Samsung Galaxy S 4G Review
It seems like just yesterday Samsung unleashed their Galaxy S 4G smartphone series on the consumer market. Pretty much each major carrier got their own version of the device but managed to keep a few similarities mainly: 1GHz Hummingbird processor, 5-megapixel camera, and a 4-inch Super AMOLED display. The biggest standout of the gang would have to be the Epic 4G which was exclusive to Sprint, mainly because the 4G connectivity via Sprint’s WiMax really gave it the extra boost. So here we are six months later and the Galaxy S series is still running wild like Hulkimania in the 80′s, but this time they’ve tacked on another 4G label giving T-Mobile customers the Galaxy S 4G. This makes us wonder will lighting strike twice for Sammy’s newest 4G cast member? Or is this handset nothing more than a Vibrant 2.0 with features that should have been there from day one? Move past the break for our full review.
Look and Feel
At first glance the Galaxy S 4G looks a lot like the Samsung Vibrant. Which means it too suffers from a little case of iPhone envy, especially when powered off. The handset has a very simple face, which features the now traditional Galaxy S touch capacitive control buttons located below the 4-inch Super AMOLED display. If you look up top you’ll find a speaker bar for audio, move your eyes to the left and you’ll see an almost transparent sensor that turns the screen off when you hold the phone to your ear for a call, preventing accidental button presses. If you move your eyes to the right, you’ll notice a VGA front camera for video calls and self-portraits. As far as physical buttons, you’ll find audio control on the left side of the handset and power control on its right side. If you flip this bad boy over you’ll see its 5-megapixel camera and quickly notice it’s missing a flash! Take a look at the crown of the device and you’ll find your USB connection port and a 3.5mm audio jack. If you want to swap out the included 16GB microSD card you have to pry off the back off the back of the phone and it will be located above the battery, next to your SIM.
The Galaxy S 4G is deceivingly light and has somewhat of a hollow feel to it. Its rounded corners prevent it from feeling blocky or brick-like, but it does kinda feel like something is missing inside. When holding the handset in your hand it gives off a plastic feel, you’ll notice this most when pulling off the backing to get to your memory card or battery. We’re guessing for the sake of ergonomics the Galaxy S 4G has a curved bottom, can’t help but to appreciate that! Overall, the phone feels pretty sturdy in your hands but it does lack the regal feel of its Nexus S cousin.
Software and Performance
Android 2.2 is running the show here, with a splash of Samsung’s TouchWiz 3.0 ridding shotgun. We’re not too sure why this one didn’t ship with Gingerbread? Considering the fact that Samsung built the Nexus S with Google using nearly identical hardware, we can’t help but call shenanigans on this decision! The good news here is TouchWiz 3.0 is pretty slick and intuitive, Samsung doesn’t bombard you with their bloatware à la Motorola’s MOTOBLUR. You’ll easily have access to your contacts, task manager and even have the option to rearrange your homescreens with a few quick flicks of a finger. This gives the phone a real “Android” feel to it, allowing its users to customize things however they see fit.
As far as preloaded software, the most noticeable from the bunch would have to be SWYPE, Samsung’s Media Hub, Qik, and the full copy of Warner Brother’s ‘Inception‘. The reason we’re jonesing for this group so badly, is because they showcase the phone’s sexiness rather well. You can enter text with ease using only one hand via SWYPE. Or pick up movies and TV shows on the go via Media Hub. You can launch Qik and place a video call (3G, 4G and WiFi), and well ‘Inception‘ was just a damn good movie, which shows off that Super AMOLED display rather well. Also included is T-Mobile’s mobile TV which features “Mobile HD”. We’re still not too big on mobile television, it’s okay, but has a long ways to go. You’ll get a free trail and can make the decision to pony up the bucks for this service, but we’d say pass for the time being.
What’s a smartphone without a few bells and whistles? A dumb phone of course! In the case of the Galaxy S 4G you’ve got an average 5-megapixel shooter that doesn’t have a flash. This is simply unacceptable! Considering how most people use their phones in place of an actual camera, Samsung dropped the ball here, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We’re guessing they were expecting you to take pictures only outdoors during daylight? As far as capturing video, you can record up to 720p HD video, but you’ll suffer the same dim lit fate. The front facing VGA is pretty much what you’d expect from a secondary camera. The real saving grace here is the beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED display, which brings just about anything you’re looking at to life.
In regards to being an actual phone, the Galaxy S 4G holds up pretty well. We placed random calls all around town and things were solid. Our biggest gripe was the speaker was kinda weaksauce for voice calls. This really was somewhat of a shocker after watching a movie on the phone, which gives off decent sound, almost sounding like a different speaker altogether. When placing a call via speakerphone people were able to hear us just fine, but they sounded pretty muffuled on our end. The 1500 mAh battery will easily get you through a day at the office, or a day in the classroom. If you’re a heavy texter or web browser, you’ll end up with around 8-10hrs of juice.
A bulk of you are wondering if HSPA+ (4G) makes a difference? We compared this handset to a variety of HSPA (3G) devices and placed calls throughout Los Angeles County. We would have to give a slight edge to T-Mobile’s HSPA+. Now this was nothing groundbreaking, but you should notice a difference. Keep in mind your results may vary depending on your location. Perhaps, this will improve with time? On a positive note voice calls were very consistent.
The Galaxy S 4G is pretty much a souped-up Vibrant, good thing the Vibrant was a pretty awesome phone. This handset holds its own against its Galaxy S forefathers, but when compared to T-Mobile’s other offerings such as the Nexus S, it kinda comes up short. It is hard to overlook a missing camera flash and older operating system, when you have just that staring you in the face. It really depends how important a 4G connection is to you and what type of deal is on the table. The Galaxy S 4G is a contender, but just not quite a grand champion.
Final Verdict: 7.75 out of a possible 10