The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket performs very well, thanks to the dual-core 1.5 GHz processor -- opening and switching apps is almost instantaneous. According to the Quadrant benchmark test, the phone received a score of 3359, which isn't surprising at all considering how well it performed. Combine that with excellent 4G network performance, and it feels as if the Skyrocket is carrying out your wishes almost before you express them. I'm used to modern smartphones performing well, but the Skyrocket is aptly named -- it is truly a high flyer.
Call quality is fair, and generally acceptable, but not great. One of my test callers complained that I was hard to understand on one call, but not when we tried it again in another location. I didn't have any problems hearing or understanding anyone, but I did have some frustrating experiences when I tried the Skyrocket out at the mall during a marathon Christmas shopping trip.
Everyone else around me was talking happily on their phones, posting status updates, looking things up with shopping apps, etc. but I had extremely limited coverage. I was only able to make two calls, both in the same area of the mall, and was completely unable to access the web or get email unless I happened to connect to an open Wi-Fi network. While I didn't ask any of my fellow shoppers if they happened to be using AT&T (and I'll grant that it could have been an isolated case), I was still rather disappointed in the phone's performance that day.
Where this phone really shines is on AT&T's 4G LTE network. If you have coverage in your area, you're in for a treat -- multi-megabyte apps download in just a couple of seconds, not a couple of minutes. Streaming videos play almost instantly, with no interruptions or annoying "buffering" errors. The Speed Test app results were very good; 3820 to 4517 kbps for downloads, 724 to 1142 kbps, and 78 to 107 ping.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work as expected. I wasn't able to test the mobile hotspot feature, because it wasn't activated on the test account that came with the loaner device.
Coverage/network issues aside, the social networking experience with this Samsung smartphone was a good one. The Social Hub can integrate all of your email and social networking feeds from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn into one cohesive experience that is easy to use. It's nice not having to check multiple apps, though the experience isn't quite as good as HTC's Friendstream app. If you prefer, the standalone Facebook app is pre-installed on the phone, though as soon as you launch it and sign in you'll be prompted to download an update from the Android Market.
The email and web experiences are pretty much Android standard, though if you want to integrate your email into the SocialHub application mentioned above you can do so. If you're lucky enough to live in a 4G area and can get good coverage, you'll enjoy blazing fast speeds, with web pages that seem to load almost as soon as you finish entering the URL.
The Calendar and Contacts apps are also the standard Android ones, but the Skyrocket comes with a few extras, such as Memo and Task apps and a Mini Diary for those who like to keep a journal of their daily experiences. Clock and Calculator are also included, plus a news & Weather app designed to keep you updated on all the latest headlines or tell you whether or not you need a coat or umbrella each morning.
Quickoffice is bundled for all of your Microsoft Office document handling needs. This latest version is better than the one I've used on previously reviewed phones, with a better layout and faster performance. The app includes Quickword for word processing, Quicksheet for spreadsheets, Quickpoint for presentations, and QuickPDF for your Adobe Acrobat files. You'll also have quick access to any files you've stored in the cloud, with support for adding accounts with Google Docs, Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, and other popular storage services.
Navigational duties are handled by Google Maps and/or the AT&T Navigator. Though I personally prefer Google's service, especially since it's free and AT&T Navigator adds another $9.99 to your monthly phone bill (or you can get a day pass for $2.99), they both get the job done. GPS performance was very fast, always locating my position quickly and accurately. POI information in AT&T Navigator was generally useful and accurate, with a few oddities thrown in from time to time -- search for local theaters and you might find the corporate office at the top of the list, instead of the nearest actual theater.
All of the standard apps for fun and games are included, like the generic Android Music app, but there are also some extras like the Amazon Kindle app, AT&T Code Scanner (for 2D bar codes and local coupons/offers), and a demo of the latest Need for Speed racing game.
AT&T Live TV is also pre-loaded, and it's pretty slick though it comes at a cost of $9.99 a month after a seven-day free trial. This isn't a DVR control app, but rather an on-demand entertainment service with shows from many of your favorite channels. The selection is pretty good, though you shouldn't expect full seasons like you would get on Hulu Plus. In my testing, sound quality was universally excellent, but some of the videos were relatively grainy. They weren't unwatchable by any means, but if you're an HD fiend, you might be somewhat disappointed.
Games look and play great. My standard test apps such as Jewels and Angry Birds all work perfectly, though Jewels in particular almost made my eyes bleed due to the super-bright, super-saturated display. The Need for Speed demo that came with the phone plays smoothly, with sharp graphics. Sound effects in all of the games come through great; the internal speaker is very good quality and capable of playing even at high volume with little to no distortion.
The 8 megapixel camera takes really nice shots, with a good level of detail and quality even when using the zoom feature. It's plenty good for everyday use, though the Skyrocket won't necessarily replace a stand-alone digital camera for the really important stuff. I was generally quite pleased with color reproduction, and just about every shot turned out well. Some of the photos I took outside suffered from a few exposure issues here and there, but that's typical for smartphone cameras when there are large contrasts between buildings/trees and a bright, sunny sky.
The photos I took using the zoom feature were almost uniformly good, especially for varied subjects like turtles and ducks in a pond, as opposed to the shot of a Christmas tree I took from the second level of the mall. There was just too much "sameness" in the tree for the camera to really focus on one particular area, so that one came out a bit fuzzy. Overall the camera performed exceptionally well and should please just about anyone who likes to take casual photos with their smartphone.
While the Skyrocket offers exceptional performance and download speeds, it also seems to sip at the battery power. I had no problem at all getting through 2-3 days of regular use -- emails, a few phone calls, gaming during the daily commute, etc. The only time I saw the battery meter move at all was when watching AT&T Live TV for extended periods of time. During those video sessions the back of the phone also got a little warm, but not warm enough to cause any real concern.
While I wouldn't run off for a three-day weekend without packing the charger, just in case, you also won't have to worry about having a backup battery just to get through the day, unless you plan to watch video from sunup to sundown. While most 4G smartphone batteries drain at an alarming rate, the engineers who designed the Skyrocket definitely got it right.
This is Part 2 of a multi-page review. Please continue to Part 3 to read our conclusions on the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket.
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