Samsung Galaxy S II, The best Android Smartphone ever?

Whenever i hear such a claim, on any product for that matter, i always wonder what is the context of the “best”. You see unless the product excels in all departments, i.e. it is the purrrrr -fect product in comparison to its competitors (see there is still a context) it can’t be the best.

Take the category of smartphone as an example. I would rate HTC for its famed Sense experience, which help to ramp up a newbie experience with Android (and Windows Mobile previously). On the other hand I see SonyEricsson being in the leader in its camera functionality having used its Xperia Arc and compared it with all the Galaxy S series. That said, HTC Sense is getting too complicated as the company tries to be sophisticated for its products to be ‘smart’. But I have digressed.

So when I read reports that raved the new Samsung Galaxy S II as the best Android smartphone to date I thought it is a bold statement. Don’t get me wrong as I think it is yet another fine product by the Korean company but that statement needs to be contextualized.

Improvement wise there’re plenty to talk about, whether we are pitting it against its predecessor (Samsung Galaxy S) or its competitors. The setup experience is more seamless now, mostly with the help of Android Gingerbread OS. All my previously installed apps were restored once I signed in my Google account. The only gripe I have on the restoration process is that the user data were not reinstated which means i have to rely back on backup apps like titanium backup. In any case, this is a default Google (Gingerbread) feature so I can’t fault Samsung for this.

The other significant improvement is its home launcher. The infamous TouchWiz, labelled as iPhone wannabe previously, may have some traces of iPhone footprint in the latest version. It may not be the best home launcher in the market today, but it definitely (and finally) has its own DNA with neat features such as its nifty widget management functionality. Hopefully the Korean continues to build on the success of its software, just as it has demonstrated for its hardware. After all, the marriage of software and hardware is what makes the phone (or any electronic gadget for that matter) smarter 🙂

The biggest improvement, as both techies and newbies will attest to unanimously,  is the speed. While the newbies may likely pay tribute to the obvious dual core processor, the more knowledgeable one would point out the plenty of RAM memory available (about 400MB). Talk to the techie, especially those who had previously owned the lag-troubled SGS,  you will be enlightened that the (other) key contributor of the performance boost is the choice of file system used in the new SGS II. No more crappy RFS, Samsung’s version of FAT file system. Samsung has finally embraced the EXT4 file system wholly, and in that light, it is a testament that they do listen to its customers feedback, especially the voices of xda-developers.

Having used HTC Desire HD and Sony Ericsson Xperia earlier (not forgetting SGS), I personally prefer the new Samsung Galaxy S II over the former two. It doesn’t mean SGS II beats both phones hands down.(eh, although the bias side of me may say that, especially against HTC Desire HD). No matter how complicated HTC has transformed its Sense experience into, it is clearly still the leader in this space at this moment with its rich features (widget offering, remote phone management, etc). New Android users, especially those jump-camping from iPhone camp, will appreciate this. What left me with a sour note on HTC products is its mediocre hardware offering, particularly its LCD display and camera. The LCD display differentiator, lies not about how many pixels the manufacturer can squeeze into that 3-4 inch of physical screen (retina display anyone?), but how it renders the color of the images (still or motion), as close to the reality as possible. The same goes for the camera compartment. This is where Xperia Arc’s BRAVIA® Engine (for its reality display) and Exmor R™ for mobile CMOS sensor easily thrash HTC Desire HD. Xperia Arc however disappointed me with its measly storage and memory (I ran out of internal storage space after restoring all my apps, and my available RAM is always less than 100MB!). Coupled that with a “fat” bloatware installation footprint, it is a recipe for disasterous performance.

Video Sample of SGS II, 720P mode

As an advanced user, I can definitely overcome most, if not all, of these software deficiencies in SGS II, vis-a-visa HTC Desire HD (and probably all the HTC products as well). SGS II’s Super AMOLED+ is a worthy competitor to SonyEricsson’s BRAVIA® Engine, so it is hard to call out who is the world-beater here, at least to my naked eyes. On the other hand, SonyErcisson’s Exmor R™ CMOS sensor is the clear winner to me for its exceptional low-light sensitivity. However, SGS II camera sensor is no pushover (except for taking photos in poor lighting condition). Thus, it was a close fight between Arc and SGS II for me, but the latter eventually won me over for its extravagant storage and memory,  dual core for future proofing, not forgetting a wider base of xda-developers support.

Nice back cover finishing with some curve design

In a nutshell, is SGS II a perfect (Android) smartphone? No unless you set the right context. That said, if somebody were to ask me, I would rate SGS II and Xperia Arc highly with SGS II taking the lead over Arc by a hairline margin. As for HTC Desire HD (and probably Sensation), probably a distant 3rd.

Note: Don’t take the last statement too seriously, I am just utterly disappointed by HTC products after all these years of owning the likes of HD, HD2,  Desire, Desire HD 😀

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