Samsung Galaxy S 2

[MWC] The Samsung Galaxy S 2 was bound to be announced at MWC and it is now official. The evolution of Samsung’s most successful smartphone platform has arrived and it sits on four pillars: display, performance, software and design. We’ll go over all of them, but overall, the Galaxy S 2 seems to be a very good upgrade from the original version – especially when you consider the weight: at 116g, it feels *incredibly* light in your hand (and pocket!).

1/ Display

Samsung Galaxy S 2

Samsung has made sure that sample photos demonstrate brilliantly the superior contrast and saturation of Super AMOLED Plus

The display performance has long been Samsung’s signature: its devices have been getting the OLED treatment for a while now, and so far, LG’s IPS is the only display technology that Samsung seems to perceive as a real threat, and for good reason: IPS LCD powers the display of the iPhone 4 and the iPad, two critically acclaimed devices for their screen quality (the Optimus 2X is really good too). IPS also consumes less power than AMOLED in many situations and can be built with a higher pixel density.

That said, Samsung’s Super AMOLED has better contrast and saturation, and it makes it easier to build thinner displays, reducing the overall device thickness (at 8.49mm, the Galaxy S 2 is indeed very thin). Samsung can’t really match the pixel density of IPS LCD without running into power consumption troubles, so it pitches a better “image quality” instead which somewhat subjective and harder to measure.

Anyhow, both display technologies are very cool and it’s hard to pick a winner at this point. I personally prefer IPS because the color rendering is closer to reality, but that’s my personal preference.

2/ Performance

Samsung Galaxy S 2

How fast is this dual-core processor? We can't wait to benchmark it

Samsung is saying that it is using a dual-core application processor (or system on a chip / SoC). This is new, and while I thought during our live blogging that Samsung might be using a third party chip (like Tegra 2), the lack of bragging about 1080p video encode and decode makes me think that this is in fact not Tegra 2 at all (I’ve got confirmation that this is not Tegra 2). In any case, a dual-core processor is a good thing and it should help with web browsing and Javascript speed, among other things.  We can’t wait to benchmark it to see how fast it is.

3/ Software

Samsung understands that the level of shininess of a device isn’t enough for a decisive win, so it has decided to beef up its software offering with  a few things:

a/ Security: Samsung is trying to go deep into business territory and claims to match the best level of security, encryption, virtual private network and apps . Most consumers don’t really mind about that stuff, but this could be big for Samsung and in Barcelona, Samsung did imply that it was aiming at Blackberry.

Voice controls always seems like a good idea, but most people still tap on the virtual keyboard

b/ Voice: A good chunk of the Galaxy S 2 launch was about voice commands and how it would make everything easier. It’s true that this sounds really cool, but we’ve learned to be cautious with that. Google’s voice feature worked pretty darn well, but even that wasn’t enough to get people to speak to their phones instead of using the slow virtual keyboards. For voice commands to reach the level that Samsung envisions, we simply need to have much better algorithms.

c/ Synchronization software:  Samsung’s “Kies” is a software that adds wireless synchronization with your desktop. You  can look at it as an iTunes for Samsung phones, except that it is much more oriented towards “phone management” than “content consumption”. This is an interesting differentiator, although we don’t expect this to provide a definitive edge.

d/ Consumer security:  Samsung also offers things like remote tracking, wipe and other functions that are very useful if you lose your phone. Apple and Microsoft offer these kinds of functions, but in the Android world, it’s actually not common at all.

There’s much more in terms of software, but these two were some of the “new” things.

4/ Design

Samsung Galaxy S 2

Is that thin enough for you?

Samsung loves design, and that’s partly how the company has taken market share from formidable competitors like Sony in the past. With the Galaxy S 2, Samsung has managed to build a very light (116g) device that has what is considered to be an enormous display. This is no small feat, and that’s one thing that feels really great when you hold the device. Now, it’s true, there’s a plastic feel to it, but you know what – plastic is lighter than metal.


Samsung Galaxy S 2

In terms of usability, the Samsung Galaxy S 2 is an evolution that adds features and comfort. To be fair, Samsung has done a great deal of work on the software side of things, but what most people drooled on after the unveiling was the 4.3 screen and the feather-weight. This shows that design is still tremendously important, even if all the other bits that “makes it work” is something that will reinforce (or not) the initial “desire” towards a handset. “We need to make devices that people want” Samsung said at CES 2011 – the Galaxy S 2 is certainly one of them, although we can’t recommend it before having actually tested the final version, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, did you read our Samsung Nexus S Review?

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