Samsung Galaxy S is the crowning achievement; looking remarkably like the iPhone 3G, with its rounded edges and single, central button beneath the screen. It also has a remarkable AMOLED screen, a super-fast 1GHz processor, and a battery life twice that of most Android phones. Despite the inevitable comparisons with Apple's previous generation of iPhones, the Galaxy S really is a beautiful device. It's about as slim as a phone can be, and the case, although obviously made of plastic, has some nice finishes to add a touch of class, such as the dark metal frame around the fascia and the carbon-fibre effect on the rear.
Its fascia is dominated by the downright gorgeous, 4in AMOLED display, which has a 480x800 resolution that makes full-width web browsing possible. Even at Android's lowest screen brightness, colours are vibrant and detail is immaculate. The screen's capacitive touch interface is smooth and precise, helped by the 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM.
Samsung has customised the home screens so that the default home is the left-most screen, and you can add as many home screens to the right as you want. Four icons remain permanently at the bottom of the screen: Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Applications, which opens the apps screen. This too can be extended with new screens so you can group similar apps together, and although this isn't as neat as Apple's new iOS app grouping feature, it's better than nothing.
Samsung has insisted on installing its own collection of "apps" and widgets, which are horribly designed, and use mismatched primary colours. They compare poorly with HTC's well-coordinated Sense apps and widgets. Samsung also insists on inflicting its software on you. You can't connect your Galaxy S to your PC as a mass storage device until you download and install Samsung's horrible Kies desktop suite - a 134MB download, no less. There’s a workaround, thankfully; in Android's Application settings, under Development, turn on USB debugging.
One of the iPhone's advantages has been its large internal storage space, while Android phones have microSDHC slots. The Galaxy S goes one better, with internal and external microSDHC slots, even once you’ve fitted the bundled 16GB card, there’s still a free slot. Plus there’s 2GB of built-in memory on top.
The camera features auto-focus, face recognition, white balance, ISO adjustment, anti-shake, auto-contrast and blink detection, and you can tap on the screen to focus on a particular spot. As with most mobile phone cameras, it suffers from lots of noise, especially in dark conditions, which isn't helped by the lack of a flash.
The Galaxy lasted for an unprecedented 29 hours in our light usage battery tests, which is around 50 per cent more than its nearest equivalent, the HTC Desire. This means it should last a couple of days if you’re careful with power-hungry features, such as GPS.
Despite Samsung's own software, the Galaxy S is a delight to use, not least because of the smooth, bright and colourful screen. Though slim, it’s a little bigger than most handsets, so we’d recommend trying it for size in a store before ordering. Still, it's the best Android hardware we've seen to date, and so wins our Best Buy award.