One Month Of Using Samsung Galaxy S

It has been a month since I bought my Samsung Galaxy S Android phone, and I thought I’d share some real world experiences with you.

Those of you looking to buy this phone may be wondering how the phone works in real life. What is the truth behind all the marketing?

Performance

First of all, I’m going to talk about speed and performance. I have not been disappointed so far.

It really runs any app I can throw at it smoothly and seamlessly.

However.

The browser is slow. I don’t think this problem happens to just the Samsung Galaxy S. I think this is a common problem for all Webkit phone browsers. You click on the link and have to wait a few seconds for the page to load. Even on Wifi.

If you are used to browsing the web on computers, then you will find the wait a little frustrating. I tried using the Opera Mini Browser and it does help a bit, but still not up to computers speed.

The phone does not hang, but some of the applications I installed have memory leaks. Memory leaks happen when an application does not release memory that it does not use any more. So after a while, the available memory drops and you have to reboot your phone.

Update: I rooted my phone and installed a lag fix using RyanZA 1-Click Lag Fix app (you can get it from the Market) and now it’s blazing fast!

Camera

Although the camera is 5MP, I still find that there is a difference between the phone 5MP and my Nikon 5MP.

I read somewhere before that mega pixels alone do not determine the quality of the image. It also depends on the sensor size and the lens.

So when it comes to taking casual photos, the phone is fine. But for other photos I prefer to stick with a DSLR.

Videos have turned out fine though. The speaker is really sensitive, so the audio captured is really clear and loud.

Somehow I get the feeling that the camera is optimized for video rather than still photos. You can see a sample of food photos taken indoors.

GPS and Gyroscope

This is the first time I had a GPS on my phone, so I didn’t know what to expect.

As with other GPS, you need to be outdoors (or at least see the sky) before it can work. I really don’t know how to evaluate if the GPS is good or bad, but it does a good job tracking your exact location.

The best thing are the apps that use GPS.

First of all, I use Foursquare to check in to the different places I go to.

Then there are map software like Google Maps, MapDroyd and a nice one called Waze. Waze is like a live traffic report. You see the map and can inform other drivers when there’s a traffic jam.

I usually scan this app before I go home, to see which roads have traffic jam. You can even chat with other drivers that are nearby.

There are also many cool AR (augmented reality) applications like Layar, which allows you to scan your camera around you to see any nearby places of interest. You can choose restaurants, ATMs, petrol stations or even houses for sale.

Then there is Google Sky. You can point your phone at the sky and it shows you the exact position of constellations.

And I also tried Celeste (Lite), which tells you the position of the sun, moon, and planets with their orbit path!

Applications

I mentioned in my first review that you can’t buy apps from the Android Market at this moment. Google Checkout is not available to Malaysians yet, so we only have access to free apps.

Many nice (free) applications are also unavailable to us Malaysians.

Some of these are:

  1. Google Voice (allows you to make free calls)
  2. Skype
  3. Amazon Kindle

I am seriously thinking about rooting my phone so I can install an app (Market Enabler) that spoofs your location so you can have full access to the market.

How are the free applications then?

You can find a lot of good ones in the Android Market, but you need time to browse. You can get the standard ones like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, EverNote and WordPress.

But when you can’t buy apps, you are restricted to trial or lite versions of applications. One warning though, a lot of ‘naughty’ apps are in the Android Market too.

You can find Android versions (or imitations) of most popular iPhone apps.

Android phones are really integrated with Google applications, so it’s great if you are a GMail, Picasa, and Google Tasks/Calendar user.

I can even search Google using my voice (but it doesn’t understand Malaysian accent so I have to speak. proper. English).

One final thing to mention about apps: you are not restricted to a single channel to install applications (like iTunes). You can install any app as long as you can find the proper installation file. This gives you the freedom of buying applications from third party websites or even download pirated applications if you choose.

Phone and Messaging

I almost forget that my Samsung Galaxy S is a phone. Honestly I don’t make or get many phone calls, so I hardly use the phone and messaging functions.

But so far, I don’t have any problems with call reception or call quality.

Even though the Samsung Galaxy S has signal attenuation when you apply the ‘death grip’ on it, it doesn’t drop the call. The reception drops two bars when you hold the bottom part of the phone.

Things I Enjoy Doing

I really like how the phone allows me to do the things I used to do with my Dell PDA, and much much more. I primarily use my Samsung Galaxy S to:

  1. Tweet and Facebook while stuck in traffic jams
  2. Take photos and videos of my kids and post online immediately
  3. Navigate my way home and avoid traffic jams (using Waze)
  4. Read e-books
  5. Play games (right now playing Galaxia. Army code 559ED. Add me)
  6. Have instant access to the Internet

Things I Can’t Do

Some of the things that I can’t do are:

  1. Check my email. Reading a few emails is fine, but the screen is too small to scan through lots of email quickly.
  2. Blog. The WordPress app is fine for approving comments and creating drafts, but somehow I can’t get images to appear in posts. Plus, it’s too tiring trying to type a thousand word post (even using the amazing Swype input method) using just my fingers. I still need to use a keyboard because I’m frequently selecting text, cutting and pasting.
  3. Get paid applications. I’d really like to get the Kindle app because I love reading and want to stop buying physical books. Please do something quickly Amazon!

Looking Forward

In summary, I still have no regrets. Its okay that most people don’t have a clue about Android phones or what they are capable of.

I’m looking forward to the Froyo update for my phone, especially with the speed improvements and tighter integration with desktop Chrome.

I *heart* my Samsung Galaxy S.

Samsung is also coming out with a Samsung Galaxy tablet soon, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it compares with the iPad.

Samsung Galaxy S

Just bought a Samsung GT-I9000 Galaxy S at the Maxis Center in Sunway!

Took advantage of the promotion from Maxis, and got the phone for RM1699. I was thinking so hard about this, knowing that I could not afford a smartphone like the iPhone.

I love it!

Update: Read my experience after using Samsung Galaxy S for one month!

samsung galaxy s box

Why I Chose the Samsung Galaxy S over the iPhone 4

  1. It’s an Android phone. The open source OS really appeals to me.
  2. Both phones are evenly matched in terms of processing speed and features.
  3. The Samsung Galaxy S is cheaper.
  4. The iPhone 4 seems to have a lot of issues
  5. The iPhone 4 will probably take half a year to arrive here, and cost 3K plus for phone and data plan

Features and Design

The exterior of the phone looks rather like an iPhone 3GS. You can check out Samsung Galaxy S or “vs iPhone 4” reviews on YouTube to see the phone in action.

Like the iPhone, this Android phone has no physical buttons at the front except for the home button.

The 4 inch Super AMOLED screen is one of the best in the market today. Of course the screen resolution cannot compare to the iPhone Retina IPS display, but I can’t see any pixellation when I put the phone close to my eyes. So I don’t know if the retina display would have been an improvement (for me) or not.

The size of the phone is not too wide, it is slimmer than the iPhone 3GS and fits well in my jeans pocket.

Some online reviewers mentioned that the plastic back makes the phone look cheap, but you can’t really tell that it’s plastic until you touch it (and it doesn’t look cheap!)

The battery life is average. I was playing with the phone for four hours straight (not even watching movies) and it used up 50% of the battery. So I would say that the iPhone still wins in the battery life category.

The phone comes with 16GB of internal storage, but there is a Micro SD card slot that can handle 32GB cards so you have virtually limitless storage capacity.

You don’t have to take off the battery to swap the Micro SD card, which is quite convenient (but you still have to remove the back cover).

It has all the standard connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wifi, which you can turn off to conserve battery life. You can even connect wirelessly to Samsung TVs and play HD video from your phone!

samsung galaxy s bootup

The Software and Apps

Samsung’s Android UI is a bit different compared to HTC or Motorola, but I guess it’s pretty much standard (they’re all like the iPhone).

What I love about the Android OS is they allow you to change wallpapers, have live widgets (like clocks or a stock counter) on your home screen, change fonts.

You can even have live wallpapers! Live wallpapers are wallpapers that change whenever you tilt your phone or touch the screen.

I guess the trade off here is the increased battery usage.

Another thing I love is Swype! Swype is an input method where you slide your finger across keyboard characters instead of typing one by one (Poey Chin says it’s like the Zorro method). It’s surprisingly accurate (even if you miss a few characters) and amazingly fast.

As for the apps… well… let’s just say you need to search for the gems in the midst of the junk. I’m not sure if the Apple App Store has this problem, but there is a lot of low quality apps that don’t deserve to be listed. Even the ‘recommended apps’ don’t look appealing.

Oh, and we are not allowed to purchase apps in Malaysia, so we can only use the free apps (though I’m sure there’s some way to get around this).

But not to worry, there are 100,000 apps out there. In fact, just now when I was browsing the market, I downloaded more than 15 apps!

I have yet to try a lot of apps, so I can’t really comment on the quality of apps. But so far the coolest thing I’ve found is an app that allows you to scan in a barcode (via the camera) and connect to an online store to check reviews and compare prices.

I’m looking forward for the upgrade to Android 2.2, which promises faster performance, integration with Chrome and many other features.

The phone has GPS and Google Maps, but I have yet to test out this feature on the road.

The phone comes with an eBook reader that read ePub format books. I tried to get Kindle but I guess it’s not available in Malaysia either.

Data Usage

Since I’ve subscribed to Maxis 500MB data plan, I have to be very careful about my 3G data usage.

The first thing I did was to install an app (3G Watchdog) to monitor my 3G data and warn me if I exceed a certain quota.

The second thing I did was to setup my iMac to share it’s internet connection via Airport, so in essence I got a free WiFi hotspot at home.

But my advice to you is to turn off automatic and background updating tasks unless you are on WiFi. How I wish there was an app to automatically enable or disable those settings depending if there was WiFi available.

Camera and Video

The 5MP camera is comparable to some point and shoot compact digital cameras out there.

Special features include touch-to-zoom, smile detection, image stabilizer, exposure adjustment.

The camera does rather well in low light conditions. The following photo of baby Daryl taken at night, with yellow wall light and no flash (the phone doesn’t have LED flash).

The video camera can shoot in HD, and the audio capture is really loud and sharp.

There is a camera at the front of the phone, which allows me to make video calls.

Android Fanboy or Apple Fanboy?

I don’t really care if the Samsung Galaxy S is touted as the iPhone 4 killer, because I personally feel both phones have advantages and disadvantages.

I love Apple computers and would probably continue to buy iMacs and maybe an iPad. If given an iPhone, I would grab it immediately.

But I also love the Android ecosystem and all the cool things happening there.

So I would say that I’m neither an Android or an Apple fanboy. I just love things that work well. It doesn’t mean that I love or hate a company because I bought a product from a competitor.

samsung galaxy s

Conclusion

I just love the phone so much, because it combines a phone, camera, eBook reader, personal organizer, portable gaming system and so much more.

I guess any modern smartphone would make me happy, but I don’t regret buying the Samsung Galaxy S.

If you remember, I bought a Proton Persona SE for the same reasons. Lots of value added features at a lower price.

I’m happy that I managed to buy something I really wanted (giving in to spending temptation again), but then again it was at a good price.