November 3, 2010 by admin
The three keys below the screen are home, physical menu and back. Holding the context menu key fires up the smart search function, so we actually have all four standard Android keys present. The other elements above the screen are the earpiece slit, a front facing VGA cam, and the sensors for proximity and ambient light. The back hosts the 5MP camera lens in the upper left corner while the speaker grill is located on the right. Below those lies the “with Google” branding, which hints a full-featured Android device, with the whole set of Google services preinstalled, ever subtly.
Samsung also included a sliding lid over the microUSB port at the top of the Samsung GALAXY S which prevents dirt and lint from clogging the port. The top also houses the 3.5mm audio jack, which also serves as a S-video port for TV-out, but only if you buy the additional cable. While it would have been nice to have an HDMI-out port instead, Samsung has obviously decided to leave the GALAXY S out of the multimedia battles. The exterior exudes a simple yet streamlined design.
The handset’s design is more practical and comfortable for holding thanks to a hump at the very bottom of its back cover. The Galaxy S is only 0.39” (9.9mm) which is a very praiseworthy achievement due to the technology behind the 480×800 pixels WVGA Super AMOLED screen. With Samsung having disposed of the air layer between the touch sensitive panel and the display, and instead placed the touch sensor directly over it, almost like coating, with a thickness of about 0.000040” (0.001 mm) while weighing a measly 119 grams in total. It has wider viewing angles as compared to others and is very usable under direct sunlight thanks to the lack of air pocket in the Super AMOLED technology. With the Super AMOLED as great as it is, the only flaw is that small texts are pretty hard to read due to every pixel being visible; probably due to a low ppi(pixels per inch) count.
The Samsung GALAXY S can have up to seven home screens, which can be populated with widgets; launch icons and folders by tapping and/or holding on an empty space. Unfortunately they don’t zoom out, so you’d have to swipe six times to get from the first to the last home screen or use the small dots up the screen for that. Only with pressing the physical home button, always takes you to the default first homescreen. Pressing the back key will only return you to the home screen you were before entering.
With Google Voice Search you don’t even have to type to perform a search from the home screen! Out of the other Android widgets, the best ones we decided were Power control, which lets you switch on/off radios and adjust brightness; and Picture frame, which populates home screens with pictures of your choosing. Even though Samsung’s widgets are a bit repetitive, they are for the most part, helpful. We say the more, the merrier. Another fairly useful widget is the Feeds and Updates which should satiate your thirst for social interaction on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace right from a home screen!
While in edit mode, the application shortcuts can be rearranged in the current page, sent to different ones or to the dock. The applications themselves can also be completely uninstalled by tapping on the minus sign in the upper right of their icons, instead of uninstalling from settings. With all that said, navigating TouchWiz 3.0 in the Samsung GALAXY S I9000, is an incremental improvement over the stock Android experience, which is well tailored to the huge screen of the device.
We’d be thoughtless if we didn’t mention Samsung’s touted Social Hub, which basically pulls in all your SNS (Social Network Services), email and IM accounts, so you can create a message and shoot it out with whatever you choose at a simple tap. It is actually much more than that since it spreads throughout the interfaces. Contacts, for example, also show their Google Talk IM status with a colored dot against their names, which is most similar to the UX user interface of the Sony Ericsson Xperia line. The Activities tab in the contacts screen will show an aggregate view of your communications history, regardless of the source and means of that communication. These communication stories can also be found in the history tab of each contact, but are restricted to your interactions with this contact only. Entering the media tab from a single contact view can even show you the latest albums your friends have uploaded on Facebook, for example. That’s how deep the Social Hub function goes which is Samsung’s response to the likes of Timescape and the Sense UI.
Texting and email tools on the Samsung GALAXY S had mixed reactions since there is Google’s Mail app, which works as advertised, with search, labels and all. Not to mention the Samsung email client for other general web-based email services like Hotmail or Yahoo, and for your corporate Exchange accounts. The phone’s own email app has the cool features of TouchWiz 3.0, such as the combined inbox, where all your set email accounts pour in their messages and are differentiated with colour coding.
We were mildly surprised to have trouble finding settings for message sizes and the amount to download. These are usually placed in the incoming server settings, but in the GALAXY S are nowhere to be seen, even for such a popular service like Gmail. Even after trying both default IMAP, and manually set up POP3 access, messages keep coming in an undisclosed size and you have to manually fetch every single attachment, which is pretty annoying. This leaves an otherwise good feature, such as the ability to search in both email applications, a bit underutilized, as it will only be searching through the text of very recent messages, if you suddenly find yourself offline and in need an attachment.
In both the Messaging and Email apps, pinch to zoom can be used while reading a message and it enlarges the text and/or pictures inside for easier viewing. Swiping right or left on a conversation thread in the main Messaging screen lets you call, or message the contact, and it also works on the contacts in the phonebook.
The manufacturer’s design choices reconfirmed for us that the camera capabilities haven’t been its top priority with the GALAXY S, as it is lacking both a flash and a dedicated shutter key. Taking pictures is executed by tapping directly on the virtual shutter button which is fine once you get the hang of it. The camera interface is also similar as to those found on the recent Samsung high-end devices and offers an abundance of preset modes.
Pictures are mostly acceptable but since there’s no flash, things tend to get pretty ugly once the light becomes dangerous low, so bear that in mind. The video shots outside were nice and crisp, but was kind of jumpy with fast moving objects or when scanning the horizon moving the phone quickly. There is a nice button that can max out the brightness of the screen with one tap right from the camera interface to help framing when it’s sunny. The Samsung GALAXY S I9000 will play almost whatever you throw at it. We maxed out at 1280×720 in DivX/Xvid format and it didn’t lag at all. It also has subtitles support similar to the Wave.
Despite Samsung’s homemade 1GHz Hummingbird processor, you sometimes have to wait 3-4 seconds after tapping to enter some applications, including Messaging and Contacts, if they haven’t been residing in the memory lately, which is quite a letdown. This only occurred when it gets hogged down by intensive work in the background, and is probably due to Android having the last six applications used lingering underneath. Messaging is particularly slow to appear on first start, but sometimes even the Phone takes a few seconds before it goes beyond the initial black screen.
As a phone the Samsung GALAXY S I9000 is fairly albeit with some echo on the receiving end. While the loudspeaker is not loud enough even at the max volume, the audio output is acceptable. The supplied headset produces an incredibly deep and crisp sound, which does well in isolating the ambient noise. The basses don’t sound hollow, and the 5.1 channel surround button actually accentuates the voice of the singer, giving it a very satisfying experience.
With the 1500mAh battery rated for 6 and a half hour of talk time in 3G mode and 24 days of standby, it is on the long side for a giant screen multitasker. We got a full day out of the handset even though the assorted collection of live wallpapers should have drained the battery more than usual. Four hours of constant browsing over Wi-Fi and exploring the handset with the screen constantly on, plus about 20 minutes of talktime only set us back to half the battery charge!
Pros and Cons
The slow start time with a number of applications and lack of flash combined with its low ppi count screen (possibly) may be a deal breaker for some.
If you are looking for the ultimate Android device, there are very few things that can really make you consider any other handset; and with Android 2.2 updates coming up, you’d be really hard pressed!