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Samsung Galaxy S Overview

Page history last edited by Mike Diamond 9 years, 9 months ago

I bought a Samsung Galaxy S recently, as I'll be returning to Canada soon and will soon be required to return the iPhone 3G (not 3GS) provided to me by my employer.  I'll need a smart phone to stay in touch while I launch my new business, and will forever refuse to buy a locked phone on contract.  Despite having purchased several apps for the iPhone, and despite being quite "locked in" to iTunes with my Music collection, I opted for an Android because in general I like to mix things up and avoid becoming stale in the technology world.


Unfortunately, despite being brilliantly integrated with Google services and having several nifty features including pulling in and linking your contacts with Facebook and Twitter; optionally functioning as a wifi hot spot; playing many different media formats natively; etc, it was a frustrating experience for two reasons:


  1. The music playing/syncing experience just isn't iTunes/iPod.  iTunes isn't the greatest, but it's pretty damn good.  And once you get used to its integration with iPod, it's really really hard to adjust to anything less.  And the music system on Android is less.  Much, much less.  Fortunately, I found a nice program called iSyncr that "does the needful".  I can get by.
  2. Every once in a while, and more often than is otherwise tolerable, the phone comes to a standstill.  I mean screeching halt.  Especially when using the Email app or even when just receiving an email in that app from my work's Exchange email system.  And at other times too - seemingly random, but usually right when you needed to use the phone most.  Like when you pull it out of your pocket and press the home button to wake it up, and it just - doesn't wake up.  So you press and press and press, and then finally the thing tries to play catch up with all of your presses.


So the real problem was #2, and it led me down a razor line for weeks, not sure whether I wanted to sell the phone and get an iPhone 4 (or run over it with the Hummer), or tolerate it because of the other brilliant features.  Two things led me to keep the phone and eventually resolve its issues, eventually turning it into not only a brilliant device, but into the most insanely cool and useful (and pleasant to use) product I've ever used:


  1. I was showing it to a friend at work, and he was absolutely blown away by the cool things it could do that his iPhone 4 couldn't.  That helped me to appreciate my phone for what it was, and spur me on to find a resolution to my problems with it
  2. I found out about a fundamental flaw with the phone, that the enthusiast community had put effort into resolving.  I decided that this had to be the root cause of my problem, and it was worth risking bricking the phone in order to try to fix it.


Turns out there is/was a problem with Samsung's choice in filesystem used on the internal SD card.  They used something called RFS which apparently stands for "Robust FAT Filesystem".  I don't know about that, however it seems it's not ideal for an SD card due to the speed and I/O model of that kind of storage medium.  Since the phone's application data is stored on this card, in this filesystem, any time an application needs to do something I/O intensive, such as re-index a mailbox, the phone freezes.


Enter the community's solution: the "lagfix".  The community feels that there are inherent traits to the ext3 and ext4 filesystems that make SD storage perform better, and their lagfixes focus on moving the application data onto an appropriately formatted partition.  There are several lagfixes out there, but they all require root access to the phone, which in turn requires that you can reboot the phone into recovery mode by holding down 3 of the phone's buttons.


In my effort to apply one of these fixes, I found I had another problem with the phone.  Mine was from a batch of phones that could not be rebooted into recovery or download modes using the "3 button method".  Fortunately, the community had discovered and resolved that problem too.  My recounting of that resolution is recorded here, in the 3-Button Fix for Samsung Galaxy S.


Once I resolved the recovery mode problem, I went about trying to find a root for the phone.  Things got confusing real quick.  I break down the lessons I learned here, in Upgrading Android on Samsung Galaxy S.


In the end, I neither rooted the phone nor applied a lagfix.  By upgrading to the latest version of Android (2.2.1, release JPU), the performance problems simply evaporated.  I don't believe that Samsung changed the filesystem on the SD card, but they've done something to make it speedy.  Although the performance benchmark numbers revealed by Quadrant aren't as high as some of the numbers I've seen with lagfix applied, to me it's the experience that matters - not the numbers.  And the phone is just lightning quick now, so no need to mess with it further.


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