Samsung is doing something interesting lately. Instead of outright releasing Galaxy S 2 in the US, each carrier is getting a mid-cycle refresh of the Galaxy S with 4G compatibility and more recently Super AMOLED Plus. T-Mobile was first with the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, then came the Droid Charge on Verizon which we’re looking at now, and finally AT&T got the Samsung Infuse 4G. The latter two have Super AMOLED Plus displays and different basebands. Right now we’re looking at Verizon’s second 4G LTE device, and the first to earn the ‘Droid’ level branding - the Samsung Droid Charge. 

The Droid Charge (henceforth just Charge) is an interesting mid-cycle refresh of the Samsung Fascinate (which we reviewed back when it came out), retaining much of the handset’s core features. Notably, both run Android 2.2 and are based around a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird SoC with SGX 540 graphics. Where the two differ is the inclusion of 512 MB of LPDDR2, a 4G LTE baseband, front facing 1.3 MP camera, and 4.3” WVGA Super AMOLED display. There are other differences such as more storage both internal and external, but the primary difference is inclusion of 4G LTE and that huge display. 

The Charge’s industrial design is a bit unique, resembling something of a cross between the iconic B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and a Nexus S. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of yet another design that clearly is inspired by radar-deflecting angles and the homogenous grey color of iron-ball paint radar-absorptive material. It’s just a totally tired design direction. The device is ringed with chrome (a common Galaxy S motif) and is slightly angled up in the front.

There’s an angular point in the front middle where the microphone port is, and below it a small space to shove a thumbnail into and remove the battery cover. 

This angular motif is continued everywhere on the Charge - the earpiece grille up at the top matches it with a similarly shaped triangle, and on the back the chrome ringing the camera and flash also has an angled style. It all kind of comes off in a way that makes the Charge feel masculine, but at the same time carries a bit of prepubescent opulence. 

The Charge reminds me a lot of the Nexus S because of its bulge on the bottom. The phone doesn’t lay completely flat, instead it rests on three points formed by the upper back and the center of the backside bulge. The speaker slot is located on the side of the bulge and as a result isn’t muffled when the phone is placed face up on a table for speakerphone or conference calls. 

One of the things I haven’t seen for a while (outside of the Droid X and X2) are physical android buttons. The Charge’s four buttons are both adequately clicky and backlit evenly. The four buttons are actually two groups of two, with with the leftmost two and rightmost two buttons each being discrete buttons. You can sort of tell that they’re the same piece, because clicking one moves the other button, but so far I haven’t experienced any errant clicks.

It’s a bit weird using something with physical buttons after months using phones with capacitive – more than once I found myself lightly pressing on the region and then waiting, puzzled why nothing happened. In addition, pressing any of the four Android buttons while the device is off does not turn the handset on, so you can put your fears that hardware buttons will lead to errant in-pocket power-ons to bed. Only the power button does that duty.

 

Physical Impressions and Comparison Table
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  • GrizzledYoungMan - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Howdy!

    I could use some wisdom from the thoughtful nerds at Anandtech here. I'm a Verizon subscriber (who won't be switching networks, on account of the fact that I like getting reception), and I've been holding onto my Blackberry Pearl for last three odd years.

    Seriously. Don't laugh. The reason being that I haven't been so impressed with any Android phone that has come out in recent memory. I really like having a hardware keyboard, and I've found that for the stuff I need to do most - messaging, calling, mapping - the Pearl was as good as the first and second generation Android phones, except not fat.

    Now, it's come time for me to move on. To what? The iPhone is out, since I'm not an asshole. And I would really prefer to get something with an LTE radio. So I'm left with the prospect of the Thunderbolt, which sucks juice like a fat baby, or the Droid Charge, which is just straight up ugly. And, in my experience, has a maddening color cast to the screen.

    In my mind, it's worth it to wait a few more months, after years of avoiding upgrades, for the Droid 3, Bionic, GS2, etc. Any thoughts on the following?

    I like the look of the Droid 3, and my hunch is that battery life would be at least reasonable without an LTE radio on-board. But would I miss that connectivity? Overall, I prefer faster connectivity to a dual core proc. The hardware keyboard on the Droid 3 would seem to be a big draw, but the keyboard on the Droid 2 is so awful that I feel like I'm taking crazy pills every time people rave about it.

    The Droid Bionic sounds like an awesome beast - and like something that could also replace my kindle, my ipod and my netbook to a limited degree - but I have an ugly hunch it's months and months away. And that when it does arrive, it's gonna be gigantic and require a portable nuclear reactor to run for more than a few hours.

    I hear that the Samsung GS2 is coming to Verizon, but is that likely to happen in my natural lifetime? And if it does, what are the odds that it also has an LTE radio without the accompanying diabetic-5-year-old appetite?

    Alright, this has degenerated into a semi-rant, but thoughts from others in the same situation are appreciated! Thanks!
    Reply
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    You're right that the QWERTY market for Android is sadly lacking. Motorola seems to be the only vendor even taking a decent crack at it. Downside is they refuse to open their handsets to the community (bootloader/system is locked down and encrypted up the wazoo) and they have already orphaned many of their earlier, otherwise capable droid phones on obsolete releases. Reply
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah, the locked bootloader thing also bugs me. It really wouldn't if handsets shipped with stock Android, and some measure of confidence that the OS would be updated in a timely fashion. But given that handsets ship with absurd bloatware and crappy UI overlays - I guess that's what we need these dual core procs for, to get all that crap working? - and heinously slow update cycles, I want control of my own ROM.

    Sigh. I gotta say, this is all really frustrating. Relative to the choices I had back when RIM was king, the smartphone market seems to have gotten crappier. Reviewers get very excited about big screens and kickstands and video streaming (I mean, jebus, who gives a crap about video streaming? I need to live, people), without noticing that phones have gotten obese and slow and half-assed.
    Reply
  • PeteH - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "The iPhone is out, since I'm not an asshole."

    C'mon dude, don't be that guy. Just say you don't want an iPhone.
    Reply
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah, you're right. Maybe I am an asshole.

    I thought long and hard about the iphone. Unlike other Apple products which fall mind-blowingly short of the hype - I'm looking at you, OS X, you fat, slow, stupid bastard - It's clearly the best hardware package out there as far as size/performance/battery life, and iOS has definite advantages over Android (although neither is a clear winner in my mind, given the applications I have for a smartphone).

    But, I mean, man. I just can't do it. I can't be part of the whole Apple "thing" - the implied smugness, ignorance, the submission to an authority that clearly has contempt for me.

    Just can't do it.
    Reply
  • Omid.M - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Yeah, seriously! I will admit when a product is well executed. I'm not the " I hate brand X" guy. I like BMW, I like the Hyundai Tiburon V6. The Nissan 370z...etc. If it's well-done, it's well-done.

    Apple makes a great product. It's just a different philosophy in terms of design and UX. They use high quality parts and their testing is good and pretty thorough. If there isn't a good Android phone out by the time there's an iPhone with a 4" screen and LTE on Verizon, I may go with iPhone. But, I do love the kind of apps that are available for Android, in terms of monitoring system resources, etc. Some cool stuff is available that you can't get on iOS unless you jailbreak.
    Reply
  • robco - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "The iPhone is out, since I'm not an asshole."

    Actually with that comment, you proved that you in fact are...
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    You probably own an iPhone though, right? Reply
  • robco - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I do, and I like it. But there are things about it I don't like. There are Android handsets that look good. I'm even open to WP7. I use a Mac, but it's a laptop. Say what you want, but Apple makes great notebooks. If I were in the market for a desktop, it would likely be a Windows box.

    I'm an asshole, but not because I own an iPhone. I was an asshole long before I got one. Assholes use all different kinds of technologies, drive different types of cars (not everyone who drives a BMW is a douchebag for example), live in all types of places. Being an asshole and owning an iPhone are mutually exclusive.
    Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "Being an asshole and owning an iPhone are mutually exclusive."

    You mean they are ORTHOGONAL.
    Reply

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