Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluations of the other Samsung Galaxy S II models. Additionally, due to changes in the competitive marketplace, we've lowered the overall rating of this product from 8.7 to 8.3.
Just like Sprint and AT&T customers, T-Mobile customers now have the opportunity to pick up the popular Samsung Galaxy S II. T-Mobile's model of the Android Gingerbread smartphone is slightly different from the other versions in that it features a different dual-core processor, an NFC chip, and support for the carrier's faster HSPA+ 42 network. It's also slightly more expensive at $229.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, but if you're looking for high-end features and performance, the Galaxy S II is pretty hard to beat.
The T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II is the fourth iteration of the Android smartphone we've seen to date, and in terms of build quality, it's the best one yet. This is largely due to the soft-touch finish on the battery door that adds a leatherlike texture. It's a small detail that makes a huge difference in making the Galaxy S II feel like the premium handset that it is, instead of a cheaper phone.
Like the Epic 4G Touch, the T-Mobile Galaxy S II has a large screen, so it's a bigger-than-average device at 5.11 inches tall by 2.71 inches wide by 0.37 inch thick. The width makes the handset slightly awkward to hold during a call, and it's not the most pocket-friendly. That said, the phone is relatively thin and lightweight at 4.77 ounces, so it's not horribly cumbersome.
The Super AMOLED Plus touch screen measures 4.52 inches diagonally with a resolution of 800x480 pixels. There are higher-resolution screens on the market, but the Galaxy S II's display is still sharp and shows off vibrant colors. The spaciousness of the screen also makes it great for viewing Web pages and multimedia.
The touch screen is responsive. The smartphone offers both Swype and Samsung's own virtual keyboard. It registered all our taps, and we were able to easily navigate through the menus. In addition to using the standard touch interface, you can also use motion gestures. With the settings turned on, you can flip the phone to mute it. With two fingers on the screen, you can tilt to zoom in and out in the Gallery and browser. Flicking your wrist left or right (panning) can move a home screen icon when you're holding it. We can't really foresee using motion gestures all that often, but more useful is the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk app that allows you to compose and send messages, call contacts, launch the music player, and perform other actions using voice command.
Though most of your interaction with the smartphone will be through the touch screen, there are various controls on the handset to make some tasks easier. For quick access to the home, menu, back, and search functions, you have four touch-sensitive buttons below the display. On the left spine, you'll find a volume rocker, and there is a power/lock button on the right side. A Micro-USB port sits on the bottom of the device, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. On the front in the upper left-hand corner is a 2-megapixel camera for video calls and self-portraits. Meanwhile the main 8-megapixel camera is on back, along with an LED flash.
T-Mobile packages the Galaxy S II with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
The Samsung Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread along with Samsung's latest TouchWiz 4.0 user interface. We're often less than enthusiastic about custom interfaces--they sometimes add unwanted complexity, and are usually slower to update to new OS versions. However, TouchWiz 4.0 has things going for it, some being carryovers from previous versions of TouchWiz. There are seven home screens, for example, and the notification pull-down menu has icons for easily turning on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, silent mode, and autorotation.
Customizing the home screens is made easier, with a carousel-like setup that lets you move through the various panels to add and remove shortcuts and widgets at the same time. Previously, you had to do a long-press on one screen to change it and then repeat the process if you wanted to change another page. You can also now resize Samsung Live Panel widgets and there's a more fluid motion when scrolling through widgets lists and home pages.
Some of the changes are purely cosmetic, but they certainly add some polish to the UI. There are also some useful additions, such as an integrated task manager that displays all your active applications, downloaded apps with the option to uninstall, RAM status, and system storage. Also new and great: the ability to capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.