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Samsung Galaxy S - Screen and Interface

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Design is all well and good, but what really sets this phone apart is its screen. However, it's not all good.

The Super AMOLED technology certainly makes for a very bright and vivid display with great contrast where black looks truly black and whites are brilliant. However, our perennial complaint with AMOLED displays of them having overly vivid colours is present on this display, though this is something we appreciate some people don't find problematic.

Samsung Galaxy S UI

The same argument could possibly apply to our other problem with this screen, but we still think it's worth mentioning. Despite having an impressive resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, the size of this phone's display means it has quite a low pixel-pitch (the distance between each pixel). The result is a display that, particularly when showing a white background, looks slightly mottled. Also, and this is more of a problem with the web browser, it seems to struggle reproducing text at varying sizes, resulting in varied-width lines and rough edges. The overall result is a device that makes you feel a bit crossed-eyed when trying to browse the web.

Samsung Galaxy S

To a greater or lesser extent all displays suffer from this problem whereby you can see the individual pixels and certainly Apple's range of iPhone's was lagging far behind the competition in this regard until the iPhone 4 came out. However, there's just something about this particular display that has made it really catch our eyes. All told, if you think you'll be using your phone a lot for browsing the web then we'd recommend you steer clear of the Galaxy S, for most other tasks it holds up fine though.

Looking in more depth at the software side of things, the Galaxy S runs the 2.1 (├ęclair) version of Android so includes support for HTML5 in the web browser, a digital zoom and flash on the camera, and Microsoft Exchange, amongst other things. It's not quite the most up to date version, which is 2.2, but it has most of the key features required at the moment.

Samsung Galaxy S front

As a means to differentiate itself Samsung has chosen to tweak the look and feel of the interface, tying it in with the rest of its handsets. The main results are that four icons for Phone, Contacts, Messaging, and Applications are anchored to the bottom of the screen across all the desktops, the menus have had a facelift, and (in the menus) the icons each have an extra background.

All told, we're not overly keen on these changes as the tweaks to the icons within the menus makes them very difficult to distinguish from one another. Having to use the applications shortcut to open the main menu, rather than a physical button, also feels a bit odd. It's all stuff you'd get used to, but it also feels like change for change's sake, which we're never a fan of.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


July 21, 2010, 12:31 pm

So the Desire keeps it's best Mobile Phone in the World crown then. Nothing announced so far looks like taking it either.


July 21, 2010, 12:50 pm

One feature that I had hoped might be covered in this review was the mobile access point mentioned in the manual. I was interested to know how well such a thing would work with something like a non-3G iPad or one of Samsung's wi-fi touting digital cameras. Also, Vodafone are offering the 16Gb model on contract and Virgin and CPW are offering this handset for free on £30pm for 24 months .... can you tell that I'm due an upgrade!


July 21, 2010, 1:20 pm

Interesting that you're having problems with text. I read that Samsung's Super AMOLED displays use the same "Pentile" subpixel arrangement as the Nexus One, i.e. {RG}{BG} instead of {RBG}{RBG}. Some of my fellow mega-pedants were noticing that although it handles multi-colour graphics well, it caused aliasing and colour fringing on that handset's text. The bigger pixels on the Galaxy S may have pushed those artefacts over the edge into clear visibility.


July 21, 2010, 1:27 pm

I just did an exploratory Google and it appears Super AMOLED may actually use RGBW, where there's an extra white subpixel that's used to display pure white. While I'm not quite sure what that means for the actual resolution (it's less than 640x800 complete RGBW units apparently) it may explain the odd appearance in the browser. You'd have white subpixels lit, and dark unlit RGB subpixels between them.


July 21, 2010, 1:42 pm

@sockatume: Interesting, I've still not seen the nexus one myself - we've one on the way - but that would certainly tie in with my experiences of this phone. It's fine for native resolution elements (whether they be text, icons, etc) but on scaled objects the software and hardware aren't quite working in harmony and artefacts become clearly visible.


July 21, 2010, 1:45 pm

@the Galaxy S is available for £439.99 when bought outright SIM free. still some way off the ridiculous prices Apple is asking for its iPhone 4.

I know you pay a premium for Apple products, but I didn't think £60 was way off.

Geoff Richards

July 21, 2010, 1:50 pm

@sockatume: having been one of those in the office that was less-than-satisfied with the text, I've been doing a bit of reading around the subject. I *think* the reason is the Pentile arrangement - it can't display all three RGB colours per pixel. It's RG or BG.

Ignoring the Apple's marketing claim "you cannae see the pixels, Capt'n", and ignoring the catchy name, I just can't get past how much better the iPhone 4's Retina Display is at handling text.

My advice to readers is two-fold:

1. Try before you buy - go to a store and test models side-by-side before forking out your cash

2. Which phone I'd buy depends on what your main usage will be. If it's mostly video & games, with a bit of web, the Samsung Galaxy S is a good choice. However, if you plan to use your smartphone more like a laptop and spend LOADS of time reading web pages, the iPhone 4 wins it for me.

Except I want Android not iOS4, so I'm going to wait for HTC and everyone else to catch up with Apple (later this year, or sometime next year)


July 21, 2010, 2:08 pm

4" or more at 800x640 (or even 854x640)is pointless, as it's the same real estate as 3.5-3.7" with bigger pixels. The iPhone4 offers much better than that. We'll have to wait until early next year to see the first models to appear with Gingerbread and 1280x720 4.3" screens (Froyo doesn't handle 720p native display resolution). The first model rumored is the Samsung Galaxy S2. But given the build quality of this one, and the problems with Super Amoled, I think I may just buy an iPhone4 and move to Android next year. IMO, Android is nice, but not there yet, both from a software and hardware point of view. By the way I'm on WinMo at the moment (Touch Pro 2) and I've tried Android 2.2 on my phone, so I'm definitely not an Apple fanboy. It just looks like for the first time buying an iPhone is not going backwards but forwards from a functionality point of view. I'd rather live without iTunes on my PC, which is one of the main reasons I was trying to avoid the Apple step, but it feels a bit too much of a long wait to get the equivalent on Android, with too many questions marks (what will Gingerbread bring to the table from an UI point of view? Will the HD screens on Android be readable in sunlight? Will the Android marketplace have caught up with the App store? etc...)


July 21, 2010, 2:18 pm

This is a disappointment. I've been wanting the HTC Desire for a while but saw one in the flesh and was put off by the radioactive colours (in particular Orange). I was hoping this would be an improvement but as my main use for it will be web browsing rather than video it looks like it'll be a bad choice.

Also with the the refresh rate of the devices I'm really reluctant to sign up to a 2 year contract. It seems the replacement for the Desire will be out this year and they appear to come in 6 month cycles. Missing out on two generations of devices seems a bit much. In particular as I'm not confident Android updates for older hardware with manufacturer's skins will be too forthcoming.


July 21, 2010, 2:44 pm

@Manni: I'd rather live without iTunes on my PC

Of course software is down to personal taste, but I'm just wondering what it is you don't like about ITunes.

For me, I kind of like having one program that handles all my media needs and more.

1. Backs up & syncs your devices (iphone/AppleTv/Ipod) etc

2. Has a nice Podcast manager

3. Syncing music/movies etc to devices is just checkboxes.

4. Purchase New stuff

5. Updates firmware on devices

6. Media Player

7. CD ripper

There's probably some I've missed too. To be honest I used to avoid ITunes, until I was kind of forced to use it with the IPhone, but after using it for a while now I'm not sure why I was so worried.


July 21, 2010, 3:02 pm

"4" or more at 800x640 (or even 854x640)is pointless, as it's the same real estate as 3.5-3.7" with bigger pixels. The iPhone4 offers much better than that."

I think it's more nuanced than that. You get more pixel real-estate on the iPhone 4, but you can't make the text much smaller on a 3.5-inch screen without it becoming unreadable anyway. On the other hand at 4 inches you are indeed starting to waste space because the smallest text is already as big as it needs to be to be readable. 3.7 inches is probably about the sweet spot for this generation of screens.

FWIW the Super AMOLED on the Wave seemed much better-behaved on colour than the display on the Desire when I visited a T-Mo shop the other day.


July 21, 2010, 3:06 pm


I tried to install iTunes on my Win7 64bits desktop, and for the first time in three years it FROZE. No bsod, just frozen. Luckily I had a recent acronis image of my system drive, so I could go back to a no itunes state, but this is what I don't like about iTunes: it's bloated, doesn't fully uninstall and is the only way to move stuff to and from my phone when I'm used to drag and dropping using explorer. It seems to be more stable in 32bits, so I'll use it on my laptop to sync with my iPhone (if I do get one). The recent 9.2.1 update fixes quite a few bugs, and seems more stable on my desktop.

Ilike the functionality of iTunes (apart from the closeness), I just hate the way it takes over your system, and hangs.


July 21, 2010, 3:22 pm

iTunes is the worst piece of software I have ever used.


July 21, 2010, 3:24 pm

I am shocked at TR review of this phone. I have been waiting for your review for a while - as I put a lot of faith in your reviews, but got my PAC code yesterday and just went out and purchased my {note} 16Gb version from Vodafone. If I had read your review yesterday I wouldn't have bought it - instead I'm completely in awe of it.

Your review seems to be in direct comparison to the IPhone4 rather than from the perspective of someone buying one of these modern phones for the first time. The problem with your approach is that you have made it seem like the phone is a disaster and shouldn't be touched... I quote 'using your phone a lot for browsing the web then we'd recommend you steer clear of the Galaxy S' - I can't disagree more. I have been constantly on the internet using my Galaxy S, moving fast between pages, using the pinch zoom - all fantastic.

Your arguments against the screen just don't hold up 'Despite having an impressive resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, the size of this phone's display means it has quite a low pixel-pitch' - seriously... that amount of pixels in a 4inch screen {which looks absolutely outstanding} and you make it sound terrible, clearly you prefer the Iphone4 pixel counts - even if higher pixels, in reality, just means you can zoom in slightly more - where the Galaxy S already does a great job of zooming into documents/ photos, etc.

Your comment 'One consequence of the aforementioned speed of this phone and its large screen is mediocre battery life... All told, this is about average for a phone of this calibre'. Strange comment as it puts a downer on the phone, even though it is on par with others in it's class. It also runs against other reviews which have stated that, as long as the apps and connections are controlled properly, it has a good battery life for its class.

Clearly, you prefer the Iphone4 and have put a personal negative slant on the review, I quote (in addition to the above) 'All told, we're not overly keen on these changes as the tweaks to the icons within the menus makes them very difficult to distinguish from one another' and 'you expect your phone to have a wow factor – after all, there are plenty of perfectly capable android handsets available – and we feel the Galaxy S doesn't quite deliver'.

The menu (or the touch buttons) isn't such a drama as you have made out and it certainly does have the wow factor for anyone looking to update from about 12months back. The body isn't as flimsy as you made out, where I can't get any flexing out of it.

I also feel many of its good points weren't really considered/ discussed, especially for people looking to update after finishing a 24-month contract.

Overall, as you guessed, I couldn't agree with you more and I would recommend people read other {more in depth} reviews. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!


July 21, 2010, 3:31 pm

@Manni: and hangs.

Yeah, that does sound a pitta!!, I've personally never had any issues like that.

But if you think the 32Bit version is more stable you can still install this on your 64bit machine.


July 21, 2010, 3:32 pm

@TechnicPuppet: iTunes is the worst piece of software I have ever used.

Yep, like I said personal taste. Although you don't actually stipulate what's so bad.


July 21, 2010, 3:45 pm

I love Ed's humming in the video recording preview. Was it done on purpose or were you just so bored you started humming?

I do own a Galaxy S and to be fair I thought this was a fair review. It's a good device overall but TouchWiz adds absolutely nothing to Android, also you are spot on about the build quality. Although I will make one point, I had an HTC Desire for about 2 weeks. Although yes, it is a superior handset (purely because it has awesome widgets) it just had so many malfunctions, I had to send it back. First it would restart every now and again for no reason, and then it would fail to make or receive any calls. (ironically after I entered an Apple store, did they plant a virus? lol) I was surprised to find on xda forums that these are not isolated incidents with the Desire. In fact they are rather common. If you actually go on xda forums you will see just how many day-to-day issues Desire users seem to have. I've had the Galaxy S for the same period of time now (2 weeks)and have had absolutely no problems with it. As we say with the iPhone, it just works. So in general I'm quite happy with my purchase (oh and I got it for £399 SIM free unlocked :D).

Good review nonetheless.


July 21, 2010, 3:47 pm


1. My phone backs up data in the cloud

2. Agreed although I use Google listen on my phone to do this.

3. Agree again but so do various programs which perform better on Windows

4. iTunes is a rip off to purchase music. it mat be convenient but the alternatives are far cheaper

5. Useful for iDevices only and OTA is arguably preferable.

6. Performance challenged on Windows

7. Limited codecs to rip to.

I know it sounds really harsh but while iTunes is convenient and does a lot of things I don't think it does many of them extremely well compared to alternatives. The main plus point is the convenience of it "just working" (TM).

Convenience is a big deal for some users but I prefer using the best software for particular tasks.

From what I read the Mac version is an entirely different story and only the Windows version is a dog.

Also don't like how you have to install Quick Time and the Apple updater.

Edward Crabtree

July 21, 2010, 4:01 pm

Hi guys, I have owned one of these phones for a month now. And I've got to admit, I found this review alot more negative than expected.

The screen did look a bit odd to me at first, but you get used to it. It's actually fantastic for video, which is great because the phone plays almost any file you throw at it, including avi/mkv etc. It can even play back 720p content easily, and some have managed to get it to play 1080p content.

I agree with your comments about the software to an extent, but the beauty of Android is it is configurable! You can pretty much do what you want to make it look how you want. Also, there is already a burgeoning development community for this phone that is speeding it up (it's already been benchmarked as the FASTEST android phone - including Nexus One 2.2).

I also disagree with your comment about build quality... sure the back plastic fascia is a tad thin, but it fits snuggly and the lightweight issue is surely a bonus for anyone? Oh, and if people prefer it heavier, they can buy one of the third party metal backplates if they wish.

Basically, I agree with Neil... considering the scores you gave (which in m opinion are a little harsh anyway) the review seemed overly negative for what is essentially the most powerful handset currently available.


July 21, 2010, 4:17 pm


You make some valid points, like I say it's really down to personal taste.

I'm not sure I like the idea of backing up to the Cloud (32gig is a fair chunk), or do you just mean contacts and stuff, if so MobileMe is meant for that.

Or do you mean backing up via Wi-Fi. That is something that's on my wish list, Sync/Backup via Wi-Fi, rather than USB cable. From what I've heard Apple are working on this, so fingers crossed.


July 21, 2010, 4:53 pm

I am disappointed by this review. I would have thought this phone would get a recommended award, it seems there was not much talk on the phones unique features like syncing to other Samsung kit but focus on things like not including a Flash.

I agree not having a flash is a bit strange but at the end of the day THIS IS A PHONE AND NOT A CAMERA so if you want a really good camera - buy one! Often a photo taken on a phone comes out better without the flash turned on, like at close range for example.

I'll still be getting this phone, despite not being recommended by TR :P

David Hollinshead

July 21, 2010, 4:54 pm

What about performance?



July 21, 2010, 5:22 pm

I think this is the perfect Android phone. In that it's been designed by robots and not by humans. It's like Samsung have thrown all their great technology together but not really thought about how people will use the phone. As the review states this sounds like it'll be an amazing phone looking at the specs, but the usability isn't quite there and there's no WOW factor. I think the review was a bit negative, but given the problems I've got with the first Galaxy (i7500) and the fact I've no desire to get another Samsung phone I'm perversely glad to see Samsung getting this kind of review.

I find myself more and more appreciating Apple (to my surprise). They put so much thought into their products (antenna issues aside!), they design them to be so easy to use. If it wasn't for their arrogance, the way they lock things down and limit things I'd have gotten an iPhone long ago. I think right now the iPhone is the right phone for most people, Android while it has some advantages lags behind in too many areas. I think when Gingerbread comes out and there's better hardware for it, it'll be a different story, but for now there's no Android phone that makes me want to upgrade my shitty stuck at Donut i7500 (and i'm kinda tempted to ditch it for an iPhone).


July 21, 2010, 6:02 pm

@HK: the way they lock things down and limit things

Apple have certainly been known for that. But, is there anything in particular you would want that's missing (pause: waits for somebody to say make calls). I know some people like Scripting and stuff on Android, and if your a tinkerer Android looks like the better option.


July 21, 2010, 7:23 pm


Even though I actually like the iPhone 4 some of the things that I would miss include:

- wireless/wired tethering

- codecs (wma/divx.....)

- limted to iTunes store for on phone purchasing

- widgets

- google maps navigation

- flash

Admittedly the list has dwindled with each iOS update. It used to be a lot longer but 4.0 is the first time where I've looked at the iPhone and thought that I could just about live with that.

Ultimately I just don't think it's aimed at me. I understand that the iPhone has democratised smartphones and made them accessible to the layperson. But that's not me. I'm fairly technical and I don't need things to be simple. I don't mind a slight learning curve if I think that there's a benefit. I do like to mess around with my phone and scour XDA for something new to do. And ultimately, I can't stand the idea of someone telling me what I can and can't do with my property.

Still waiting for the new iTouch though! (Sorry @DrDark!)

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