Software

Like the other Galaxy S phones, the Fascinate packs Samsung's TouchWiz Android skin. Right off the bat, it's pretty obvious that Samsung has changed a lot of things here. I've changed the default applications on the homepage, but you can get a pretty good feel for what you start out with. The first and seventh home pages are completely blank.

Home Screens—Default Configuration and Layout

The default wallpaper is some sort of ocean waves atop coral scene - touching the screen creates ripples in the water which distorts the coral scene underneath. Honestly, I think this is Samsung showing off the SGX 540 graphics, as it's got a heavy 3D feel to it. Run your finger back and forth, and you'll create waves of distortion all over the home pages.

The coral scene underneath is a bit low resolution, and you can pick out some JPEG artifacts just casually glancing at it. I found myself wanting to change the image underneath, but leave the water distortion effect intact. Unfortunately, that isn't possible. You either get the strangely low resolution coral and water ripples, or the normal Android wallpaper selection.

Anand already talked about how Samsung's TouchWiz takes heavy nods from iOS. The application launcher scrolls in pages to the right, and newly installed applications go to the end of the list, rather than in alphabetical order by default. It's out of place on Android to see such a blatant attempt to emulate that experience. Looking through that list of preinstalled applications though, and you'll notice something…

Applications Launcher - First, Second, Third pages

It's Bing.

I want to preface this by saying that I don't have a problem with Bing. I don't have anything against Microsoft's search engine, but Bing is all over the Fascinate.

Lots of Bing

Press the search button, and you're searching with Bing. There's even a widget that's a Bing-searching facsimile of the Google search widget. Want maps? There's no Google maps by default, just Bing maps. Fire up the browser and search? You guessed it, Bing.

It's not like you can change it, either. There's no way to change the in-browser search engine - it's stuck being Bing. In fact, it isn't really even Bing, it's a Verizon-hosted Bing search portal at search.vzwwap.com.

Now, that isn't so bad, but the mobile Bing interface isn't exactly stellar. In fact, I distinctly remember hearing a Microsoft employee, during a session at MIX10, proclaim that the mobile view was awful and seriously in need of work. No kidding. It's improved a bit since then, but there's still a number of out of place or low resolution Verizon and Bing logos all over. It just feels weird.

Similar to the Droid 2, you also cannot remove the Verizon bookmarks. Trying to do so gets you a nice error message. This applies to both VZW Home and My Verizon. 

Default Bookmarks - Deletion Error

Bing Maps was similarly awkward for a time, complete with strangely low resolution resources and no multitouch zooming. About a week after I got my review unit, the software was updated in the market and now includes multitouch support, but still feels clunky and occasionally slow. Thankfully, you can install bona-fide Google Maps from the marketplace and get the whole maps and navigation bundle without any problems.

Oh and that Bing widget? While you can remove it, installing the stock-Android Google widget requires hunting the APK down online.

I looked through the entire Android 2.1 install on the Fascinate, and even finding the word "google" is a challenge. It's curiously absent from the back of the phone as well.

There's also a ton of other Verizon proprietary applications installed, including the paid-service VZ Navigator (why you'd use this instead of Google Maps defies logic). The remaining set of preinstalled apps is the same as I've seen on other Verizon-bound Android phones. A trial install of NFS Shift, My Verizon Mobile, some V Cast stuff - it's all there.

The TouchWiz UI does include a nice task manager, complete with easily locatable "End All" button. You can uninstall packages and also get a glance at RAM use. It's nice to see this preloaded. Holding down the home button to bring up the recently used application list also includes a shortcut to this task manager. I think that's a nice tweak.

TouchWiz Task Manager

Another relatively useful TouchWiz thing is actually the lock screen. Miss a call or get a text message, and you'll get a puzzle piece with the corresponding number of things you've missed. Drag that to the empty piece, and you'll instantly get taken there. I think that's pretty useful.

What's most surprising about the Fascinate (and the other Galaxy S phones) is that they run Android 2.1, but don't feel slow or want for the performance increases that 2.2 brings with JIT compilation. This is the first Android 2.1 device I've used since 2.2 came to the Nexus One that I felt wasn't in dire need of the update. It needs to happen - and soon - but it isn't experience-killing.

Keyboard

Like the Epic 4G, the Fascinate comes with Swype installed and selected by default. The default android keyboard is there too, but Swype is really what you should be using. The Fascinate doesn't have quite as many keyboard options as the Droid X or Droid 2, which bundle a custom Motorola multitouch keyboard, Swype, and SwiftKey, but you can always grab something similar from the applications marketplace. 

Hardware Impressions and Analysis Super AMOLED is indeed Super
POST A COMMENT

73 Comments

View All Comments

  • netmasterjohn - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    How come Fascinate & Nexus One video are the same? Reply
  • dman - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    I appreciate the testing methodology including the GPS fix times. I had an ATT Tilt (HTC 8925) which was notoriously slow in getting locked in. I got into the habit of starting the GPS app as soon as I'd get outdoors so that by the time I'd get to my vehicle it'd only have a couple minutes left. That and a few other workarounds. Sad that they still have issues these days... Reply
  • Chadder007 - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    My Droid X came with a 16GB card, not 8. Reply
  • chemist1 - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    Brian: Thanks for your reply. I'm pleased to hear you're trying to move in that direction. The idea of playing with CDMA voice codecs is intriguing -- I didn't occur to me that the audio quality (AQ) of smart phones could actually be user-modifiable at the software level. Though much of what determines AQ is hardware—the quality of the speaker in the earpiece, the circuitry upstream of it (and at the headphone jack output), the quality of the microphone (for those on the receiving end of your call), etc.

    More broadly, I like your general program of trying to put all areas that are now subjective onto a more objective footing. The problem with doing that for AQ is that it’s tricky. Often something can measure well, yet sound mediocre—which typically means that the measurements being used aren’t the right ones (for instance, maybe you’re measuring distortion, but the real problem is a phase error); or, alternately, perhaps the measurements aren’t being weighted properly. One solution is to supplement measurements with purely subjective, yet controlled, observations (a listening panel). You could also evaluate audio under compromised conditions by checking word recognition accuracy (but the danger here is that what might help accuracy under poor conditions—say, a boosted upper midrange—might make the phone fatiguingly harsh to listen to under normal conditions). Beyond that, I’d just reiterate what I said in my first post—I’d advise bringing in someone with a trained ear and/or lots of audio testing experience (if that's possible). [You can test for a trained ear by seeing if he/she can distinguish between different codecs in a single-blind test; or, alternately, perhaps you know, say, a recording engineer or a good classical pianist.]

    Also, if you would, please ask Anand to read the Heijligers link I posted in my last comment, before he next tests iPods! [And you or he might wish to test the Redwine modification available for the 4G–5.5G iPods (http://redwineaudio.com/products/imod), to hear for yourselves what difference improved output circuitry can make in PMP AQ.]
    Reply
  • Ranari - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link

    *NOTE TO AUTHOR*

    Verizon and Microsoft have an advertising contract between each other, which is why you see Bing plastered all over the Samsung Fascinate. Businesses can control mobile ads in the Bing search engine using the Microsoft Adcenter. Mind you, this is over the Verizon network, but you can also see a few Bing mobile ads on m.bing.com, or if you download the Bing app on your smartphone. If you want a more Google experience, the other carriers will probably be your thing, but I find it to be more of an extension of the Android OS.

    Personally, I think Bing has a pretty awesome mobile platform.

    Aside from that, the review perfectly matches up with my thoughts about my Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile).

    -The Super AMOLED is absolutely gorgeous.
    -The GPU is overkill, and I like it that way.
    -Performance is great
    -Battery life is mediocre
    -And the GPS sucks bizalls

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    Sorry, didn't mean to be picky. :) Reply
  • anaxagoras1986 - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    I'm not sure how the Galaxy is clearly better. It has a better GPU which is great, but only if you can use it. I don't play games so GPU performance is less important to me.

    Real-world performance with an Incredible (all of which are 2.2 now, why are you still testing or showing 2.1 results?) is close to the Nexus One 2.2 and HTC Evo 2,2. The charts show the 2.2 phones with a substantial performance advantage over the Galaxy.

    So how is the Galaxy clearly better?
    Reply
  • Doppleganger77 - Wednesday, October 06, 2010 - link

    Even applying just the lag fix (fixes file system) to a 2.1 Galaxy S dramatically increases performance. For example, in the Quadrant benchmark I routinely achieve over 2200 points compared to about 800 for a standard Galaxy S. The Nexus One 2.2+ by comparison achieves around 1300 points. By applying a one click solution this phone can fly. Reply
  • ezinner - Thursday, October 07, 2010 - link

    Arghh! I love the Galaxy S phones, but why oh why can't they put phone function buttons on the phone? Remember that this is still a phone and the most common functions are answer and end call! Reply
  • Jumpman23 - Saturday, October 09, 2010 - link

    I always thought the iPhone ran at 1 GHz. So is 800MHz a typo or... Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now