Samsung Galaxy S - 3 weeks in

My ageing iPhone 3G didn't take the update to iOS 4.0 very well. It still worked, but it seemed clunky and slow after the upgrade. Six weeks ago, I (conveniently) took this as a sign that I needed a new phone, and started considering my options. I could wait for the new shiny iPhone 4, or I could look at Android. It has been reported that Android has caught up to Apple now, both in terms of hardware and software. Of course, the biggest thing that everyone touted as the biggest advantage of moving to android was: freedom. Being a developer and nerd, this appealed to me.

So I went out and bought a Samsung Galaxy S I9000 (now there's a mouthful of a name...). Its got a big super amoled 4 inch screen, a very fast processor (reportedly faster than that in any other current phone), and came for free on a very reasonably priced Optus plan. I've had the phone for three weeks now, long enough for me to sort out any learning curves and kinks in the system, so I thought I'd post my impressions.

The biggest thing I noticed buying this phone was that it didn't "Just work" like an iPhone does. It turns out that there was a performance problem which detracted from the new phone feel that I expected. In order to get it working properly, I needed to go onto a bunch of technical forum sites and work out how to flash a new (leaked beta) firmware to fix the problem. Flashing was made even more difficult because they were windows only flashing tools, and they wouldn't work in a virtual machine on my mac. In the end, I needed to drag an old clunker machine out of the cupboard to get flashing to work.

The headphone jack also uses a different configuration to iPhones.  This means that I can't use my existing Sennheiser headset on the phone.  If I do, the sound ends up muddy and the lyrics almost disappear.  The supplied headphones are ok, but I'd still prefer to use my aftermarket headset.  Apparently Samsung have used the same configuration as Nokia, which makes some sense, but it still pisses me off that I need to use an adapter to get my headphones working.

Now that I've passed those problems, I can start to see why this is such a great phone. I now get twitter & yammer notifications on the phone in an unobtrusive way,  and there's no waiting for updates either.  On the iPhone, when there was a new message, a notification would appear, and when you clicked on "view" it took you to the application which then loaded the message (or whatever) from the internet.  This could take a few (up to 10) seconds.  On android, it loads the message first, then shows you the notification.  No waiting!

There's also widgets on the home screen. If I don't like the default home screen that Samsung Provides (TouchWiz 3.0) I can replace it with a number of open source alternatives that are much whizzier and glitzy. There's a cool little active background that makes the screen look like you can see through to a circuit board. There's just so much stuff!!!

Of course, there's also a downside to this. I installed a couple of different music players to try them out. When I pressed the "play music" button on my headset, all of them started at once :S. I worked out how to fix this, but its another example of not "Just working".  I also need to do a bit of research when I want an application, because there isn't just one way of doing it.

For work, there's exchange support built in, so it works just as well as an iPhone in that department.  There's also an office docs reader built in, and all the applications we are used to such as dropbox work as well, if not better than on the iPhone.

Battery life is okay.  Its taken a while to settle down into a pattern, but I'm now getting almost two days between charges, including moderate usage.  The firmware upgrade has been a big help here.

Finally, there's the looks. I have to admit that one reason for moving away from iPhone was that everyone has one now. Sadly, the I9000 doesn't help here, because it looks exactly like an iPhone 3GS.  They even copied the packaging with the phone coming in a little black cardboard box.   Its so similar I'm surprised apple didn't sue them. Oh well, its a pretty vain reason to want to change.

PROS:
  1. The screen is gorgeous.
  2. There's a lot of choice of applications
  3. lots of storage - 16Gb internal, which I have since augmented with a 32Gb MicroSD card to give me a total of 48Gb.
  4. SWYPE is a great text input method
  5. Google integration is great
  6. When Android 2.2 comes out, it will get much faster.
CONS:

  • Performance problem - Now Solved!
  • Doesn't like OS X very much
  • There's a lot of choice of applications
  • The Games aren't as good.
  • Only available on Optus at the moment.  I would have preferred to stay on Telstra Prepaid


All in all, now that I've sorted out my performance problem, I'm very happy with my new phone. I like the choice that I get, and I'm willing to invest the time it takes to tweak the experience to my taste. In the end, I suppose thats the difference between the masses and the nerds: Some are willing to be told the best way to do something, whilst others prefer to tread their own path (or at least the path that is shown them by a bunch of other nerds on a forum)

Now, to work out how to program the thing!

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