Thursday, September 9, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S: bad circuit design and funny flaws

Time to write in English as the subject of this article has some interest internationally.

For a three weeks ago I decided to buy a Samsung Galaxy S. I have never had a phone with a touchscreen before. To form an opinion about the whole experience took some time - the experience was so different.

One of the first things I did was listening to radio. To my surprise there was a constant extra sound in the background. No matter which frequency (radio channel), whether the WLAN was on or off or the same for 3G - the same sound is there. It is like a helicopter coming towards you from distance. The sound can only be heard if you listen to a program or channel that also has pauses - stations who compress their signal to the extreme and never have a silent second in their broadcast are no good for testing this. (Makes me wonder who really wants to listen to those stations.)

I have already changed my phone once. As I put my SIM into the phone in the store I was a bit annoyed when I noticed that the helicopter kept approaching in the earphones of the new phone as well. The friendly salesman also confirmed it. Yesterday the local Samsung support confirmed that they can reproduce the problem also. The support is located in Sweden. What we have here is a phone of over 500€ with a radio having faulty design. The sad thing is that the problem seems to be in the circuitry. There's no way to do anything about it on the Operating System level if the circuitry is bad. At the moment I am waiting for the operator to say OK to return the no good device.

Android is IMHO a very nice operating system for mobile phones. I do think it is going to be among the winners. The pace of development is just so incredible. However, there are some really negative things, too.

Some of us go outdoors occasionally. In some activities getting accurate weather forecast is essential. In sailing, aviating and mountain climbing the weather has a huge impact - you quite simply might die if you neglect the weather.

Animated GIF has been the de facto standard for presenting maritima and aviaton weather information. There is really no better way to present information about the forthcoming weather than a series of images, animation, showing the moves of low or high pressure.

Animated GIF has also been a part of W3C specification since 1990. I do of course know that a major use for animated GIF images are the annoiyng ads. As the weather forecast industry has been there for ages I am asking: Is it OK to risk a human life just because you developers do not like ads? No one has been able to give me a reasonable explanation on why this feature is missing from Anroid other than the "I have never seen a reasonable use for an animated GIF image. I dislike the porn ads. Thus animated GIF is bad." argument. This argument is flawed. I want my browser to do the stuff that is defined in the specifications. W3C standard set is the law to follow in this case.

As already shown, animated GIF has good use and there's no way to deny it is an essential feature in a standards compliant Internet browser. Even by definition. So, Android browser is non-standard crap. A funny feature for an Open Source based product, isn't it?

Third thing to nag about is the low quality of localization. I am not talking only about the quality of translations. There is a lot of mistakes in the translations. A harder problem is that the virtual keyboard has been altered to support the scandinavian chacters like å, ä and ö by removing the CTRL-key from the keyboard to make some empty space for these letters. So, how do you enter CTRL+something type command sequences to a terminal, then? You don't. Not unless you change the language settings altogether.

I guess I won't fit to the target group of this product. Not even as a long term Linux user and Open Source advocate.

I do think Android is going to be big. I just hope that it would suit people who talk and use other languages than English and have other hobbies than poking the screen.

Designing a 500€ phone with a dysfunctional radio is a commercial suicide. This device should be top of the line. The FM radio does not even beat the 5€ units available everywhere.

Wake up, dudes!

Update 12th February 2011: After discussing this issue for half a year with the seller and phone company I got a full refund. I have listened to all possible Galaxy S phones I have been allowed to and every single one of them has had the radio flaw.

1 comment:

spam-a-la-spam said...

Your critique on the galaxy S is valid as you have confirmed the faulty radio is a mistake in the circuit board.

The thing is that many expensive devices rely on rather complex ICs stacked and packed on a circuit board with various other basic components. The chips are often of high quality, though there seems to be such a strong trend to save 0,1cent on resistors and diodes that many product failures emerge not from the multi-million dollar ICs, but from faulty power management because the hardware developer had to save 1cent on resistor costs and used slightly lower quality cheaper ones. It's not a modern trend at all. In the past, you had devices such as radios and musical keyboards with for example a 12V plug with the + on the inside of the plug. Is it really that expensive to put 4 diodes in the device to make sure it works either way? Apparently saving 1ct by not putting those 4 diodes in the device was very popular. I am sure many devices failed due to accidental reversed polarity by the user. I also have a strong traditional transistor amplifier around. When you unplug it, you will get shocked if you accidentally touch the power cables. Was it really so expensive to put one single discharging resistor in the circuit to prevent people from getting shocked? Apparently saving 1ct had a greater priority than user safety. New IT companies usually get surprised to see that plugging a lot of computers into the same earth wire trips the earth-wire protection. ATX power supplies are really nasty power supplies and apparently a lot of cents were saved by not designing the supply properly. Currents which the circuit cannot handle are all dumped onto the earth wire. The original intention of the earth wire was to be connected to the metal frame of a device, not as a connection to dump stuff on.

I can probably go on forever. To a company producing millions of devices, saving a couple of cents probably increases their profits by millions. To a consumer, saving a single cent is of course mundane.