Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

The one phone to rule them all has just been ousted by his big brother who's come a-calling for the throne. When I decided to order my Samsung Galaxy S II and make that my go-to phone for the next year, I firmly believed I was getting the best phone available to me. Just over a month later, the Galaxy S II Skyrocket was released with better specs than the original, not to mention it is one of the first LTE phones on AT&T's network. I was disappointed that I couldn't have it, to say the least! I looked forward to when we would be getting our review unit shipped to the store and it has finally come. I've now been using it for the last few days and have put it through some tough tests. What did I think of it? Does the extra $50 pay off? Find out in the full review.
Showing off that amazing camera and the branding that makes
these phones so popular!
- Android Operating System 2.3 (Gingerbread)
- 8 MP camera with LED flash, 1080p HD video (ties with the original Galaxy S II for best camera)
- 2 MP front-facing camera for video chats
- 1.5 GHz Dual-Core processor(!)
- 1 GB RAM
- 4.5" Super AMOLED Plus screen
- Up to 7 hours of talk time
- 16 GB internal storage (with a Micro-SD card slot, expandable to another 32 GB)
- 4G LTE(!) enabled
- Samsung headphones with microphone come in box
- Optional Swype keyboard
- Available in white or black
- AT&T Visual Voicemail for Android

The familiar 4 Android buttons on the bottom of the phone
-Super fast processor!
-Very slim profile (for an LTE phone)
-Vibrant screen, as we've come to expect from Samsung
-Amazing camera
-Even while connected to HSPA+ (not LTE) this phone has the fastest data speeds on all the speed tests I've performed at my house (so far)
-The original Galaxy S II has a security hole. If you put a security lock on the phone, it can be bypassed by anyone by simply letting the security screen time-out and then accessing it again. This security hole does not exist in the Skyrocket.

-I was about to list battery life here, but considering the processor and the LTE antenna inside, it's pretty amazing how long the battery lasts

The original GSII on the left and the Skyrocket on the right
Take off! By now anyone who has been around this blog for more than this article is probably familiar with the Samsung smartphone form-factor that has become very similar throughout all their smartphones (Windows 7 Phones included). Telling the difference between a Samsung Infuse 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Focus S, and Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is not something easily done with just a glance unless you're familiar with smartphones. The good news is, I like the form factor. Samsung has created a very slim line of phones and even though they catch a lot off flak for using plastic for their building material instead of aluminum or other such heavy materials, I like that I don't notice when my phone is in my pocket. Other phones are more likely to pull your pants down in public than hide inconspicuously in your pocket. It works for me. And as for the "cheap" build, I've never broken one in my life and it's what I carry with me most of the time. If you want more of this rant, see my upcoming article "Glass, plastic and metal, OH MY!"

The original GSII on the bottom and the Skyrocket on the top
The Skyrocket does not deviate much from this common Samsung design and I appreciate that. It's slim (though a little heavier around the waste-line than the original GSII), it's relatively square in shape, it's sleek, and has the camera, speaker, sensors and buttons in all the same places. Unfortunately, where they do deviate, it is not a good thing in my opinion. The battery cover on all the other Samsung smartphones as of late is textured and this one is completely smooth, making it harder to keep it in your hands and off the ground. "Galaxy S II" is still emblazoned on the back, just like the original, but on the original it is slightly raised and is chrome, whereas this one is simply printed on the back. I also like the dark cobalt on the original GSII and the chrome around the edges put together with the texture of the battery cover because the contrast made it look more quality and expensive. This one uses the same color throughout the entire phone and it makes it LOOK cheaper, even though the same materials were used. It's still a nice phone, but I like the look of the original more.

The back speaker is the one that's used for music and
speakerphone. It's pretty stinkin' loud.
Now that I have that out of the way, let's appeal to those of you who don't give a crap about what the phone looks like since you're going to be putting a case on it anyway. The phone performs outstandingly well. When performing internet speed tests, it blew every other phone out of the water. The original GSII only gets top downloading speeds that push 3.5 MB per second in my house and 1.5 upload while connected to HSPA+. This phone, again while connected to HSPA+, gets 4.9 MB per second download and over 2 MB per second upload. On top of that, users in LTE areas in Texas were pulling data speeds between 21 MB per second and 55 MB per second (that's twice as fast to five times as fast as Cable internet for your computer!!!!) so when AT&T LTE comes, this phone is ready for the task of putting your local internet provider to shame. With Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, turning this phone into a router will eventually be your fastest way to get internet to your computer.

The volume rocker button on the top left side of the phone
The screen was brilliant, just as every other Samsung screen has become known for. It's Super AMOLED Plus screen put's most other displays to shame. Even the qHD screens of phones such as the Motorola Atrix 2, the HTC Vivid, and the Motorola Droid RAZR pale in comparison to this screen. The differences may not be noticeable from afar, but put the phones next to each other and I swear I saw the others blush a little with embarrassment.

The cameras (front and back) performed very well... just as well as the original GSII. Nothing to complain about here.

The battery, considering the hardware it's supporting, is still very good. It's not as good as the Infuse or the original GSII, but with more demanding processor and an LTE antenna that is to be expected. It still gets me through the day even with medium use and with a small partial charge in the middle of the day it can support gaming and video as well.

The Skyrocket taken apart to show the batter cover and battery
Rather than comparing this phone to the original GSII it should really be compared to the Samsung Infuse 4G. Whereas the original GSII is an upgraded Samsung Captivate, the Skyrocket is an upgraded Infuse. It is, after-all, the phone that replaced it on AT&T shelves and is the same screen-size. As I spent more time with the phone, it felt more-and-more like the Infuse. It, like the Infuse, is lacking native voice control software (very annoying, but fixed with a free voice control app from the Android Market). It, like the infuse, has more irremovable bloatware (pre-installed applications) than the original GSII. It, like the Infuse, has a 4.5" screen and the buttons are slightly higher on the phone's profile than the GSII, making it more similar to the Infuse. The camera is shaped the same as the Infuse and is in the same place. Basically, what I'm getting at is that it's an upgraded Infuse using the Galaxy S II label to get more publicity and attract attention. Not that this is a bad thing over-all, it's just an observation. The good news is, because of the true internal memory on the Skyrocket, you won't be getting those "low memory" messages that heavy users would get from their Infuses.

Folders make me feel all warm and
fuzzy inside.
Fortunately, the Skyrocket comes pre-loaded with Gingerbread software (Android 2.3) which makes organizing applications in the application menu easy. I go crazy when apps are just strewn about in alphabetized lists rather than customizable folders, and the Skyrocket delivers for me.

Internet pages open easily and quickly on the Skyrocket. The combination of the outstanding processor and the fast data speeds allows things to just happen instantly. Facebook pictures load as if they were on the phone's album, not data that needed to be fetched from a server somewhere. The phone is responsive and delivers even with multiple applications running in the background.

Over-all, the phone is a great compliment to the AT&T smartphone portfolio. In most ways it is better than the original GSII. For me, however, the lack of a native voice-dialing feature, as well as the form factor and the slightly decreased battery life don't make me wish I had one over my origianl GSII. I love the Skyrocket, and the extra $50 is well worth it for most users since most users are not as picky as me. Plus, LTE will make some serious advances in the next two years and if you opt for a non-LTE phone you're going to be missing out on some seriously fast data speeds if you don't snag an LTE phone for your next upgrade. If I were the everyday consumer, I'd pocket one of these right away.

Update: The Skyrocket is available in White now as well as black and it still has the silver lining around the edge so it's pretty stinkin' fancy lookin'!

Be sure to check out the added pics below. I had fun taking them!

The screen size from the original GSII to the Skyrocket is not immensely different
The lock/power button

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