Samsung Galaxy S Initial Review

For the past week I’ve been using a new Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy S (and specifically, the AT&T version of it branded Samsung Captivate). In general, the Galaxy S is a really nice phone, and is a very welcome addition to the growing list of high end Android devices. It’s running Android 2.1 for now, but the 2.2 OTA update is scheduled for some time in September, so Froyo goodness and the ability to run Flash is right around the corner.
So, after using the Google Nexus One since it came out, how does the Galaxy S compare? Here’s the scoop:

  • The phone is fast, really really fast. It has a 1GHz processor, just like the Nexus One, but is unquestionably faster, and is far more responsive. And everything is faster, from web browsing to switching apps to scrolling contacts to Google Gestures reindexing, it’s all fast fast fast.
  • I’m also not experiencing any of the jumps or lags that Nexus One suffers from, that’s huge!
  • The Samsung Galaxy S is a big phone, it’s taller and wider than both the Nexus One and iPhone. But it’s also really thin, and has a very pleasing contoured back that makes it very comfortable to hold.
  • The 4-inch Super AMOLED screen is spectacular, as good as HTC EVO and iPhone 4, maybe even better.
  • Call quality (yep, I do use phones for calls sometimes) is superb. And far fewer dropped calls.
  • Bluetooth support is just about perfect, and call quality via Bluetooth is one of the best of any phone I have used.
  • Wi-Fi on the Galaxy S is superb. Side by side with the Nexus One and iPhone, the Galaxy S gets a better signal, connects faster, stays connected longer, and never seems to drop its connection.
  • The Samsung Exchange mail client is orders of magnitude better than the one that comes with Android 2.2. However, it too does not allow messages to be filed in folders. Grrr!
  • Built in Swype is really nice, and once you get used to it, Swype is blazingly fast.
  • Battery life is great, I’ve not done side-by-side tests, but it is easily outlasting Nexus One, and by a significant margin.


  • Way too much bundled AT&T software, much of which won’t even run without forking out extra $s, some of which won’t run at all, and none of which can be easily removed. Not cool.
  • I really dislike the 4 soft keys at the bottom. I am fine with Samsung reordering them, you get used to that quickly. But the back-light is terrible, each time it turns off you can’t find the keys until you touch one of them and inadvertently touch the wrong one. That’s a serious design flaw.
  • No external LED, so if you have sound turned off or miss an audio alert (text message, email, missed call) you’ll not know by just looking at the phone, you need to actually power the screen. While I never really used the track ball on the Nexus One as a track ball, I am finding myself really missing it as a glowing LED.
  • Pick up the phone and you can’t instinctively feel which way is up and which way is down (contrast that to Nexus One with its trackball or iPhone with its single button at the bottom). I keep picking up the phone and trying to press the power button only to realize I am holding it upside down! Irritating.
  • While it’s nice to see Samsung using USB connectors for charging (instead of the ever changing proprietary connectors they’ve used in the past), they put the USB port on this phone under a little sliding door – which is fine, except for the fact that the port is therefore recessed so many USB cables can’t reach in far enough to connect properly.
  • The social networking integration just does not work properly, contacts don’t quite sync up, and lists don’t seem to propagate properly. This is very strange because Android 2.1 did this well on Nexus One, so I have to assume it’s the Samsung mods that are responsible for this.
  • Here’s a bad one, so bad that it may be unforgivable (as in this is a deal breaker for me), the option to install apps from Unknown Sources has been removed! This may be an AT&T issue, not a Samsung one, but blocking app installation is outrageous. If I wanted to pay for a phone only to be told what I could and could not install on it I’d have bought an iPhone! Big fat fail!

Bottom line, this is a really nice phone. It’s fast, powerful, and fun to use. It has a few design flaws (like the lack of an LED and the poorly placed USB port), but I suppose you’d get used to those. As for the application blocking, there are rumors that this arbitrary restriction will be lifted in the pending Android 2.2 update. If that happens then Samsung Galaxy S may indeed be my new phone (well, until something better comes along).

9 responses to “Samsung Galaxy S Initial Review”

  1. Nick Collins Avatar
    Nick Collins

    I have an HTC EVO with Froyo and Sprint has blocked native tethering on it as well, unless you pay for the $30 option to use it. That said, I have and it works very well. Even supports AES encryption of wireless data when using it as a wifi hotspot

  2. Big Mad Kev Avatar
    Big Mad Kev

    I’ve been looking at Samsung for a while, now my other half got the samsung wave, and I found even on that which is a Baba Device that the action buttons seemed to be the wrong way round. i.e. save on the left rather then the right – Unless the phone or samsung designers design for left handed people it doesn’t feel right to me 😉
    Any way – Certainly the Galaxy S or as you say what ever is next will be my upgrade from the iPhone 3gs in Marh 2011 though I do like the look of the Samsung Tab 🙂

  3. Raymond Camden Avatar
    Raymond Camden

    Ben – can you post back here when 2.2 ships and let us know if the ability to install apps from unknown sources issue is fixed?
    I’m loving Android, and the Nexus One aint bad, but I’m looking for something a bit shinier. 😉 My current favorite for a replacement is the Droid X.

  4. TomasF Avatar

    The Galaxy S is really nice, but I have to say after trying it I was so disappointed with the Touchwiz ui "enhancement" I had to hug my HTC Desire and apologize for having unfaithful thoughts. Sense is so much slicker.

  5. Jake Munson Avatar
    Jake Munson

    AT&T has always turned off "side loading" (installing apps from unknown sources) on their Android phones. It’s not a Samsung issue, it’s AT&T. With other AT&T phones there have been hacks to get around it. Or you could use the "Android Central Side Load Wonder Machine",

  6. Lacuna Avatar

    I have the Galaxy S and I think it must be AT&T that is preventing you from allowing install from unknown sources as I have the option available to me under ‘Settings > Applications’

  7. shirak Avatar

    I want to add one more cons. At&t is blocking the ability to use the phone as access point for Wifi.
    It is nice phone, and I have been using for 2 months. I wanted to start mobile dev using some flex and CF but I’m surprised the option to install apps from Unknown Sources removed.

  8. Ben Forta Avatar
    Ben Forta

    Ray, there are ways to get non market apps on. See Jake’s comment as one example.
    Jake, yes, that’s exactly what I used to get the Trillian beta on the phone. Still, the fact that they blocked it in the first place is unacceptable.
    Lacuna, yep, it appears to be an AT&T issue, not a Samsung one.
    Shirak, AT&T may well block tethering, we’ll not know until the device gets the Froyo update (as tethering was added in that release).

  9. Frank J Avatar
    Frank J

    Samsung Galaxy S is an absolute pleasure to play with. The default firmware has some performance issues. I flashed to a new 2.1 firmware JG4, which makes this cutie super fast. Since I bought an operator-free unlocked phone, the phone doesn’t have any restriction. Waiting for the Froyo OTA this month!

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