The Samsung Galaxy S is looking like the sleeper hit of the summer smartphone releases. After announcements this week, Samsung’s latest Super AMOLED handset will be available with every major U.S. carrier by the end of the summer. The Galaxy S has all the hallmarks of a successful smartphone. It’s fast, beautiful and easy to use. Here’s an in-depth look at what could be Samsung’s best work in quite a while.

Form Factor
The first thing you notice about the Galaxy S is that it’s light. If you haven’t turned it on yet, you might not be expecting much. The weight of it is almost a letdown and gives it that toy-like feeling that can so often spell doom in a piece of electronics. Nevertheless, turn the phone on and watch the device’s Super AMOLED touch screen come to life and your disappointment at the feel of it should evaporate. Display technology is Samsung’s bread and butter, and the screen on the Galaxy S is no exception.

Once the screen is fired up, the overall form factor of the phone bears a striking resemblance to the iPhone 3G S. Aside from the little hump near the bottom of the phone on the back side, the smooth curves of Galaxy S make for one of the more attractive offerings from Samsung.

Speed of Hummingbird
To extend comparison to the iPhone 3GS, the Galaxy S seemed noticeably faster than Apple’s predecessor to the iPhone 4. Samsung’s 1GHz Hummingbird processor is a success if this is any indication of the kind of speed users can expect from future Samsung smarpthones. Applications loaded quickly, with little lag and video was crystal clear.

That Sprint got this phone with a 4G WiMAX radio seems like good idea. The Galaxy S is an exceptional second offering in the company’s 4G phone lineup, next to the Evo 4G. Also, this phone is a good compromise between the smaller iPhone 4 and the near tablet-like size of the Droid X and Evo. As impressive as the recent Droid X and Evo specs are, each boasting 4.3-inch screens, the mid-range 4-inch screen on the Galaxy S seems more manageable and nonetheless impressive.

T-Mobile USA liked the phone’s multimedia capabilities so much that it decided to go ahead and offer the phone pre-loaded with James Cameron’s Avatar. The Epic also will be able to access Samsung’s AllShare service, which allows users to wirelessly share stored music, pictures and HD video to other DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certified home electronics, making it an ideal media player as smartphones are increasingly integrated with other digital media devices in the home and car.

The Galaxy S comes with a capable 5 MP camera/camcorder with autofocus, LED flash and 3x digital zoom for HD video3 (720p) video recording. There’s also a front facing camera for video calling if that’s your thing. Photos were crisp and clean and displayed nicely on the phone’s gorgeous screen. Video taken with the phone also was impressive. After having used the iPhone 4 for taking pictures, I found the Galaxy S lagged a bit after each shot, which was mildly frustrating.

Samsung has done a really nice job with the UI on this phone. One of Android’s weak spots has been a host of confusing, lackluster user interfaces. Samsung played it smart and kept the Galaxy S simple. The customizable home screen features a handy Google search box at the top and icons for applications, Gmail, phone, maps and Google market. That can all be changed, but the easy initial set-up and availability of these core features was welcome. Easy set-up of a Google account and the subsequent easy access of Google’s suite of services is one of the biggest reasons that Android is becoming an iPhone competitor.

The keyboard and preloaded Swype were easy to use and responsive. It feels like Samsung has refined the haptic feedback some, as the click of the keys was satisfying and not overdone. The little bit of extra space offered in a 4-inch screen is a welcome addition and probably a secondary reason that OEMs are opting for larger displays. 

It’s worth a quick mention of the Galaxy S’s interactive “Live Wallpapers,” which are subtle animated backgrounds that users can touch to interact with. This might be a welcome change to anyone who has suffered Apple’s rigidly controlled home screen décor on the iPhone.

While the Galaxy S looks like a great phone, there are still lingering doubts in any reviewer’s mind about Samsung’s history of quality problems and lack of customer support. Given that Samsung’s senior vice president of mobile communications, Lee Donjoo, recently told Bloomberg that he expects the company to double its market share by the end of the year, it might be a good bet that the company intends on remedying those problems.

Samsung has some healing to do in the minds of American consumers, and if the Galaxy S is plagued by the kinds of issues that sunk the Behold II, which are too numerous to name here, it could mean very bad things for a company that has just released a product with a lot of promise.