Samsung Galaxy S: a review of some sort (and also tips and tricks!)

Wed25Aug2010

Current home screen of my Galaxy S

(note: Bahasa Indonesia menyusul)

I bought myself a Samsung Galaxy S cellphone in July, and here's my review after almost a month of usage.

First of all, the facts:

  • Shipped with Android 2.1 (Eclair) update to Android 2.2 (Froyo) will be available September 2010.
  • Processor: ARM Cortex A8 1GHz processor
  • Display: Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors. Size: 480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches
  • Primary Camera resolution: 5 MP, 2592 x 1944 pixels (photo), 720p@30fps(video) , autofocus. No-Flash.
  • Secondary (front facing) Camera resolution: VGA.
  • Network Connections: Wifi, GPRS, Bluetooth
  • Battery: around 18 hrs normal usage (GPRS / Wifi switched off when not in use). Please note that this is based on my own usage of the phone. Your mileage may vary.

A Short Review

The Samsung Galaxy S is a very capable phone with beautiful  screen to look at. The Super AMOLED screen is undoubtably one of the main attractions of this phone. It is also the main power gobbler. A glance at the power usage screen will confirm this. On my phone, the screen consumes around 60% of battery power. The display is covered with Gorilla Glass, the same material that is used for the iPhone4. This material is very durable, although not invincible, you can see a video of someone testing this glass here.

Phone calls are loud and crisp, no signal lost if you hold it 'the wrong way' ;). I mean, you can touch it on a particular spot to kill the signal reception, but that spot is nowhere near where your hands will be in normal usage. See a video about it here.

The response is fast and snappy. You can swipe between screens with almost no lag. Opening and closing apps can be done without too much lag too. Although larger apps tend to create more lag, but it's almost nonexistent. Some people have reported they encounter considerable lags with their phones though. If you're unlucky enough to encounter such problem you can install this fix, be warned though, this fix would work only on rooted phones (see more about rooting below).

The main weakness of this phone is the crappy GPS reception. It seems to have problems locking onto a GPS satellite. When it does lock, your location jumps around on your screen. Considering the hardware, I suspect that this is a software problem (which was confirmed by Samsung's official tweet, read it here). So if GPS navigation is crucial to you and you really want to have this phone, I suggest you hold off your purchase for the moment and wait for the firmware update that will fix this problem. A temporary fix is available here in case you're looking. I've tried the fix and it does make locking onto satellites a bit faster and more accurate, I can't guarantee anything though.

Coming from a very well built Nokia handset (the E71), the Galaxy S hardware left me with some things to desire. The back panel for example, feels a bit too plasticky for this beast of a handset. Once you open that back plate you can see the very well built battery chamber, which makes me wonder why they didn't make the back plate using a more similar material.

The Galaxy S has an input method that few other phones have: Swype. This feature really helps in text input on touchscreen devices. see the video here.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with this phone (aside from it's GPS performance.. or lack thereof). The 3D graphic performance is really great, the response is snappy. The beautiful display is guaranteed to make people around you to at least glance on it ( ..and your friends will ask you if they can play with it :) ).

 

Turning Off Data Connection

The first thing I noticed when I bought this phone was that it doesn't have an option to turn off the Data Connection (GPRS / 3G) to have this option you should install the SwitchPro app, or if you can't find it, create a fake APN (I named mine 'off' for easy recognition). I recommend doing either one to avoid unwanted data connection charges.

To create this fake APN, tap on the Menu button (the one on the left of the home button. On the pop-up menu, click Settings > Wireless and Network > Mobile Network Settings > Access Point Names. Once on the Access Point Names screen, tap on the menu button again, and tap the New APN button. For this fake APN, you only have to fill in the Name and APN, you can leave the other fields empty.

Now that you have created this fake APN, you only have to select it on the Access Point Names screen to turn your Data Connection off.

 

Task Management

By default, Android will manage your applications, and turn off applications that it doesn't need or in use. However, I find there are certain moments you want to be able to turn off the applications yourself to preserve battery life or a number of other reasons. To do this you can download the Advanced Task Killer app from the Market, just use the name as keyword on the search box.

task managerYou won't have to download this app if your device came with the DXJG4 firmware (or later firmwares) though, to check this, you can long-press the home button until the recent application box pops up, if your SGS is running DXJG4 or later firmwares, you should see a Task Manager bar on that box. Click on that bar and you'll see a list of running applications, you can end each task individually, or click End All to close all running apps.

If your SGS runs on an older firmware and you'd rather update it to DXJG4 than installing the Advanced Task Killer app, you can do so using Samsung Kies, a PC suite of some sort for Samsung phones. See below.

 

 

Samsung Kies, Updating Firmware & Backing Up Your Phone

Samsung Kies is Samsung's PC suite, a software to sync their phones with the PC, to install this you'll need a PC running Windows, and download the software here: http://www.samsungapps.com/about/onPc.as . Install this software to your machine, and plug your phone into the PC with the supplied USB cable.

On my computer, the Kies had a problem in connecting with the phone, some times it just don't recognize the phone at all. To troubleshoot this problem, click the Kies button on the top left of the Kies display, on the rolldown menu that shows up, click the option Restore Phone Drivers (or something like that :D don't fret, it's easily recognizeable). Wait a few moments while the Kies downloads the drivers and restoring it, and try connecting the phone to the PC again once its done.

To update the firmware on your phone, click the Update Firmware button on the lower right part of the Kies. The button has an icon that looks like a cellphone with an arrow on it's side. Wait for Kies to make it's diagnostics, and when the pop-up window shows up you can choose to update your phone. When updating the firmware of your phone, please stay calm and follow the instructions step-by-step. This process can be a bit scary to some people as there is some risk to brick your phone, but if you don't panic and follow the instructions carefully nothing should go wrong. DON'T panic and cut off the process in the middle even if it seems like your phone just lie there doing nothing. Leave the phone be --unless you're prompted to do otherwise-- make a cup of coffee, read a magazine, relax. :)

Now updating the firmware WILL wipe out all your data. All the SMS / text messages, contacts, and apps on the phone will be wiped out. Please backup your data before you update the firmware.

The Kies can store your contacts and restore them to your phone if you need it to. It WON'T be able to restore the SMS / text messages you backed up on your PC to your phone, however. If you want to backup your SMS / text messages and the ability to restore them to your phone, you can download an app called SMS Backup+ from the market. This app will backup your SMS to a google account of your choosing, and restore it when you need it.

To backup your apps so you don't have to install them one by one, you'd need to install the Titanium Backup app which you can find on the Market. This app will need your phone to be rooted. To understand what rooting your phone means please read this post, see question no.9 on the list. To root your phone easily, you can go here. Rooting has its risks, it can potentially brick your phone, so if you're not sure you want to do this, don't.

 

Notable Apps

Here are a few apps I use on daily basis, and have found quite useful (you can search for them on the market):3D app drawer, click to view full size

  1. LauncherPro
    Home replacement app, to change the look of the home screens and app drawers of your phone. It also includes the nifty 3D app drawer you can see to the right
  2. SwitchPro
    A widget to switch on/off various settings on your phone.
  3. SMS Backup+
    Backs up your SMS / text messages to a google mail account, and restore it into your phone.
  4. Twitter
    Android twitter client.
  5. Tumblr
    Android tumblr client.
  6. Facebook
    Android facebook client.
  7. Meebo
    An IM client. Supports Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, ICQ, and several others.
  8. XDA app
    An app to read the XDA-developers forums on your phone.
  9. Engadget app
    An app to read the well-known tech blog on your phone
  10. Dropbox
    enables you to share a folder with other PCs and phones, go to their website here.
  11. Home Switcher
    If you installed LauncherPro, you should install this app, it enables you to switch between launchers easily. You'll need this mainly because Kies only supports connection if the phone is using the default home screen / launcher.
  12. Ringtone
    An app to search for ringtones, and create one yourself using the MP3 files you have on your phone. You can crop sound files with this app.
  13. MP3 Download Lite
    If you're looking for MP3 files.
Blog Tags: android, cellphone, galaxy s, handphone, review, samsung, technology, tips and tricks

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