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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  • name99 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "Now, it's come time for me to move on. To what? The iPhone is out, since I'm not an asshole."

    Absolutely. This line totally proves it.
    Reply
  • JasonInofuentes - Friday, June 24, 2011 - link

    I don't think I've ever read such a pessimistic comment! I'm puzzled since you sound like an enthusiast, but I think I know where the problem lies.

    My wife loves going shopping but hates shopping. She likes new things and enjoys the excitement that comes from knowing that you're going to go get it. But she hates that you have to distill from the myriad of options the one item that will make her happiest. The end result is that she inevitably buys several options and then returns them after closer inspection.

    You shouldn't sound pessimistic you should be thrilled. When you invested in your Pearl the number of smartphone models per carrier numbered in the single digits. Now you have some 30 or so devices to choose from and 5 platforms, and all on one carrier (VZW)! So here's my advice to you. Go buy one. Is it going to be the right one? I don't know. But if you feel like the options are going to be better in a few months then wait. And then buy one.
    Say you get the GS2 variant. And it sucks. Carriers want you to be happy and not leave. So with their 30 day guarantee in mind they will likely let you trade for a different phone so long as you didn't break the first one. Try, rinse, repeat.

    I'm not saying this to be discouraging. I love that you're so passionate about this that you can end up having a rant about it. But trust me, this is an awesome and enviable position to be in. You ahve ltos of options. And lots of them are great options. Can you go wrong? Yep. But don't let your preconceptions about the users of a particular platform (::ahem:: iOS) cloud your choice. And don't let FUD rule your choice either, Brian's graphs clearly show that on LTE and WiFi the Thunderbolt and Charge have comparable battery life and that the Thunderbolt trumps the Charge by some margin in talk time.

    Lastly, if the Pearl was great for you for three years, why are you going to upgrade? I'm serious. What is the missing feature that you think you need this phone to fill? Seriously, write it down, and don't make it too generic. Is it video? Flash? A particular type of app (career or hobby related)? Music? Better browsing experience? Write that feature down and then look at your choices with that in mind. It could turn out that a suitable phone is already in the bargain bin.

    Either way, enjoy the hunt and let us know what you turn up.

    Jason
    Reply
  • gungan310 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Its actually 12 mm thick, and so just about 1 mm thinner than the thunderbolt and revolution, not 6mm as you've stated. Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Should be fixed now, thanks!

    -Brian
    Reply
  • FATCamaro - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    So ridiculous. Should be an iphone5 killer tho right. LULZ! Reply
  • gshayban - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Can't really dock the phone for not having SVDO.
    LTE gives you simultaneous data and a phone call.
    Reply
  • scook9 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Except that there is 3G in a lot more places then there is 4g right now making that a gimmick at best

    That is one of the key reasons I got a ThunderBolt and not the other 2
    Reply
  • vision33r - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    All GSM devices on Tmobile/AT&T gives you data/voice at the same time. It's only stupid CDMA devices that can't support it. Reply
  • robco - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Stupid CDMA devices that, depending on where you live, will actually let you make phone calls. AT&T has a fast network - when you can get it. For those of us who live in areas with poor AT&T and TMo reception, there aren't any other options at the moment. Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    CDMA is still inherently better than GSM as it depends on code division rather than time division of GSM. This means more streams per spectrum which means less towers need to be built as each tower can accommodate more users. This is why 450MHz CDMA is popular in small less developed countries.

    GSM is just Europe having its way as many asian countries have embraced CDMA for the longest.

    Stop being an asshole and do some research instead of following the shitfaced sheep. You wanna troll go troll somewhere else fag. I saw your previous comment about people who use android flip phones every 6 months.
    Reply

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