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Samsung Galaxy S II: Excellent, But Not Perfect

For some reason, AT&T had allowed me to upgrade my phone after just one year, so I’ve been waiting for the “Deathstar” to release an Android phone worthy of replacing my beloved HTC Aria. My interest in an upgrade was mainly driven by my needing a bigger screen because my eyes are going bad (getting old sucks!) and for a front-facing camera so I could skype my family while on the road. I also wanted to be ready for when an Ice Cream Sandwich update or ROM became available.

I’m a pretty demanding fellow when it comes to my technology, so I want it all when I upgraded. I looked at the Google Nexus, HTC Inspire, and Samsung Impulse, but none really grabbed me.

As you can tell by my selection of the Aria, I really like a small footprint for my phone as I carry it in my pocket. But I knew that I had to sacrifice the footprint for the readability of a bigger screen. I had really wanted a 4” screen, but that size seems to have passed us by and 4.3” screens are the minimum now and 4.5” seems to be the new big thing

Then I heard about the Samsung Galaxy S II. The reviews were stellar, indicating that it was the best Android phone to date. After handling it at a local Best Buy, I thought I had found my new soulmate. The first thing that struck me about GS2 was its thinness and weight. In my pocket it did take up more space than my Aria, but its thin profile (the thinnest phone available, though a thinner Nokia is apparently on the way) mitigated the increase in width and height. Its weight, lighter than the much smaller Aria, was also noticeable; I don’t feel it in my pocket!

So about two weeks ago, I bought my GS2 from Amazon Wireless for $149 (no tax and free 2-day shipping). I’ve been pleased with it so far, though it has some drawbacks. I won’t go into the vital statistics because they can be found online. Suffice it to say that it’s a powerhouse of both hardware and software. A few plusses worth mentioning. The screen is brilliant. The build quality is solid though its weight makes it feel a bit flimsy. Gingerbread is great. Surprisingly, the battery is very good; I’ve been able to go two days with moderate use on one charge. For those who like to get under the hood, I’ve already rooted and unlocked my GS2 (thanks xda-developers) and there are several ROMs available for flashing.

Now for what makes the SG2 less than perfect. First, the Power button is on the right side exactly opposite the Volume rocker. This means that when I hold the phone, my thumb and forefinger are on buttons. Plus, when I press the Power button to turn off the screen, I often inadvertently press the Volume too. Also, the Power button blends in with the case, so I have to feel around for it. On top would have been a much better location.

Oddly, when I turn the screen on by pushing the Power button, there is a split second delay before the screen comes on. I find this irritating, but I realize I’m quibbling.

Its lightness has its downsides too. Because it lacks a certain heft, I lose my grip on it often, though I’ve only dropped it once (on a hard floor; the battery and cover popped out, but no damage otherwise).

Shortly after the GS2 came out, the Motorola Atrix 2, with very similar specs and only $49 (plus tax) at Best Buy was released. I was tempted to return my GS2, but the lighter weight and more options for getting under the hood (xda has almost nothing available for the Atrix 2) kept the SG2 in my hands.

I also know that there has been some grousing from recent purchasers of the GS2 with AT&T’s recent announcement of an LTE GS2 to be released on Nov. 6th. Given that all reports indicate that LTE won’t roll out in most cities till well into 2012 and the 4G speeds aren’t much different from what is currently available, I don’t feel the need to return my GS2 with the 30-day trial period (though I reserve the right to do so) for the LTE version. Also, the new GS2 sports a 4.5” screen, so it’s bigger and heavier.

The bottom line is that I’m about 90% happy with my Samsung Galaxy S II. I think it’s at the head of the class of recent powerhouse smartphones and has the capabilities to stay near the front of the current pack till I’m eligible for another upgrade from AT&T.