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Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket–The best Android Phone on AT&T currently

Yes, I am a Windows Phone 7 user, but I admire and appreciate the engineering and technology and give credits wherever they are due. I use iPhone 4, Windows Phone and Android in my daily usage. Of course out of all I like Windows Phone. Now coming to the point, I was lurking in AT&T stores the other day and found Skyrocket as the best model out there and it runs on Android. The only disappointments with it is lacking Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box,  it still runs on Gingerbread and poor battery. The battery issue is common for all Android phones and we all know how the update process go with Android phones, even though it is slightly improved from the past. This phone gets Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) update sometime in Q1 of 2012, that’s what Samsung and AT&T are promising.

I have found both HTC Vivid and Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket are better phones than Motorola Atrix 2. The call quality, smoother experience and the display definitely puts Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket over Atrix 2. And the display kicks Vivid to corner.  Also I have found Skyrocket as faster than Vivid. Our area doesn’t have LTE yet and we are running on HSPA+ for that matter and both the devices operate on HSPA+ for now. And interestingly Skyrocket is lighter than HTC Vivid. You can read our review about HTC Vivid here, and I was thinking of getting it to replace my Atrix 4G, but now I am thinking of trading my Atrix 4G for Skyrocket. I have played with the phone at nearby AT&T store for couple of hours. Thanks to local AT&T representatives for allowing me to play with the device.

Here are my thoughts about the phone:

The display of this phone is gorgeous, and the phone is slim and light. Since it is very light and slim, it makes easy to hold the phone despite the fact that it is a bigger phone with 4.3” size. If you like Android and have money, then Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket is perfect to your bill, provided you have to sign up with AT&T with suitable data plan. The price of the phone with 2 year contract is $249, and probably you could get some other discounts during the holiday period. Lookout for penny deals on Black Friday at AT&T.

Phone reception, and call quality – 5 out of 5. I see Windows Phones and iPhone have better call quality than any Android phone. But this phone is different from other Android phone. Both earphone and speaker phone and I was able to clearly hear the other parties. And the other parties are able to hear softer tone crystal clear.

Strength of the OS – 4.5 out of 5. Coming from Windows Mobile family and as an IT professional I still think the modern OSes lack Windows Mobile power. This includes Windows Phone 7 too. The update they give to the OS here on Skyrocket is Android 2.3.6, and it has fixed a good number of issues that 2.3.4 and 2.3.5 have. And this comes with TouchWiz 4, Samsung’s User Interface and User Experience, and now a days it feels more responsive than HTC Sense UI. HTC Sense UI used to be the best UI/UX on Android phones, TouchWiz 4.0 definitely beats it.

Display size – 5 out of 5. With its 4.52" 16M-color Super AMOLED Plus capacitive touchscreen of WVGA (480 x 800 pixel) resolution, I felt reading and replying to emails is super easy. Even though Vivid has 960 x 540 qHD TFT Super LCD display I see the deeper black levels and brighter colors on Skyrocket look better. With its deeper and brighter colors both photos and videos looked awesome, and the faster processor definitely helps the video presentation and the smooth video playback.

Processor – 5 out of 5. The processor is clocked at 1.5GHz, which is Scorpion dual-core CPU, Adreno 220 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 chipset, with 1GB of RAM. Pretty fast over HTC Vivid and you can clearly see this. In the past Samsung phones were bad over any HTC phones this includes Windows Mobile, but now it is the other way. Samsung phones are better than HTC phones in Android. But this year with Windows Phone HTC Titan, HTC Radar, HTC swaped the story, but thats a different story.

Battery life – 3.5 out of 5. This is understandable because Android is not optimized for battery life, and moreover the phone has bigger screen. I think Samsung should have gone for bigger battery.

Ease of use – 5 out of 5. TouchWiz 4.0 is very good interface and the User Experience of it is much better than MotoBlur. HTC Sense UI used to be the best, as far as I know, but this one is different and Samsung really improved it. Smoothness in scrolling and swiping you can clearly see. And of course User Experience on iOS or WP7 can’t be beaten anytime soon. Google should shake out itself and do research here and come out with unique UX instead of leaving it to its partners.

Form factor and weight – 4.5 out of 5. This is a bigger phone and short pockets and smaller hands feel it as larger device but in no way bigger than decent Dockers pants pockets or heavier than LG Quantum. In fact even at this sized screen the weight is 130gms and is definitely slim device. I have see Samsung Focus S as the slimmer device than this. But both are slim.

Media Support – 4.5 out of 5. Of course, you could get something from Amazon, Google Music, Netflix or even Samsung’s own media store and get from other websites and move it to device. But the selection is not even close to iTunes or Sony’s  MusicUnlimited or VideoUnlimited Services.  Quality of games on Android still fall behind iPhone or Windows Phone.

Longevity – 4 out 5. Any Android phone becomes outdated within few months if not weeks. This phone is definitely a long time keeper like Samsung Galaxy SII, HTC EVO 3D or HTC EVO 4G, but I still feel the same with Android phones unlike iPhones or Windows Phones. I used to feel the same with Windows Mobile phones I owned. They used to become old within few months because HTC used to release newer phones every quarter with updated specs.

Camera – 4.5 out of 5.  8 MP wide-angle lens autofocus camera with LED flash, face, smile and blink detection1080p HD video recording at 30fps, it can easily replace your Point and shoot cameras, but I felt HTC Vivid had better picture results than this. The Front Facing Camera is at 2 MP and it is great for Skyping clearly beast HTC to the corner.The camera is decent and I take out 0.5 out of it because of lack of optical zoom. The phone makers can easily put optical zoom to these lenses.

LTE and 4G – 5 out of 5. Here in my area we are still at HSPA+ and we would be getting LTE pretty soon. But at HSPA+ speeds I found this phone much faster than my Atrix 4G and HTC Vivid. I think it felt faster over Vivid because of its faster processor. I read online that LTE is much faster than Verizon’s. I will revisit this once I see LTE here locally.

Memory  and Storage – 5 out of 5. The phone comes with 1GB of RAM and16 GB of internal storage with hot swappable MicroSD card support up to 32GB.

Sensors – 5 out of 5. Except for NFC, rest of the sensors are supported by this device, GPS with A-GPS connectivity; Digital compass, Accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensor are there for your usage out of the box.

Flash and video playback – 5 out of 5. Full Flash support and GPU-acceleration for the web browser permit 1080p flash video playback are supported. This has the richest video formats support over the competition including the other platforms.

Connectivity – 5 out of 5. With Stereo Bluetooth® 3.0, dual band Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n, 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, micro-USB (5-pin micro-USB 2.0), it should be really good. Though I haven’t tested any of these specs. I also haven’t tested the DLNA capabilities of the phone. Yes, DLNA requires you to buy optional MHL adapter. Charging and TV Out are through this MHL port and TV Out is full HD (1080p) supported.

EcoSystem – 4.5 out of 5. Android Market and Amazon AppStore have pretty decent collection and the ability to side-load any app is a plus over iPhone or Windows Phone 7, where you have to either jailbreak or HomeBrew. The accessories are pretty much available and AT&T made the cases and screen protectors available for HTC Vivid on day one itself. I take out 0.5 because Google needs to clean the Market enforce stronger rules to play.

Document editing/File management – 4.5 out of 5. It comes with Document editor and full file manager as preinstalled software.

The only things I would love to see are dedicated camera button (which is totally absent), Out of the box support for NFC, and lesser resolution than HTC Vivid. Otherwise this phone would have gotten 5 out 5. I hope Samsung would engineer their future Galaxy lines to overcome these issues.

Overall I give 4.5 out of 5 for this phone and if Samsung and AT&T can update this device to Ice Cream Sandwich like they promised sometime soon, that would be awesome. Skyrocket is available in both black and white colors.