Many have commented that the Samsung Stratosphere from Verizon appears to simply be a recycled Epic 4G, found on Sprint. The comparisons are warranted given that they're both Galaxy S devices and, therefore, will inherently have many of the same features. The problem comes when you realize that the Epic 4G is a year old. Why purchase a phone that appears to be the twin of a phone that's a year old?
There are a few legitimate reasons. The Stratosphere is more than just a recycled Epic and has some selling points. I've been using the Stratosphere for about a day and I'm certainly impressed with it. (It's hard to not be impressed by a phone with this spec sheet.) Still, is it worth buying or should you jump to one of Verizon's "superphones"? I'll try to answer that question in my testing. For now, here are some of my first impressions.
- I mentioned that the Stratosphere had a few features that make it more than just a recycled phone from a year ago. What are they? For one, it ships with Android 2.3, Gingerbread. That's not something you can say about other phones in the Galaxy S family. On top of that, it ships with a newer version of Samsung's UI, TouchWiz, than what you'll find on the Stratosphere's so-called twin, the Epic. This isn't TouchWiz 4.0, but it's still a newer version that brings several design enhancements.
- The design and build quality of the Stratosphere are similar to what you'll get with most Samsung devices. It is made primarily out of plastic which makes it feel light-weight. The device feels thin for having a physical keyboard. I also like the fact that Samsung opted to go with a texturized back rather than a glossy back. This cuts down on fingerprints.
- Of course, the 4-inch Super AMOLED display is beautiful. I'm not sure why Samsung opted to not use a Super AMOLED Plus display like we've seen on their other new devices; it was certainly in their power to do so. Regardless, the display is gorgeous. Colors are rich and deep and it has a clarity to it that will never get old.
- LTE is fast. Like, super-fast. Initial speed tests yielded results of 27 Mbps for downloads and 9 Mbps for uploads. It was so fast I double- and triple-checked I wasn't connected to WiFi. Nope, that's on Verizon 4G LTE. I'm in the Dallas area which is smack dab in the middle of Verizon 4G coverage. I'll test the phone in other parts of the city to see what overall coverage and speeds are like.
- Overall performance has been good, so far. I had some checkerboarding issues in the web browser and I've experienced a few hang-ups that last a second or two. The Stratosphere's 1 GHz Hummingbird processor is slightly outdated so I'm curious to see how it holds up. The device scored a 1,381 on the Quadrant Standard Benchmark.
- As expected, the keyboard has been excellent. My small fingers sometimes have a hard time reaching for letters on the over 4-inch-sized keyboard, but I do have smaller than usual hands. The keys have an awesome grip and the spacing between each key is perfect. I'm partial to rubbery keys so the Stratosphere's design is prefect for my taste. The dedicated number row isn't a requirement of mine but as long as I can still have a dedicated Spacebar row, I'm happy.
- No detailed thoughts on the camera, though I have uploaded an HD video sample. I'll test this out further and give my results in the full review.
That's all I've got for now. The Stratosphere may not be a "superphone" but it has carried itself well in the time that I've had it. Check back into PhoneDog for the full video review and written review. In the meantime, check out the unboxing video as well as the aforementioned HD video sample using the Stratosphere's camera.