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Samsung Galaxy S II Hands On

The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, so it's right up to date in this regard. The company couldn't, however, resist tweaking the interface.

The main differences are the change of layout of the homescreen icons with the Phone, Contacts, Messaging, and App Launcher shortcuts replacing the standard arrangement of Phone, App Launcher and Web. Open the App Launcher and instead of a single alphabetical list of apps, they're split up into (up to) seven pages that you slide horizontally between. We don't really see the point in the changes but neither do they really inhibit usability - you can still rearrange shortcuts to your favourite apps, arrange them in folders and add widgets to the homescreen.

Another change is the addition of four hubs; Social, Game, Readers and Music. Due to the ropey Wi-Fi here at Mobile World Congress, most of these services didn't work but as you'd expect the Social hub provides quick access to a stream of all your friends goings on, Game provides access to a variety of games including 12 social networking oriented titles and 13 premium games including a free copy of Asphalt 6, while Music gives access to 12 million downloadable tracks. Readers is like the reading app introduced on the Samsung Galaxy Tab with a nice-looking book reading app and book store with access to 2.1million books, 1.8million of which are free.

All the essentials seem to be there with comprehensive social network integration - contacts showing profile pictures and status updates - and the web browser including support for Adobe Flash. There are plenty of other clever features including Near Field Communication for use in future contactless payment systems and such like, Wi-Fi Direct for connecting straight to printers, 21Mbps HSPA, Samsung Kies for wireless backing up of your data to you computer, and a whole host of business oriented features like Exchange Activesync, on device encryption and VPN. However, most of these features we couldn't really access on the show floor.

What we could test, however, was the camera, which seemed impressively quick and was easy to use. images on the screen looked very nice, though even viewed on the phone it was clear this was just another incremental step up in quality over the typical 5-megapixel shooter of last years models. Video was a similar story, and when playing our footage back it was revealed that the speaker wasn't much to write home about.

All told, though, the Samsung Galaxy S II looks like a really solid device. Yes, it's a bit plasticky, yes, the dual-cores may not be needed yet, and yes, it needs a shutter button but as a whole it seems like it's well placed to contend with the best over the coming months.

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