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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  • 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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