Samsung Galaxy S II: The complete FAQ

By JR Raphael (@jr_raphael)

Samsung Galaxy S II

Here in the U.S. of A., we've been hearing about Samsung's Galaxy S II phones for months. Now, at long last -- to borrow the words of a certain Mr. Neil Diamond -- they're comin' to America.

That's right, Galaxy watchers: Samsung has finally let the cat out of the bag and revealed its plans for the U.S. launch of the Galaxy S II. Sammy and the carriers held a press event Tuesday night at which the various models were formally unveiled.

There's a lot to know about Samsung's Galaxy S II and its stateside arrival. Here are answers to all of your burning questions.

When can I get the Galaxy S II? [UPDATED]

You can get the Galaxy S II right now; versions of the phone are available on Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

What's Sprint's Galaxy S II model like?

Samsung Galaxy S II: Sprint Epic 4G Touch

Sprint's Galaxy S II phone is called the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch (yeah -- try saying that five times fast).

The Epic 4G Touch, as we'll call it for simplicity's sake, has a 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. That's bumped up from the standard GSII screen size of 4.3 inches, but oddly, it retains the same 800-by-480 resolution.

Sprint's Epic 4G Touch shares the same 1.2GHz dual-core processor as the standard Galaxy S II models. Sprint hasn't said anything specific about the device's RAM, but odds are it'll have the same 1GB seen in the international devices.

The Epic 4G Touch runs Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread, along with the latest version of Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. It has an 8MP rear-facing camera with flash and 1080p HD video capture as well as a 2MP front-facing camera for video chat.

Sprint's GSII phone is thin, measuring in at just 0.38 inches, and has a more rounded and uniform look than the standard GSII design. It has 16GB of internal storage with support for up to 32GB of external space. Finally, as its name suggests, the Epic 4G Touch is capable of using Sprint's 4G network.

UPDATE: For more details and an in-depth review, see my follow-up story: Samsung's Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch: The verdict is in 

How about AT&T's Galaxy S II -- what's that phone all about?

Samsung Galaxy S II: AT&T

AT&T, contrary to early rumors, is sticking with the plain and simple "Galaxy S II" moniker for its device this go-round. The phone shares most of the same specs as the Sprint model described above, only its screen is the standard 4.3-inch size. It's also slightly thinner than Sprint's GSII offering, coming in at 0.35 inches, and has a look and feel more akin to the standard Galaxy S II design.

The AT&T Galaxy S II has a different set of bloatware on-board compared to Sprint's GSII phone -- thanks for that, by the way, carriers -- but those differences aside, it's more or less the same device.

UPDATE: For the full review, click over to AT&T's Samsung Galaxy S II: The verdict is in

What do we know about T-Mobile's Galaxy S II phone?

Samsung Galaxy S II: T-Mobile

Not a heck of a lot; T-Mo didn't reveal a name, date, or even much in the way of specs for its Galaxy S II phone at this week's event. We know the device has a beefed up 4.5-inch screen, like Sprint's phone, has 4G, and...well, that's about it. T-Mobile promises to give us more details in the coming weeks.

UPDATE: For detailed thoughts and impressions on T-Mobile's phone, see my hands-on report:

T-Mobile's Samsung Galaxy S II: The weakest link in a strong lineup

How does the new Galaxy S II compare with the original Galaxy S?

Excellent question, detective. In general, the GSII is faster and sleeker than its predecessor and boasts a bigger and better display. If you're interested in the full nitty gritty, check out this detailed Galaxy S II vs. original Galaxy S comparison; it even has a nifty chart for your phone-comparing pleasure.

How's Samsung's new TouchWiz UI?

If you like the old TouchWiz, you'll probably like Samsung's update to its custom software skin. The latest TouchWiz adds the ability to create folders within your apps list along with built-in support for Wi-Fi-based PC syncing, among other things. It also ships with Vlingo's voice command system preinstalled.

Personally, as anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I'm more partial to stock Android; as far as I'm concerned, the manufacturer-added skins add unnecessary clutter that can't easily be removed. (They also tend to slow down the Android upgrade process for the life of the device, as original Galaxy S owners know all too well.) As my colleague Barbara Krasnoff observed, most of the features these skins provide can be added on a case-by-case basis to any Android phone -- and in that scenario, you can choose what you do and don't want instead of having all that extra stuff automatically baked in for you.

But that's a whole other story.

Will you be reviewing the new Galaxy S II phones?

Why, yes: I'll be reviewing the various models as they become available in the days leading up to their launches. Stay tuned for my full hands-on impressions.

Okay, wise guy, so where's Verizon in all this Galaxy S II talk?

Verizon opted not to carry the Galaxy S II; according to some reports, the carrier will soon offer a different Samsung phone with similar specs. Rumor has it Verizon might be getting ready to carry the first phone with Google's upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich release, believed to be called the Nexus Prime (or Droid Prime, depending on whom you ask).

So should I get the Galaxy S II or wait for the Nexus Prime?

Being that the Nexus Prime doesn't officially exist yet, it's hard to make any meaningful comparisons. Assuming that the Nexus Prime (or whatever it ends up being called) follows Google's typical Nexus model, though, it'll be a "pure," stock Android device, built explicitly for the latest Android release.

That kind of configuration offers plenty of advantages; if you like stock Android and place a lot of value on speedy OS upgrades, it might be worth waiting a month or two to see what Google has cooking. If, on the other hand, you love the Galaxy S phones and are a fan of Samsung's TouchWiz interface, the GSII might be the right phone for you. There is no universal right answer.

What about Apple? Should I get the Galaxy S II or the iPhone 4S/iPhone 4GS/iPhone 4GAS/iPhone 5/iPhone SuperDuperMagical Edition?



Again, with devices that don't yet exist, there's only so much you can say. In general, though, speaking diplomatically, I'd tell you that it's a subjective call and ultimately boils down to what you want in a phone. The iPhone and Android, to put it mildly, offer very different types of user experiences.

Speaking snarkily, I'd tell you to take this highly scientific quiz to find out once and for all which side of the smartphone fence you fall on.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Article copyright 2011 JR Raphael. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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