With the Samsung Epic 4G (aka SPH-D700), Sprint and Samsung want to introduce a 4G phone that surpasses the competition in every single way (it’s always a good goal…). From the large AMLOED display to the presence of a QWERTY keyboard, they made sure that the Epic 4G is a feature-packed phone. What surprised us the most is the extra-care that Samsung put into the software by adding useful bits like the folder navigation in Exchange mailboxes or by integrating a task manager and power widget directly into its Android package. But beyond the number of features and the apparent polish, how good is the Samsung Epic 4G in the real world? That’s what we are going to tell you in this review. Ready?
Usage patterns vary as much as fingerprints. We all have our own way to use the electronics that makes our lives better, that’s why it is often impractical to write a dogmatic review that says “buy or not”. I found it much more useful to tell you what I do with these devices and how they worked for me. From there, I sincerely hope that you can extrapolate how things will work out for you.
I typically check my email often with Exchange, and I reply moderately because even this Samsung physical keyboards is not as productive as a BlackBerry one. I browse the web several times a day to check on news sites, but I rarely watch movies or play music. I run some apps: mainly social networks and a tiny bit of games. I don’t call much: maybe 10mn a day, max. This usage pattern will affect the battery life and my (and yours) perception of what features are important or not.
Technical highlights (4G goodness)
Sprint being the only 4G game in town, if that’s that reason why you’re getting the Epic 4G for, you should compare this phone with the HTC EVO 4G (Sprint too). Tech specs below:
|Samsung Epic 4G||HTC EVO 4G|
|Android 2.1||Android 2.1 + HTC Sense|
|4.0″ AMOLED 480×800||4.3″ LCD 480×800|
|1GHz Samsung Hummingbird||Qualcomm 8650 SnapDragon, 1Ghz|
|512MB RAM||512MB RAM|
|16GB microSD||4GB microSD|
|5 Megapixel camera||8 Megapixel camera|
|4G, 3G, Wifi b/g/n, BT 2.1+EDR, aGPS||4G, 3G, Wifi b/g, BT 2.1+EDR, aGPS|
|DLNA streaming||TV Out (HDMI)|
|4.18 x 2.5 x 0.39″, 4.5oz||4.8 x 2.6 x 0.5″, 6oz|
|1500mAh battery||1500mAh battery|
|Evo 4G Review|
Physical Design (clean, but a bit bland)
This is what the Epic 4G looks like in the real world
The price of having a slider keyboard: the thickness
Body (clean, chubby, bland): From the front, the Samsung Epic 4G has a very clean look. If it wasn’t for the Sprint and the Samsung logos it’s almost a shiny black surface. Even the four Android hardware button are invisible – they light up when needed. As it is the case with most slider phones, the Epic 4G is a little thicker (and heavier) than their display-only cousins. Of course, that’s the price to pay to get a physical keyboard (more on that later). That said, the thickness is equivalent to a Bold 9700 or a BlackBerry Torch, so it’s very acceptable.
Don’t you think that the phone would look much better without the logos?
As you can see in the photo gallery, there are physical buttons for volume and power, but also to activate the camera shutter (it does launch the camera app too) – it’s handy. In the back, there’s the camera with LED flash. The back cover plastic is made of the typical “leathery” plastic that is so common in high-end smartphones these days. The back aesthetics don’t match the front, but this is what you get for having a removable battery.
The USB port placement is great if you want to use the phone while it is tethered
I really like the fact that the USB port for sync/charge is located at the *top* of the phone. Thanks to that choice, it’s convenient to use the phone when in charge or while tethered. Having the USB port on the side makes it difficult to hold the phone in a natural way.
The on/off button is small and too recessed, this is the single most used button… please make it more usable
The only thing about the design that bugs me is the location of the Power button at the opposite side of the volume buttons. It feels very odd that I always (unintentionally) press the volume button (on the opposite side) when I want to turn it on. The thing “works”, but my thumb is always trying to avoid pressing the volume button, regardless of how much I try to rationalize it. Again, the Power button is used dozens of times a day – please make it comfy!
The on/off and volume buttons are on opposite sides. I often end up pressing both at once
The Samsung Epic 4G next to the iPhone 4
Display: With Samsung being a leading display maker, it’s no surprise that the Super-AMOLED
is simply (mostly) excellent. It reacts to light finger gestures and the 4″ size makes it comfortable to use. As expected from OLED, the contrast is just amazing. Blacks are black, and colors (saturation) “pop” – maybe unnaturally so sometimes. I found the color to be over-saturated, but I don’t have the setup to actually prove it scientifically.
Because of its size and resolution (800×480), the Samsung Epic 4G is a great device to read text on, or browse the web with – at least as great as a pocket can fit. The display is an excellent asset for Samsung, and the company is set to produce ten times as much displays that it will sell to competitors as well.
In direct sunlight, the iPhone 4 is a clear winner. Here showing Google Maps
Direct sunlight readability: Unfortunately, the AMOLED display of the Samsung Epic 4G isn’t performing very well in direct sunlight, especially when compared to the iPhone 4 IPS display (we tried that before). Even indoors, it is less bright, but when used outdoors, even bright things like maps can become “washed out”, so this is a big deal if you are outside in a sunny place like… California. In this instance, one of the biggest asset of the phone becomes a significant weakness.
Indoors, with both screens set to maximum brightness
Android buttons at the bottom: Menu, Home, Back and Search
Android buttons: The (in)famous 4 Android buttons are here, but as I mentioned earlier, they light up only when “needed”. The downside is that sometime, I need to tap once to see where they are, and tap again to perform an action. Fortunately, they are very sensitive and the days of the non-responsive Nexus One Android buttons are long gone. Those buttons are also far enough from the screen border that I don’t click on the Search button by accident while zooming in and out of the Maps application. Phew.
The buttons backlight will shut off after a while. Tap anywhere to show them
All the basic phone functions work fairly well
Dialing: As usual with Android, dialing a number is easy and you have a few options: use the virtual numeric pad, choose a contact, call a number from the call log, or simply use… the favorites (my preferred way). I have 200 contacts or so, and it’s never been a problem to find and call someone.
Remember: the signal reception depends mainly on where YOU are
Wireless Reception: I always point out that the quality of the network mostly depends on where *you* live/work. It doesn’t matter if a network is “the best” on average if you live in a “dark spot”. Before you choose a network, get some real information by asking your friends and people around you. For my activities, Sprint usually has a good coverage and things just work everywhere. 4G reception is still spotty in San Francisco but it hasn’t officially launched yet, so it’s hard to complain (except if you’re paying for it, obviously… which you might be). Sprint’s 3G network works well enough that I usually shut down WIFI to increase battery life. Note that 4G consumes even more more power than 3G, but it’s faster.
Call audio quality: The audio quality on the earpiece is good and the sound is clear (not muffled). The volume is decent as well, and it is “on par” or slightly louder than most smartphones that I recently tested. The speaker mode is fairly good too, especially in an office/conference room. Actually having the TV on nearby shouldn’t be a problem, if you wonder.
Swype is really cool, but sometime your finger gets in the way… hard to work around that one
Virtual Keyboard: The Samsung Epic 4G features SWYPE, which is a great virtual keyboard that can function in two modes: 1/ you can tap on the virtual keys like with any other virtual keyboard. 2/ you “swipe” from letter to letter instead of tapping. The system is smart enough to figure out what you wanted to type and error rates are usually lower. The error rate goes down mainly because you keep your finger on the screen. when “tapping”, most errors occur because you land your finger on the wrong spot. Swype is clearly better than the traditional virtual keyboard – and if you don’t like “swyping”, you don’t have to.SWYPE and Samsung had established an SMS record this year.
If you want to switch back to the Android virtual keyboard (from the Swype one), you can go into an edit field, press and hold, and select “Input Method” in the context menu. Not the most intuitive interface… even trained professional search for this one every once in a while.
The physical keyboard ensures faster typing, but it’s no BlackBerry keyboard
Physical Keyboard: The presence of a physical keyboard can be a strong selling point for heavy texters, so how good is this one? I’d say “average”. It has the issues usually associated with sliding keyboard, namely: the keys are too flat and the keyboard is too wide. Because they are flat, the keys don’t allow for a good “feel” of where your fingers are, and that’s too bad because using one additional sense is why physical keyboard are so efficient. Secondly, the keyboard layout is too wide, so you have to move your thumbs more. How many times will companies make the same mistakes? This could have been so much better. Here’s what I would recommend to Samsung: check out the BlackBerry Torch — they got their sliding keyboard right.
Now let’s be clear, even with its flaws, the physical keyboard is more comfortable to use and less typo-prone and the virtual keyboard, even with Swype (at least for me).
Let’s face it: copy/paste is useless on this phone :(
Copy/Paste: As it is the case with other Android 2.1 phones (like the Moto Droid X), copy/paste mostly doesn’t work. You’re reading a web page or an email? No copy/paste for you! It is possible to copy a URL from the address bar in the browser or from a text edit box. That is very limited to the point where I’ll call it “non-existent” because it’s never there when I need it. Funny, given all the bad press that the iPhone got for lacking copy/pasted back in the days.
The web browsing capabilities are excellent for a mobile
The web browser works well. Most sites just work, and it is easy to zoom in and out with a pinch + zoom gesture. Again, the high-resolution of the display makes small text readable (if your sight allows), so you might not even need to zoom. If you do, you can opt for the quick double tap zoom in/out, or use the gesture to have more control. Zooming into the page will trigger a re-formatting of the page, which might shift stuff around a little to make room for the text. It makes reading easier, but if you zoomed-in to click on a small graphic/link, it might have moved elsewhere, forcing you to scroll again.
No “real” flash support, but that might come after an OS update
Flash: Flash isn’t supported in its full form, but hopefully, a future update will add that. It’s hard to argue that Flash support would not be neat, but at the moment, I’m under the impression that even when fully implemented, Flash support is sub-par simply because it is too slow. For sure, things will get better in the future, but the reality is that flash content is built with the idea that a PC would play.
Google Docs is read-only
Google Docs: As usual, you can access Google Docs over the web, but in a read-only form, with the exception of spreadsheets which are editable (although who really wants to work on a spreadsheet on a 4″ display…). In any case, I have not found a good app that can handle Google Docs editing. If there’s one, please drop a comment, I’ll make sure to include it in this review and future/past ones. It’s in high demand.
Email / Account Sync (email/contacts)
While the Samsung Epic 4G has a corporate email (Exchange) app that resembles other Android phones’, I have noticed that it offers a direct access to the many sub-folders via a multi-tab system. This can be very handy if you often switch from one folder to the other. Now if you want to drag & drop an email into a folder, this is not possible.
Email support is very good, although the design is very questionable too. The Tabs at the top are sub-directories in my Exchange Inbox.
Microsoft Exchange: As usual, Exchange is my favorite means of using email (for work), so I did setup the Samsung Epic 4G to sync with my account. If you have a plain-vanilla Exchange hosting (corporate, or hosted online), this is easy to setup. If your IT dept is paranoid and requires a VPN (virtual private network) access, the Samsung Epic 4G does support a flavor of VPN that might (or might not) be compatible with IT’s stuff… talk to them (or file a ticket) and try to see how this can work. If your IT guys are BlackBerry “fanboys”, you might just be out of luck. Bottom-line: check with IT first if corporate email access is a requirement.
Popular email services: If you’re on GMail, Yahoo Mail or other popular services, adding an email account is a snap: just enter your credentials and Android will take care of the rest. Instead of adding a new email account into the “Accounts” section of the settings, you will have to go to Email App>>Options>>Add account. I’d like to see more consistency in the Android user interface for common things like this. The bottom-line is that personal email setup should be easy.
Right now, the types of accounts that can be added are limited: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Exchange, Google. That’s not bad, but other Android phones have Picassa, Skype and others… the mere fact that Yahoo isn’t in the list is actually weird.
USB Email Sync?
This is a common question, but Android doesn’t sync with email over USB. Yes, I know that a lot of people would like to do just that, but you’ll either have to go BlackBerry, Nokia S60 or Windows Mobile for that to work reliably. In fact, if you’re an Android fan, my best advice is to use Gmail.
Computer Sync (files/content)
Via USB: When connected to a computer via USB, you can select 3 modes: Charging, Mass Storage and Tethered Mode. The first is obvious, the second acts like a USB memory key and the third means using the phone like a modem. For data sync, choose Mass Storage and your phone will appear just like a USB key. From there, you can use Windows Media Player or other apps to manage your content. You can also simply drag and drop files manually. It’s not very fancy, but it’s simple.
Creating a hotspot is absolutely easy. This is the best way to share an internet access
WiMax via WIFI Hotspot: Using the Samsung Epic 4G as a WIFI Hotspot is very easy. 1/ Launch the Sprint Hotspot app, 2/ Check the “Activate Hotspot” box 3/ Connect to the WIFI network and use the password provided on the phone’s screen. Seriously, it doesn’t get much easier than this, and just like the Sprint HTC EVO 4G, I found this to be the best way to connect and share a connection on the Epic 4G.
Out of the box, tethering just didn’t work. I’ve seen that on many Android devices.
USB WiMax Modem (tethering): If you don’t wan’t to spend extra power to run WIFI, it is possible to use the Epic 4G as a 3G/4G modem for your computer. It’s certainly not as easy as the WiFi alternative: in my case, plugging it to a computer and enabling the 3G connection resulted in a “device driver software was not successfully installed”. I’ve seen that before on other Android phones, so that’s certainly not a Samsung-specific problem, but it’s a bit lame. The iPhone 4 is plug & browse when it comes to tethering. I suspect that you have to install a driver that you get from on the Samsung/Sprint website. This should be built into the phone. Anyhow, the bottom-line is that you’re likely to use WIFI while charging the phone via USB.
Photo and Video capture
It is clear that smartphone cameras are starting to replace low-end pocket cameras and camcorders. In a recent trip abroad, I shot 90% of my photos with my smartphone (not this one) and although I might not be representative of anything, I expect more people to do just that in the future — it is simply the *easy* thi
ng to do. Plus, sharing is quasi-instantaneous.
I have noticed an odd behavior on the Epic 4G: when in Camera mode, you can’t turn the phone off by using the on/off button. You’ll have to exit the camera app first (Weird). Also, a couple of times, the camera app would not shut down: I had to reboot my phone.
The camera capabilities are good, but not at the top of the foodchain. The iPhone 4 is still the king
Photo capture: There are a lot of things like I like about taking photos with the Samsung Epic 4G. First of all, there’s a physical camera button that launches the camera app. The settings are nearby and are fairly simple to use. Finally, the pictures are in the higher-end of what smartphones can shoot.
The camera app in action. You can tap or press a button to snap
On the downside, the automatic settings aren’t great. The color rendering might or might not match what you’re seeing on-screen, or with your own eyes (it’s often over-exposed). There are many presets available (day, night, party…) but a smartphone should be mostly a point&shoot in my opinion. I seriously don’t want to start tweaking settings when I shot with my phone. Unfortunately, this camera doesn’t match (or beat) the iPhone 4’s. If you love snapping photos, I’d recommend checking our Epic 4G photo samples on Flickr.
Video capture: My remarks about the photo capture translates directly into the video capture. Again, the quality is very good, but not the absolute best. That said, I think that the difference in video quality is less noticeable from the iPhone 4 to the Samsung Epic 4G. The iPhone still wins, but it’s very close.
If you’re photo-conscious, still photography quality differences might make a big difference, but I suspect that most people would find the Epic 4G to be a good camera phone.
Scrolling screen is very fluid for an Android phone — almost as good as iPhone 4 and WP7
User Interface: Despite running Android 2.1, which doesn’t have all the performance optimizations that Android 2.2 offers, the Samsung Epic 4G is the most responsive Android phone that I have tried to date. The scrolling speed is at 60fps most of the time, but every once in a while, you can feel a little bit of lag, especially if you have many apps running in the background. In my opinion, Android’s graphics sub-system has not been as well designed as iOS or Windows Phone 7 (both feature perfectly smooth scrolling with recent devices), but Samsung has managed to pull-off the smoothest implementation to date. It’s closing the gap, fast.
Linpack Benchmark: Just like most modern Android devices, the Samsung Epic 4G reaches 8 Mflops in raw CPU performance on the Linpack benchmark. This is an interesting indicator, but remember that the main processor (CPU) is only one of 6-9 processors in this kind of devices. Despite showing benchmark numbers very close to other Android phones, the Samsung Epic 4G is much faster more responsive than a phone like the Droid X for example. MFlops is more representative for “number crunching” (Math) apps, but that’s about it.
The Epic 4G shows impressive gaming skills when compared to other recent Android phones
Gaming: I tried playing a 3D-intensive game like Raging Thunger (1 ang 2), and the Samsung Epic 4G ran the game much faster than recent Android phones like the Droid 2, I’ll go on a limb and say that the Epig 3G seemed capable of running Raging Thunder at 60fps, while the Droid 2 was averaging 30 or 40fps – I’m eyeballing here, as there are no FPS counters. This is a big deal for me, and the Epic 4G is clearly among the top (if not The top) Android phones when it comes to gaming. If I want to compare it to the iPhone 4, I’d say that gaming experience is similar and that it comes down to which games are available for each platform..
Multitasking is great, but you also need to know what’s going on or face battery and resource depletion
Multitasking: Android is an excellent multitasker and has “true” multi-tasking, while the iPhone 4 has a more limited form of multitasking. Both platforms can run most apps just fine, but in theory, Android is a bit more capable on this front. Anyhow, when you go from an application to the homepage, the “app” remains loaded in the background, consuming memory and possibly processor resources. You need to keep an eye on this as this may slow down the phone, or drain the battery faster — or both.
In all my Android phone reviews, I recommend downloading a “task-killer” app because running apps in the background is a sure way to slow down your phone and deplete your battery. Samsung has had the excellent idea of integrating such a utility in the Epic 4G. Upon pressing and holding the “Home” button, you can either switch from one app to another or “Manage” the current tasks. This is the task manager/app killer that you can use to shut down all the unnecessary apps. You can even elect to uninstall them if you don’t use them at all. It’s great, but there’s still a need for a task-killer. More in the “battery” section.
Photo gallery: The Epic 4G comes with a “gallery” app that lets you browse photos and videos. The gallery is fast and has a 3D-ish view of you content that can be sorted by date or name. The Samsung Epic can display the gallery in a very smooth way. Again, this is not common for an Android device. This is very appreciable.
Video Playback (MP4): I’ve tried to play my usual set of Mp4 “test” videos, and I’m glad to report that all MP4 videos worked well – those for PSP and some that I created myself. Playing back a 800×480 video (2.5Mbps) wasn’t a problem at all and the quality was top-notch. Watching a video on the Super AMOLED display is just great. The contrast and saturation simply surpass regular LCD displays by a mile.
Kindle for Android is very readable on the Epic 4G. I like the sepia color
eBooks: Thanks to its high-resolution display, the Epic 4G is a good phone to read books even if you use the smallest font. I tried with the Kindle (I have 10/10 on both eyes) , and although I would not read a book for more than 30mn, I found it convenient to read a few paragraphs here and there while I’m waiting for something. Now, if you’re in a very bright environment (outdoors), the Super-AMOLED display m
ight not be readable enough.
This speaker is the loudest (and arguably the best) that I’ve tried yet
Speaker Quality: The Epic 4G’s speaker is located in the back of the phone and is one of the most powerful that I’ve tried so far. This is the first one on which I had to reduce the volume while watching the “Transformers” trailer. You can definitely put the phone on a table and watch a show — the volume will be loud enough. If Samsung was to add a sound normalization system that dynamically reduce or increase the volume, that would be just perfect. So far, this is simply the loudest speaker that I’ve heard on a handset.
YouTube high-quality movies are beautiful and 4G should ensure uninterrupted streaming
YouTube: Given the display and speaker goodness of this phone, it’s not a surprise that YouTube video look really good on it. Provided that your connection is fast enough to fetch high-quality videos, things should look good. You can enable high-quality from the YouTube app menu.
The Samsung Epic 4G playing a YouTube video over WIFI
The Samsung store content looks interesting although I’d rather buy on my TV
Samsung Media HUB: This is Samsung’s media store. On the Media Hub, you can buy movies and TV Shows for your Samsung Epic 4G. Once downloaded, the content can be shared with up to five Media Hub compatible devices. Studios like Paramount, NBC Universal, Warner Bros., and MTV Networks have partnered with Samsung to provide content, including “day after” TV shows. More on Samsung’s Media Hub, atSamsung.com
Samsung uses DLNA (Samsung Allshare) to share content between devices
Samsung AllShare: Samsung Galaxy S phones are capable of playing media to and from other devices over the network. AllShare is Samsung’s name for an already known feature: DLNA. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you probably won’t care much, but the idea is that DLNA is a media-sharing protocol that works on many devices: the PlayStation 3 being one of the better known such device. But there are thousands of them.
The Android app market is getting better by the day, but Apple’s App store still leads in both number and average quality
It is not very hard to envision Android becoming the largest Smartphone platform and the number + quality of the applications should soon start to reflect that new reality. As of today, iOS still wins on both front, but more and more, Android is getting ports of the best iPhone apps, like Angry Birds, Skype or Tango. What’s important for you is to figure out if the apps that you like are available on Android, and if their quality is sufficient. The mere fact that an app *exists* on both platform certainly does not mean that they will share common features. Skype for Android has been a ridiculous Android app for a very long time, for example.
Tango versus FaceTime: Because the Samsung Epic 4G has front and back cameras, you too can enjoy FaceTime-style conversation, but on any networks, thanks to the Android version of Tango. Facetime is at the moment notoriously limited to WiFi networks, which makes it really hard to catch someone at a proper time for a video conversation. Tango works in 3G too and offers similar video and audio quality when compared to FaceTime, plus it works on multiple platforms, including iOS. For more info, check our Tango preview.
No 3G data during calls: Because of the way Sprint’s network works, you have to know that you either can’t get 3G data during a call, or can’t call while you’re accessing data. Most of the time that’s fine — except when you’re on speaker phone and someone is asking you to check a site or something. With 4G, this is not a problem and you should be able to handle both data and voice at the same time. However, 4G is not as pervasive as 3G is, so in many situations (and locations) you will be on a 3G network.
The battery utiliy is very handy if you’re curious about what consumes the most power
Battery life is certainly one of the most important factor from a user’s perspective. If you need a phone, you need it now and it’s really annoying when people can’t reach you – when it’s on your terms. When on “standby” with push email (no WIFI), this phone stayed alive for a couple of days. That’s how fast the battery got drained (for me) under the best conditions. If you use it normally with some web browsing and apps, I suspect that the bottom-line is that you’ll have to charge it every night. If you are a very heavy user, chances are that you won’t make it through a whole day. Personally, I had to charge it every night with my usage pattern.
As you may or may not know, Android comes with a little battery utility that is very handy if you want to know what’s using power. You can find it in Settings>>About Phone>>Battery use. Typically, the display would be the primary suspect, followed by the cell standby. If you suspect an abnormal battery life, you can investigate with this.
Camera app: The camera app on many Android phones was sucking power like starving vampires but I’m glad to report that this is not the case for the Samsung Epic 4G.
Built-in task manager: Multitasking phones are typically much better at launching apps than killing them, and Samsung has recognized the need for a task manager (yes, Android doesn’t have one built-in…). The good news is that you can now look at what’s running and kill a bunch of apps in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, you can’t pre-program the OS to close select apps every X minutes. Too bad, but there’s probably “an app for that” (oops, this is trademarked now).
Despite having a Samsung power widget, I’m still using the Android one (above), which is right on my home page
Power widget: To help pre
serve battery, Samsung has also integrated a power widget that shows if WiFi/BT/4G/GPS are “on” or “off”. It is located in the status updates section of Android. It’s great, but I personally still prefer the Android widget that sits right on the home page. Power is the most important thing for me, so I want it where I can see it.
Having the option of changing the battery used to be cool — if the battery “dies” completely. If you just need juice on the go, get an external USB battery pack
User replaceable battery: The battery is user replaceable, which is handy in case it completely dies (yes, it happens). However, as a means to get more juice on the go, I found that USB external batteries are better. You can go for a big one like the HyperMac (or something like it), or use something smaller, but I would recommend going USB. Internal batteries won’t work with your next phone – or with other gadgets.
Things that could be better
Android buttons: It’s a small detail, but while the blacked-out Android buttons make the phone look more minimalist (except for that big Samsung Logo), I often find myself having to tap twice to use them: once to make them appear and again to actually perform an action. Yes. there’s only four of them, and I should really remember where they are, but still I do this and maybe you will too.
Better 4G coverage: This is not related with the phone, but Sprint’s 4G coverage is still relatively spotty (it hasn’t officially launched in many big cities yet), and you might end up having to pay for a 4G network that you can’t use.
Weight: It’s probably the price to pay for a slider phone, but you have to know that it is heavier than other Galaxy S phones from Samsung, even if it is much lighter than the HTC EVO 4G.
No International Service: I don’t expect this phone to work outside of the US — except in Canada and Mexico.
As usual, I noticed that the Landscape mode in Android does not work consistently. Hopefully Google will fix this.
UMA: I always ask for Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) because if you have ever tried it, it’s hard to go back. UMA uses a plain local WIFI connection to reach your wireless carrier’s network. It guarantees a quasi perfect reception at home or wherever there’s a hotspot. It can also yield free calls because you are in fact using bandwidth that costs nothing to your carrier, although the carrier will always try to find a way to charge for “something”. Finally, You could use UMA in a foreign country and use either local US minutes or get free calls. Of course, the other solution is to use SkypeOut minutes… but Skype is going to charge for that too (minutes+extra for Mobile usage).
The Samsung Epic 4G is an excellent Android phone, but arguably not the sexiest one. It is fast, very responsive and can handle media and games beautifully – thanks to its AMOLED display and fast processor. The Epic 4G looks like many other Galaxy S phones and the Samsung design is consistent across its line-up, which is a very good thing. However, a couple of small details like the Android buttons and the on/off button should be worked out for future releases. As of today, Samsung has positioned itself very strongly in the Android ecosystem and you can expect most Galaxy S phones to behave like this one (we might not have time to review them all). Is it better than HTC’s EVO 4G? I’d say “yes”. I’m afraid that the EVO’s 0.3″ of extra screen diagonal won’t be enough to hold Samsung back. If I had to choose between those to, I’d go for the Samsung Epic 4G without hesitation.
I hope that this review helped you picture how it feels to use the Samsung Epic 4G as we tried to convey its strengths and weaknesses. If there’s something that I’ve missed, feel free to ask by dropping a comment below. If you want to post your own opinion on this phone, feel free to do it as it will help others decide for themselves.
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