I have been an iPhone user since 2007 and have used every iPhone since the original. My current phone is the 4S…until I had the chance to start reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket with LTE (currently 70 percent off at Amazon). I have used many Android phones in the past, and the Skyrocket (as I’ll call it for the rest of the review) is one amazing product. The iPhone 4S is currently widely regarded as the “phone to beat,” so parts of this review will focus on comparing the two devices. Since the Skyrocket is a phone with several features and components, we are going to break it down into categories: design and performance, display, battery life, LTE, hotspot, and cameras. Read past the break for the full review:
Design and performance:
The design of the Skyrocket is much like the rest of the Galaxy S line, and looks almost like the Galaxy S II (which just misses the Skyrocket’s LTE and has a slightly smaller display). The phone has a giant display on the front (more on that in a minute), a front facing camera up top, four touch-sensitive buttons across the bottom, the power button on the right side, volume up and down buttons on the left side, 8-megapixel camera sensor on the back, and a standard-sized earphone jack on the top of the phone.
Compared to other Android phones, the Skyrocket’s design is very clean. It is black and sleek and practically has does not have unneeded elements, a design philosophy that stems from Apple’s iPhone. The phone is almost as thin as the iPhone 4/4S, which is regarded to lead the pack for thinness in a phone, and is even a bit lighter than the iPhone 4/4S. With that in mind, Samsung was still able to pack in an inch larger display and a crazy-fast processor: a 1.5 GHz CPU to be exact.
The Skyrocket consistently runs smooth, and in my extensive testing, I noticed only fluidity: no stuttering or pausing in the operating system. Everything moves with speed and fluidity, pinching to zoom on websites or photographs is quick, accurate, and fluid, and so is swiping and flicking through lists. This does not hold true on all Android phones, so the Skyrocket’s fast CPU likely takes the responsibility for the fluidity of Android on the Skyrocket. The iPhone’s operating system has been extremely smooth, fluid, and “tasty” since 1.0 back in 2007, and for that, it is hard to pinpoint the processor as the responsible part for the iPhone’s fluidity. With that, it is hard to compare processor performance of the two devices, but gaming and operating system movement-even with the different clock speeds-is very comparable.
The display can make or break a product, as it is the window into your content. With the iPhone’s super high resolution Retina Display, some have said that screen size does not matter, but it is the resolution that matters. This may be true when comparing the iPhone to some other phones with bigger display sizes, but when it comes to the Skyrocket, the Skyrocket’s display is superior to the iPhone’s Retina Display. The screen is not only extremely clear to the human eye, but its size allows for some neat software features. The bigger screen not only places more applications in front of you on the home grid, but also allows you to be more productive in apps like the web browser, where you can obviously see more content. The true marvel, though, as you can see above, is applications that take unique advantage of the screen size. This is best shown in the e-mail application, which in landscape uses a split mail view like the iPad. For its much larger size, and ability to keep a clear resolution, the Skyrocket has a fantastic display.
The battery life of the Skyrocket is decent, and having been using the Skyrocket as much as I would use an iPhone throughout the day, the battery life has been consistent between the two devices. On the other hand, you will see shorter battery life if you are running LTE or processor intensive applications that very graphical games. The average user, though, should find the battery life to be solid enough to get you through a day. A favorable feature for this device is the removable battery, so if you really need to carry double battery life, you always have that option.
LTE is screaming fast and works very well and consistently if you are in an LTE city. I have not been able to see the true potential of LTE speeds, but I have been in places where LTE yields close to 20/MBs down. To me, that’s very fast and works great for web browsing, loading Internet-connected applications, downloading games that come in large file sizes, downloading e-mail attachments, and uploading/downloading media like pictures and video. The only slight downside is aforementioned drop in battery life, but this is not going to be a concern for most people due to the limited LTE availability.
One of the best features of his phone is the Personal Hotspot. It is very easy to set up and sets up quickly. Just name your Wi-Fi network, choose a password and connect your other devices to it. It is perfect if you want to bring LTE to your tablet or laptop for example, and is especially handy for traveling users.
The Skyrocket packs in two heavy-hitting cameras: a 2-megapixel sensor on the front, and an 8-megapixel shooter on the back with an excellent LED flash. The camera on the front is ideal for Skype, but the phone does not come with an integrated video conferencing experience as the iPhone does, and the back takes great high-resolution photographs and excellent 1080P video. Compared to the iPhone, the picture looks very similar. Comparing the same photo taken on an iPhone 4S and the Skyrocket, the Skyrocket’s photography is slightly washed towards the leaves at the top of the image, and the iPhone 4S seems to bring out the natural coloring of the stone block in the middle of the photo. Details are also crisper in the leaf portion with the iPhone 4S. The 4S also includes excellent video stabilization and HDR photography, two seemingly important camera elements that the Skyrocket lacks. If you are going for a phone with a fantastic, industry camera, the Skyrocket does the job, but if you are going for the best phone camera, you may want to look at the iPhone 4S. The full Skyrocket image is here and the iPhone 4S here.
The Skyrocket is a phenomenal Android device with LTE, a great camera, and industry leading CPU performance. Coupled with an application market only second to the iPhone’s, you will get a great application experience, too. The Skyrocket’s display is its true marvel, providing a clear view into your content with some special software enhancements that take full advantage of the giant and productive display. If you are looking for the best Android phone on the market, the Skyrocket is the complete package with the super fast CPU, large display, and excellent eight megapixel camera. It will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) early next year.
The Skyrocket is on sale for $170 at Amazon.
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