November 6th will be a big day for AT&T customers, but today’s a big day for us: we’ve got our second AT&T 4G LTE smartphone in a row! The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is, as the name implies, a 4G LTE version of AT&T’s Galaxy S II variant. A hands-on look at the phone – and how it compares with the other launch device, the HTC Vivid – follows.

If you’ve managed to get your hands on a Galaxy S II, you know what to expect here. The Super AMOLED screen with its bright and vivid colors is the star here, dominating the device and making the interaction between phone and finger pleasurable. However, like the regular AT&T GSII, the 4.5-inch screen is a little too big for its britches – the 800 x 480 display seems stretched here, and you can definitely see some enlarged pixels.

Outside the phone is pure Samsung: a slim frame with a side-mounted power button, volume rocker and not much else. Like the other US variants of the GSII, the Skyrocket has all four standard Android buttons in capacitive form. The all-plastic construction is light, if not particularly sturdy, and the phone feels comfortable in the hand. The phone has 16GB of on-board memory and a MicroSD card slot, but you’ll need to supply your own external storage.

Inside the package you’ll find the standard wall charger and micro USB cord, plus a headset with an in-line microphone and controls. The addition is appreciated, even if the earbuds themselves are nothing to write home about. The back panel is a little flimsy, and as you’ll see in the video, hard to get back on properly.

Once you turn the phone on you’re greeted with the standard TouchWiz interface, if unfortunately burdened by an assortment of AT&T bloatware. With a 1.5GHz dual-core processor you’d expect this Gingerbread phone to fly (or blast off) but to my surprise, the TouchWiz homescreen was already showing signs of slowdown. On more than one occasion in just a few minutes the phone hung on a simple app transition. Not a promising start.

When compared with its launch partner the HTC Vivid, the Skyrocket comes up unfortunately short. While the Super AMOLED screen is brighter and easier to read in low light, the Vivid’s superior resolution wins out for sharpness and clarity. While the Vivid has a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor and an identical gigabyte of RAM, it didn’t choke during initial testing, and the HTC Sense interface is (in my opinion, at least) both more attractive and more functional.

The Vivid is considerably heavier, but it makes up for the bulk in a quality feel. An all-metal back on the HTC phone is a nice touch, and though it’s already begun to scratch, it’s a lot easier to access the battery bay. I’ll hold judgement until I can put both phones through their paces, but for now at least, the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket is well behind its only competition, despite being more expensive. For a better look at the HTC phone, read our hands-on.

My workplace doesn’t have access to the AT&T 4G LTE network, but I’ll be making a trek to one of the (few) supported areas soon. Be sure to check back for our exclusive rundown of both phones’ LTE performance. In the meantime, check out the hands-on unboxing video below:

The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket will be available on AT&T starting November 6th, for a price of $249.99 on-contract.

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