Which Samsung Galaxy S II is right for you?

So here's your obligatory shot of the three U.S. versions (so far) of the Samsung Galaxy S II. We crawled all over these guys at the U.S. launch event, and they're definitely lookers. We could ask you which one you like the best, or which one you think looks better. But to anyone who's actually held one (or all three), it's pretty obvious that you're pretty much dealing with the same device here, insofar as look, feel and performance go.

And the Super AMOLED Plus displays? (They're so named because they have more subpixels that a mere Super AMOLED display.) You're going to want to see these in action if you haven't already.

Oh, there are some subtle differences in software (but nothing really to write home about just yet), and the AT&T Galaxy S II (that's it's official name, by the way) is noticeably smaller at 4.3 inches, instead of the 4.52 inches seen in Sprint and T-Mobile's versions. Trust us when we say you'll be OK with that.

No, the deciding factor over which Galaxy S II version you get in the United States really comes down to which carrier you're on. Let's break it all down, after the break.

AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II

Watch our hands-on | Find out more in the forums

This is the skinny one of the bunch, at 4.3 inches in diagonal. It's got AT&T's "4G" data, which is different than other carriers' in that it's typically got a big asterisk with "enhanced backhaul" attached to it, which you might or might not have where you live.

Hands-on video

It's an interesting follow up to the Samsung Infuse 4G, which in all respects as (and still is) a great big (4.5 inches) smartphone. But the Infuse doesn't match up to the SGSII in the power plant department, and the SGSII has a newer version of Touchwiz. As much as we like the Infuse, we're very much looking forward to giving the upgrade a go.

And there's the question. Should you upgrade to the Galaxy S II if you're on AT&T? If you're rocking a Captivate or older phone and have an available upgrade, or if you can swing an off-contract up-front cost, we wouldn't think twice. It's definitely AT&T's top phone now.

T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S II (official name TBD)

Watch our eyes-on | Find out more in the forums

Strangely, this one was kept under glass. Dunno if that's because the software isn't finished, or if there's some showstopper bug, or whatever. But either way, it's odd to have a launch event where one of the phones being launched is untouchable. In fact, even T-Mobile's curt press release was out of the ordinary in that it actually was just a statement. Here's the entire thing.

T-Mobile USA, Inc. is pleased to announce the upcoming availability of the Samsung Galaxy S™ II at T-Mobile this fall. Featuring a brilliant 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen – one of the largest screens available on a Galaxy S II device – T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II promises to keep customers entertained and connected while on the go. We look forward to sharing more information in the coming weeks.

That's it. No more. Doesn't exactly ooze confidence from the carrier that'll be selling the thing.

Hands-on video

We're inclined to agree with This is my Next's Chris Ziegler, who opines that T-Mobile's likely differs more than the Sprint and AT&T versions by having to use a different chipset to support its wacky AWS radio bands. But unless that's keeping T-Mobile's version of the phone from living up to the reputation its cousins are quickly setting, it's really not a spec that should have much life outside of the smartphone nerd circle.

Samsung Galaxy S II Sprint Epic 4G Touch

Watch our hands-on | Find out more in the forums

This fellow sort of stole the show at the launch event. Maybe there were a bunch of Sprint fans in the crowd. But we're betting it's because it's the thinnest Wimax smartphone available. And lightest.

Sprint Epic 4G Touch

Seriously, it's thin, and light. And did we mention it isn't thick and doesn't weigh much? Basically, it's set a new standard for Wimax phones. That's its differentiator. If you want a true 4G phone and don't want the thickness of a Verizon LTE device this is the phone to get.

It'll be interesting to see Verizon's next move. Not that it puts out phones in reaction to Sprint, but Sprint's first to market with a truly thin 4G phone. And for a lot of people, that's going to be a reason to go with Sprint over Verizon.

So just where was Verizon?

Most readers of this blog already knew that Verizon was going to be a no-show at the U.S. Galaxy S II launch. That's not to say Big Red won't be getting something very similar -- and we completely expect it to. But for now? We wait. It could still be something as simple as a scheduling thing -- Verizon's certainly got plenty of phones in the field right now, and the Droid Bionic is still on the way.

And which Galaxy S II should I get?

If carrier is no object -- that is, you have great coverage on all three carriers and can switch at you leisure -- it's going to be a tough decision. These are all great thin, fast, phones. We can't wait to see how the cameras perform, as Samsung's really stepped things up in that department.

And you really do need to check these out for yourselves just a soon as you can. Or check out our hands-on posts a few more times. But our initial impression is that you can't go wrong with any of the U.S. variants of the Galaxy S II.

Phil Nickinson
  • I like the look of the ATT one but I really want that bigger 4.5 inch screen so for me the clear winner is the Sprint one. With T-Mobile we don't even know what processor (exynos or snapdrogon) is in it.
  • Always start by considering the carriers. If you are switching carriers, compare plans and coverage and get the CARRIER that is best for you. Once you have the best carrier for you, then consider phones. If you are on Verizon, the 4.5" Droid Bionic and 4.65" Nexus Prime are coming in September and October. If you have smaller hands and have Sprint consider the Photon or EVO 3D. For Verizon consider the Droid X2 and for T-Mobile consider the Sensation. If you want a full size screen and are on AT&T get the Infuse-it is a great phone too. If you want a Notification LED, don't get the AT&T or T-Mobile Galaxy S II's.
  • There are several notification apps that work fine, I see no reason to fret over a dedicated LED. No LED is the one I use, works fine. ADS
  • I got No LED for my NS4G, and I uninstalled it really quick. It sure was craptastic.
  • You must be a complete idiot then... NO LED works great!
  • I mostly agree with your advice here except regarding the Sensation. But I understand why you would recommend it.
    Are you saying the Nexus Prime won't be coming to T-Mobile? That scares me.
  • The Nexus Prime is actually going to be the Droid Prime. Verizon. And the Sensation is by fat T-Mobile's top phone right now.
  • Source? Did I miss something and this became official or are you really just stating rumor as fact? Last I heard, Droid Prime was a rumor. And since when did we know the screen size? Seriously dude--dont buy or not buy phones based on rumor. Buy based on known and announced, not rumored unicorns.
  • i got the new mytouch 4g slide, well not so new anymore, and is the same as the sensation just better camera so the sensation is not the top phone, and I also heard that theB2X after gingerbread became even faster than the sensation, anyhow the sensation, my touch 4g slide and g2x are the tops on Tmobile as for the droid prime which is a complete rumor, it is not even said that the prime will be a droid, and second there is not even images leaked of it so saying that will come in October is more like a dream, we won't see a phone with ice cream sandwich until probably early next year, the fact that in google IO they said that a tablet will be the first device with ICS so we will have to wait and see.
  • again source? Google still hasn't said anything about the nexus 3 project and if it were coming out in "October" shouldn't we atleast know 1. who's making it, 2. some specs.and i mean from Google's mouth not the rumor mill
  • edit
  • are you 100% sure Prime is coming out in 7 weeks? i don't think anyone knows yet.. Google hasn't even announced anything officially ...
  • "Nexus Prime" are "coming" in September and "October". Source? oh yea rumored device.... wait doesn't that mean we dont even know if it there really making a Nexus 3? I mean all we have is really word of mouth no actual proof besides "word of mouth" and a document that have grammatical errors. im pretty sure Google is making another Nexus but lets not jump the gun and say anything we not 100% about cause if i remember there have been a lot of phones that never saw daylight, got delayed (Bionic) or ended up going to a smaller company (Merge)
  • I LIKE NONE...BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HAVE A KEYBOARD! besides Samsung takes 9 months to release a update.
  • I feel like the keyboard is what ruined the Original Epic 4g, such thin and slender phones with added bulk for no reason.(thats why i did not get it) Then again, to each his own.
  • I think the article should have included the Rogers phone too. It may be a better phone than the ATT model as it has a 4.5" screen and LTE (not sure if it is compatible with the ATT LTE.)
  • There really is no point including the Rogers handset since this article is about the US release of the GSII, and if you're in the US, these 3 are your only subsidized options. Plus, AT&T hasn't fully launched their LTE network yet...so it's a moot point. ;-)
  • The ATT one looks the best... the others are too rounded on the edges... especially the t-mo version. I think 4.3" screen is plenty, and pretty much represents the maximum size a PHONE screen should be IMO. Really wish we would have gotten this phone in the US 4 months ago... like the rest of the world.
  • To be honest... The Sprint Version actually look considerably bigger than the ATT verison with the larger screen . . . MY EVO at 4.3 is big enough...I'll have to try out one in a store first...
  • And I like the fact that HTC updates rather quickly. Samsung, not so much.
  • I'm sticking with my carrier, Verizon so the Droid Prime looks about right for me. Hopefully it'll be a Samsung Galaxy S II variant.
  • Droid Prime is still a rumor, though most rumors end up true. The regular Nexus Prime is what I'm getting, It's compatible with AT&T's LTE and has a better processor then the SGSII and it runs pure Android. AND it'll get all the updates first and foremost. Plus it ships with Android 4.0 and it's coming out fairly soon
  • The one with a notification light.
  • so many people say this but is the notification light going to be like the Evo's? The pre had a nice notification light and with CM7 on the Evo the notification light (wimax) is pretty nice but still when it gets down to 10$ battery and that amber light starts flashing it drives me batty. HTC definitely got it wrong with their light but I'm in the minority that would rather not have one then have one that is annoying such as the Evo's I suppose
  • sprint all the way. and in one of the videos the sprint one has a blue charging light so im guessing it has a notification light. if not thats what back light notifications is for.
  • Sprint is my Carrier and i dont look to change that so GSII Touch 4G is my choice but we will all be winners ...
  • Well put it this way, Sprint is launching first available on September 16th and everyone else will be later. Way to be first Sprint! Datta babay!
  • You got the right one, Baybay. lol
  • What about the GPS? I have a Captivate. The GPS SUCKS. None of the fixes have fixed it. One made it a bit better, but it still takes forever to lock on to a satellite. Also, my Captivate is constantly freezing lately. Do I need to wipe it and start over? I know desktp PCs inside out and backwards. Not so much on phones. TD
  • That's why I got an Infuse! I had the Captivate & (in true Samsung fashion) barely updated. The GPS on the Infuse is so good that I barely use my Garmin anymore. If the GPS is as good on the S II as it is on the Infuse, you will be good. Yes, wipe it & install your apps one by one slowly. Something isn't agreeing with it. Might need a fresh start. Back it up first though.
  • Omg... Why do I keep seeing notification light? Is that really what is going to drive your decision? Seriously? A little green blinking light? Personally, 4.5" is slightly too big, unless you're into mobile entertainment, which i'm not. And frankly, i'm still not a fan of Samsung. HTC still wins.
  • Having a little blinking light on my phone next to me at work so I know if someone emailed/messaged me makes all the difference. It means I never have to turn on or handle my phone to see if I missed anything which allows me to keep my hands on my work. A quick glance to it and I know if I need to check it instead of always wondering. Even better is a phone like the Nexus One or EVO that has multiple colors so I know whether I have missed a call, text or email only one of which matters to me while I work.
  • I have an app for that... no led. I like it better than the light b/c I can see WHO I missed a call/text from (it displayed the picture if the person is in your contacts).
  • NoLed is a battery-killing hack that works even worse (every time Ive seen it implemented anyway) than the BLN hacks for the SGS. Lack of a notification LED puts these phones squarely in the "toy" category, it's such a universal thing that it simply boggles the mind that Samsung is ignoring it.
  • ? I use No LED on my Captivate, can't say I've noticed any change in battery use.
  • maybe sprint is launching early to sell as many gs2 as possible before thy sell iPhone or nexus prime O_o... lol I like the sprint version BUT I don't want to buy and nexus prime releases in a few weeks
  • I'll be going with the Sprint version. Even if I could pick from all 3, I'd go with the Sprint version.
  • meh..Verizon is that old cheerleader thats been around the block, Sprint's that new hottie with curves for days....lol
  • The only Galaxy S II I would buy would be a Nexus on Sprint. Otherwise I will stick with HTC or possibly Motorolla depending on how their whole locked bootloader thing pans out in a year or so.
  • I'm a female with small hands and have been out of contract on AT&T for a couple of years now. I currently have a Nexus One and I'm so glad that they kept the GSII a reasonable size. Now I'm just holding out to see what the Nexus Prime will be packing.
  • Anyone know which processor is in each of these? or which model number each version is? Based on previous speculation, this device has at least 3 versions: i9100: Samsung Exynos4
    i9101: TI OMAP4
    i9103: Nvidia Tegra2
  • the tmobile does not have the Exynos processsor according to a samsung rep on a youtube video I saw today. He would not say which one it did have. He said the att and sprint do have the Exynos.
  • On the Sprint site they list it as the Samsung Exynos4 1.2 GHz
  • At first I thought 4.5" screen is too big but all that matters to me is the total volume which tells me it's true size. The Epic 4G Touch has less volume and is lighter than my EVO 4G. 0.12" taller isn't that bad as the thinnest makes up for it. I'm sure I'm going to love it!
  • the phones are all pretty similar minus the possibility of the T-Mobile phone maybe having a Snapdragon processor instead of the faster Exynos, and Sprint having 4G while AT&T shovels their fake 3G+ with advanced backhaul and T-Mobile's advanced 3G with HSPDA+. The real question will be, which carrier will stop screwing up the update process that has plagued Samsung and all the phones they have offered on the US carriers. And please don't tell me about how cool or easy rooting is. I have a life and don't need the added work of playing tech support for my phone. I just want my phone to work and the software to be updated in a semi-timely fashion.
  • I understand your point of view, but I rooted my Captivate and went to a Cognition 2.2 ROM. Phone almost twice as fast on web and is MORE stable. I have less problems than my wife with her stock load. You're absolutely right that it does take some timing to wait for someone to write a cookbook and for the custom ROMs to be stable, you have to read a lot to decide when/what that ROM is. But I think the support might be better on the custom ROMs than carrier support is; those CSRs only know the basics, some of them even less.
  • People who root phones have lives. They just have more patience and are more adventurous than you.
  • I'll stick with HTC and the EVO 3D, thank you very much. Samjunk=terrible with updates. HTC is Johnny on the spot with them.
  • After my experiences with the Fascinate, I am very happy Verizon skipped get another over hyped piece of junk Galaxy S phone. Also remember how well Samsung supports their phones. Again if my experience with the Fascinate is any indication you will be lucky to get Ice Cream Sandwich within the 18 month period wants/allows the software to be updated. Buyer beware.
  • blame Verizon... not Samsung... all European/Asian galaxy s's have been updated a while ago...
  • Prefer the look of the AT&T version but I am on Sprint so I will be getting that version.
  • Um...the one that actually has WORKING 4G, unlike the 3 Epics I have that only worked the first day? Or maybe the one that Samsung actually updates remotely near the times of other manufacturers? Whoops, I guess that means none of them qualify.
  • Which of the carriers that will have the galaxy IIs have the fastest 4g?
  • Ahh, No Keyboards, This Sucks Fat Ones.
  • The Epic 2 will have a keyboard in October
  • I still can't believe verizon is not getting a GSII. All for what? A stupid Droid Bonic? UnF#$%King believable. I always wanted to switch to sprint, if I don't see any kind of variant with 4.5 inch screen and dual exynos processors I might just make the jump. And to all the guys waiting for the prime, I will believe it when I see it. This is verizon we are talking about here. They will never let a open phone like that on their own network.
  • None of them. Samsung = no updates = I don't buy them.
  • The Samsung Galaxy S2 European version has gotten a lot of updates. So you might want to check the facts first. Updates coming late or not coming at all seems to be the carrier's fault.
  • blame the carriers...
  • Just gonna say it again. This is a bone for the other carriers since the next "Nexus" (whatever they call it) will be a Verizon exclusive. It will be vanilla and no bloat (another trade off, VZW gets exclusive if they do it pure) Maybe VZW will get a SGII variant in January or Feb, doubt it though. That is all....
  • I'm getting the Sprint version. Already put my $50 deposit on one at the Sprint store this morning. September 16th can't get here soon enough!
  • Does anyone know if the Sprint 4.5" screen is not as crisp and sharp as the 4.3" ATT version? I heard this is the case with the Infuse also.
  • I want the Verizon one!! ... oh wait .... Verizon sucks big fat donkey d**k and didn't get one .... oh joy
  • Well with T-Mo keeping theirs under a case and Samsung only using the term "dual core" and no mention of Exynos for it, it looks like the rumors of a Snapdragon processor are true. In which case the T-Mobile variant should be skipped altogether as it will be substandard. Even Sprint is using Exynos. T-Mobile should be ashamed of themselves, destroying a potentially beautiful piece of hardware.
  • At&t looks like it is the most original S2 of all which means that hopefully rooting it and flashing it would be same as it is on the european version which means less wait time for programmer to start working on it
  • I have been an ATT customer forever, but I think I am going to give Sprint a go with this phone. They are certainly cheaper as far as their plan goes, by about $20 and I hear their service in my area is pretty good, something I can not say about ATT!
  • I'm glad the AT&T version is smaller, don't really want anything significantly bigger than my Captive. I'll probably wait to see what the next Nexus is, if it launches on AT&T, then choose. Waiting to see prices and availability too.
  • I'm on AT&T and have a Captivate. Considering s switch to Sprint for the 4.52" and the Hotspot option.
  • Well..... Looks like Sprints Epic Touch 4G won this match.
  • Sprint one is the best hands down, but it does not have NFC so i am not getting it(need to have a future proof phone) its good that it has LED. Remember though(about the Nexus), that Bgr stated that a reliable source told them there might be no nexus that there might just be ICS devices from different OEMs on carriers, and the droid prime might just be that, all i know is i am holding out for a Nexus on sprint until christmas and if there is no rumors or anything then ill just buy another phone
  • Well then I guess you should buy NO phone out right now.... The AT&T version will be the only one with NFC. I personally still dont mind carrying credit cards :D
  • Are you really finding a lot of spots you can pay with NFC yet? I never see any. I figure it will be a while before they are widespread, probably longer than I will have my next phone, so I see NFC being pretty irrelevant right now.
  • Sprint all the way!!! the screen may be a lil bigger but the notification light should be very sweet addition. the AT&T version i do like the fact that it does share a strong similarity with the original design. The T-mobile version we are still not sure of any kind of specs on it, we dont even know the processors will be either exynos or snapdragon. i mean i know most T-mobile ppl are hoping for the exynos processor. But they could have at least given something All and all my vote goes to the epic 4g touch for sprint. I will be in line on the 16th to definitely pick that bad boy up
  • Well they all have the ios wannabe touchwiz so none!
  • Wow! Sammy site shows 3 hours continuous talk time, if that is right, that's just too much a step backwards, I don't care if it will cook my breakfast, I can't be buying two batteries and changing them on the days it is my only business phone. ADS
  • Will the different sizes mean that there will be 3 incompatible cases? If so, it is a good example of carriers screwing things up.
  • Eh gonna skip these for the next Nexus phone. Have a Captivate right now....Not sure about all these comments talking about how bad Samsung is at releasing updates. Its your carrier you need to blame. The international version of my phone (i9000) got lots of updates. I gave up on AT&T a long time ago and went for Cyanogenmod.... which CM7 for my phone MAINLY got started because of the Nexus S and the similarities helped it greatly. So these will be great phones but i want my next phone to be a pure Google phone