Review – Sprint and Google Fight Back with the Samsung Galaxy S Epic 4G against Cupertino!

4G is all the new rage when it comes to cell phones and mobile devices. It’s much faster and gives your phone more connectivity. But despite all the hype, it’s still relatively new, and very few phones can actually run on the network. So, when we received the Samsung Galaxy S Epic from Sprint, we were obviously excited to try it out!

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone and rocked the smartphone world. It featured an intuitive touchscreen, beautiful design, and a focus on apps unseen before. But it wasn’t just another pretty face, it was an instant hit. Not only has the iPhone become the best-selling phone of all time, it launched a revolution in the expectations of what we can expect in a phone, and now it seems that every cell phone maker makes a device similar in design to Apple’s Holy Grail of phones. Google is only the latest to capitalize on this, with its own mobile OS – Android. Many devices run this OS, but one of the latest is the Samsung Galaxy S Epic, running on the Sprint network.

The Epic is a touchscreen phone with a slide-out, full QWERTY keypad and runs the Android OS version 2.2. For those of you not familiar with Android, it is essentially the open-source alternative to Apple’s iOS. In terms of overall hardware design, there’s nothing really new here and at first glance you might think of it as an ordinary phone, but that would be a mistake. On the front of the phone is the touchscreen, 4 touch-sensitive buttons on the bottom (from left to right, Options, Home, Back, and Search), earpiece speaker, and a front-facing camera. On the back, there is a 5-megapixel camera with flash, and the keyboard slides out from beneath the phone to reveal the QWERTY keyboard.

The touchscreen is an all-glass Super AMOLED screen that has been developed exclusively by Samsung, which is almost as vibrant as the iPhone’s retina display, and just as responsive. However, like the iPhone fingerprints are visible on the screen when it’s not in use, and are amplified when the super-glossy screen goes dark. The phone is a bit larger in size than the HTC Evo or iPhone, and a little bit slippery, but it fits nicely into your pocket and has a solid feel. The QWERTY-keyboard is quite responsive, although it is a bit large and users with small hands might be slightly annoyed by the placement of the space bar, but I found it a perfect fit.

On the technical side of things, the Epic has some pretty impressive specs for a phone: 4G/3G access; Super AMOLED screen; Android 2.1 OS; a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with LED flash; a Cortex A8 Hummingbird 1 GHz processor; and 512 MB of RAM. Specs like these are enough to rival any low-cost netbook – very impressive for a phone! It uses the Micro-USB format as a charger, which is convenient since most techie households probably have one of these cables already and it eliminates the need for a proprietary charger. Considering that so many phones are built that can only use a dedicated charger, using the more universal Micro-USB standard.

When you’re using the phone, it’s quite snappy and responsive. The screen is gorgeous and works very well with the apps we tested. Apps load just about instantly, and integration with third-party apps is well executed. The Android OS is very smooth looking with a polished feel, and its use of color in its icons and notifications easily challenges the design of Apple’s iOS and I found that Android’s approach makes itself seem a little easier to use. The primary method of buying apps for your phone is the Android Market, and there are a growing number of apps for the market even though not (yet?) as many choices as are found on the Apple App Store. Some apps are really cool, like Qik, which lets you make video calls akin to Apple’s FaceTime; Places, which is a GPS and Google Maps rolled into one; and of course the ubiquitous Angry Birds, which is fun no matter what platform you’re on!

One really handy feature of Android is the instant search button, which is represented by a magnifying glass button on the actual phone. Pressing the button brings up a Google search window, providing instant access to Google. This button is standard on all Android phones. Another cool thing about the Epic is that it can act as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices, which is really useful if you spend most of your time on the road. However, the connection can be flimsy in places when you don’t get really strong reception, and there’s a tendency to slow down tremendously if too many devices are simultaneously in use.

A downside of this phone was that 4G, Sprint’s claim-to-fame with the Epic, is only available in certain areas. Also, Sprint touts that the phone can make video calls, much like the iPhone, but in order to do so you have to download an app that requires a subscription service, instead of being offered as a standard feature. Without this app, the front-facing camera is practically useless. It makes you wonder why they decided not to include a free subscription it in the first place, especially considering the competition from Apple. One last gripe I had was with the battery life. For a phone that stands at the top of its class in most respects, its battery life is commensurate to other phones like the Evo. Our experiences showed that battery life was similar to other touchscreen phones, which means that you should always keep a charger nearby!

In today’s world of technology, smartphones seem to dominate the mobile market. However, many prefer not to give in to Apple’s “iDomination” of the market. For those of you who prefer a platform based on a “Think Open” approach, an Android phone is probably for you. And in a crowd of Android phones, the Epic stands out from the rest thanks to its touchscreen, 4G access, superb display, and well-integrated features. Sure, it’s got a few kinks, but they’re either fixable or not a major inconvenience to begin with. So, if you’re looking for a more affordable, faster, open platform alternative to the iPhone, with a great feature set and a real keyboard, the Samsung Galaxy S Epic is for you!

Thomas Fogel, Posted 11/6/2010

For more information on the Samsung Galaxy S Epic visit:

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