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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  • SomeAudioGuy - Monday, September 20, 2010 - link

    Hey Dane74,
    Here's the deal. I've had the phone for three weeks BEFORE it was officially released (I also write for a tech blog). You can look at pictures of SOMEONE else using metric apps, and trying to tally measurements in lab-like conditions, or you can use the phone.

    You know what, lets look at Anand's pic. Next to the Nexus 1, it's off by 30m, but has found one additional satellite over the N1. It's only locked to 3 satellites, but is reading better signals from the other satellites it hasn't locked. SO this is probably not a hardware issue (if we're to base EVERYTHING on one pic published by a reviewer that doesn't seem to like this phone that much).

    I GeoCache A LOT. Using the GPS in the phone to geocache in really challenging environments to get good satellite line of sight (like the canyons in LA), I'm still within 5 meters. This is comparing the on screen data to map and compass.

    Samsung might have issues, but it isn't "Fooling" me. They haven't written any malicious software, they aren't trying to hurt you, they aren't trying to trick you, they aren't evil-ly twiddling their fingers laughing "Muah-ha-ha" style at their customers while petting white cats. They've admitted they have some software issues, and are working on a patch.

    My locks do take longer than my EVO, but are CONSIDERABLY faster than my Fascinate (Yes. I have all of these phones.) If the EVO is more accurate, I can't tell when I'm outside or doing turn by turn navigation. Truthfully, for all of the advantages that the Epic offers over any other phone, if it's only accurate to 4 meters and the iphone is accurate to 2 meters, the iphone can STILL shove it. I'm driving/walking/riding a bike NOT engaging in surgical missile strikes...

    As to whether or not turning GPS on and off creates problems, I can't say. I haven't had any of these issues. My issues usually stem from not having good line of sight (like when I'm downtown).
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - link

    Very helpful review... I almost bought one of these. I was hoping with the AMOLED the battery life would be better than the Evo 4G since it actually turns off black pixels from what I hear. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to help. Looks like I'll be keeping my Curve a while longer. Reply
  • michael.gulde - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    Didn't see much about ports on this article does it have a hdmi port? Reply
  • MrMaestro - Wednesday, September 8, 2010 - link

    The i9000 (international version), which I assume is the same as the Epic, has a micro-USB port. Samsung has developed a micro-USB to HDMI cable but apparently they took the Galaxy S off its compatibility list on their website, so, I think the answer is essentially no. Still, the cable isn't out yet so we'll see. Reply
  • DigitlDrug - Thursday, September 9, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Thanks for another great review. I'm curious re. the supposed GPS software fix Samsung is cooking up.

    Supposedly the Epic was supposed to ship with this "fix" or had at least been validated.

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/18/samsung-says-gp...

    If you are able to dig up any additional info (maybe prod the engadget boys to see if they're testing methods are as exacting as yours, and what soft. ver they have) can you please update the article or drop in a news blurb?

    (I'll admit this is a big one for me, GPS is the one sticking point as I realy heavily on it.)

    Thanks,

    - J.
    Reply
  • fookxixi - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    The 30m/98.4feet GPS accuracy is a well-known bug. It won't go larger nor smaller. But from my google maps, the accuracy is definitely much better than 30m, probably ~5m. My friends' Epic don't have GPS problem either. You can not rely on the accuracy shown on some test apps. Reply
  • Dane74 - Monday, October 18, 2010 - link

    The Epic has such widely GPS problems it is an entire section on Epic GPS issues in the Wikipedia article on it. If you are new to smart-phones, the GPS seems ok, If you know how good GPS has been on smart-phones for the past couple of years, you realize how bad Epic's is. And the picture shows the really low signal, that is the root of the problem on all the Epics.
    You are new to smart-phones, that is why you think the poor GPS on Epic is ok.
    Reply
  • ELT0R0 - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    I've had my Epic basically since launch day, and I've noticed (and found others at xda and androidforums) that the phone has issues with both the standard 3g data and general reception.

    First thing is that for some reason the phone is constantly "without a signal", meaning that for some reason it is constantly searching for a cell signal (GSM?), even in areas with great reception. This can be 'fixed' by toggling airplane mode right after initial boot, and it might even alleviate some of the battery issues since the phone is no longer searching for a signal.

    Second big issue is that the 3g upload data seems to be capped at 150 kbps. I have yet to see/hear/read any Epic capable of uploading faster than that on 3g. Even with full bars in the dead of night where I've been able to hit 1700 kbps download, I still get stuck at 145 kbps upload. I know for sure that my Pre before hand could easily hit 400-500 kbps under similar conditions.

    Even in the review it looks as if Anand was also hitting the 3g upload wall, but it wasn't as apparent as it appeared to just be a reception issue since the area normally only gets 500 kbps U/D and the down speed at the time of testing only hit 300 kbps.

    Anand, is there any way you can test these further?
    Reply
  • Hrel - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - link

    It's too bad you didn't include the DroidX in the comparison pictures. Hopefully you will when you get the Verizon version. Reply
  • quickbunnie - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    "I will say that I no longer have the problem where 4G performance is worse than Sprint’s 3G in my area. I usually get around 0.5/0.5Mbps on 3G, so there’s a noticeable performance increase when WiMAX is enabled."

    Are you sure you are getting 0.5Mbps up on 3g?
    There have been no posters with speed tests that get more than about ~150kbps up on any Epic 4G phone, even when side-by-side tests of an Evo will get 700+ kbps.

    http://androidforums.com/samsung-epic-4g/166945-lo...
    Reply

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