At long last, AT&T is finally rolling out its much-awaited LTE network that promises much faster speeds than its existing "4G" HSPA+ network. (What will AT&T dub its LTE network to differentiate it from HSPA+? 4G Plus?) The carrier promised that LTE will be in at least 15 markets by the end of 2011, and along with that comes the launch of AT&T's first 4G LTE handsets--the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and the HTC Vivid.
Those familiar with Samsung's Galaxy S II handsets will feel right at home with the Skyrocket. Interestingly, the Skyrocket has more in common with the T-Mobile version of the Galaxy S II rather than the AT&T version; it has a similar footprint, NFC support, and the same Qualcomm dual-core processor.
Of course, the big differentiator is the Skyrocket's LTE chipset. That's the reason the Skyrocket is priced at $249.99 after a two-year contract.
Editor's note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluations of the other Samsung Galaxy S II models. We lowered the rating for this product on May 1, 2012 following the release of the HTC One X.
The first thing that strikes you about the Samsung Skyrocket is its size. Due to its 4.5-inch display, the phone has quite a large footprint. At 5.15 inches tall by 2.75 inches wide by 0.37 inch thick, the Skyrocket is not the most pocket-friendly of phones. Yet, its smooth curves do make it more comfortable to hold than other large handsets. The phone is clad in plastic from head to toe, which gives it a slightly cheap feeling, but it also means it's quite lightweight at 4.71 ounces. The battery cover on the back feels similar to the one on the unlocked version of the Galaxy S II. It has a very slight texture that reminds us of wood veneer.
As we mentioned, the Skyrocket has a huge 4.5-inch display. Because of that, it looks more similar to the T-Mobile version of the Galaxy S II, as the AT&T version has a smaller 4.3-inch display instead. The Super AMOLED Plus screen is as gorgeous as ever, with vibrant colors and sharp images. It's still stuck with the 800x480-pixel resolution, which doesn't look as crisp on a big screen, but we still thought it looked great.
The touch screen is very responsive to our taps and swipes. You can also use motion gestures and certain finger gestures: if the appropriate settings are turned on, you can flip the phone over to mute it, and you can tilt to zoom in and out with two fingers on the screen. You can even "pan" the phone (flicking left or right) to move a home screen icon. These gestures strike us as more gimmicky than useful, but they're there if you wish to use them. A more interesting feature is the Vlingo-powered Voice Talk app that lets you perform various actions using voice command.
Beneath the display are four touch-sensor controls for the home, menu, back, and search functions. On the left is the volume rocker, while the power/lock button is on the right spine. A Micro-USB port sits on the bottom, while a 3.5mm headset jack is on the top. Sitting above the display on the upper left-hand corner is a 2-megapixel camera for video calls, while the main 8-megapixel camera is on the back along with an LED flash.
AT&T packages the Skyrocket with an AC adapter, a USB cable, and reference material.
As we mentioned earlier, anyone who is familiar with the Samsung Galaxy line of phones will be familiar with the Skyrocket. It runs Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread along with Samsung's latest TouchWiz 4.0 interface. It has seven home screens, and a notification pull-down menu for easy toggling of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, silent mode, and autorotation. You can also customize the home screens easily by dragging and dropping widgets and shortcuts through the various panels.
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 great: you can capture screenshots by simply pressing the power button and home key simultaneously.