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

    This is a silly statement. The problem is not specifically with CDMA, it is with Verizon, or if you prefer, with IS-95.

    CDMA as an underlying technology has won, no-one is arguing about this anymore. Every future cellular standard (even the GSM ones) utilizes CDMA as part of the suite of technologies that it uses.

    You are correct about this particular problem with the Verizon system (along with various other dumb problems, eg issues in consolidating long SMS messages, or use of unicode in SMS), but are mistaken in what you blame for the problem.
    Reply
  • tdenton1138 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Got a Charge after having an 1.1Ghz (OC'd) OG Droid on CM 7.0.3 and WOW what an upgrade. Of course, you'd think it would be but its amazing the difference.

    There are two custom roms out, a few kernels, voodoo lagfix and cwm recovery works, except for nandroid (at the moment).

    Weird the review said the T-Bolt gets better battery life... Everyone over at XDA and AC complains about the T-Bolt battery and those that have switched to a Charge have seen a marked improvement in battery life. Don't know what to make of that, but I get 17+ hours of normal use, so I don't complain.

    We've now got 3 Charges in the family and we all love them. Would I have rather waited for the SGS2? Not after using the Charge. It was more than enough of an upgrade for me right now. Dual core will be helpful sometime (Honeycomb? Ice Cream?), but I can do everything I need with zero lag (and I mean zero), so its no big deal for me today.
    Reply
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Any advice on custom ROMs for the Droid Charge? The Google seems to come up with disparate results, and few reviews. I'd love to hear your thoughts! Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I get around that many hours of usage from my STOCK Thunderbolt. I just don't push e-mail or Facebook notifications as that will kill any phone (like my Storm 2). I find that my Thunderbolt gives me similar battery life that I was seeing under my Droid 1 but on LTE with the Thunderbolt. Reply
  • tdenton1138 - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    @ GrizzledYoungMan: I'm currently running Altered Beast v5 (its a themed rom) with gummyCHARGED 1.7.5 kernel, voodoo lagfix enabled. There's also a gummyROM that's more AOSP than Altered Beast. To each their own.

    @Omega215D: Not having a T-Bolt, I can only relay the comments I see on the Charge boards at XDA and AC. If you get great battery life, then great! FWIW, I also got great battery life "STOCK", but wanted to de-bloat and get rid of most of the poop brown that Samsung seems to like.
    Reply
  • dudefrommars - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    The physical buttons are great. I wish my other phones had those.

    I had this phone for 3 days and returned it.
    The voice quality had more pops and cutoffs than my nexus one on t-mobile.
    Small difference in voice quality, but I found it really annoying.

    The touchwiz ui is awful.
    The browser lacks the +- on screen buttons that zoom in and re-format web pages to screen width. With touchwiz, you can zoom in, but end up scrolling left and right - I HATE that.

    The disabled tethering was the final straw.
    I only use mobile data with my laptop a few times per year, so paying fees for all those months with no usage is not acceptable.

    On the plus side, verizon was very good about the return.
    $35 restock, and they pro-rated the usage to the days I had the phone.
    Reply
  • Omega215D - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I felt the same way when I contemplated about returning my Thunderbolt for the Droid Charge. The screen on the Charge is great and the battery life seemed to be better (looking at the battery meter on an unplugged Charge and its usage) and for some reason didn't feel as slippery as many reviewers noted.

    Playing with the phone for an hour or so and it was a bit of a pain. The lag and lack of web reformatting got to me. Plus there isn't any LED notification light.

    With 2.3 supposedly on the way I have no real reason not to like my Thunderbolt but Sense UI is great to use without being on 2.3.
    Reply
  • sitharien - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    You seem to be way more thorough in your phone reviews. Please review the EVO 3D, for Sprint. The last guy just seemed to speed past everything. With Android devices, battery tests really matter, but the guy that reviewed the EVO 3D barely spent a paragraph on it. He seemed biased against the either the phone or the carrier from the outset. Maybe the 3D moniker ruffled his feathers.... Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    What are you talking about, Anandtech hasn't reviewed the EVO 3D yet, they ran a hands-on performance preview but that was it. I think they're gonna be doing the Sensation and Droid X2 first, but I hope they tackle the EVO 3D after that...

    Other reviews on the web are so contradictory it's not even funny, and no one seems to be able to run a proper battery test. Honestly, all the news blogs reviews are mediocre at best, it's pretty dad when a CNet review actually gives more detail than almost anything else (Laptopmag's was pretty thorough too, still nowhere near AT standards tho).

    I'm actually holding off on upgrading while waiting for the AT EVO 3D review, even tho my EVO 4G has been suffering from sporadic reboots lately (they seen to be heat related). If the Photon wasn't on the horizon I might've taken the plunge knowing I have 30 days tho.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I think you're alluding to our hands-on piece with the EVO 3D from a meeting with HTC at Qualcomm Uplinq. We're absolutely going to review the EVO 3D, actually that's scheduled now. Anand is going to do that review however since there is no WiMAX in my state sadly. I've got the HTC Sensation, however.

    -Brian
    Reply

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