Samsung I9000 Galaxy S preview: First Look
Android and the TouchWizard of Oz
The Samsung I9000 Galaxy S is the third Android phone by Samsung and the second to get the TouchWiz treatment. Compared to the Samsung I5700 Galaxy Spica, the transformation is more pronounced – and it’s better than vanilla Android. Ok, the changes may not change the user experience profoundly, but we just like to see new stuff and we’re already getting bored with Android looking almost the same on devices from different manufacturers.
The customizations start from the homescreen where you get up to nine panes to populate with widgets. Unlike the HTC Sense, you don’t have to use all the screens all the time so if you don’t need that many deleting the extra ones will speed up the navigation.
The option to select a default homescreen like on the Galaxy Spica is unfortunately gone.
Also, with the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S, the default homescreen is the leftmost not the central one, so navigating around calls for a lot of swiping. Things might be different in the final version though.
Samsung have also added 8 widgets of their own, available under “Samsung widgets” when adding content to your homescreen. Those include three different clocks (Calendar, Weather, Dual and Stock clocks).
There’s also the Feeds & Update widget (shows status updates from social networks), Days (lets you snap a photo of something and displays upcoming events and notes, great for a reminder) and Buddies now, which is similar to Photo contacts.
Next, the Galaxy S has four buttons docked on the bottom of its homescreen, which stay at the bottom even when you open the menu. The rightmost button is the Applications button, which brings up the menu and the other three you can change with whatever icon you like.
The main menu consists of side-scrollable panes, much like the homescreen, instead of a vertical scrollable grid (like in vanilla Android). You cannot add new pages, but new ones become available when the old ones fill up.
An interesting feature is that most of the preloaded apps have a grey rounded rectangle for background and the ones you’ve installed have a blue rectangle behind them. While editing the menu, you can uninstall applications (only ones you’ve installed) just by tapping them – the only way to remove an app used to be by going through the Applications section of the Settings menu.
Additionally, the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S packs all the updates brought by Android 2.1, like several new widgets and Live wallpapers as seen on the Nexus One – so, no need to envy Nexus One users for the animated homescreens, but keep in mind that this puts a strain on the battery.
The task switcher has been left untouched by the TouchWiz changes, but the notification area has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and sound toggles on top. These are quite handy when you need to turn on or off one of these features – no more digging through the Settings.
Even better – if there are no known Wi-Fi networks available, a notification appears that lets you pick a network. This makes connecting to any Wi-Fi network a breeze.
The lock screen has been TouchWizified as well – it offers the Smart Unlock functionality. It allows you to assign letters to certain apps – you can draw a ‘B’ on the lock screen and that will unlock the phone bring you straight to the browser.
Overall, the changes that TouchWiz brings to the table makes Android easier to use – the docked icons are the fastest way to launch the most commonly used apps, the toggles in the notifications area let you easily switch off unneeded features to save on battery usage, adding more homescreens only as you need them is better than having 5 (or 7 in, uh, certain UI mods) mostly empty screens. In short, we like what Samsung have done with the place.
We’re not using a finalized version of the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S for this preview but the interface is smooth and fast. There is no sign that the hardware is struggling with the software and the software spares no effort to animate each transition.
The applications work consistently well – from the camera through the gallery to the document viewer, everything feels very fluid. By the time the software is finalized everything should be running smooth as silk. Check out the video below and see for yourselves
Mind you, the lagging that may be noticed at times occurs when closing apps and isn't anywhere to be seen when the app are actually running, which points to the fact that those have more to do with the early firmware version of our unit, rather than hardware limitations.
We ran the benchmarks on the Samsung I9000 Galaxy S but the finalized software might be more optimized so we won’t publish them just yet. The Galaxy S runs on a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor – Hummingbird – but when we put it head to head against the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 and its 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, the Galaxy S came out on top.
It won by a small margin, but still it won. The Samsung Galaxy Spica and HTC Legend turned in understandably lower results. We’ll have to see how the Galaxy S compares to another member in the 1GHz club – HTC Desire – but like we said, we’ll wait for the final version.
The HTC Legend is still unbeaten when it comes to graphics and the Samsung Galaxy Spica is ahead of the Galaxy S too – but keep in mind that they only need to update about a third of the pixels that the Galaxy S has to work with.