In a world where smartphone manufacturers battle over a few millimeters to earn the title of having the thinnest smartphone, there's just no place for a phone with a physical keyboard. The added bulk isn't as attractive as a phone that's a mere seven or eight millimeters thick. This can be frustrating for those who enjoy having a keyboard with buttons they can actually press. However, there are a few options out there, the Captivate Glide by Samsung being one of them. The Captivate Glide is the rare phone that not only has a physical keyboard but it's also a high-end phone with great hardware and features. With a beautiful Super AMOLED display, a powerful dual-core Tegra 2 processor, HSPA+ capabilities, and that physical keyboard, it almost seems like a no-brainer. So what do the test results show? Is this the phone you should go with if you're a QWERTY aficionado? Keep on reading to find out.
So, yes, the keyboard does add some bulk. Coming in at 4.8-inches tall, 2.5-inches wide, and .5-inches thick, you're definitely going to feel the Captivate Glide in your hand, purse, or pocket. Still, the .5-inch profile is thinner than some phones that pack a physical QWERTY so I have to give props to Samsung for making the phone as thin as possible. It weighs 5.2 ounces but, surprisingly, doesn't seem to have a lot of heft to it. Perhaps this is where Samsung's ardent use of plastic materials is a benefit.
The phone's design is rather dull and unoriginal, but it's not ugly. There's no surprising angles or creative design elements. It's pretty much just a box. The back cover has a textured finish which makes it slightly grippier (though not much) and eliminates the problem of fingerprints. The volume rocker button can be found on the left spine, the Power/Screen Lock button is on the right spine, and the microUSB port (featuring the famous sliding cover) and 3.5mm headphone jack are on the top of the phone. The phone at times seemed slow to respond when I pressed the Screen Lock button to wake up the display, but this didn't happen every time and it could be solved by pressing the button for a half-second longer.
Underneath the battery cover is the 1650 mAh battery, the SIM card slot, and the microSD card slot. The phone ships with an 8GB card to supplement its 8GB of internal memory and supports up to 32GB of additional memory. Both the SIM card and microSD card can be accessed without removing the battery.
I'm a sucker for beautiful displays and the Captivate Glide's 4-inch screen does not disappoint. Featuring Super AMOLED technology and a resolution of 480 x 800, giving it a pixel density of 233 ppi, this display is absolutely stunning. It offers rich colors with bright saturation. The 233 pixels per inch are about two-thirds of what you get with the iPhone 4S and HTC Rezound, but nearly the same as what you get with the Motorola DROID RAZR. In short, text and graphics are very clear and crisp. Directly below the display are the four Android buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Search, in that order.
Out of the box, you get Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with TouchWiz 4.0. Whereas TouchWiz used to be a colorful and slightly cartoonish UI, the newest versions are much more refined and modern-looking. The latest edition brings the ability to resize the custom widgets that come with the UI, a very useful feature. The interface for customizing your home screen has also received an update. At the bottom of the home screen are four shortcuts for Phone, Messaging, Web, and Applications. These shortcuts, with the exception of the Applications shortcut, can be changed from the app drawer. The UI also adds a new, darker color scheme to the notification panel as well as five toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Flight Mode, and Screen Rotation. I'm especially fond of the customizations made to the Messaging app and Samsung's e-mail app. When viewed in landscape mode, both apps show two panes - one for your inbox, and one that displays the selected message - much like the interface you would see on a tablet.
AT&T and Samsung have included several pre-installed apps such as Asphalt 6, AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Navigator, Live TV, Media Hub, Mini Diary, Qik, Social Hub, YP, and more. Some of these apps are useful, like Media Hub, a Samsung store where you can purchase movies and TV shows, My Files, Qik for video chatting, and Task Manager. However, most of them are duplicates of services that Android offers by default and for free. Regardless, most of these apps can be uninstalled.
As mentioned in the outset, the Captivate Glide packs a dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of RAM. In testing, I've experienced hardly any lag. Despite running multiple apps at once and having a few widgets active in the background, tasks could be completed smoothly. Pinch-to-zoom is smooth and when rotating from portrait to landscape, the switch was made almost instantly. The phone scored a 3,056 on the Quadrant Standard benchmark test, a 2,543 on the SmartBench 2012 Productivity Index, 32.5/56.1 MFLOPS on Linpack Single and Multi-Thread tests, respectively, and a 4,643 on the AnTuTu Benchmark test. As you can gather from the test results, the phone is speedy and gave me very few performance issues.
Now onto the main event, the keyboard. As far as virtual keyboard options go, you have three: the stock Android Gingerbread keyboard, the Samsung keyboard, and Swype. I've typically enjoyed using Samsung's keyboard, but on the Captivate Glide I have better results with the Android keyboard. Regardless, the keyboard you're probably going to be using most of the time is the physical QWERTY. The top panel easily and smoothly slides to the right to reveal the four-row keyboard. It's very large and spacious, each letter owning it's own island button. The keys are rubbery, not plastic, which I'm always a fan of. I wish the keys were raised above the surface more or at least provided more resistance or feedback when pressed. As it is, it's hard to differentiate each key since they're so flat and there's hardly any travel on them so a light press is all it takes. Yes, this makes it easy to press each key, but it's hard to know when you've actually pressed a key, if it registered, or if you pressed the right one. The number row is integrated into the top row of letters which means the Space Bar has its own row. There are primary keys for the period, comma, and question mark, and one for '.com'. Four navigational arrows have been built into the keyboard. The four Android buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Search have also been copied over and are featured on the left and right sides of the keyboard. Going back to the Space Bar, the contact points are spread out too far, making it difficult to easily and quickly press it. Overall, the keyboard, though nicely laid out, is frustrating to type on due to its flat keys with a lack of travel and overly wide size.
AT&T is building out its LTE network, but the Captivate Glide is relegated to its HSPA+ network, though it's still capable of pulling 21.1 Mbps down. While testing in the Dallas area, speeds were inconsistent. There were times when I would regularly get download speeds of 6-7 Mbps, but then there were times when it would drop down to 1-2 Mbps, and I had more than a few test results of .3-.5 Mbps, all while getting an HSPA+ signal with two bars or more. Upload speeds were equally inconsistent, with speeds ranging from .28 Mbps to 1.09 Mbps.
The phone's rear-facing 8-megapixel camera captures decent photos but I was slightly disappointed by the overall quality. Colors showed up well but there was more noise than what I would expect from a phone of this caliber. Perhaps I've just been spoiled by some of the amazing shooters that can be found on some phones these days, but I felt the quality could have been better. The camera does feature autofocus and an LED flash. Pictures taken in low-light settings using the flash actually turned out well, even from a distance of a few feet. The camera also captures 720p HD video at 30fps. Video quality was great with a crisp picture, but the audio quality was lacking, as it is on a lot of Samsung devices. On the front of the phone is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video chatting. As mentioned previously, the phone comes with Qik software for making video calls.
The Captivate Glide is powered by a 1650 mAh battery. By Samsung's estimates, you should get about eight hours of talk time and 16.7 days of standby time. In my testing, the phone lasted about three days on standby, with background updates turned on for a few apps. With normal use of web browsing, sending and receiving text messages and e-mails, syncing my e-mail and Twitter accounts every 15 minutes, multiple widgets active, and running tests, the battery still lasted a 12-hour day. Keep in mind that battery life may be different based on your usage habits, but in my testing, it has been spectacular.
If you love having a physical keyboard, there are few options out there. There are even fewer options if you want a quality, high-end phone. The Captivate Glide is an excellent all-around smartphone, but it fails in perhaps the most important area, the keyboard. The physical QWERTY is simply too wide with keys that are too flat with not enough travel and feedback. Though keyboard opinions will vary from person to person, it's difficult to recommend a phone with a bad QWERTY keyboard when that will be the main reason someone would be interested in it. Perhaps try out the keyboard for yourself to see if it suits you, but for me it was disappointing, making the phone a waste. No matter how well the phone performs, why deal with the extra bulk if it's not useful?
The Good: Beautiful Super AMOLED display; TouchWiz 4.0 with a newly refined look and feel; HSPA+ device; speedy performance with little to no lag; great battery life.
The Bad: Poorly designed physical keyboard; dull and uninspired hardware design; HSPA+ speeds were disappointing.
The Verdict: Regardless of how well the phone performs in other areas, the main reason you're interested in it is probably the keyboard. The keyboard was poorly designed and difficult to use; therefore, I wouldn't recommend the Captivate Glide.