Samsung’s Galaxy S II debuts stateside for iPhone rumble

Samsung finally welcomed its Galaxy S II to the U.S., unveiling three models for AT&T (s t), Sprint (s s) and T-Mobile Tuesday night that will do battle with Apple’s iPhone (s aapl) this fall. The device, available for months internationally, is pretty much what has been shown around the world though the Sprint version — the Epic 4G Touch — and the T-Mobile model will feature a 4.52-inch Super Amoled Plus touchscreen.

The Galaxy S II has been a huge seller for Samsung, which sold 5 million units in the first 85 days after launching internationally in early May. Samsung initially estimated 10 million sales within the first seven months of the phone’s retail debut. It will likely be a hit in the U.S. though it will have to compete with a new iPhone from Apple, that may pack a punch depending on which rumor you believe.

As with the original Galaxy S, the phones are generally the same with some details unique to each carrier’s device. The basic specs are: Android (s goog) Gingerbread 2.3.4, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8-megapixel rear-facing camera/camcorder with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. It comes with 16GB of storage and supports a microSD card with support for up to 32 GB. All the phones are labeled 4G, meaning 21 Mbps HSPA+ for AT&T and T-Mobile, and WiMax for Sprint.

The phones will feature Samsung’s Media Hub for accessing media and sharing video through an HDMI-cable, Social Hub for organizing social networking feeds and enterprise features like Virtual Private Network support, Quickoffice, Cisco’s (s csco) WebEx, Exchange ActiveSync and hardware-based data encryption. The company has partnered with Vlingo for robust voice-activated actions. There’s also Samsung’s Kies Air service, which allows people to manage their phone and transfer files through a PC or Mac browser over Wi-Fi. My colleague Darrell put a Canadian version of the Galaxy S II through its paces and generally came away very impressed, high praise for an avid iPhone user.

Missing in the announcement was word of Verizon Wireless (s vz), which is reportedly holding out for another Samsung device, the Droid Prime, which will reportedly sport Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Sprint’s Epic 4G Touch will go on sale for $199 on Sept. 16. AT&T’s Samsung Galaxy S II, which comes with a 4.3-inch screen, and T-Mobile’s version, also known as the Galaxy S II, will appear sometime after the Epic 4G Touch. Their prices have not been announced.

This will no doubt ratchet up the competition with Apple, which is in the midst of suing Samsung for patent violations and has been successful in stalling some sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets. The Samsung Galaxy S was one of the Android devices that looked most similar to the iPhone in hardware and software design and while Samsung has tinkered with the TouchWiz UI, including some nice navigation between screens, there are still points of contention I imagine. A screen capture feature, for example, utilizes a simultaneous press of the home and power buttons, which is something the iPhone already does.

But more importantly, it further cements that Samsung is likely to be the chief standard-bearer for Android as it goes toe to toe with Apple for mobile supremacy.  The two are neck-and-neck in smartphone sales and now with the Galaxy S II on American soil, we’re set up for a great battle this holiday season. Now we just have to see what device comes out of Apple’s corner.