If You're Stuck On T-Mobile, The Galaxy S II Is Your Only Hope [REVIEW]

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

This is going to be the lightning review to end all lightning reviews.It’s now my third time reviewing Samsung’s Galaxy S II. Each model has slightly tweaked specs, but the core experience is the same.

Brilliant display. 4G. Samsung’s TouchWiz skin. Helpful widgets. Annoying crapware from the carriers.

You get the idea.

If you want more details, you should read my reviews of the international Galaxy S II and Sprint’s Galaxy S II. My colleague Ellis Hamburger wrote up his review of the AT&T model.

Click here to skip to huge photos of the Galaxy S II >

For now, we’ll stick with the T-Mobile model, which is perhaps the most important phone right now for the carrier’s customers.

I only spent the weekend with T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II, and to be honest, there isn’t much more to say beyond what I did in the reviews linked above. It’s mostly the same phone.

The Good
T-Mobile is now the only major U.S. carrier that doesn’t offer the iPhone. (Unless you buy an unlocked iPhone at the full, unsubsidized price.) That means if you’re married to your T-Mobile subscription, you’ll have to go for second best.

But that doesn’t mean the Galaxy S II is a poor substitute. I really do like this phone. And T-Mobile’s 4G network is just as fast as Sprint’s. I was able to get download speeds that were a lot faster than my AT&T 3G connection on my iPhone. That’s a big plus.

The processor is also a bit more zippy than the other Galaxy S II models, clocking in at 1.5 GHz. (Dual-core.) I didn’t notice much of a difference on my end though. Apps and graphics were plenty snappy. You also get an NFC chip, which will be useful once Google Wallet expands to other phones.

The Bad
There seems to be more crapware on T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II than any of the other models. T-Mobile TV, Qik, some task manager widgets, and a T-Mobile App Store. It all gets in the way of Samsung’s TouchWiz skin that already has its own widgets, media store, etc. I wish T-Mobile stuck with just one skin.

The price is also pretty hefty: $230 with a two-year contract. Compare that to the $200 price tag on the other to Galaxy S II models and the iPhone 4S.

Should You Buy It?
If you’re stuck on T-Mobile and don’t have the means to buy an unlocked iPhone 4S, the Galaxy S II is probably the best smartphone on the carrier. Assuming you don’t mind spending a $30 premium over the competition.

However, if you can break away from T-Mobile, there are much better options on other carriers with the iPhone 4S on Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon or the impending Nexus Prime.

Major bonus: T-Mobile's Galaxy S II comes preloaded with Netflix

Samsung went with the same 4.5-inch screen that's on many of its high-end smartphones now

Notice the disclaimer sticker from Qualcomm: This isn't a true 4G phone

That may look like a metal band surrounding the phone, but it's really just shiny plastic

Here's the full Galaxy S II lineup: Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T models

You can see from the side view that each carrier's model has a few slight design tweaks

But the specs are mostly the same for each

Here's the Netflix app. Looks great on the giant screen!

Unfortunately, we had a bad 4G connection, so the picture was a bit blurry

Good thing that Samsung ships its Galaxy phones with the latest version of Android

That 8 MP camera will shoot full 1080p HD

Data speeds were pretty good in NYC. (Except in the Business Insider office. We have horrible reception.)

Here's an example of a silly widget T-Mobile added to the Galaxy S II

There's also a live TV app that streams nicely over 4G. Warning: it'll eat up your data plan

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.