Hands-on with the T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G and Samsung Galaxy S II

Summary:T-Mobile is rolling out two powerful Android smartphones this week and I had the pleasure of using both over the weekend. Which one appealed most to me and might end up in my collection?

Regular readers know I have been very happy with Windows Phone 7 devices on T-Mobile for the past year, but I am always willing to try new devices and there are two new Android Gingerbread smartphones launching this week that have me seriously considering another SIM card switch on T-Mobile. I have been using the HTC Amaze 4G and Samsung Galaxy S II extensively since Friday and am ready to drop some cash this coming week, but on the device you might not have thought at first. You can check out several images of the devices in my image gallery and in my video first look below.


Image Gallery: Check out some photos of both the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Amaze 4G from T-Mobile USA.
Image Gallery: Two retail boxes
Image Gallery: Back of the HTC Amaze 4G

The Samsung Galaxy S II was announced at Mobile World Congress in February and then released outside the US starting in June after receiving pre-orders in excess of 3 million devices. It has been very successful outside the US and is just starting to roll out here with versions for T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T announced. After reading reviews applauding the device I couldn't wait to give it a try on T-Mobile and was sure I was going to purchase one for myself.

Then I tried the HTC Amaze 4G that came out and slapped me upside the face with its incredible design. I was thinking the Amaze 4G was just another typical HTC black slab phone, but I have to say I think this may very well be the best designed HTC device I have ever had the pleasure of using as I will describe in more detail below.

Samsung Galaxy S II: In the box and first impressions

T-Mobile continues to use the durable well designed packages we have seen for a couple of years with high resolution glossy images of the device on the outside and a list of the main features on the back. You will find the device, battery, USB cable, USB charger, SIM card, wired stereo headset, and Quick Start Guide in the box.

I knew the T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy S II would come with the largest display of the variants at 4.52 inches, but when I pulled it from the box I admit I was shocked by how light the device was at only 4.77 ounces. Unlike some of the previous Samsung Galaxy devices it doesn't feel cheap with a glossy black back and instead feels very well constructed with an attractive textured back. The display looks very nice, but doesn't seem to "pop" out at me as much as other Super AMOLED Plus displays I have seen on Samsung devices in the past.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Specifications

Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy S II include the following:
  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • Samsung TouchWiz user interface
  • 42 Mbps HSPA+ support on T-Mobile's AWS network
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor
  • 4.52 inch WVGA 480x800 pixels Super AMOLED Plus display
  • Preinstalled 16GB storage with microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 megapixel camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording capability
  • 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • DLNA support
  • HDMI support via MHL adaptor
  • NFC-enabled
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1850 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.7 x 0.37 inches and 4.77 ounces

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a large display, but does not feel that large in your hand due to the very light weight and thinness of the device. It is an impressive piece of hardware and I am sure those looking for the biggest screen on a T-Mobile Android phone will love it.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Walk around the hardware

The front of the Galaxy S II is dominated by the 4.52 inch Super AMOLED Plus display. I find that Samsung's AMOLED displays show vibrant colors and intense brightness, but even on maximum brightness this Galaxy S II just doesn't seem to blow me away as much. There are four touch capacitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back, and Search), 2 megapixel front facing VGA camera, and proximity sensor.

The Galaxy S II minimizes the use of hardware buttons and ports with a single power/lock button on the upper right, a volume button on the upper left, a microUSB port on the bottom, and the 3.5mm headset jack on the top.

The 8 megapixel camera and single LED flash are found centered on the upper back with the Galaxy S II embedded in the center. The battery, SIM card slot, and microSD card slot are found under the back cover. I love the new textured back cover that gives the device a high quality feel and some grip in your hand.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Quick thoughts on the software and performance

I am not a huge fan of the TouchWiz user interface, but it is very snappy and customizable to a point. As an Exchange user I find that HTC Sense 3.0 blows away TouchWiz for email and PIM apps. There are several Samsung widgets on the device and I did find some to be useful.

There are several T-Mobile apps, such as Slacker, TeleNav GPS Navigator, T-Mobile TV, Qik Video Chat, and Visual Voicemail along with several Samsung apps. For some reason the version of Google Talk on the Galaxy S II does not support video chat using the front facing camera.

The Galaxy S II on T-Mobile has the fastest radio in the US, out of all SGSII devices, with support for T-Mobile's 42 Mbps network. From my testing in Seattle I experienced a maximum download speed of 26.07 Mbps. Check out this post for details on my testing.

Samsung Galaxy S II: Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S II is available now for pre-order and available in stores on 12 October for $229.99 with a minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. The full retail price is $529.99 with no contract.

Let's check out the details of the HTC Amaze 4G »

HTC Amaze 4G: In the box and first impressions

The same box design is used with the HTC Amaze 4G with it presented in a landscape orientation as HTC and T-Mobile focus on the camera capture capabilities of this new device. Inside the box you will find the device, battery, USB cable, USB charger, SIM card, and Quick Start Guide.

When I pulled the Amaze 4G from the box my first thought was "Wow, this thing feels incredible!" The aluminum frame, angles around the display, and unique back design feel awesome in my hand. To see if others prefer the lighter weight or denser slightly narrower device I gave both of these to me wife and even though the Amaze 4G is heavier she said she much prefers it over the Samsung Galaxy S II. The higher resolution 4.3 inch display also looks fantastic.

HTC Amaze 4G: Specifications

Specifications for the HTC Amaze 4G include the following:
  • Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread
  • HTC Sense 3.0 user interface
  • 42 Mbps HSPA+ support on T-Mobile's AWS network
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor
  • 4.3 inch qHD 540x960 pixels Super LCD display
  • Preinstalled 16GB storage with microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and 1080p video recording capability, with f/2.2 aperture lens
  • 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • DLNA support
  • HDMI support via MHL adaptor
  • NFC-enabled
  • FM radio
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1730 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.58 x 0.46 inches and 6.1 ounces

The HTC Amaze 4G is slightly narrower than the Galaxy S II, but also thicker and heavier. However, I personally find the heft and use of metal, glass and plastic to be nicer on the Amaze 4G than the materials on the Galaxy S II.

HTC Amaze 4G: Walk around the hardware

The front of the HTC Amaze 4G is dominated by the 4.3 inch qHD display and I have to say I like this smaller, yet higher resolution display over the larger Galaxy S II display. There are four touch capacitive buttons (Home, Menu, Back, and Search), 2 megapixel front facing VGA camera, and proximity sensor. Thankfully, HTC also incorporates an indicator light in the headset speaker grill.

HTC included a couple of hardware buttons that are actually helping to pull me towards a purchase. On the bottom right side you will find a still camera capture button and a video recording capture button. HTC brought their slick Windows Phone 7 capability that allows you to press and hold one of these buttons when the display is off that will launch the camera so you can go from pulling your Amaze 4G out of your pocket to taking photos or capturing video in seconds. I find it is much more natural to press a physical button on top of the device rather than trying to tap on the display to capture an image. There is also a large volume button on the upper right side.

The microUSB port is found on the left side with the 3.5mm headset jack and power button on the top. A back cover release button is found on the bottom and like a few other recent HTC devices the entire back and sides comes off in one piece.

The 8 megapixel camera and dual LED flash lights are found on the left side of the upper back with the loudspeaker on the right upper side of the back. HTC has stylish soft touch material and aluminum on the back giving it a great look and feel. I am testing the black model, but you can also order one in white. I am not sure if the white is soft touch material or glossy plastic.

HTC Amaze 4G: Quick thoughts on the software and performance

I am a big fan of HTC Sense and love the Sense 3.0 integration with handy lock screen shortcuts and widgets. The launcher also flies on the Amaze 4G and with a fast finger flick you can make each page zoom on by. I find the Amaze 4G to be a bit snappier than the Galaxy S II as well.

The HTC Amaze 4G has the same excellent camera software found in the myTouch 4G Slide and in some initial tests I am finding it to be faster and more responsive than any point and shoot I have used before with very high quality photos being captured. I look forward to testing out the camera and comparing it to the Apple iPhone 4S.

Just like the Samsung Galaxy S II you will find T-Mobile apps such as T-Mobile TV, Slacker, TeleNav GPS Navigator, Qik Video Chat, and Visual Voicemail. I tested out Google Talk video chat with the front facing 2 megapixel camera with Kevin Tofel and it worked extremely well. I find that supporting services like Google Talk or Skype make these front facing cameras much more useful.

The HTC Amaze 4G supports T-Mobile's 42 Mbps network. From my testing in Seattle I experienced maximum download speeds of 27.99 Mbps. Check out this post for details on my testing.

HTC Amaze 4G: Pricing and availability

The HTC Amaze 4G is available now for pre-order and available in stores on 12 October for $259.99 with a minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. The full retail price is $559.99 with no contract.

So which do I prefer?

I have only spent three days with these two devices and will not tell you which one you should buy since purchasing mobile phones is a very personal decision. For myself though I find more benefits in the HTC Amaze 4G than in the Galaxy S II and I went into this evaluation thinking I was going to buy the Galaxy S II. The following are the primary reasons I prefer the HTC Amaze 4G over the Galaxy S II:
  • More solid design with "heft"
  • Sense 3.0 works better for me, especially with better Exchange integration
  • Higher resolution display
  • Two camera capture hardware buttons and camera software
  • Google Talk video chat support

Other first impressions articles

There are several others that received these two devices last week as well and while everyone works on their full reviews, here are some other first impression articles you may want to check out:

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, HTC, Samsung, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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