Verizon Has a Winner in the Droid Charge
Verizon's speedy network accelerated application performance and downloads. YouTube videos fired up within a couple seconds. Android Market applications such as Twitter for Android (3 seconds), Facebook for Android (6 seconds) and Angry Birds (15 seconds) downloaded super fast. This fulfills the promise of 4G LTE in my opinion. Call quality was fine, if unexceptional. I also used Google's Voice Search and the microphone picked up my commands just fine. Samsung's Android user interface boasted seven customizable home screens, allowing me to add and subtract widgets and applications with ease.Texting and emailing were okay. I'm not a fan of the virtual keyboard Samsung uses for its Android 2.2 handsets, which challenges typing with small and narrow keys. After 6 months of texting on my Droid X, typing with the Samsung keys required practice.Pictures and video I took with the Charge's 8 megapixel camera were crisp, though I still prefer the camera user interfaces on both Motorola and HTC's Android cameras. The 1.3MP front-facing camera will allow video-chat applications. However, there is still no native chat application for these Android 2.2 devices because Google hasn't enabled its Google Talk voice and video chat application to work on anything before the Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" operating system. Even RIM's PlayBook just got a nice, native video chat application, and the tablet's only been on the market two weeks. But I digress. The Charge also features Verizon's mobile hotspot capability, connecting up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices over 4G and five devices via the 3G network. In a try-before-you-buy experiment, this functionality will be available for free for a limited time, a departure from Verizon's typical $20 per month fee for up to 1GB for the broadband-tethering service. Of course, one of the main concerns with any 4G phone these days is battery life. The Droid Charge includes a 1,600 mAh battery, with which Samsung claims 280 hours of standby time and 11 hours of use time. In truth, the Droid Charge's battery is stronger than the 1,400 mAh ThunderBolt battery, which even though heavier would drain down so quickly it was a sin to sell the device without a backup battery. I enjoyed much more use time with the Charge, but if you use the phone a lot, it will burn out in 4 hours-less if you're streaming video. Batteries need to improve to keep up with the application and network demands. Here's my main knock on the phone: its price. It's a whopping $299.99 with a two-year deal. As in, no $100 rebate offered, as per Verizon's usual practice. Verizon wouldn't tell my why this is and what's special about the Charge that warranted the high-end price. Has to be the network. This could push consumers to the equally speedy Thunderbolt, which also has a gray casing in a similar form factor. If price were no option, I'd pick the Charge on the pure hardware look and feel. Cash-constrained folks may opt for the ThunderBolt-which, though heavier, will offer the same great 4G performance. All things being equal, I recommend that a buyer walk into a Verizon store and get both in hand.