It's generally accepted that Android is proving a solid challenger to iOS' grip on the market, and if Samsung's Galaxy SII is anything to go by, it's not hard to see why.
Physically, it's a delight to handle, razor thin and lightweight with a textured backplate. The 4.3-inch screen surpasses the iPhone's offering, and renders graphics in glorious colour; video, especially when expanded to full-screen mode, is especially impressive, and backed up by a grunty loudspeaker. Made from super-durable Gorilla Glass, it's designed to resist scratches (but doesn't stand up anywhere near as well to fingerprints).
The onscreen keyboard may not be the prettiest to behold, but more than does the job here. The SII executes lightning-fast scrolling, re-orients from portrait to landscape and back almost instantaneously, and as well as the tried and trusted pinch-to-zoom function, introduces a new tilt-to-zoom method carried out by placing two fingers on the screen and tipping the device upwards or downwards.
Given all that Samsung has packed into the device, the battery life was adequate – no more, no less.
Its notification system means you'll never have to miss an email or a social update, which lives in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Dragging the icon downwards displays the full list of alerts, which can be cleared with a single tap or accessed straight from the menu. Messages and missed calls appear as tabs on the side of the locked phone, and can be swiped straight into, bypassing the regular navigation menu.
Speaking of menus, the SII's first level of navigation took a little getting used to. The home or 'idle' menu provides six different screens on which shortcuts to any programme can be placed. Then there's the separate applications menu, which itself doesn't seem to be customisable.
Samsung is also pushing its inbuilt 'hubs' – Social Hub, Readers Hub and Game Hub. The latter seems somewhat redundant; it's slim pickings with just a few free and paid games from Mobage, EA and Gameloft. However, the social hub is a handy aggregator for all your various social networking feeds and email inboxes on one screen, and the readers hub provides a media centre where you can access digital versions of books, magazines and newspapers.
All things considered, this is a fine example of Android 2.3 in action. As the platform continues to gain traction, devices like the SII bode well for its future.
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