Samsung has also added a selection of widgets for the desktop, but again we find the additions to be of limited benefit. Although they fulfil much the same function as those that HTC (or other manufacturer’s) adds to its devices, they’re simply ugly and unintuitive. Aside from these issues the phone performs perfectly well with its 1GHz processor giving the interface a satisfying level of snappiness and apps have plenty of headroom to be responsive. With a choice of either 8GB or 16GB capacities (as well as a microSD card slot for expanding storage), there’s also going to be plenty of space to store all your media, though we can only seem to find the 8GB available to buy in the UK.
One addition Samsung has made that we ”do” like is that of Swype. This is an alternative input method for using the on-screen keyboard. Instead of tapping at each key individually, you keep a single finger pressed to the screen and swipe it from one letter to the next. The software then interprets what word you were aiming for and adds it in. If it can’t quite interpret what you word you were aiming for, you’re presented with a choice of alternatives, and you can just tap out words as well. Once you’ve finished a word, just move onto the next one – there’s no need to add spaces yourself.
It’s a stunningly impressive system that works incredibly well. We couldn’t quite match the speeds we can achieve when typing two handed (incidentally, the on-screen typing experience in general on this phone is excellent) but in the hands of some users it has set touchscreen typing records.
Another addition is off the shelf support for a variety of video formats and codecs, including DIvX and MKV. We tested this with a couple of 720p video clips and were amazed to see just how effortless it was to play them – the Galaxy S just started straight away without nary a hiccup. What’s more, thanks to its screen the video looks stunning to the point where we’d be more than happy to watch a full length movie. Also helping is a reasonably powerful speaker, though Samsung hasn’t quite stretched to adding stereo speakers.
Another much touted feature also relates to audio: the audio player supports a multitude of formats including FLAC and AC3. This is a nice addition as it means you can keep all your music in your favourite format and not have to worry about converting it to put on your phone. There are also audio quality benefits. It might lack the hardware to make the most of the subtle improvements the difference in format provides, but the audio quality on the Galaxy S comfortably bests that of any iPhone.
One of the key components of most smartphones nowadays is its camera, so it’s disappointing to note that the Galaxy S doesn’t have a flash. Otherwise it’s on the same level as most of its contemporaries, with 5.0 megapixels available for stills and 720p HD video recording also on offer. Results are entirely typical of all such phones with acceptable still shots in bright conditions and rather blurry and noisy ones in darker conditions, which aren’t helped by the lack of a flash. For general social photos it’s fine, but a dedicated camera is still a must for any remotely challenging situation.
Likewise the HD video is decent enough for capturing your friends larking about on the park and such like. The poor low light performance means there’s potentially still a place for dedicated pocket internet camcorders (which generally perform well in such situations), but for the most part this phone will suffice until you make the leap up to a proper camcorder with a zoom.