Samsung Galaxy S

It's a very nice phone. I can't fault the hardware, but software was a different matter....

galaxy s

Samsung's default UI / launcher is not much. I think that the need of manufacturers to put their spin on Android's default experience, although possibly viewed by the marketeers as a point of differentiation, often adds nothing to the user experience. HTC has Sense, Motorola MotoBlur, and Samsung has "TouchWiz". I've owned an HTC and now a Samsung device and neither were that special. HTC's Sense social aspects were interesting, but have since been built into the OS (as of 2.1). TouchWiz's app launcher, with its random candy-coloured icon backgrounds, seemed pretty ghastly.

Add to this the bloatware that carriers insist on installing and you can get a pretty mediocre out-of-box experience. Having bought my handset through Virgin Mobile Australia, I was at least spared this, but only because Virgin are too small-fry to bother with a custom build; Telstra users are saddled with a pile of Sensis crap they can't install.

Sadly, all of these things detract from the Android user experience, and for many people who don't see the different layers to the experience, they *are* the user experience, which I think is a real shame. There a several aspects to Android that I think have an edge on iOS - notifications (iOS 5 aside) and intents are two, until recently multitasking was another. The inclusion of a hardware back button cannot be underestimated too. But the bastardisation of the experience by 3rd parties doesn't help.

At a more fundamental level, Samsung's software has some issues. Their choice of a file system (a variant on FAT that does not seem well matched the flash RAM in the device) makes for freezes and 'pauses' as data is written to disk. Very poor. Independent sources have offered various software tweaks to beat this, ranging from changing caching schemes to reformatting various partitions to other, more suitable filesystems (ext4).

Luckily, however, one of the best things about Android is the ability to load custom ROMs onto your handset to customise the experience. The Galaxy S has attracted more than its fair share of interest for this, as the hardware is first-class (and Samsung has sold a shedload of them). I'm currently running a Darky's ROM 9.5, based on Android 2.2. Amongst the improvements offered are a highly optimized kernel including much better driver support for the tip-top Wolfson Microelectronics audio chip the device uses.

Installing a ROM is not for the faint of heart, but the Samsung firmware does, or at least should, have a low-level bootloader that allows the flashing of the ROM over USB, even if the current ROM is corrupted (ie the phone will not boot). My phone shipped without it enabled, an accident on Samsung's part, but once I'd done an initial flash to enable it things went quite smoothly. It was reassuring to know that even if things failed miserably, I had the chance to re-flash a stock ROM.

 Darky ROM

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