Summary and Conclusion
Put simply, the Galaxy S II is possibly the best Android phone we've laid our hands on to date. Of course, the qualifier to that statement is that new Android phones are hitting the market on what seems like a weekly basis, so the champ today may not be the champ tomorrow. It's a brutal market out there, and while it's great for consumers in one sense, it's also tough to know when to bite the bullet and buy a phone. Much like beige boxes in the 90s, you can bet that by the time you get a device home, it'll probably be outclassed by something else rather quickly. Sure enough, the Galaxy S II was the only commercial 1.2GHz, dual-core phone for a while, but now that the HTC EVO 3D is out, it no longer has that distinction.
The folks at Samsung clearly focused on the design and performance of this device. When this phone was launched at MWC, it was said to carry a 1GHz CPU. That clearly didn't work out so well back at HQ, where Samsung delayed the phone long enough to get a faster 1.2GHz dual-core processor in there. Furthermore, the chassis itself is lighter and thinner than the iPhone 4. It's been tough for handset makers to match or beat Apple in many areas, so for Samsung to beat it in a handful of categories proves Samsung's mettle.
This phone also isn't for everyone from a price and availability standpoint. It's not available (yet) on any U.S. carrier, so the only way to get one is to import an i9100 model that was originally destined for another region. It's possible, yes, but it costs nearly $700. But of course, that's the price you pay for having an unlocked phone (one that can accept local SIMs from foreign countries if you happen to travel a lot), as well as getting that "Home" button beneath the screen. We wouldn't be surprised to see that button vanish on the U.S. models due to the legal spat that's ongoing between Apple and Samsung. It's just a little too much like the iOS Home button, but it's something we dig about the global build of this handset.
Generally speaking, we're not big fans of bloatware. Thankfully, TouchWiz 4.0 is anything but. The gentle enhancements to Android 2.3 are useful, and we found ourselves missing them when using a phone that lacked the UI overlay. These also have no impact at all on performance, which is a huge factor. Even Samsung's Music player overall provides you with a better experience. We won't hesitate to say that TouchWiz is our favorite (at the moment, anyway) of the major Android skins, as it doesn't really "skin" Android so much as add simple improvements here and there.
Sure, there are a few things that could've been improved with the Galaxy S II. A qHD screen would've been appreciated, but the sheer beauty of this WVGA Super AMOLED display makes it hard to complain. We would've liked to see a few more built-in camera color effects (Samsung could craft their own sort of Instagram, for example), but beyond a few minor quibbles, it's easy to be thoroughly impressed with this phone. The most obvious downside is the price. It's pushing $700, which is steep even for a cutting-edge, unlocked GSM smartphone. If you're the target market for this, as someone who travels a lot, doesn't enjoy being tied down to cellular contracts and is a lover of Android, it's worth every penny. If you're one to balk at the price from the outset, it's likely nothing will convince you that it's worthwhile. The Galaxy S II is definitely a polarizing device with a ton of upside, and we suspect it'll sell quite well once it hits the states later this month with a subsidized deal behind it to defray cost.