Oh, and it's got a massive, gorgeous display, a great camera and a processor so speedy you could hitch your wagon to it and ride across the desert. Those are good reasons also.

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The Task Manager app is dead handy.
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Samsung Apps, on the other hand, is needless hassle.
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Polaris Office lets you read and edit Office files.
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It's pretty handy.
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This is Kies Air, as viewed from the S 2.
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And here's the desktop version running too.
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The Reader Hub grants you access to books, newspapers and magazines.
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Here's how a newspaper looks.

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