Thursday, 28 July 2011

A few weeks with a Samsung Galaxy S2 and a HTC Sensation

Well, it has been now three months that I live without an iPhone, and it is great! Everything is over-the-air, no iTunes, welcome to the open world. Big screens, customisation, widgets, etc. It is funny because I find that people are really changing and say "Oh, your phone looks great, I should have bought it instead an iPhone..."
I have had the opportunity to test many Android devices, and the two last flagships are really great: HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S2.
They are really one step ahead from previous ones, in term of hardware and software. They fit perfectly in your hand, even with their 4,3” screen. It is radically different from a Desire HD for example, which was really big. The standard software such as in call management, quick access to settings (wifi…), Office, e-mail is great.
I have read a lot of test between the two models, but what I wanted to give you a real user feedback after a few weeks of usage. What are the differences between the two? To be honest, the both are great and you won’t be disappointed with them.
So, what can I say?
In term of design, both are great, and really different: maybe it is the first glance that will help you to choose. The HTC is soft, with curves, metal finish, and brown colours. The Samsung is square, thinner and lighter, black, a bit more plastic but nice.
The Samsung has one central hard key, for home, enabling also wake up, which is really convenient, as well as a side key for locking. This is much more convenient than the only key at the top of the HTC. Both lack a camera button. The other touch key works very well, HTC ones are easier to distinguish. Samsung lacks the search key, not a big deal…
The HTC has an USB plug on the left, which is not very convenient on a car support, but not a big deal either.

That’s for pure hardware, what’s happens when you turn it on?
The screen, first. A lot has been said about the Samsung super AMOLED. Well, it is not so impressive in fact. It is bright, yes, too much. Very vivid, and the Samsung colours are ugly (yes, it is subjective). In comparison, the HTC is elegant, with a very high definition and subtle grey colours. The definition of the Sensation (540 x 960 pixels vs 480 x 800 pixels) allows 2 or 3 e-mails more on the screen, while I have the impression to have activated the settings for shortsighted on the Galaxy! The colours are more faithful on the HTC also. The QHD definition of the Sensation is also great to look at a film and offers really more space and a better visual impression. The only issue is that some applications are not well designed for it, such as Pure Grid Calendar, iCoyote, Le Monde… Hope it will change soon.
Nothing to say about processor, the two dual core work great. Samsung offers 6 GB more storage, that’s good!
Both have 8 Mp AF camera, LED flash, HD video capture. Both also have front camera, which is great with the Visidon face recognition unlock app; nevertheless HTC front one is very poor.

So, what about software?
HTC Sense interface is great, and if you like customisation but are not keen to spend hours on the market to have you own interface, it is definitely the best choice. The lock screen is great (even if I prefer Widget locker for the widgets and the ability to have direct access to the notification bar). The icons are more elegant than on the Samsung. But why only 4 rows of icons? The screen is perfect with 5 x 5 icons with Launcher Pro (for example). Samsung is a copy of iOS, nothing stunning in fact.
Both are very fluid and stable, and allow over the air firmware update.
Both have very good notification bar short-cuts for settings, call and music control. This is really an asset and change the usage compared to other brands. The “in call management” of the Galaxy is better for call rejection with SMS and call switching. What have done HTC engineers for the call switching, it is a nightmare!
The smart dialling, ie contact search of the HTC is great, it is enough for me to prefer it to the Samsung. The free app One Dialer offers an ersatz, but really not as good. If you call a lot, it makes the difference. Another thing: volume of calls is very low on Samsung, whatever the headset you have, you can hardly ear your correspondent in a relatively noisy environment.
E-mail client and office suite (Polaris) are both good. HTC and Samsung offer both additional services (applications, books, films, etc.), I am not sure one is clearly above the other. HTC offers a good navigation software where you can download countries maps you can use offline. Very useful if you travel abroad. Samsung offers photo and video editors.
Widgets, contacts and social network integration are definitely better on HTC., even if not very stable, offers remote device management: you can find or kill your device if you have lost it. HTC Sync is also a plus if you want to sync with your PC and not over the air.
HTC keyboard is great, while Samsung offers the very powerful but peculiar Swype. If you don't like it, too bad, the standard keyboard is very basic. HTC offers also a Swype like keyboard, lost in the settings...
Last, not least, battery life. I have installed JuiceDefender, and I manage to finish the day without charging them. Nevertheless, the Samsung seems to be better at this game. I will update you after some further usage.

So, what conclusion? In term of look and feel, it is hard and subjective. Samsung is thinner and lighter (116g vs 148), and has more convenient lock/unlock keys. Nevertheless, I prefer the Sensation finish. For the screen, HTC wins, as well as for the software and phone usage. Battery life could again be in favour of the Galaxy, and I must admit I am really impressed. I will keep you updated when I can test a Sensation XE. Well, you know everything now, I let you decide! Anyway, you won’t regret any of your choice. Buy a brand new 64 GB micro SD and make all the iPhone owners jealous!


  1. Sensatition has a swype like tracking keyboard as well, but it must be switched on by the user.
    That some apps do not look good on qHD yet is down to lazy programmers who hardcode rather than produce scalable layout. Angrybirds is just great and makes use of the 35% more pixels :)

  2. Thanks, indeed there is a "tracking keyboard" lost in the settings. I have upadated my post.
    Angrybirds is great indeed but drain the battery!

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