The Samsung Galaxy S II offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling, voice dialing, video calling via Qik, and text and multimedia messaging. The Galaxy S II also happens to be one of T-Mobile's first smartphones to support its faster HSPA+ 42Mbps network, meaning the smartphone can reach theoretical download speeds of 42Mbps--double those of its HSPA+ 21 network. Currently, this network is available in more than 150 markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, and covers 170 million Americans.
T-Mobile reports that in testing it has seen average speeds of 8Mbps, with peaks up to 22.7Mbps in solid 4G areas. Here in San Francisco we didn't hit such high numbers, but we were still impressed by the data speeds. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net, we averaged a download speed of 6.49Mbps, peaking at 9.61Mbps, and upload speed of 0.76Mbps, peaking at 1.59Mbps. Your speeds will vary depending on where you live, time of day, and other variables.
The Galaxy S II also features Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), and GPS, as well as NFC support. With the embedded NFC chip and the preinstalled Tags app, you can use the smartphone to scan, read, and share RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. In the future, once Google Wallet support is expanded beyond the Nexus 4G, you will be able to use the Galaxy S II to make mobile payments.
As we noted earlier, the Samsung Galaxy S II is running Gingerbread and all of Google's services are accounted for: Gmail, Google Maps, voice navigation, search, chat, Places, Latitude, and YouTube, plus basic tools like a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a timer. In addition, Samsung and T-Mobile have preloaded the phone with a number of extras, including the Quickoffice suite, Kies Air (a Wi-Fi-based PC-to-phone sync manager), T-Mobile TV, Netflix, and TeleNav Navigator. Unfortunately, unlike the other carriers, T-Mobile does not let you uninstall any of the preloaded apps.
There is no shortage of entertainment options on the Galaxy S II. In addition to the built-in music and video player, the smartphone offers Samsung's Media Hub, from which you can download movies and TV shows to rent or own. You can also shoot your own videos and photos with the handset's 8-megapixel camera, which is capable of 1080p HD video capture. The camera app has plenty of tools, such as effects, white-balance controls, and ISO settings. Samsung also throws in a photo and video editor, which we appreciate. The video editor is particularly great, since it makes it easy to piece together clips with different effects and music, right on your phone.
Picture quality was excellent. Even under low-light conditions, images came out sharp with rich colors. Videos also looked great, with very little blurring or pixelation. Once you're done capturing media, you can store files in the Galaxy S II's 16GB of internal memory or on an SD card (the expansion slot accepts up to 32GB). You can also share via the usual social network channels or on your HDTV using DLNA or with an HDMI adapter.
We tested the quad-band Samsung Galaxy S II in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was mostly good. The audio was very clear, as we didn't detect any background noise, but voices could sound a bit muffled at times. Several friends also made the same comment, but it was never bad enough that we couldn't understand each other or had to terminate a call.
Samsung Galaxy S II call quality sample
Speakerphone quality is pretty decent. There's a slight tinniness to the voice quality, but it's still clear and understandable. There's enough volume to hear callers in a noisier environment. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music.
We were able to get 4G coverage in most areas of San Francisco, though there were parts of the city where the signal dropped to one or two bars. CNET's full site loaded in 20 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 6 seconds and 9 seconds respectively. High-quality YouTube clips loaded within several seconds and playback was continuous and smooth. We also streamed content from Netflix, but videos looked somewhat choppy.
Unlike the Sprint, AT&T, and unlocked versions of the Galaxy S II, the T-Mobile model is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon S3 1.5GHz dual-core processor instead of Samsung's Exynos 1.2GHz dual-core processor. This is because the Qualcomm chipset can support T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 radio. Though Qualcomm's chip has a slightly faster CPU, we didn't notice a huge difference in speed in everyday use, and in fact the AT&T and Sprint models felt just a touch more responsive. Still, the T-Mobile Galaxy S II is a fast phone, as we were able to launch and switch between apps and tasks easily.
The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II ships with a 1,850mAh lithium ion battery with a rated time of 7 hours and up to 7 days of standby time. The Galaxy S II met the rated talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the smartphone has a SAR rating of 0.35W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.
Though some T-Mobile customers might have felt left out of the iPhone party, there's no reason to be sad. The carrier offers one of the best selections of Android devices, and you can now add the powerful Samsung Galaxy S II to the list. With its gorgeous display, smooth performance, and support for faster data speeds, it's one of the top smartphones in T-Mobile's lineup. It's also one of the pricier ones, so budget-conscious customers might want to take a look at alternatives like the HTC Sensation 4G. However, if money is no object and you're looking for a top-of-the-line smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S II certainly fits the bill.