Samsung Galaxy Indulge 4G Review by Sydney
The Samsung Galaxy Indulge is the first 4G LTE Android smartphone available on the market. That means that while all of Verizon's customers are waiting for 4G, you prepaid MetroPCS customers can already enjoy all of the 4G good-ness you want. Not bad for the fifth largest wireless carrier in the United States. The Indulge is a fantastic device, even without the 4G speeds, but LTE just makes it that much better. MetroPCS is rapidly expanding their 4G network. They've gone from having just two 4G markets in October 2010 to now thirteen cities including Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York in just five months. If you are in one of these 4G markets, the Indulge is definitely worth considering. It's a bit smaller than the Galaxy S devices and has a few shortcomings, but its performance has been impressive throughout all of my tests.
Design & Features
The Samsung Indulge is a fairly good-looking device with a black glossy outer shell and curved edges. Its 3.5-inch LCD display is bright and clear, though it does have this strange yellow-ish tint. I sort wish that MetroPCS had pushed up the display to a Super AMOLED or perhaps an AMOLED display (the Samsung Craft, MetroPCS' other 4G phone has an AMOLED display), but I'm willing to put that aside. The display has a resolution of 320x480 so it's a decent display and handled colors well, save for that yellow-ish tint that shows up when viewing anything with a lot of white in it.
The phone measures 4.6-inches tall, 2.42-inch wide, and .62-inches thick. The extra depth comes from the physical keyboard, which we'll get into later on. I didn't find the device to be too thick or chunky nor did it feel cheap. The device does have a dedicated camera shutter key, something I always appreciate, and physical hardware menu buttons instead of capacitive touch buttons. In my experience, I've found physical buttons to be more convenient, but everyone feels differently about that. The microSD card slot is hidden underneath the battery cover, but it is not necessary to remove the battery to access the card. The phone ships with a 4GB memory card and supports up to 32GB of additional storage with a card. The phone itself has 2GB of internal memory.
Usability & Performance
The Indulge ships with Android 2.2 and Samsung's TouchWiz UI. TouchWiz is a 'love or hate it' UI, but my experience with it has always been pleasant. It is one of the more 'heavy' interfaces and adds several design elements like a dock, a re-tooled app drawer with custom icons, a darker notification bar, and a slightly different color scheme, all of which may rub some users the wrong way. For those who are Android 'purists', stay away from the Indulge. Personally, I enjoy TouchWiz and find it to be very aesthetically pleasing. Android is great, but TouchWiz smoothes out the edges a little bit.
One unfortunate feature of the device is that it comes with a lot of pre-installed MetroPCS custom apps. Metro' jammed in everything from an app store to a Social app to a custom e-mail app and web browser, all of which are totally unnecessary with Android OS and its Market. It was okay for a featurephone like the Samsung Craft to come equipped with all of this since there was no other way to download those applications, but with a smartphone it's just not needed. Metro' did make up for it though by having one pre-installed app that you might actually use - Iron Man 2. Enjoy, you crazy Iron Man fans.
Samsung powered the Indulge with its own Hummingbird processor, clocked at 1 GHz. Speeds were fantastic. I could easily run multiple apps and widgets without ever having to worry about killing certain functions or dealing with lag. Transitions were smooth and pinch-to-zoom in the web browser was seamless. The Indulge scored a high 1,049 points in the Quandrant Standard test, higher even than the Samsung Galaxy S.
As mentioned previously, the Indulge is equipped with a physical keyboard. When I initially tested the keyboard, I was surprised by how flat the keys were. In fact, they're almost set deeper in than the plastic molding that surrounds them. I wasn't sure what affect, if any, this would have on the performance. After fully testing it for a week, I can say that I'm not impressed by the keyboard, but at the same time, it's not terrible. In short, it's not bad but it's not great. It could have been better, but it's usable and gets the job done. It's frustrating that the space bar is scrunched in a row of letters and that the only punctuation mark that gets its own key is the period key, and even that one is all the way on the far left of the keyboard. Despite those shortcomings, it was still okay to use, thanks to the rubber texture of the keys and the fact that they are set apart from each other in an island style. Overall, I give the keyboard a B-.
I'm slightly disappointed by the 3-megapixel camera, but after comparing other phones of the same or similar caliber, I'm willing to cut Samsung and MetroPCS some slack. Picture quality was not excellent and it would have been nice to have a flash, but it was adequate. I've used phones with a 3-megapixel camera that took better photos, so I wish that this one had been made better, but for snapshots and simple photos, I'm willing to say that it was okay. The camera does have an autofocus and captures WVGA (480p) video.
Now on to the main event, 4G. I've said this before and I'll say it again: all you guys who are dissing MetroPCS' 4G network have obviously never used the Indulge, their only 4G smartphone. 4G on the Craft was not great, yes, but that was a featurephone. What did you expect? 4G with the Indulge is fast. I was blown away not just by the speed, but by the consistency of the speed. It's one thing to get amazing download speeds when you're right next to a tower, but I consistently experienced great speeds and never dealt with slowness. On average, the phone managed to pull data at 4-5 Mbps and send data at about 3-4 Mbps. Several times, I reached speeds of 6-7 Mbps for download. Not bad, Metro', not bad at all. My grade for MetroPCS' 4G network using the Indulge: A+. (And that's coming from a person that has actually tested it out.)
One negative aspect of 4G LTE is that it tends to drain the battery quicker than typical 3G. The Indulge ships with a 1500 mAh battery and after extensive testing, I found that battery performance was not as bad as I thought it would be. With heavy and continuous use (getting turn-by-turn navigation on a road trip), the battery lasted about 6 1/2 hours. With little no use, the battery lasted a little over 12 hours. So, with normal use, you'll probably be able to make it to the evening with a full charge. My guess is that if you go to work in the morning around seven or eight, you'll have to charge it when you get home, assuming you get home around 6 p.m. This is not as good as other Android smartphones, but it was better than I expected and didn't turn out to be such a weakness after all.
All I've been able to say about the Indulge is 'wow'. Even the camera made me say 'wow', though it wasn't in a good way. In all honesty though, the great processor and 4G are really what make this phone. The physical keyboard was alright and the camera did its job, but the speed of the device, not just in running apps but in web browsing as well, are two things that still amaze me every time I use it. Do I think it's worth the $400 price tag? I would say, if you can afford it, then yes, go for it. However, if you can't stretch your cash that far, don't worry about it. 4G is great and I love the device as a whole, but MetroPCS has other Android options for much cheaper that will be just fine and give you more for your money. That being said, the Samsung Indulge is the best phone available from MetroPCS.
What's Good: 1 GHz Hummingbird processor; 4G; Android 2.2; TouchWiz UI; decent physical keyboard.
What's Bad: Camera could have been better; somewhat poor battery life; price.
The Verdict: The Galaxy Indulge is easily the best smartphone available from MetroPCS. If you have the extra cash, go for it; however, considering the price, I wouldn't push it. If things are tight, the Optimus M is a good alternative.