First Impressions after 24 hours with Samsung Galaxy S2

First off let me say I've never had a smart phone before. No iPhone, no Crackberry, no Windoze phone, no Droid - zilch, zero, zip, nada. I knew that one day I would eventually take the plunge being pretty much of a techie and that day turned out to be yesterday. Having been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S2 (ATT version) for almost exactly 24 hours it's time to take stock and jot down some random observations in no particular order. Some of these impressions or opinions may change obviously and some may be purely a function of me being a total smartphone n00b. But with that being said, here goes.

  • Battery life seems pretty lacking as a first impression. I can see myself charging the thing more than once a day.
  • The Wall Street Journal app is a huge disappointment. You might think that as a print and an online subscriber that I would be able to read the content that I've already paid for - twice - without any additional fee. But if you thought that you'd be wrong. They seem to want you to pay three times for the same content. I think I'll eventually go mobile only and jettison the dead tree version. Called their tech support number (only open M-F) - for some strange reason uninstalling and reinstalling their mobile app got me out of the endless loop of repeatedly asking for passwords after clicking on an article. So actually no, you don't have to pay three times for content, only twice :).
  • Getting the phone to pair with my Bluetooth (Plantronics V521) was a bit of a challenge but that really was due to the bluetooth not being in "pairing mode". You want to turn on the Plantronics and then hold down the call button until it flashes blue and red.
  • The mobile world has been sucking me in with all these Web 2.0 apps even without me knowing it. Getting the Android app versions of Twitter, Facebook, Kindle, Skype, Gmail etc. was trivial (most are already built into the phone), activating them, and then using them was incredibly intuitive. By using all those apps on a laptop/desktop you are more than halfway there without even knowing it.
  • This isn't exactly a revelation from on high, but the Android OS is tightly integrated with Google apps mainly Gmail, but also others as well. In fact I think a Gmail account is required for Android users? In any case I tend to like the Google approach and was pleasantly surprised to sync to my Google account and see all my contact info come down, my to do list, my photos etc. etc.
  • Having said that there's some funny merge business that goes on when this happens because my contacts from my own phone were all there before the Google contact merge but afterwards some of them were no longer there. Not sure why.
  • Couldn't figure out how to answer the phone at first. I mean I could with the Bluetooth but not on the phone itself. Turns out you need to "swipe" green answer button and not just press it. OK, I'm learning.
  • The virtual keyboard has keys that are either too small or my fingers are too fat. Turning the phone 90 degrees does help with this some but for one thing it doesn't always seem to work and for another when you do that some of your buttons like "Send" get obscured so you end up having to turn it back to reach your buttons. I find that by aiming "high" - like half a key width I can improve my accuracy - it's almost as though the phone could benefit from some "training" to what the center of visually defined area actually is.
  • The autocomplete function is  nice - you get an array of words to choose from across the top of the keyboard instead of just one "likely" choice.
  • The Kindle app rocks - the material is elegantly presented and downloads very fast. The screen is small, sure but the high resolution makes it bigger than it looks.
  • There are lots of location-based apps. Which is as it should be. Location-based mobile computing is a very big deal.
  • Due to the way the UI is implemented - lots of apps but only one running at a time - your very best friend is the "back" button.
  • I got one of those cases that is a case within a case. It looks like it will protect all but the screen of the phone very well. The on-off button on the right protrudes easily enough through the two layers of case but the volume button on the left has trouble poking all the way through.
  • I got one of those screen protectors that I put on wet - just a hard piece of thin plastic. There are still a few "micro-bubbles" as they warned me about - but they say these should go away and I do believe that this plastic screen guard will prevent screen damage, scratches etc.
  • I haven't yet done much with the camera, listening to music, or watching videos.
  • The built in SMS app to me has some nice features such as showing conversations as threads of "speech bubbles" but certain operations are not intuitive such as forwarding an SMS. Maybe that's just me though.
  • I was able to make a voice Skype call but not a video Skype call. Don't know why that is. Video Skype works great - just have to enable video explicitly under Skype settings. Works like a charm.
  • I'll probably root the phone at some point but not right away.
  • The basic UI metaphor - which is a bunch of icons representing apps, seems I don't know, a bit strange. You end up hunting around for the one you want. I think you can paste your "favorites" on your "home screen" but I haven't gotten around to doing that yet.
  • Again, no huge revelation, but the device is half phone and half computer and sometimes I'm not sure which half I'm dealing with.
  • If I could change one thing, it would be a way to make inputting text easier and faster. Maybe my fingers just need to get thinner or smarter or both.

I guess that's it. For now. I feel like I've finally joined the club. Admittedly a not very exclusive one, but a club nonetheless. On the one hand I appreciate the power and the possibilities and I think this is the way everything is headed. On the other hand I can see the thing being a huge time and money sink. I think the key is to come up with what a set of "killer apps" - things that really add value to my particular lifestyle and set of interests. I don't know if this means watching a South Park episode in an airport lounge, sending a picture of my dog to a friend in another part of the country or the world, or finding money saving coupons based on some location-based app. There is also the question on how much of my work life I will be willing and able to place on the device.


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