Final Words

With each new iteration of Android smartphone we get closer to the perfect device. Samsung took some pretty big steps toward that ideal ‘droid but regressed in others.

The move to Super AMOLED is key. With Super AMOLED the Epic 4G improves outdoor usability significantly. It’s a large enough jump to make the Nexus One’s display feel old. While Apple can tout the benefits of higher resolution, contrast is very important on these devices - especially for content consumption. I would have liked to have a brighter display on the Epic 4G, but the contrast ratio is great.

Samsung got the performance of the Epic 4G right. The OS feels snappy and relatively smooth. There are still some hiccups but its 1GHz Hummingbird SoC does a better job than anything else I’ve seen running Android. I suspect that after we get Gingerbread and dual-core Cortex A9 SoCs that these little performance quibbles will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately that doesn’t help those trying to make a decision today.

Build quality could use some work but that’s probably more of a function of the sliding mechanism on the phone than anything else. The physical keyboard is nice for those who want it, but that’s really a personal preference. I applaud Samsung for shipping Swype enabled by default on the Epic 4G. Not only does Swype offer a unique take on text input, but its virtual keyboard is the best I’ve used on Android to date.

On the software side, Samsung’s TouchWiz is one of the most polished custom Android UIs I’ve seen. Everything from the app launcher down to the dialer is well done. Samsung does take the simplicity a little too far in some areas (e.g. not showing battery percentage, only the visualization), but overall it’s nice. You don’t get as much of the PC-feel as you do on other Android phones, which again boils down to personal preference.

I love how Samsung integrated turning off Bluetooth/WiFi/4G/GPS into the notifications pulldown menu, and some of Samsung’s widgets are nice (e.g. task manager). However, the seven home screens are overwhelming and counterproductive in my opinion.

For all the praise I shower on the Epic 4G, it has two real problems: battery life and GPS reception. They are both pretty simple to explain: the Epic 4G won’t last longer than 4 hours of use, and it has a hard time pinpointing your location via GPS. There’s nothing more to it.

What does four hours of use translate to? I’d say less than a day’s worth of use taking into account idle time. If you pick your phone up at 8AM and use it periodically throughout the day, I’d expect it to be dead by 5PM. Quite possibly sooner.

The GPS issue makes the Epic 4G a pain to use as a navigational device. If you use Google Maps a lot for calculating directions, prepare for a frustrating experience with the Epic.

We’re closer and Samsung did very well, but we’re not quite perfect.

GPS Issues
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  • MJinZ - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    It's an interesting review since it starts out with some good words and ends with, what my impression is - well it's a POS.

    And I'm sorry Samsung, but a phone needs to last more than 5 minutes and a GPS needs to work. We really could not care about it looking like a damn iPhone. Hell, people buy iPhones for that.

    Try harder Sammy.
    Reply
  • zizagoo - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    There seems to be an agreement amongst high-end Android users that battery life is terrible within the first two weeks, but then significantly improves after the battery has been conditioned. It's possible that due to the short review period, this never get's a chance to happen, causing an under report of the battery life.

    It would be fascinating if you did a follow up later on to determine if this is true.
    Reply
  • StealthX32 - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    The functional battery life is pretty long. I can pull 1.5-2 days if my use is limited (maybe 20 minutes of calling, 20 or so text messages, little to no browsing). The Hummingbird really does sip power when it's idle.

    If you're hammering away at it for 4 straight hours, then the battery life is pretty poor.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    But other than emergency situations, are you really going to have a phone like this and only use it that little? I've mentioned before, I wish they could come up with some type of "real-life" battery test that would include a certain amount of talk, text, web, video, etc. per hour. For example, I would be surprised if the battery in my HTC Diamond lasts much more than 2 hrs in 3G browsing, but in my usual day (5-10 min talk, 80-100 text, few MMS, 10-15 min web, many times turned on to check the time) it generally has 20-30% still showing when I put it back on the charger after 15-16 hrs. Reply
  • Dane74 - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    On battery break in: with Lithium based batteries, break in is negligible. The observed better second week battery life comes from playing with less features.
    I expected better battery life than my spouse's Evo, due to more efficient power usage of the Epic's processor as well as its screen. We found the battery life to be equal, my impression from behavior of both in weak signal areas is that Epic's voice, 3g and its 4G reception is slightly worse than Evo which will cause some additional drain on power.
    Reply
  • gvaley - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    My personal experience (6+ device batteries so far, including phones, cameras) shows a 1,8-2x battery life improvement after 3-4 charge-discharge cycles. And it's definitely not due to unbalanced usage. The same holds true for both Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer batteries, although the more I think about it, the more I convince myself that Lithium-Polymer are more susceptible to break in. Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I've got an original Droid now running Android 2.2. A while back I picked up a couple of spare batteries cheap online. These are identical to the one that came in the phone. When I swapped in one of the new batteries it was showing up as fully charged already. I started rotating the three batteries every Friday to keep approximately equal usage on each one.

    I never really noticed any difference. Then again I wasn't specifically looking for that and did not do any kind of test.
    Reply
  • AdamPflug - Monday, September 6, 2010 - link

    I have the Samsung Captivate (not the Epic 4G), but it's still in the galaxy S line. I noticed that I needed at least 3 complete charge/discharge cycles before I got reasonable battery life out of the phone. It wasn't a decrease in usage either, I made sure I kept my usage patterns consistent.

    My experience with the Captivate now is that I can listen to podcasts all day, read all my work email, do some web browsing, and still have around 60% battery left at 10pm. If they could just fix the GPS issues with a software patch (they say they're going to sometime in September, along with an upgrade to 2.2) the I'll be extremely happy.

    Also, I've been pretty happy with the brightness of my Captivate, I wonder if the review took into account the separate brightness settings for the browser app?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    These results were all recorded after discharging the phone more than 3 times (each test was run multiple times). Note that 4 hours of continuous usage can often times yield a pretty long real world battery life depending on your usage pattern. That being said, a phone that gets 8 hours in our tests will obviously last longer with the same usage pattern. While the Epic 4G's battery life may be sufficient, it's lower than we'd like to see for a modern smartphone.

    And thank you for the correction on the browser brightness setting, that's why the screen looked dimmer at full brightness by comparison. In that shot the Epic 4G's screen was set to approximately 20% brightness. I've made the appropriate correction in the review and credited you with the heads up :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • gvaley - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Anand, the poor battery life is probably due to Sprint. Other reviews (of the European 3G galaxy S) show maybe the best battery life among Androids. Check this test from a very reputable site: http://blog.gsmarena.com/samsung-i9000-galaxy-s-fu... Reply

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