Samsung Skyrocket

It was a long wait between the release of the international version of the Samsung Galaxy S II and a version for AT&T, but the U.S. carrier has now ended up with two of them.  One version is pretty faithful to the original (check out our review here), and the second version, the Samsung Skyrocket, is what were looking at today.  There's a good bit of difference, both the obvious (a larger 4.5-inch screen and an LTE modem) and the not so visible (different chipsets), but the user experience is the same for the most part.  Hit the break where we dive in and have a look at what the Skyrocket has to offer, besides having one of the best device names since the OG Droid.

The Good

The beautiful screen looks even better at 4.5-inches.  Handoff times from LTE to a GSM/HSPA network are quick.  HSPA+ fallback when not in an LTE area offers a better experience to the user.  Overall the phone is very smooth, like we're used to from the GSII line.

The Bad

LTE is hard on battery life.  A 4.5-inch screen may be too big for some.  AT&T's LTE network is in its infancy and still full of holes.  The different internals may mean longer wait times for updates from Samsung and AT&T.  NFC is once again notoriously absent from the software.


The Skyrocket stays faithful to the Galaxy S II line, offering the same (or better) performance and an identical user experience.  AT&T still needs to work on its LTE network, but with a fast handoff and fast HSPA network speeds to fall back on, the casual user will be pleased with its speed on the Internet.  The big, beautiful screen and LTE radio are hard on the battery (especially when compared to using it in a non-LTE enabled area) but that can be solved by carrying a spare battery or plugging it in when possible.

Inside this

More info


A refresher -- a look at our hands-on when the Skyrocket first arrived and an overview of the phone.

Youtube link for mobile




Samsung Skyrocket Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket

The Skyrocket starts by showing you how big it is.  It's something we're getting used to, as the trend in Android is towards bigger and brighter displays. But if you're coming from something smaller, it's a change for sure.  That's not a bad thing, and even naysayers like yours truly are getting more used to giant smartphones -- and liking the real estate they offer.  The phone is thin, exceptionally thin considering what we're used to seeing an LTE phone look like, which makes it more manageable in the hand.  Once you get past your thumb not being able to easily reach everything on the screen, you'll adjust and I think you'll like the 4.5-inches of Super AMOLED Plus the Skyrocket offers.

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

The controls and various ports are laid out exactly the same as the other Galaxy S II devices.  On the right side of the phone you have the power switch, and on the left you have the volume controls.  Both are placed slightly lower (compared to the original Galaxy S II) for easier operation in one hand, and they seemed to be exactly where my fingers expected them to be.  Up top, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack and a secondary noise-canceling microphone, and on the bottom you have the microUSB port and the main mic.

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

The front of the phone has the four capacitive buttons we're used to (and soon will be a thing of the past) silk-screened on the bottom, and at the top you have the earpiece, the front facing camera and the usual array of sensors.  Like the T-Mobile Galaxy S II (which the Skyrocket very much resembles), you have a thin bezel and very little wasted space on the front of the phone.  It looks, and feels, great.

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

The rear of the phone holds the excellent 8MP camera and LED flash, and has a smooth glossy battery door that gets a bit slippery.  Cut out near the bottom is the external speaker, which is loud and very clear.  Pop the battery cover off and you'll see a battery (surprise!), a slot for the SIM card, and one for a microSD card.  You can get to both without removing the battery, but resist the temptation to remove or insert the SIM card while the phone is powered on.  The battery is branded with NFC capabilities, which once again is absent from the software itself.  A deeper look at the running processes shows NFC is up and active, but with no front end we're not sure how usable it will be.  Hackers will get it working, and hopefully Ice Cream Sandwich's Beam feature will work when the Skyrocket sees an update.

Operation and usage

GPS   Wifi

The Skyrocket performed flawlessly (except for some network errors in Washington, D.C. -- see the LTE section below).  Calls were clear, crisp, and plenty loud on both ends -- normally, via speakerphone and Bluetooth.  GPS initially locked in seconds, and got very accurate (5-10 feet) after 15-20 seconds of use, and navigation had no issues.  Wifi signal was strong, and there were no unexpected glitches of any sort.  I have to say every aspect of the phones operation was better than expected, and there were no weak areas as far as the use of phone features and function.  Nicely done Samsung and AT&T.



More detail below


  •     4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus Display (800 x 480)
  •     Android 2.3.5 (Gingerbread)
  •     1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor
  •     8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash
  •     2-megapixel front-facing camera
  •     1080p HD video recording
  •     16GB of onboard memory
  •     1GB RAM
  •     MicroSD expandable up to 32GB
  •     AT&T 3G/HSPA/LTE radios
  •     129.8 x 68.8 x 9.5 mm
  •     Weight 130.5 g


The LTE network

Samsung Skyrocket

Like the vast majority of the country, I don't have AT&T LTE where I live, work, or play.  Luckily, I'm only about 40 miles from a place that does -- Washington, D.C. -- so we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly took a day trip to play with the LTE network.  First impressions were very good.  I went into it knowing that the network was new, and also knowing how Verizon's LTE network operates, so i knew what to expect from a freshly rolled-out cell data network.  It was basically what I had expected.  LTE coverage doesn't mesh well with the coverage maps (I couldn't get an LTE signal at Dulles Airport at all), and it's a bit spotty.  Driving around town you'll see your phone move in and out of LTE coverage, and finding a spot to sit and play turned out to be difficult.  My old haunts around Foggy Bottom and Georgetown didn't have the coverage, and places where I saw a good strong signal (surprise -- the LTE signal around the White house is excellent) just weren't as close together as i would have liked.  Anyone familiar with DC knows what a mess the metro area is, and regulation on radio signals and towers can't be very helpful.  We did see some decent signal in many places, but not the blazing speeds others have reported.  Nowhere did I see speeds over 20 Mbps download, but what I did see made me very happy. 

Samsung Skyrocket

LTE speeds

Samsung Skyrocket

HSPA "4G" speeds

The average LTE data speeds in Washington, D.C., were around 15 Mbps on LTE.  The whole city is blanketed with HSPA+ signal, which AT&T confusingly also calls 4G, and these speeds averaged around 6 M/sec.  I have a nice rant all ready to publish here on the blog about how AT&T is trying to trick and fool customers by not differentiating between LTE and HSPA+ 4G, but I'll need to revisit and re-write it.  A day spent running the gamut of EDGE, 3G, 4G HSPA+, and 4G LTE made me rethink my position.  There is a clear difference between EDGE or UMTS 3G networks and the HSPA+ 4G network, just as there is between the HSPA+ network and the LTE network.  One thing I really appreciated was the fallback from LTE to HSPA+ -- it's not a drastic shock like moving from LTE to a painfully slow (in modern mindset) 3G signal like you see on the Verizon network.  You would certainly see the difference if you were tethering your phone to a computer, but for data consumed on the phone itself, the quick handoff between networks and relatively fast HSPA+ speeds to fall back on made for a very nice user experience.  I never once left an LTE area, and had to wait 45 seconds to switch to a 700 K/sec 3G network, and I appreciated it.  I'm not sure where other reviewers and users are seeing ultra-fast (Verizon like, if you will) LTE speeds, but to me this is better.  Anyone who moves around a lot during the day and drops in and out of LTE coverage on Verizon can relate, I'm sure.  We give AT&T a hard time about their network coverage, but they've done well here.

Samsung Skyrocket

Now that I've praised AT&T, it's time to knock them down a bit.  I saw a good many network errors throughout the day, especially in areas with LTE coverage.  The SpeedTest app from the Market was absolutely useless, as a test was never able to complete.  I also saw errors while browsing the web and while getting my mail.  Enough errors, that I decided I had to investigate a bit further.  It seems like there are known issues in the Washington, D.C., area with either the Skyrocket, or the LTE network.  According to some speculation on the AT&T support forums, there may be an "HLR" issue with the LTE network in Washington and Boston.  Hopefully, whatever the problem is gets rectified soon. 

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Yes, AT&T LTE kills your battery.  Not as bad as some other LTE phones (cough, Thunderbolt), but there's a vast difference when you're in an LTE area.  At home, tooling around in areas where EDGE and HSPA are the norm, I don't have to charge the Skyrocket every day.  Get somewhere with an LTE signal, and that changes.  You'll have to be careful else you'll run out of juice before you run out of daylight.  buy a spare battery, and a spare charging cable.  In the words of our fearless leader, "Just plug it in".


Samsung Skyrocket

Grab any phone running TouchWiz 4.0 and pick it up.  that's the user experience you'll have from the Skyrocket. Samsung has spent a great deal of time and money to ensure that users recognize, and are comfortable with, their version of Android regardless of the device name.  It worked -- there are subtle changes (mostly carrier related widgets or options), but the UX from one Galaxy S II to another is seamless. 

Samsung Skyrocket

TouchWiz 4 is also a large leap from TouchWiz of the past.  It offers a ton of customization for the end user, and now does it with a bit more elegance and class -- gone are the garish blue icons in the status bar and in-your-face explosion of overdone colors.  Things are more subtle, and in my opinion, cleaner and more pleasant. 

Samsung Skyrocket

When you open the app drawer, you'll see AT&T had their way with the installed apps.  this no longer surprises us, and many of the bundled applications are quite useful.  We'd rather they all be an optional download from the market, but we're not the ones manufacturing or selling the phones.  The list of AT&T bloatware is as follows:

  • AT&T Code Scanner -- A barcode scanner (something you would likely install anyway)
  • AT&T FamilyMap -- A stub to download the AT&T FamilyMap application, which lets you track the location of other phones on your family plan -- for $10 a month.
  • AT&T Navigator -- AT&T's version of Telenav, a turn-by-turn navigation application.
  • AT&T Ready2Go -- An app that will set up and provision your phone via the
  • computer
  • Featured Apps -- A spotlight of AT&T's favorite apps from the Market
  • Live TV -- A stub to download the AT&T U-verse app from the Market
  • MOG Music -- Yet another streaming music service
  • myAT&T -- A stub to download the myAT&T application from the Market.  Useful for account management
  • Visual Voicemail -- Voicemail, visualized
  • YP -- A stub to download the app from the Market

Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Some of these apps are useful, some not so much.  My biggest gripe is with the stub apps -- rather than place an icon that's essentially a shortcut to download an app (and can't be hidden), just give me the damn app.  You've also got the full gamut of Samsung applications built-in to TouchWiz, which offer social networking and other mundane things, as well as neat tricks like motion based device navigation and settings.  You see these on every Galaxy S II, and Samsung has done a fine job with them.

Samsung Skyrocket  Social Hub

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket

The Skyrocket also has the same quality camera (both hardware and software) we're used to from other Galaxy S II phones.  It's plenty capable, takes great pictures, and is almost at a place where you can replace a point and shoot camera with it.  Here's a few examples from a total amateur behind the lens, others with more skill will probably have excellent results.  Each opens full size in a pop-up -- be warned if you're viewing this on mobile.

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket  Samsung Skyrocket

Samsung Skyrocket

Final thoughts

The Skyrocket is one hell of a phone.  For the same price as the standard Galaxy S II, you get a bigger screen, access to the AT&T LTE network, and the same great user experience.  At this point, I honestly think the only reason to even consider the "normal" Galaxy S II on AT&T is if you prefer a bit smaller phone.  AT&T's LTE network is young, spotty, and has some connectivity issues, but it's full of promise and has a very nice 3G/4G network to fall back on when not in coverage.  My experience didn't find the blazing fast Verizon style network speeds, but the overall experience to me was better because I didn't have the shock of going from insanely fast to dreadfully slow from one area to the next.  While I wouldn't recommend switching from a carrier that already works well for you, if you're a current AT&T customer the future looks bright, and the Skyrocket is the phone to get.


Reader comments

Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket review


2010 = Single-Cores..
2011 = Dual-Cores.
2012 = Quad-Core Greatness..

Another Dual Core Phone... (Yawn...) who cares.. Nexus, Skyrocket, Razr, Bionic.. OLD TECH! We are on the Eve of REVOLUTIONARY 2,000 mhz Quad-Core Powerhouse Phones.. With Multi-Core GPU's.. Would you really trade a 90 day wait to own Revolutionary Technology that Will carry you til 2014 for Early 2011 Technology that is going to seem obsolete in just a 16-18 weeks? Imagine going back to a 400-500 mhz phone right now.. How much lag would you have? How much game playing power would you have? Web load speeds? It would seem so slow huh? Well, That how far KAL-EL's Processors will be ahead of this 2011 Technolgy.. Just wait a little longer.. They already have you Dangling now waiting on the Nexus which should have hit america early quarter 4.. Here it is the eve of December and you still don't even have a release date for that so called " State of the Art " 2011 technology.. Really?

Blazing on my 1,300 mhz Droid Charge.. Until KAL-EL...

I wouldn't buy a phone next year either. Because in 2013 we'll have Octo-core phones, and you'll feel like a dolt buying a quad-core......

There is no 2013.
The World Ends December 21, 2012 11:09 P.M. Pacific Time.
Don't You Know Anything of the Mayan Long Count Calendar / Prophecy..
And don't be mad at KAL-EL.. Just admit these phones will be INFERIOR in oh.. about 90 days.. Sorry...

*Blazing on my Custom 1,300 mhz Droid Charge..* Until King KAL-EL's arrival...

Dont you know anything. The Myan's only made a calendar up to 2012. That does not mean the world is going to end. The universe will be here for another 500 years or so. We are looking at an improvement in 2012, or a more harsher economy. The Myans could not write forever. I think you need to study other resources of history. Im not hating im just letting you know nails.

"Skyrockets in flight,
Afternoon delight!"

so when running apps and moving through the phone, its just as fast as the gs2?

Samsung's 4.5" devices are disgusting. I encourage anyone to check them out in the stores. I haven't held a more uncomfortable and ugly phone in my life (Epic Touch, Infuse).

Go back to 16:9 4.3. Things like the Rezound and EVO 3D are as big as phones need to be.

"Things like the Rezound & EVO 3D are as big as phones need to be."

...for you.

Honestly, I wish people would stop b***hing about screen size. If you don't want it, don't get it. Simple as that. Do you REALLY think .2" measured diagonally is going to make that big of a difference to most? Hardly.

If you want all smartphones on your platform of choice to have the same screen size, go get an iPhone.

So I can buy this phone in a 4" or 16:9 4.3 size? I'm just concerned that all phones will be going this route if you don't want a low-end processor and lower resolution.

.2 diagonally isn't that much.. but with the dimensions of this phone, it's over .1 inches in width alone over something with a more attractive 16:9 space. It's not like you're actually gaining vertical screen.

And an iPhone? Right, because switching operating system and everything else along with an iPhone is the exact same as an Android device.

I understand you don't agree with me about a preferred size, but when you're spouting off nonsense like get an iPhone instead, it really makes you look like a dolt.

I disagree entirely. I upgraded from the Captivate to the Skyrocket and I'm enjoying the extra screen real estate, especially for games and browsing the internet. The fit and finish are good quality, which is typical for Samsung. I can understand not liking the phone but I find your comments out of touch with reality.

What "Reality" are you talking about? It's just an ugly, too wide phone. I'm not sure how an opinion about attractiveness and comfort can be out of touch.

I agree. Your nuts Saneless. I love my 4.5 inch screen. I was saddened when the Galaxy II came out with a 4.3 screen on ATT and the others were all 4.5. Then i saw the Skyrocket. I LOVE THE 4.5 screen. I am not for looks. I am in for performance, usage, and power. I do not need to put a dress on my phone to be happy. I hope all future phones are 4.5 and bigger as a standard. if you want smaller screens with a dress and a bow on it, go with an IPhone.

I can see how you would think it's ugly. Many people don't care that much -- light up the screen and wow. There are some great looking phones that are less ugly though -- phones like the Amaze 4g, Evo Design 4g, etc come to mind. I do wish they would make a superphone with a 4" screen again though, there are a lot of people who like them.

As for me... I want the galaxy nexus. :P

This phone is one of the best looking phone on AT&T and the size is perfect. I had the orginal S II and was lucky to see this come out within the 30 days (was charged $35.00 restocking fee). Now when I use my daughter's ATRIX 4G, you can see a major difference, I would not want to go back to that size at all. A 4.5 inch size is the way to go, especially when the phone is thin and light.

Just as we rail on him for making blanket statements that seem to be applied to everyone, same goes for you... 4.5" is the way to go FOR YOU. not everyone likes it.

The SR is a great phone. I bought one for my wife and she loves it (upgrading from a BB Bold 9700). It's very fast and the screen is very nice. It's also pretty future-proof with LTE and NFC on-board. Battery life has been very good so far, though we don't have LTE coverage at our house. It's easily the best phone available on AT&T right now.

This is just the Infuse upgraded, this what the infuse should've been. and yes i have a Infuse and love it.

If they called it the "Infuse II", they'd probably get some angry infuse customers. And not sell as many.

I have an Evo 4G, and can't wait to get the Epic 4G Touch. Nothing beats the screen, the speed of the launcher and I like Touchwiz 4 a lot. tho...I'd rather have the Galaxy Note!

Oh and nice review Jerry! (black gold, texas tea lol)

I switched from the Rocket to the Vivid and I'm already missing my Rocket. I switched because I got a lemon but after 1 hour with this Vivid I'm ready to go back...

Good Review Jerry! I have the Skyrocket and love it. Not sure why we are still having debates on which SII to get or how inferior this phone WILL be someday...To each their own!

Cannot go back to HSPA after having some LTE goodness here in Texas. Have tried the LTE network in DFW and San Antonio and it is blazing! Heard Houston is too!

I have thus far had drastically different results with AT&T's LTE network on the Skyrocket in the Boston area. So far the only time my phone drops down to HSPA+ is while i'm inside the building at my work, otherwise it's always in LTE and that's living 30 mins north of Boston, and my LTE speeds have been much faster as well, it seems to average around 20Mbps with the highest result I've seen being 53.52Mbps, which again was 30 mins north of Boston.

Overall i'm very impressed with AT&T's data network now, and back when I left them about a year an half ago that was my biggest complaint, so they definitly have improved a lot in that area.

And of course the Skyrocket is an amazing phone, I totally love it, my only real complaint would be that I wish they had went with a higher res panel on it, 720p would be awesome, but even a 960x540 panel would have been nice, but that being said still side by side I prefered the 800x480 super AMOLED+ display on the Skyrocket over the 960x540 Super LCD display on the HTV Vivid.

I also have a Skyrocket in the Boston area and have had great results with the LTE speeds in the city and north of Boston.

As for the size of the phone, I'm coming from an iPhone 4 and have absolutely loved the extra screen real estate. I had tested out a Samsung Focus running WP7.5 and found the lack of mainstream apps on the Windows Phone to be a bit of a downfall. The expansive Android Market has made my transition almost seamless (the only thing missing that I wish was on Android now is Instragram, but I can live without it).

Excellent Samsung hardware and excellent LTE speeds by AT&T.

Still waiting in Los Angeles area. I noticed the speed change from my 3G (iPhone 4) to now Skyrocket (HSPA+). I am typically getting 5Mbs download on the HSPA+. Not bad at all since on 3G, it was more like 2.5Mbs.

Hello AT&T in Los Angeles!

One thing to point out is that they are NOT identical (this and the T-mo version), and I mean other than what you stated. Look at the back. The speakers are on opposite sides, so no using the same case.

This is the same dimensions as the Razr (5.15 high and 2.71 wide). These are too big for me. I really want a 3.8-4.0" phone with all the goodies LTE, ICS. I have already ruled out the Razr and Rezound - because they are TOO BIG. Maybe I'm the only that feels this way but I'm hopeful that as the high moves higher (quad core , 720 P HD) that the mid range will end up with excellent dual core and qHD would be fine for me.

I generally liked the review except for this part:

"My biggest gripe is with the stub apps -- rather than place an icon that's essentially a shortcut to download an app (and can't be hidden), just give me the damn app."

Wouldn't it be preferable to have a 'shortcut' to download an app you may not want on the phone, rather than preinstalling 'bloatware'?

Isn't there a feature in TouchWiz 4 to let you 'hide' app shortcuts from the main app drawer? Or to put them in a folder that you can ignore? That way, you can hide the shortcut and not have to worry about uninstalling some crud that the carrier put on the phone. Please let me know if I am wrong about being able to 'hide' apps in the TouchWiz 4 appdrawer.

Thanks for the review, especially the info about AT&T's LTE coverage here in the Washington DC area. Most of the glowing reviews of AT&T LTE seem to come from the markets in Texas that have it. That seems to be a stronger area for AT&T than the Northeast.

I'm on AT&T 3G here in DC with my old iPhone 3GS, and frankly haven't been that happy with it. Too many dropped calls. No signal in most of the Metro system. Too many places I go in the heart of the metro area where I get only a single bar or even drop down to Edge. The network has gotten slightly better over the last two years, but it's still an annoyance.

I'm still more tempted to switch to Verizon for the Galaxy Nexus than I am to stay with AT&T and get a Skyrocket.

I recently purchased Samsung Galaxy II Skyrocket from AT&T. I moved away from my iphone 4. There appears to be a major problem with the Skyrocket with respect to Bluetooth sustaining connection with my cars. Initially, I thought it was my car then I tried with 2 other cars and the behavior is still the same. This is what happens:

1) With my bluetooth enabled, it nicely connects to my car
2) I play my music via bluetooth in my car and then I receive a phone call
3) During my call, all of a sudden the call is no longer coming via bluetooth but it still active on my phone. Then after a minute it reconnects and I can hear the call via my car.

Another problem:

1) Once in a while, my phone's bluetooth won't connect with my car. THis is very annoying and the only resolution is to reboot the phone and then it works fine.

I have the latest Android 2.3.6.

Last problem:

1) I use doubletwist for my music player but then the built in music player will begin to play at the same time. I wish that google would fix this problem. This is very annoying.

I have googled for these problems and there appears to be many folks having the same issue. I contacted Samsung and they tried to minimize this as operator issue. I am very disappointed with Samsung customer service and I hope that most of us here can chime in and perhaps Samsung will listen.

Thank you!

By any chance are you using JuiceDefender? If so, that might be causing the problem. You may have to go in and adjust the BT settings.

I have the skyrocket and an epic touch 4 g from sprint. Both phones look and feel the same. However, the Epic touch 4g has better contrast and more vivid colors. The Skyrocket has a dull and blueish color to the contrast. Its because they both have different processes. if you looking to upgrade with at&t go with the original SGSII. if you dont care about contrast, or other little factor go with the Skyrocket. Me personally, the SGSII epic 4g touch is better than the skyrocket.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket and I have been experiencing terrible battery performance. I played with it for two days and notice that the battery would not last more than 3 hours (about 4 - 6 phone calls, less than 10 min of web browsing, disabled GPS, disabled WiFi, disabled bluetooth ). The fully charged battery did not last overnight and it was clear the phone was depleting the battery at a fast pace (about 20 %/ hour with no use at all). I downloaded an application called Juice Defender and made all the necessary configuration in the Settings of the phone in order to maximize the life span of the battery with no success.

AT&T gave me a new phone which worked decently in the beginning considering that I downloaded Juice Defender and made the same settings configurations to save energy. After 2 weeks I am experiencing the same issues.
After debugging and playing around for countless hours with the phone I found that disabling “Background Data” under Settings will increase substantially your life span of the battery.
My phone battery now last about 14 hours but the down side of this “solution” is that applications cannot sync, send and receive data anytime (or at least most of applications such as email and widgets will request enabling the setting in question).

I am really disappointed by the Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket. Even though the experience is great it simply makes no sense having a smart phone with all its main features disabled. If I do not get this major issue resolve I will try my luck with the Iphone 4S.

So, Einstein says Settings-"background data"="solution". Now I can throw my nextel ptt back in the drawer and charge my smartphone back up.