Review: For the last week I've been testing Verizon Wireless' Samsung Fascinate smartphone.
The device, which went on sale Sept. 8 for $199, follows the first three Android handsets from Samsung's well-regarded Galaxy S line: the AT&T's Samsung Captivate, Sprint's Samsung Epic 4G and T-Mobile's Samsung Vibrant. All are powered by Samsung's speedy 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird chip.
Never in any of the Android smartphones I've tested, beginning with the Motorola Droid last November, have I experienced such a range of impressions as a user. Happy, sad, then ultimately very satisfied.
The hardware made me happy. Out of the box, the Android 2.1-based gadget, like its brethren, is gorgeous, mirror black with a chrome finish. The dimensions, at almost 5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and a super-thin .39 inches thick, seemed built for my hand.
I'd just finished testing the 6.5 ounces Motorola Droid 2, so the Fascinate's 4.16 ounces felt feather-light by comparison.
And then I powered up the phone. You don't get an appreciation for the 4-inch Super AMOLED screen until the device powers up with the Samsung Verizon logos in the background. The colors are gorgeous-superior to my eye than any LCD or plasma TV I've seen.
But here's the thing: When I've tested the Droid, Droid 2, Droid Incredible, and Droid X, I've been greeted with Google as the default search and map applications. Not so on the Fascinate. If you haven't already heard, Bing is the thing on this handset. This makes the gadget one of the select phones on which Verizon is upholding its $500 million deal to host Bing search and Bing Maps on some smartphones.
Don't get me wrong, Bing isn't everything on the Fascinate. Perhaps half of the Google Mobile Services suite is running on this Android device. You can still access widgets for YouTube, Gmail Google Talk and the Android Market.
And of course, you can use the Android browser to go to Google.com to search or use Google Maps. There just aren't any Google Search or Maps apps for you on the device.
Verizon said Google Search and Google Maps will be readily accessible with the bump to Android 2.2, perhaps coming later this month. But right now, this is largely a Bing-powered device.
I was a bit sad about this at first, but I got over it when I found that Bing search and Bing Maps performed admirably, as did the Facebook, Twitter and other apps I installed from the Android Market.
I was able to sprinkle widgets for all the apps I wanted across the 7 customizable home screens, a couple of which were pre-populated with a feeds and update widgets for social contacts and daily news.