Fascinate Is Enamored with Bing

 
 
By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-15
 
 
 

Samsung Fascinate Is the Perfect Android Phone for Bing Lovers


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.

Fascinate Is Enamored with Bing


 

To use the navigation capabilities, I had to install the Verizon Navigator app from the company's V Cast Apps collection.

Navigator provides Bing local search results and integration with Facebook to let me easily post status updates if I so desired.

Navigator is just the tip of the iceberg though, for the Fascinate is bogged down with V Cast Apps for music, ringtones, videos and mobile services. This paves the way for Verizon to compete more fully with Google's own Android Market.

Business users will appreciate Exchange ActiveSync e-mail, which will synchronize corporate e-mail, contacts and calendars. Heavy home-computing users might enjoy the 3G Mobile HotSpot to power up to five WiFi-enabled devices at home.

I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a button for Swype on the virtual keyboard, offering users the option to input text using gestures instead of just typing or using the voice-search button.

This was particularly fun to try on Verizon's Write and Go app, which lets users input text and send it via SMS, e-mail, or social networks.

The camera/camcorder is a 5-megapixel offering featuring auto-focus, LED flash, HD video recording and 720p playback capabilities-things devices such as the Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G have made standard.

I took crisp photos and video and uploaded them easily to Facebook, but you can also send them to Gmail, Flickr and several other sites.

Call quality! It's a phone after all. Call quality was solid from Connecticut to New York City, powered by the leading wireless network. No dropped calls until I entered the Metro North tunnel system.

There is a curious thing going on with the battery, however. I charged the phone fully and unplugged it a 6 p.m. Monday night.  Some 16 hours later, I looked and realized that half the power was drained.

I blamed the large, Super AMOLED screen, but I hadn't even used the phone to make a call; what's more, the Fascinate is really good about going dark when not in use-usually within 10 or 15 seconds after you use. So I was thinking the 1500 mHa battery was faulty.

I was away from my desk and charger in New York City on Tuesday, so I had to gut it out.

To my surprise, the phone lasted the rest of the day, with me making calls, checking directions and surfing Google Reader and associated Web sites. The phone never actually died, and I still had a thin strip of power left at 9:30 p.m. EDT when I arrived home.

So maybe the battery meter was faulty, but the Fascinate battery itself lasted a long, long time. Overall, I found this device a pleasure to use.

I just wish it was loaded with all Google apps instead of Bing because I, like 65 percent of the U.S. searchers, am more comfortable with the incumbent.

If you are among the 12 percent or so of U.S. users who happen to be Bing fans, this is the Android phone you've been looking for.

But if you are a committed Google user who has grown accustomed to using Google Search and Google Maps with free turn-by-turn GPS, you're in for a bit of a learning curve. You've been warned.  


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