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Monday, April 2, 2012

Samsung Galaxy SII with ICS Review







In the world of smartphones, there are always a few models that stand out. Two of the most popular are Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy SII (S2). While the S2 has been out since mid-last year, it has been recently updated to the latest Android version 4, or what most people call ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich). When it was released, most of the top tech blogs called it, “the best smartphone you could buy”. Let's see if this latest update has given it a breath of fresh air.

Last month's Mobile World Congress showed us what to expect in 2012. Design-wise, the S2 still looks good and can still compete with the new models that are coming out. Its Super AMOLED screen is still gorgeous. Compared to an iPhone, it might make you wonder how you could live with such a small 3.5” screen. Especially if you have room in your pocket for it.

4.3 inches is the maximum size for normal one hand operation

So easy to accidentally press the Lock/Unlock button


Typing is much easier and looking at web pages looks so much better. It's 1.2 Ghz dual core processor and Gig of RAM makes for a smooth and snappy experience. The problem with entry-level Android phones is that while it may seem snappy out of the box, once you load it with apps, you really feel it start to slow down. Not so with the S2, even after installing numerous apps, it's still smooth as butter.

As for the camera, while its photo and video quality is up there with the best of the bunch, (in fact, probably as good if not better than the iPhone 4/4S) its performance is not as fast as I hoped it would be. The iPhone still smokes in start-up and autofocus speed.



Now let's go to the newest add-on to this phone, the ICS upgrade. Samsung has always put its TouchWiz layer over Android. Some people love it and some hate it. If you’re a new smartphone user or somewhat used to the iOS, then you really won't mind TouchWiz. It's actually quite intuitive and user friendly. If you're after a pure Android experience then you will probably fall in the category of those that hate it. I've been using the S2 with Android 2.3 Gingerbread so I was really excited when the ICS update finally came out. To my disappointment, after my update, I first thought it did not work because nothing looked new. I had to double-check the settings to see if it was really running the latest firmware. Because of the TouchWiz overlay, it just felt like the old phone I had. Perhaps this was the intention of Samsung all along so as not to confuse their users. The only noticeable differences are in the settings menu, the task manager and some minor differences here and there. But the average user will not even notice that they are running the latest and greatest from Google. And I take that as a good thing. My disappointment gave way to the realization that sometimes a little subtlety goes a long way.

Old Task Manager

Old Options Menu

ICS Task Manager

ICS Options Menu


Overall, the Galaxy S2 is still one of the best smartphones out there. The ICS upgrade is just icing on the cake for an already great device. The only real reason that you can possibly have for not buying this phone is because you are waiting for the Galaxy S3.


The Good:

- Great Hardware and Specs
- Probably still the best Android phone 
- Speed and Performance
- Great Photo and Video Quality

The Bad:

- So easy to accidentally press the Lock/Unlock and Volume buttons
- Camera operation not as fast as the iPhone 4S
- The Galaxy S3 coming out soon


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