Review: AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II

It is finally here guys, the Samsung Galaxy S II has landed on AT&T’s shelves and it is beautiful! I fell in love with this phone at first sight and not only is fast, it is also a gorgeous device. I would like to thank Samsung for hooking us up with it and letting us discover what it is all about.

The Galaxy S II for AT&T was released on October 2nd, 2011 and is currently selling for $199.99 when you sign a two-year contract. Otherwise, it will set you back $549.99 if you buy it outright. If you are a deal-seeker, I suggest you take a look at Amazon Wireless, who is offering it at least $50 off.

Hardware

The international version of the Samsung Galaxy S II was first introduced on February 13, 2011 at the Mobile World Congress. It has been released in many countries around the world and we finally got a shot at it here in the U.S. with Sprint being the first carrier to release it back on September 16, 2011.

AT&T’s variant of the Galaxy S II is very similar to the original version except that it is missing the physical Home button, it has capacitive buttons instead. It sports a 4.27-inch 800×480 WVGA Super AMOLED Plus display, Android 2.3.4, 1.2GHZ dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 Exynos processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (expandable to 32GB with microSD), 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p recording, 2-megapixel front-camera, Bluetooth 3.0, Micro USB 2.0, DLNA, HDMI, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), 1650 mAh battery with up to 3 hours of talk time and up to 250 hours of standby time , HSPA+ capabilities and is NFC-equipped (app doesn’t open). It weighs as little as 4.13 ounces, measures 4.96 x 2.6 x 0.35 inches and is 8.49mm (0.35 inches) thick.

Starting from the front of the phone, you have your 4.3-inch display, four capacitive buttons, speaker and the 2MP camera which is intended for self portraits and video chat. The Power/Sleep button can be found on the right side of the phone. The volume rocker is situated on the left side while the microSD port and the microphone are on the bottom of the Galaxy S II.

For folks looking forward to using this Galaxy S II to do mobile payments, you may have to wait because it looks like that there is an NFC app already installed within the phone. I was able to find it by using the task manager but everytime I tried to open, it closed instantly. Samsung also included an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) adapter with the Samsung Galaxy S II. Basically, what it does is send HD uncompressed 1080p video and audio from the phone. The adapter will also charge your Galaxy S II handset.

While I was reviewing this phone, I discovered that it suffered from a major security flaw with its lock screen. I have learned that anyone can bypass the Pin or Pattern Lock security feature of the phone by simply letting the phone time out, waking up the phone and then “sliding to unlock” the homescreen. Samsung had made an official statement that a fix is in the work and advises to head to “Settings->Location and Security->Screen unlock settings->Timeout->Immediately” which will momentarely take care of the issue.

Display

The Galaxy S II has a 4.27-inch Super AMOLED Plus WVGA display with an 800 x 480 resolution. It offers 50 percent more sub-pixels than the original Galaxy S. The display is just awesome in my opinion and this is why: the colors on it are brighter, more saturated than most of the devices I have had the chance to play with; the view in direct sunlight is great and it also offers deep blacks.

Software

The SGS 2 runs on Android 2.3.4 aka Gingerbread, although you can find a leaked 2.3.5 version in the wild if you are the adventurous type. In addition to GB, you’ll find Samsung’s own user interface, TouchWiz version 4.0. While many of you may like stock Android, TouchWiz offers a smooth user experience and I definitely take it any day over Motorola’s Blur.

While all of that sounded good, you will also find a decent amount of both AT&T and Samsung bloatware. You’ll find your usual AT&T unneeded apps which half of cannot be uninstalled unless you root your phone. Who really needs “AT&T Navigator” when you can have Google Maps for free? You’ll also find AP (Associated Press), Yahoo Finance, AT&T Featured Apps and AccuWeather widgets already pre-installed in the Galaxy S II.

Motion Controls

Some other cool features that Samsung has added to the Galaxy S II is the ability to take screenshots, just like the HTC EVO 3D, by holding the Home and Power buttons simultaneously. Here are the other ones:

  • Turn Over” will silence the phone when it is placed face down. It will also mute the ringer during a call.
  • Tilt” lets you enlarge or reduce the size of your pictures in the Gallery and Web pages. You can try it out by holding two fingers on the screen and tilt the phone toward and away from you.
  • Panning” lets you arrange your homescreen. You can drag a widget or an app shortcut to any screen by holding it down with your finger, and panning the phone to your left or right making the panels move accordingly.
  • Double Tap” turns on the Voice Talk commands. Tapping your phone twice will enable you to make a call or check your message or find a location on a map.

If you’re having trouble learning the Motion controls, Samsung has included tutorials for each feature and you can find them by heading to Settings> Motion.

Camera

The camera feature is definitely one the best selling points of the Galaxy S II. This Samsung beast comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-meagpixel front camera. I have been able to take some very nice pictures similar to the ones from the Samsung Infuse 4G. Don’t underestimate the front camera, because it is also capable of taking decent quality shots. In addition to taking still pictures, the SGS 2 is also capable of recording 1080p videos with its continuous auto-focus.

Photo Samples

Rear Camera

Front Camera

Video Sample



Mobile viewing link

Performance and Battery Life

I have had the Galaxy S II for almost a week and I have been testing the battery life on a daily basis. So on moderate use, I was able to get over 12 hours of use, which isn’t bad considering the fact that this phone sports a 1650 mAh removable battery. Of course, results will vary depending on how you use your phone. Overall, I was very satisfied with the battery life of the Galaxy S II!

This Samsung device runs on AT&T’s pseudo 4G network aka HSPA+. It averaged speeds up to 2800kbps down and 1359kbps up. These results will obviously vary by location, so expect the speeds to fluctuate. Overall, data speeds on the Galaxy S II are a bit faster than the rest of the devices on AT&T’s network and you’ll be pleased with it.

As far as benchmarks are concerned, the SGS 2 has averaged 3400 on Quadrant Standard, making it one the top Android performers. It scored 5445 on AnTuTu and 59.6 fps on Neocore. While these numbers won’t mean much for a lot of you out there, they’re still a good indication that this phone is a beast when it comes to multitasking and the overall use of apps.

The good

  • Display: The Super AMOLED Plus display is just the clearest and brightest in the market right now. Did I mention, it is amazing?
  • Hardware: The 1.2GHz Exynos dual-core processor, 8MP camera, 16GB internal storage and 1GB RAM have put the Galaxy S II ahead of the competition
  • Build: This phone is only 8.49mm thick but yet very stylish and sleek.
  • Battery: Although I have had a couple of bad days with the Galaxy S II not lasting more than 6 hours, I can confirm that, overall, I was able to get a full day of use and some out of it.
  • MHL Adapter: It allows you to connect your Galaxy S II to your HDTV while charging it.
  • NFC: It supports NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. It does have the app which can be seen if you use the task manager, but cannot be opened.

The bad

  • Bloatware: I hate it, hate it, hate it…
  • Software: I wish it would have come with stock Android instead of having the TouchWiz UI overlay.
  • MicroSD Slot: You’d have to remove the battery to remove the microSD card,

Conclusion

There is no secret that I have been a big fan of the Galaxy S II, and this AT&T variant of it didn’t disappoint. It is fast, sleek and powerful! If you are in the market for the best Android phone on AT&T, the SGS 2 will fit the bill. No wonder why Samsung has sold over 10 million of them.

Zack has always been a fan of anything with the tag "Gadget" on it, he has had used almost every phone brand except for the Palm and owns a Pixel XL as his daily driver. His favorite camera is the Olympus EM-1 Mark II. He is a full-time father of two great boys and happily married to his wife. Did we mention the Zack loves Video games? Add him to you circles: Google+

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