The Samsung Galaxy SII has clearly been one of the most anticipated smartphone launches this year. And judging by the way it has been received, with over 3-million sold even before it has reached US shores, it may very well be on its way to being Samsung’s best smartphone ever.

All the buzz and expectation before the phone’s launch, about its nearly-unmatched spec sheet and a screen to die for, was not lost on me. And I jumped on the early adopter bandwagon as soon as whispers of its availability spread in our infamous grey markets. After having spent all of Rs 32,500 on a bleeding-edge phone, I was expecting an Android experience unparalleled to the ones I’ve had in the past.

Unfortunately, after having used it for close to a month, I am disappointed, and it mostly has to do with Android’s Achilles' heel: battery life. The SGSII chews up battery like nothing I’ve seen before. If not managed correctly, this phone can give you a serious case of battery anxiety, especially when you’re at the airport without any transport arranged. For a smartphone battery to be giving up in under a day’s average use is simply unacceptable! And ever since that feeling of helplessness, I have refused to make the SGSII my primary phone, because I know it will give up the ghost when I need it the most.

Of course with an Android you’re expected to actively manage the phone. And there’s a very smart battery analyzer tool available that tells you which application or service is using up resources. So after studying my pattern of use for over a few days I realized that apart from voice calls and display, on an average 20-30% of my battery was being consumed by applications that I hadn’t started or used at all.  In general, tasks and services keep starting up on their own and this needs task manager intervention every now and then. To make matters worse, the native task manager and other task managers, like the Advanced Task Killer app, are never on the same page: one says nothing’s running, while the other shows that every installed app is running! After every hour or two of use, the phone needs housekeeping done. You need to kill unnecessary tasks and services and make sure you don’t have any rogue background apps running, that is, if you want your battery to last for a reasonable amount of time.

The battery woes

Don't let it drain you

This kind of active phone and battery management can get frustrating, and I soon realized why JuiceDefender is one of the most downloaded apps (over 3 million downloads!) on the Android app market. The app does all the housekeeping, and does so with great results. With JuiceDefender turned on and the right profile selected, I was able to get the SGSII to go well beyond a day. Still unacceptable!

What’s surprising is that every advanced SGSII user I’ve spoken to seems to take poor battery life as a given. One user went on to say that you should just have the phone tethered to power whenever you have the chance! Another friend opined that expecting these fast smartphones to last beyond a day is just plain unreasonable. I disagree! I think Samsung could have easily added on a couple of millimeters to the phone’s thickness, and snapped on a beefier battery. The phone’s already too thin for my liking and often on calls, I feel like I’ve slapped my face with a long thin sheet of plastic. If not a stronger battery, the least they could have done is pre-burn a JuiceDefender like app into the phone instead of all the other bloatware they’ve included.

With my enthusiast hat firmly on, it tends to get hard to not be impressed by the SGSII.  And as a tweaker and tinkerer, I’m really looking forward to the improvements I will get after I root the device, get rid of the Samsung installed bloatware, and install a third-party ROM. Out of the box, though, the phone does not have the startling, enthusiast-endorsed performance I was expecting. Despite all the horsepower the SGSII harnesses, there is still a perceptible hiccup at times. You’ll notice this most often while using even the basic of all content apps, like BBC News for instance, or even while scrolling the app list. 

With battery-life that needs so much managing, I’m not sure everyone who buys this smartphone realizes that they’ve also signed up for another faltering, tweaking, rebooting, rooting, and battery chewing Android experience.

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