By JR Raphael
Grab the nearest cigar, Android fans: Samsung has just delivered a new sibling to its Galaxy S smartphone.
Samsung officially introduced the Samsung Galaxy S II (or Galaxy S2, if you prefer) at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The Galaxy S II is a direct successor to the original Galaxy S line and builds on the same concepts used in the popular phone series.
The Samsung Galaxy S II, of course, has quite a few improvements over its predecessor: It's faster, sleeker, and boasts a bigger and better display. And that's just the start -- check out the chart below for a side-by-side comparison, and read on for some more specifics.
Samsung Galaxy S II Comparison
All right -- so what exactly is new with the Samsung Galaxy S II? First, the speed: The Galaxy S II, like many Android phones being introduced this year, packs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. (The original Galaxy S was single core.) The S2 also doubles the RAM of its older brother, with a full gigabyte of memory compared to the first phone's 512MB.
Then there's the display: While the original Galaxy S won fans over with its 4-inch AMOLED screen, the Galaxy S II expands to 4.3 inches and uses Samsung's new Super AMOLED Plus technology. Super AMOLED Plus is said to deliver a brighter, more vibrant image -- and Samsung swears that despite its improved performance, the beefed-up screen won't have a negative impact on Android battery life.
How 'bout software? The Samsung Galaxy S II, not surprisingly, will ship with Android Gingerbread, Google's latest smartphone-ready edition of the Android operating system. (Android Honeycomb, as of now, is limited to tablets -- though it does seem like that could one day change.) The Galaxy S, in comparison, is currently running either Android 2.2 or Android 2.1, depending on the model; Samsung, as we all know, has not exactly been on the ball with delivering Android upgrades. The company has given no indication as to whether we should expect any improvement in this department with the new S2 line.
Core operating system aside, the Galaxy S II comes with a new 4.0 version of TouchWiz, Samsung's proprietary Android user interface. TouchWiz 4.0 revolves around a series of "hubs" -- integrated apps that let you access social features, reading materials, games, and music -- and also includes an integrated voice control application and Kies-based PC syncing utility. The Galaxy S II introduces a handful of new enterprise-focused features, too, including Cisco-provided conferencing services and built-in Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync functionality.
Some other noteworthy additions to Samsung's Galaxy S II include an upgraded camera -- 8MP, compared to the previous generation's 5 -- and the presence of a front-facing camera for video chat, which existed only in some models of the original Galaxy S device. All Galaxy S II phones will feature an LED flash and 1080p video recording. The phone is also equipped with Android-friendly NFC technology and support for HSPA+ Internet connections.
The Galaxy S II is slightly larger than the original Galaxy S, thanks to its expanded display, but it's also slightly thinner and lighter. Of course, like with the first Galaxy S, carriers will likely customize the device and come out with their own unique versions -- so some of these specs may end up varying from one model to another.
The Samsung Galaxy S II is expected to launch in parts of Europe in May.
No U.S. release dates have been announced so far. Pricing is also still unknown.
UPDATE [8/31/11]: See my complete Samsung Galaxy S II FAQ for new details on the U.S. versions of the phone.
UPDATE [9/23/11]: I spent a week with Sprint's version of the phone. For full details and my in-depth review, click over to: Samsung's Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch: The verdict is in
For hands-on impressions of AT&T's model, see: AT&T's Samsung Galaxy S II: The verdict is in
And for a detailed look at T-Mobile's GSII phone, see: T-Mobile's Samsung Galaxy S II: The weakest link in a strong lineup
Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.