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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  • crydee - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Samsung never updates.. I still have the Galaxy first Android on AT&T and still no working GPS. Reply
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    I saw the picture and thought this was a review of the new iphone! Oh my! Now I can see why apple is so angry!

    GFY JOBS!
    Reply
  • spctm - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Not sure why it is so but I am running Cyanogenmod 7.1 nightly on a nexus one and I get these scores.

    SunSpider: 3354.2
    BrowserMark: 54697
    Linpack: 36.7 (Free Version)

    Sunspider and Browsermark are way faster on cm-7.1, which is quite surprising as it is running Android 2.3.4 base. But Linpack is more along the lines with what Brian got. Not sure if the free version's ad streaming would have some impact on floating point operations of Linpack.

    Just thought I would post this observations and see if others have similar results.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Looks to be a good phone, though I wonder if it'll be better than the Charge. Reply
  • Omid.M - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "I have an odd Sensation that the next one will be exciting..."

    Hah!

    Can't wait for the Galaxy S 2 review. Hope it lives up to AT expectations.

    @moids
    Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    "
    My only complaint is that every once in a while, the LTE data session sometimes stalls briefly – sometimes for a a few seconds, other times for a few minutes. When that happens, you’ll see the uplink green arrow blink, but no orange downlink arrow. Rebooting the device fixes things.
    "

    Jesus Christ.
    THIS is precisely why Apple has nothing to fear, as long as competitor vendors ship crap like this --- and reviewer web sites are so blinded by Apple hatred that they give them a pass. I mean, WTF --- a phone that you, randomly and frequently, have to reboot, and the reviewer thinks this is just par for the course?
    This is 2011, not 1982. Forcing a reboot to fix random problems should be a strange and unusual situation, not a daily occurrence!
    Reply
  • ThomasA - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    Long time VZW customer, since GTE. This may change. The future should be interesting with the '4G' push, and now, the 'new' Verizon tiered data plans looming. Having a '4G' device will require either a big wallet or detailed restraint.

    I suggest using a cheap flip-phone for chit-chat and another device on hotspots (laptop, netbook, iPod touch) for web needs. Unless you enjoy transfusing the telecoms.
    Reply
  • sitharien - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    You are both correct, I was way mistaken. I look forward to Anand's review. I am holding off on any upgrade of my EVO 4G until I get a better picture of the Android battery landscape. Reply
  • BGK - Wednesday, June 22, 2011 - link

    So what's the verdict on Charge vs Thunderbolt. If battery life is about the same, that leaves the screen as the Charge's major advantage.

    Also, do you think some of discrepancies in battery life in the reviews had to do with the reviews of the thunderbolt being done on older versions that may have been less efficient?
    Reply
  • tdenton1138 - Thursday, June 23, 2011 - link

    Visit XDA or Android Central forums. You can read up about both phone for people who use them every day... I love my Charge (every phone does seem to have its quirks) and don't imagine I'll bother upgrading for quite some time. Great screen, no lag (voodoo lagfix is needed here - why does Samsung use RFS filesystem when EXT4 is so much better?), acceptable battery, hackable. Until someone can demonstrate a real need for dual+ core on a phone (now tablets perhaps...?), I'm happily sitting out of the upgrade race for a while. Reply

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