For the longest time, AT&T was a dog when it came to Android smartphones.
Who could blame the carrier that bet early on Apple’s iPhone, offering it exclusively in the United States until the hallowed smartphone landed on Verizon Wireless’ network to scrum with the Droids?
I didn’t enjoy a Google-flavored phone from AT&T until the Motorola Atrix 4G. I honestly didn’t know what to think about the Samsung Infuse 4G, which went on sale May 15 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, until it showed up at my door a week ago.
It’s been a joy using the slim, “caviar black” device despite the fact that it’s running Android 2.2 “Froyo,” which though solid feels dated after using Android 2.3 “Gingerbread.”
Indeed, I thought, how could I judge the Infuse 4G only weeks after using the Gingerbread-powered Samsung Nexus S 4G from Sprint?
The Infuse 4G has several attributes that differentiate it from its Samsung Android brethren. Start with the lush, 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen, which with an 800-by-480 resolution boasts 50 percent more subpixels over Super AMOLED phones for great clarity whether you’re in daylight or darkness.
I like the idea of the 4.5-inch screen, but it does make the Infuse 4G feel wide in my average-size hand. Any more screen size and I think a phone ventures into tablet territory, where the Kyocera Echo hovers.
Unlike most Samsung Galaxy S smartphones, which feel slick, the back of this thin handheld is coarsely granulated for a nice, easy grip.
The 1.2GHz processor provides noticeable performance boosts over standard 1GHz-processor Android handsets, proving especially useful for YouTube videos, games and movies via the Samsung Media Hub.
Samsung Infuse 4G Is Solid Android 2.2 Entry for ATandT
The device is also among the slimmest Android smartphones you’ll find to date, measuring only 0.35 inches thick, 5.2 inches long and 2.8 inches wide. At 4.9 ounces, the device is light compared with some of the larger-screen phones such as the HTC ThunderBolt 4G, which weighs more than 6 ounces.
As for software, it’s classic Froyo, though the larger screen real estate makes the dialer and virtual keyboard keys feel big and inviting-just the kind of device you won’t mind typing on.
The Infuse 4G’s claim to fame is that comes preloaded with a special edition of Rovio Mobile’s Angry Birds. Players can unlock a special “Golden Egg” level of the game, and once the special level is completed, users can register to win Samsung prizes exclusive to Infuse 4G users. I haven’t gotten there quite yet but am working on it.
There is a lot of AT&T bloatware, such as AT&T Navigator, AT&T FamilyMap and AT&T Code Scanner, but you can ignore them or jettison them from the phone. AT&T and Samsung also offer the Samsung Hub application, which employs progressive downloading to let users watch movie content almost immediately while the rest of the file downloads to the device. This service is well-played.
The Infuse 4G’s rear-facing camera is a nice 8-megapixel view that shoots high-definition 720p video when toggled for that task. A 1.3MP front-facing camera enables unspectacular video chat. Admittedly, I’m so used to 8MP and 1.3MP camera combos that it’s hard to distinguish them anymore.
AT&T offers fine coverage in Fairfield Country, Conn., and calls were clear on the Infuse 4G with drops coming in normal places like bridge tunnels. To my mind, a larger phone is more comfortable because there’s something soothing about a device that covers more real estate from ear to mouth. So speaking into the phone is a pleasant experience.
Battery life on this device, always a concern with a larger screen designed for media consumption and especially 4G, is surprisingly great thanks to the 1,750-mAh lithium ion battery. There is also 18GB of internal memory, with a 2GB microSD card, expandable to 32GB of external memory.
Overall, I enjoyed using the device and can recommend it knowing that at some point it is destined to get the Gingerbread bump like all Froyo phones these days.
One more thing. In 2010, I felt Motorola made the best Android smartphones. After testing Verizon’s Samsung Droid Charge and the Infuse 4G this year, I’m starting to sing a different tune. The Infuse 4G has me looking forward to the Samsung Galaxy S II handsets this summer.