Posts Tagged ‘Crash’

Final thoughts on Samsung’s Galaxy S

December 2, 2011

As you might have noticed, I’ve been using (since mid-2010) Samsung’s 2010 flagship, the i9000 Galaxy S.

I bought it carrier-locked to Vodafone for €420. In the European country I currently live in, it’s almost the minimum wage!

Besides all the marketing efforts Samsung put behind it (especially at the European airports!), the phone was €250 cheaper than the iPhone 4, packing almost the same (or better) hardware:

– The 1GHz Hummingbird SoC, co-developed by Samsung with Intrinsity (later acquired by Apple) is similar to Apple’s A4 chip

– It has 512 MB of RAM (as the iPhone 4/4S)

– The SGX540 is better than iPhone’s SGX535

– The Super AMOLED 4″ display is bigger and offers deep black levels

Spec-sheet wise, this was the super-smartphone I was waiting for to replace my old Symbian-powered Nokia.

There were a few things hardware-related the spec-sheet did not mention I’ve only discovered after some time:

– The SIM-card hold mechanism (or the lack of it!) was not very good. The phone was losing the SIM-card all the time in the first weeks and I initially thought it was the SIM-card fault. I asked Vodafone for a new SIM-card and with this one things got much better. The problem was not completely solved, as I had this problem again with the new one, although much less frequently.

– The battery was not completely still inside the phone. When I grabbed the phone I often felt the battery moving inside, but I did not care about this very much since the battery never actually lost contact (unlike the SIM) with the phone.

– The back cover, made of cheap plastic, did not provide a premium quality that a flagship phone is supposed to have. It was prone to scratches, which over time made the phone look used prematurely.

– The Super AMOLED screen has awesome deep blacks but after about 6 or 8 months of usage there was some burn-in, especially at the top where the notification bar with the clock is. I believe this was one of the reasons led Samsung to change the notification bar color from grey to black.

– Antenna performance was definitely not great: at my place’s basement, where any old Nokia could get 1 or 2 bars my Samsung frequently lost connectivity to the network and even when there was connectivity, making a phone call was almost impossible. Same thing happened at my University’s library.

So, there were a few issues with the phone’s hardware, that revealed it not as high-quality as I thought initially it was.

When I bought the phone, Android 2.2 Froyo was already in the wild, but the Galaxy S was still running Android 2.1 Eclair. It didn’t take long till I find some annoying problems with the phone’s software:

– Android was noticeably slow and the performance was underwhelming (Quadrant score was around 700 or 800 points, slower than it’s main competitor, the HTC Desire)

– It wasn’t able to get a lock with the GPS satellites (maybe this was also a bit related to the antenna performance)

– There was some overheating after playing some games

– Animations were not smooth, such as the Vodafone logo when starting up and shutting down

I looked for the issues on the web and apparently they were pretty much common knowledge among the owners, but there was Android 2.2 coming and this update was supposed to fix everything for everyone. So, instead of returning the phone within the first 15 days, I just kept the phone waiting for the promised update.

This belief was my mistake as I found out later! In fact, Samsung took a long time (several months) after the launch to release Android 2.2, postponed the update several times, and when finally released it, Vodafone took some extra time to release it to their own branded-handsets. I’ve lived without Skype or Flash for a long time, as both required the Galaxy S to have Android 2.2. It’s worth mentioning that my previous phone, a Nokia with Symbian S60v5, ran both Skype and Flash Lite, so Android, at this point, was some sort of a regression.

By the end of 2010 the update was eventually available! After some weeks, even after factory resetting the phone, I concluded that, beside now having Flash and Skype, everything else was still the same: the lag was really noticeable, Quadrant score was just around 150 points up from the previous version, GPS would lose the satellite fix all the time (making it impossible to use in the car) and then there was the overall stability: instead of getting better, it seemed even worse, with games such as Angry Birds crashing the phone entirely as you can see below.

When it crashed like this, I had to pull the battery off or press the power button for a very long period of time until the phone restarted by itself. Another problem was that, despite the performance improvements of Android 2.2, the phone slowed down as time passed by. Eventually the phone would be so slow and lag so much the only solution would be to factory reset it again, lose all the progress and data of the apps and games and start all over again, since there is no official way of backing up the data without rooting the OS.

My new hope by then was to believe that the future Android 2.3 Gingerbread would make a miracle. It wasn’t until the summer that the Gingerbread update was finally released by Vodafone and I updated the phone and reset it… again!

In the first week I truly believed the miracle have been made: the phone was now blazing fast, GPS seemed ok, Quadrant score made a huge jump, almost doubling the original Android 2.1 score!

I finally had this amazing phone I was expecting to get when I bought it one year before!

Unfortunately this great performance did not last for long and soon I was feeling the old lag back again, the GPS was not that good after all (although improved, the precision was much worse compared to a friend’s Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo), the performance was decreasing (Quadrant Score was scoring lower results as time passed by), the stability was hitting all time lows (both games and popular apps such as Facebook often force closed as you can see below) and then there was a new bug I already wrote about in another blog post: the Android OS battery drain bug!

Another thing that really annoyed me was the browser! Samsung made a few changes ruining it even more:

– In Eclair the browser supported up to 8 tabs, but in Froyo and Gingerbread it is limited to 4 tabs!

– Samsung removed the + and – button that allows you to zoom in and out without using the pinch to zoom gesture

– Unlike other Android competitors, the browser did not fit the text automatically to the screen when zooming in, you needed an extra double tap after pinching to zoom

– Browser performance is far from good, the SunSpider score is not impressive at all and there was a problem with the kinetic scroll I mentioned in a previous blog post

– Stability was never something to brag about, and in my opinion it got worst in the latest Gingerbread updates

– There was some rendering issues with some websites (e.g.: lists that did not appear), as you can see below

– I suspect the browser had frequent memory leaks, and since only about 300 of the 512 MB of RAM were actually available to Android I believe this was one of the reasons Samsung limited the browser to 4 tabs from Froyo onwards.

It’s amazing how the most expensive and sophisticated phone I’ve ever bought turned out to be the worst I’ve ever had!!!

After I’ve searched for a while there was a recurring answer to all my problems: surrender and enjoy the dark side of custom ROM’s, such as Cyanogenmod 7!

The community had come up with some of their own-made firmwares that improved noticeably the performance of the phone but in most of these custom ROMs there’s always a few drawbacks:

– First of all, you lose the manufacturer’s warranty (which is a big deal to me!)

– Battery life is apparently even worse compared to the official Samsung firmware

– I would also lose the ability to make standard UMTS/3G video calls

– The camera performance would decrease, since 720p HD video recording was not possible or not entirely smooth

– Some features at some point were not yet developed (such as FM Radio)

So, even though this kind of custom ROMs actually solved some performance-related issues, I would not get as many features as in a Samsung ROM.

The community also came up with some “lagfix” apps that, as far as I know, change the original Samsung filesytem to a faster one, which solved, at least temporarily, the lag problem but required rooting the OS.

My personal belief is that a manufacturer should be responsible for supporting their own products, especially one such as the Galaxy S that sold millions of units and was the company’s flagship phone in 2010.

I really respect how great (and big) the Galaxy S community is and their continuous efforts to solve for free what Samsung is being paid by the customers to solve, but in the end what I really want is a brand to take full responsibility for the things they have put out in the market!

I’m writing my final thoughts on this because recently I’ve met someone that was looking to buy a used smartphone and the Galaxy S was fortunately one of the models he was interested in: this sounded to me as a sign it was time to let my phone go and I didn’t miss the opportunity to sell it: problem solved!

Thoughts on Android 2.3.5 for the Galaxy S

November 24, 2011

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using for some time now the Android 2.3.5 update for the Samsung Galaxy S and it deserves some comments.

Good news first:

– The previously reported Android OS battery drain bug is apparently gone! This just means the phone does not drain the battery all by itself in a dozen hours or so, which was a huge problem. The Android OS process is now at a more reasonable 6% share of the overall battery consumption.

– The browser scroll now works properly as in any other smartphone in the market

Unfortunately, there’s a few problems with this firmware:

– As I said in the previous blog post, the TouchWiz launcher crashes randomly.

– The phone process is also crashing a lot, especially soon after the end of a phone call, as you can see in the picture below.

– The browser may now present a correct scroll behavior but the stability is worst than before, which is not good because the browser was never the most stable app in Android.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it did compensate the lack of stability with improved performance, but running the SunSpider javascript benchmark returned a result of 6505.1 ms which is a regression compared against the 6305.4 ms scored by Android 2.3.3.

Apparently stock browser javascript performance optimization is not a priority for Samsung, neither is improving the stability of the official firmwares they release for the Galaxy S.

Manufacturer’s custom UIs for Android

November 20, 2011

Since a couple of weeks ago all the attentions turned into the new Android 4.0 release, called Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new Samsung flagship model, the Galaxy Nexus, but some may have noticed that Samsung is apparently rolling out for some European i9000 Galaxy S handsets the Android 2.3.5 firmware update, available through Samsung’s Kies software.

While it is great to watch Samsung still providing support for last year’s flagship model, it’s quite disappointing to realize that this phone, one and a half year after being released, is still plagued with some issues.

One of the problems is that the custom TouchWiz UI was never really rock-solid stable. Even after installing the latest Android 2.3.5, the TouchWiz launcher occasionally crashes as you can see below.

It’s not as bad as in Android 2.1 or 2.2 when I had to pull the battery off the phone because it crashed completely, specially after playing a game such as Angry Birds for more than 15 minutes, but I believe there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

I really do not understand what’s the point in not using Google’s Android standard launcher and spend time, money and resources working on a custom UI like TouchWiz, offering a less good user experience, decreased stability and increased memory consumption.

The only Android manufacturer custom UI that seems to offer some benefits in the UX department, in my opinion, is HTC’s Sense UI although the memory consumption is probably even higher than in Samsung’s TouhWiz, but maybe that’s why HTC’s are very generous in the amount of memory they usually pack inside their phones.

iOS 5.0.1 SunSpider benchmark and stability

November 17, 2011

Apple released iOS 5.0.1 some time ago and the main thing about it was that it tried to solve the battery problem some users reported with iOS 5.0 in the iPhone 4S.

I’ve installed iOS 5.0.1 in the iPad 2 and tried again the SunSpider benchmark in order to see if there was further improvements over iOS 5.0.

iOS 5.0 never ran this benchmark in less than 1800 ms, and although iOS 5.0.1 did not improve significantly this result I was able to run it in 1744 ms as you can see in the picture below.

Although it’s really great to watch iOS improve the javascript performance, I believe Apple should focus on Safari stability!

I don’t recall seeing Safari exit itself (aka crash) in iOS 4.3.5, but in iOS 5 and 5.0.1 it happens almost everyday…

Opera Mobile 11.5 SunSpider benchmark

October 28, 2011

Since I’ve been disappointed with the overall performance of the Android stock web browser, I started using some of it’s competitors in order to discover if they were any better.

Lately I’ve been using the Norwegian Opera Mobile which was recently updated to version 11.5. It has some cool features like Opera Turbo, that can be configured to only be activated when you’re not using WiFi, and allows you to save some bandwidth by compressing the web-pages, passing them through Opera own proxy servers, which is nice if you have limited traffic in your data plan.

The SunSpider javascript benchmark is also significantly faster on Opera Mobile, especially if you compare it to the Android stock browser. In my Samsung Galaxy S it ran in just 3080.9 ms, which is about half of the time the stock browser took to complete the same test (6305.4 ms).

There is, however, “a price to pay” for this great performance: (lack of) stability!

As you can see above, sometimes Opera Mobile crashes, which is kind of a common thing for me with Android devices, but not acceptable anyway.

If Opera improves this, I believe this is one of the best browsers currently available for Android!