The just-released Samsung Galaxy S smartphone emphasizes multimedia capabilities, with a Super AMOLED screen crisply displaying everything from games to streaming movies. But some hardware and software gremlins prevent it from being a perfect device.
Apple should be quaking in its black turtleneck right about now. While the iPhone
has long ruled the consumer smartphone roost-at least in terms of mind-share,
if not actual market penetration-the new generation of Google Android
smartphones presents a viable competitor to Steve Jobs' sleek device.
Eight months ago, I
reviewed the HTC Droid Eris running Google Android 1.5
Motorola Droid with Android 2.0. Both devices had their upside, with lots of
nifty features, but the user interfaces felt in desperate need of additional polish.
If the iPhone OS was a Ferrari, then Android 1.5 was a bit like a custom car cobbled
together by a some genius gearheads in somebody's garage: fast and responsive,
sure, but in want of a shiny coat of paint and some nifty dashboard
The other day, I
received the Samsung Vibrant and the Samsung Captivate, the carrier-specific
variants of the Samsung Galaxy S
(T-Mobile in the Vibrant's case; AT&T
in the Captivate's), which made a splashy debut during this past January's
Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. The Vibrant and Captivate both run
Android 2.1, which offers only a handful of new features but nonetheless feels
shinier and more highway-ready than do its predecessors.
here for more information on the Samsung Galaxy S.
Other versions of the Galaxy S are being offered by Sprint (the Samsung Epic
4G, the carrier's second 4G-capable phone) and Verizon (the Samsung Fascinate).
Whatever the carrier, these smartphones share a handful of multimedia-friendly
capabilities: a 1GHz processor, 16GB of memory and an ultra-crisp Super AMOLED
screen. What's more, they're being pushed as the ultimate in portable media: an
e-reader, movie-viewer and camera in the
palm of your hand.
That marketing angle is unsurprising: the Motorola Droid X, whose screen, at
4.3 inches, is slightly larger than the Galaxy S's 4-inch version, is
also being hawked as a multimedia monster
. This focus on Android
smartphones as handheld movie- and game-players might immediately turn off some
business users, but that seems a risk these vendors are willing to take if they
can challenge the iPhone on its primarily consumer turf.
But while the Samsung Galaxy S has many multimedia features to recommend it,
the smartphones also have some deficiencies in hardware and software that could
give more finicky users pause.
First, the good: the Super AMOLED screen (resolution: 480x800 pixels), which
Samsung claims is 20 percent brighter than competing models, boasting 80
percent less sunlight reflection and 20 percent more battery life. Whether
reading an e-book via the Kindle app, watching "Avatar" (conveniently preloaded
onto my review Vibrant) or viewing the trailer for "Scott Pilgrim vs. The
World" on YouTube, the display was reassuringly crisp and clear. The device's
1GHz processor also seemed more than capable of handling games and other apps
without stuttering, even while multitasking.
Which brings us to overheating. With the first generation of Android
devices, multitasking had the unpleasant side effect of heating the smartphone
to the point where you could practically fry an egg on the back panel. Both the
Vibrant and the Captivate seem to run cooler-after 90 minutes of watching video
on the former, the device was merely warm.
If the Galaxy S smartphones have one consistent flaw, it's the quality of
the devices themselves. From a distance, both the Vibrant and Captivate are
handsome-looking, in the "pane of glass" tradition of the iPhone and HTC. In
the hand, both present nicely beveled edges and a relatively light weight (4.5
ounces for the Captivate, 4.16 ounces for the Vibrant). On closer inspection,
though, both devices have niggling details that suggest cheap manufacture, detracting
from the overall experience. The power and volume buttons don't fit comfortably
in the frame, and the power jack on the top of both devices features a loose
cover. With the Vibrant, the jack popped out of the port every few minutes,
suggesting a less than perfectly engineered fit.
Other carriers' phones in the Galaxy S line feature different hardware, such
as the physical QWERTY keyboard integrated into the Samsung Epic 4G; but since
eWEEK did not receive those devices, they remain outside the bounds of this
discussion. [[ED NOTE: Then let's leave this whole graf
out of the review. TM]]