The best smartphone ever?

It's almost four years since the first iPhone was launched and since then, its position as the leading smartphone has never really been challenged. Yes, some people can't bear Apple's restrictive approach to apps and yes, Android phones are doing very well in terms of sales. But at no point in the last four years has there been an Android phone it's really possible to say is, on balance, better than the latest iPhone.

That day may just have come. Samsung has just released the sequel to its multi-million selling Galaxy S phone, imaginatively named the Samsung Galaxy S II. And it's getting some rave reviews.

It's a powerful beast, with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. It's thin - 8.49mm thick - but boasts a big, high-resolution 4.3-inch screen. And that screen? It's state-of-the-art, using new technology called AMOLED Plus to offer super-dark dark bits and super-bright bright bits. As Engadget puts it:

The Galaxy S II's screen is nothing short of spectacular. Blacks are impenetrable, colors pop out at you, and viewing angles are supreme. This would usually be the part where we'd point out that qHD (960 x 540) resolution is fast becoming the norm among top-tier smartphones and that the GSII's 800 x 480 is therefore a bit behind the curve, but frankly, we don't care. With a screen as beautiful as this, such things pale into insignificance.

Of course, some top-end Android phones just amount to high-end parts with Android thrown on top, but with the Galaxy S II it seems Samsung have done the work to really improve on Google's operating system. For example, they've packed in power-management software which cuts the processor down to 200MHz when it's not working hard - saving lots of battery life. Even the speakers, invariably a let-down on smartphones, are by all accounts pretty good. Even the earphones are OK.

The 8-megapixel camera is by all accounts excellent, too, without the digital blurring effects many phone cameras suffer from. And there's 1080p video recording. Most importantly, the experience of surfing around and using Android is apparently great. "There's simply never been an Android handset this smooth and this fluid in its operation," gushes Engadget.

We know this reads like an advert, and we don't mean it to be one. But we're really excited that finally, there seems to be an Android handset that doesn't merely produce a reasonable facsimile of the iPhone's specs and experience, but beats them in many areas. 'It's the best Android smartphone yet, but more importantly, it might well be the best smartphone, period,' Engadget summarises.

And it's out in a few days, folks. Got upgrade?

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