GPS Issues

Every smartphone has its sets of issues. The iPhone 4 has its antenna problem, the Palm Pre has performance issues, the BlackBerry Torch needs a bit more oomph in the software department, and every Android phone has its own set of strengths/weaknesses. The Epic 4G is no different. In addition to the absolutely horrible battery life, the Epic has a pretty serious GPS issue.

The GPS antenna is not very sensitive and usually has trouble locking onto GPS satellites. This manifests itself in two ways: the phone will take an inordinate amount of time to determine your actual location, and/or it won’t pinpoint your location very accurately.

Sometimes the Epic 4G will lock on perfectly and quickly, but usually it takes several minutes longer than the Nexus One to figure out where you are. Occasionally I even got a ‘location not available’ error while using Google Maps.

Accuracy is also a problem. I don’t think I ever saw horizontal error drop below 30m on the Epic 4G compared to ~3m on the Neuxs One and ~5m on the iPhone 4.


Google Nexus One, 4m error (left) vs. Samsung Epic 4G 30m error (right)

The Epic 4G would usually tell me that my physical location was somewhere down the street while the Nexus One would pin me down at my house. In fact, I got more accurate location tracking when I was connected to a WiFi network.

It’s unclear whether this is purely a software problem or a fundamental antenna design issue ala the iPhone 4. One thing is for sure, if you plan on using GPS location a lot you should avoid the Epic 4G.

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  • dvinnen - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I bet it has to do with the 4G/WiFi-MAX radio. I have a Vibrant and the battery life is fine Reply
  • Milind - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I think that's possible since my Vibrant gives me about 6-7 hours of battery life with full brightness and the screen consumes about 70-80% of my battery as per the battery usage view. I don't care since I'm typically around a charger so I set it at max brightness. But if I were to lower the brightness, I should easily be able to go for the whole day. Even at 0 brightness, the screen is surprisingly usable.

    I have also noticed that the only thing that drains battery faster than the screen (in my G1 as well), is if it has to hunt for a phone signal. At one time, my G1 was draining battery in about 2-3 hours, which was awful even by the G1's sorry battery life standard. It turned out to be because I was using a SIM card of a provider that had very poor coverage at the location. As soon as I swapped the SIM with another carrier, the battery life went back up. So it's possible that Sprint's causing the phones to go back and forth between 2g, 3G and 4G signals causing the battery to drain faster. It might be worthwhile to go into the Mobile Networks settings and use only 2G network to check the battery drain. Obviously this would just be to test the hypothesis. It would be stupid to buy this phone and use it only in 2G mode.
    Reply
  • jamawass - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    The GPS on my Pre Plus is perfect. Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Thanks for reviewing the Galaxy S, Anand!

    Probably the most requested review here. I'm actually glad that the battery life turned out to be abysmal - it helped me make up my mind about an otherwise desirable phone.

    Let me explain: My fiancée had two dead Samsung Blackjacks within one warranty period. My Samsung Spinpoint F1 is dying. My mother just junked a dead Samsung TV (5 yrs old). To be perfectly frank, I have ZERO confidence in Samsung products, and the build quality of the Galaxy gives me no reason to revise that opinion.

    Fortunately, the poor battery life gives me a legitimate excuse not to buy this, and I won't feel like I am missing out on anything because of a possibly irrational aversion. Sure, it's nice to have a fast phone, but by the time apps come out that make meaningful use of this, there will be *much* faster phones on the market. Buying for future-proofing is not a smart idea in the smartphone space.
    Reply
  • Voldenuit - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    PS Still looking for that 'perfect' (Android) smartphone. Evo 4G is too big and power hungry, Droid X plans are too expensive.

    Something like the recently announced Droid Defy might work, if only it didn't have eFuse, Motoblur, and wasn't tied to a sucky carrier.

    I'm perfectly willing to wait 1 year on a post-paid phone plan for a decent phone to come out. Even the Torch would work for me, though probably not for the missus.

    First and foremost for me is that it should be a phone above all things and 'smart' second. If you're going to chew the battery life tweeting and watching youtube on it, then have no juice to call AAA when you break down on the highway, it's useless to me. Integration with social apps is also something of a nightmare for me - there are people I may enjoy hanging out with on social occasions, but that doesn't mean I wish to know what they are eating, thinking, drinking or (bodily function deleted) during office hours. Somebody, please get this. So far, only Blackberry seems to. Fortunately, most other BB users are sober/boring enough that BBM is a good way to communicate for the dour, buttoned-down crowd. :p
    Reply
  • Mike1111 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    I think it's worth mentioning that SuperAMOLED is officially a Samsung smartphone exclusive until 2012 (IMHO mostly because of limited AMOLED manufacturing capacity until the new Samsung OLED fab is up and running in 2012) . So you won't see it anywhere else in the near future. So please people, don't bitch about missing Super AMOLEDs in every smartphone that's coming in the next 18 months... Reply
  • Mike1111 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Anand, your mixing your SGX versions when mentioning the OMAP3630. One time it's SGX535, the next SGX530. I think SGX530 is correct. Reply
  • Milind - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    >>
    Thankfully Samsung provides a setting to sync these two so both the screen and buttons go blank at the same time, but it’s just not enabled by default.
    >>

    I have seen this posted a couple of times, but I can't find any such setting on my Vibrant. Is it on the Epic? Can someone provide a little detail on exactly where this setting is? The timeout for lighting the buttons is just too short and very annoying.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    On the Epic it's here:

    Settings -> Sound & Display -> Keyboard timeout (last option in the list) -> Same as screen timeout

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

    Thanks Anand. That option is not present on the Vibrant. The last option on the Vibrant for Sound and Display is TV out. Hopefully, it will be part of the Froyo update. Reply

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