The Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant for Bell Mobility is the newest, and highest spec’d Android Phone in Canada, and I have it. The Galaxy S has some of the best specs that can be found in the mobile market right now. A 1GHz Hummingbird processor, a 4” Super AMOLED display with a 480x800 resolution, 512MB of ram, and 16GB of internal storage, which is divided about evenly between application storage and media storage. There is also a MicroSD card slot to accommodate an additional 32GB of storage. There is a 5MP autofocus camera that takes 720p video, but sadly lacking flash. The Galaxy S from Samsung is actually a line of phones. The Bell variant of the phone is based on the European version, which also means that it has a front facing camera, and looks different than the Galaxy S Vibrant released on T-Mobile in the USA. The phones at their core are the same, with several small differences. The phone is almost completely devoid of physical buttons. Only a power/standby, volume rocker, and home button are mechanical. The back and menu buttons are capacitive touch, and while are easy to press and find are not 100% responsive, though that is partly android’s fault. There is a 3.5mm jack on top as well as a MicroUSB port, which is covered not by a rubber or plastic flap but actually a sliding door, which is frankly genius and I’m amazed no one has thought of this method before. Under the battery cover is the afore mentioned MicroSD slot, the SIM card, and a 1500 maH battery. I’m not a huge fan of having the microSD slot under the battery cover, but with 16GB on board I don’t even have one in right now, and unlike some phones you don’t have to remove the battery to get at the slot, so it’s not terrible. The phone comes with the basic accessories. A USB cable, power adapter (that you plug the USB cable into), a stereo headset that surprisingly doesn’t suck, and a small quick start guide and warranty info.
To be frank, the Galaxy S is the best phone I have ever held and used. I haven’t used an iPhone 4 yet, or one of the 4.3” phones (droid X and Evo 4G) that are currently US only. The Galaxy S is very thin, thanks to the Super AMOLED display, which is 50% thinner than the previous generation. That makes the phone, while large in the hand, still feel very small, which is appreciated. The display itself is simply stunning. Colours are extremely bright and vibrant, to the point where they almost pop out of the screen. Video looks amazing, and I have watched several movies on the screen and am very impressed. The screen is visible, if not stellar in direct sunlight. It’s certainly good enough to make a phone call, but I wouldn’t try to read a novel.
This phone is, in a word, fast. That is largely thanks to it’s 1 GHz processor. It is leaps and bounds beyond any phone I have ever used, including the Palm Pre, and the BlackBerry Tour 9630 I currently use for work. In my limited experience using an iPhone 3GS, I can say that the Galaxy S is faster than that as well. Apps launch nearly instantly, I encountered very little slowdown, and the phone was able to do everything I threw at it, including some gaming, without breaking much of a sweat at all. When I stop and think about it it really blows my mind where technology is at. The first computer I ever used at school had a 90 MHz Pentium processor, and 800MB HDD, and 32MB of ram. the first computer my parents purchased was a Pentium Pro 200MHz with 32MB of ram and 4GB of storage. Now I hold a phone in my pocket that surpasses that in every way, and then some.
the Galaxy S currently runs Android 2.1 with Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 interface on top. This is my first experience with Android, and I have never played with a stock install of Android, so I can’t really compare it to stock, but overall I do like Samsung’s interface on the phone. It is plainly obvious that they went for an iPhone clone look, and it works well enough. Instead of only a phone icon and app launcher on the bottom, there is a “home row” of icons like the iPhone, as well as the app directory, instead of being a vertical scrolling list, is a grid screen of 4x4 icons that scroll horizontally, just like the iPhone. While it’s not a bad thing, I just wish the cloning wasn’t so obvious. The home row of icons comes by default from left to right as Phone, messaging, contacts, and an “applications” button that brings up the application list. The Phone and applications buttons are not customizable, but the messaging and contacts are. I replaced the contacts icon with Twidroyd, my twitter client. I completely understand making the app button static, but I really wish I could move the phone icon off the home row, as I rarely use the device to actually make calls.
On the Galaxy S I have 7 home screens, with the “main” screen being on the far left. I wish I could make that the middle screen, but there doesn’t appear to be a way to do so. I’m still learning how to mix having widgets and app shortcuts on my home screen, and while I do enjoy having a few widgets, am trying not to go overboard with them. for example, I have a widget for Twidroyd that lets me put in a quit tweet, as well as one touch access to doing a twitter search, but I find myself out of habit opening the app normally first. I figure I’ll either get used to having a widget for that or eventually just remove the widget altogether. Overall I am very impressed with Android. When comparing it to WebOS, I would put them about par. WebOS handles multi-tasking and notifications better, but Android I believe overall has more customization options and features. Samsung has said that a update to Android 2.2 is coming in September for all Galaxy S phones, I hope Bell is on board with that. There are custom ROM’s floating around with 2.2 for the Galaxy S already, though I haven’t taken that leap yet.
The last comment I want to make software wise has to do with the Android Market. the WebOS app catalog, as of a week ago when my pre died, had about 2500 apps available. I was mostly happy with what was there, and about 80% of what I wanted was available, so I didn’t’ care so much. After a week looking through the android store, I can say that the difference is night and day. Not only are all the apps I was missing on WebOS there, there are even more I never even thought of. I’m really enjoying discovering new functional apps and using my phone in ways I frankly couldn’t with WebOS.
New app discovery is also probably my biggest pain point with the Android Market though. Unless you know exactly what you are searching for, looking through the directory is painful. I imagine this was manageable when there were only a few thousand apps, but now that there are 70,000+, finding something that it outside of the top 50 in any category, or something not brand new, is very hard. I hope that Google eventually addresses that issue.
That being said, this is still one of the best phones on the market, and in my opinion the best phone on Bell right now, unless you are really hell bent on getting an iPhone. My opinion is that if you want an iPhone, you’ll end up with that. And if you don’t, the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant is the best phone that money can buy in Canada right now. With Bell recently discontinuing the HTC Legend it is quite frankly a no brainer. The closest competitors to the Galaxy S are the Motorola Milestone on Telus (already nearly a year old however, and the successor is already out in the USA), and the Xperia X10 on Rogers, which, while similarly spec’d, is only running Android 1.6 and it is not clear if Sony will be upgrading it to 2.1. The X10 also lacks Multitouch. Rumours are flying that Rogers will be releasing a version of the Galaxy S similar to the Captivate model on AT&T in the USA soon, but until then the Galaxy S Vibrant is simply without peer in Canada.
Should you buy this phone? In a word, yes. It is that good. Unless you really want an iPhone, or really don’t want to switch to Bell, the Galaxy S Vibrant is the phone to get in Canada. If you are on Rogers and can wait a few more weeks, you’ll likely soon have your own Galaxy S option, and Telus right now does not have anything on the radar to match. If you want the best phone today, this is the phone to get.
You can find more pictures of the Galaxy S Vibrant here.
You can see examples of pictures taken with the Galaxy S here, and here. Note that the low light photos are not fantastic, and I have taken some very good pictures with it, just none that I was able to put on flickr at time of publish
An example of a 720p video taken with the Galaxy S can be found here.