Software and Conclusion
Software As previously mentioned, Android 2.1 presents a polished interface that's a noticeable aesthetic improvement over its predecessors. Among the features: Live Wallpapers, which let the user staple waving grass or gently glowing jellyfish to the background; Microsoft Exchange support; and tweaks to Google Maps and the virtual keyboard. The user has six home screens on which to store apps, as well as a Feeds and Updates screen; the Applications icon at the bottom of the home screen provides quick access to yet more content.Despite the shininess of the interface (again, due in large part to that Super AMOLED display) and Android 2.1's supposed hardware optimization, there are some kinks. Tapping an icon seems equally capable of launching that application, activating the Trash emblem, or mysteriously duplicating it. That can be frustrating. Also raising the annoyance factor are some of the third-party apps, available through the Android Market, that don't seem quite ready for prime time-at this stage one shouldn't have to question whether a downloaded app will actually work.For business users, the device is capable of integrating e-mail and calendar accounts. While browsing the Internet, I desperately longed for the capability to open PDFs, but to no avail (there is an Adobe app available for download to handle this, but it's not a baked-in feature). Those who prefer Swype-a feature that lets the user drag a finger around the virtual keyboard in order to form words rather than typing individual letters-will be comforted to find it installed on the device (personally, it took me a day to get used to it, and even then I preferred to type emails and notes by hand). The Galaxy S plans to challenge Apple's iTunes with the Samsung Media Hub, which is said to include a wide range of TV shows and movies-once it actually launches. For now, users trying to access the Hub are greeted with a "Coming Soon" screen. Given how Samsung and its carriers are touting the smartphone as a multimedia device, this is a considerable oversight, although Samsung is apparently promising that the Hub will be in place by autumn. These quibbles aside, Samsung is promising that all Galaxy S smartphones will be updated with Android 2.2 (Froyo) by the end of 2010-which will presumably eradicate a number of issues, as well as provide full Flash 10.1 support. Conclusion These aren't perfect smartphones. They are, however, solid portable-media devices with noticeable improvements to the Android operating system. For those in the market for an Android smartphone, the Galaxy S family definitely bears consideration-although the focus on features such as YouTube and movies make it more of a consumer-oriented device than a business one. Whether or not potential buyers attach themselves to the Galaxy S, one thing is certainly clear after testing: With regard to a sleek and feature-rich operating system, Apple needs to start watching its back. The iPhone still offers a peerless experience thanks to iTunes integration and new iOS 4 features, such as multitasking, have eliminated many of the traditional complaints leveled against Apple's mobile franchise. But Android apps such as Kindle, Amazon's MP3 Store, and Samsung Media Hub-combined with the Android Market-show that Google's operating system is starting to catch up in both the aesthetics and functionality departments. Editor's Note: This review has been updated with information about the smartphones' PDF-reading capabilities.