Aug. 30, 2011 at 7:02 PM ET
The Samsung Galaxy S family of phones have wowed Android phone shoppers with vibrant Super AMOLED screens, fast processors and impressive battery life. The second wave, not so cleverly called Galaxy S II, gets a bigger screen, 8-megapixel camera and more powerful processor while remaining surprisingly skinny. It launched overseas in April, and is finally making its way to America.
On Sept. 16, Sprint gets it, in the form of the $200 Samsung Epic 4G Touch. AT&T and T-Mobile will also be getting it, sometime later in the year. There is no mention of Verizon getting the Galaxy S II, though it does currently have several original Galaxy S phones in its lineup.
As its name suggests, the Sprint Epic 4G Touch will run on Sprint's 4G network. The phone will have a massive 4.52-inch screen, while maintaining a thickness of 0.38 inches, almost identical to Apple's iPhone 4 (which measures 0.37 inches).
T-Mobile's model, referred to as the Galaxy S II, has similar specs, and will run on the carrier's 4G network. (Sprint and T-Mobile 4G are different technologies, and which is faster actually depends, for the time being, on the market. Here's a 4G test to give you an idea of performance.)
AT&T, also sticking with the franchise name Galaxy S II, has a slightly smaller screen, at 4.3 inches, but that decrease corresponds with a benefit: At 0.35 inches in thickness, the AT&T phone will be skinnier than the iPhone 4. It will have HDMI output and run on AT&T's 4G network, which operates using technology similar to T-Mobile's.
Neither T-Mobile nor AT&T has yet announced pricing or ship date.
The Galaxy S II platform as a whole features not only the larger screen and skinny body, but a 1.2GHz dual-core processor (compared with the 1GHz single-core processor found on most but not all earlier Galaxy models). Its 8-megapixel camera is up from 5 megapixels, and shoots 1080p high-def video. It will ship, at this time, with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, the newest Android operating system release for smartphones. (A newer version, called Ice Cream Sandwich, is set to debut this fall, but it is not clear at the moment how upgradeable the phones will be.)
Though there are many hot Android models to choose from, the obvious question is how this stacks up with the iPhone 4. As I mentioned, it's about the same thickness, but the screen is soooo much bigger. Rumor has it that Apple's next iPhone will have a 4-inch screen, but if you are really going for square inches, that 4.5-inch Galaxy S II screen still has it beat. That said, at 800x480, the Galaxy screen resolution still doesn't measure up to Apple's gorgeous 960x640 "Retina" display.
While Apple needs to catch up in the processor department and the camera department, a hot dual-core chip and an 8-megapixel camera are both also rumored. Some Galaxy S II models will have HDMI output, which is also among the wished-for features in the next iPhone. Given the iPad's support of iPad (by way of an adapter), it's a possibility.
Besides the 4G network capability, which odds are against Apple supporting this year, the Galaxy has an additional perk edge in the form of expandable internal memory — using MicroSD cards, you can add up to 32GB of storage.
Bonus: Gadgetbox Video includes our first look at the new Galaxy S II phone:
More on the smartphone battle — and Samsung's prominent place in it: