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Officially speaking, it's not a Galaxy S II device, but the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G joins AT&T's Captivate Glide as a spinoff of an exceptionally popular Android series.  Feature-wise, it's almost there, with a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon CPU, 3.97-inch Super AMOLED display, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording, a front-facing camera, 1,750 mAh battery, and Android 2.3 with TouchWiz 4.0.  The display size cut and lower-resolution camera translate into a lower $149.99 price point, something that's sure to appease those that want a nice smartphone at a more affordable price.

I've had the Blaze 4G for a few days, and on top of the usual tests, it was fortunate enough to accompany me on a work trip this week; something I consider to be the ultimate test of how a phone performs.  Here's what I've discovered:

  • The back of the phone resembles a BlackBerry, with curved edges around the camera and a tapered top.  In the usual Galaxy format, the left side houses the volume rocker, while the right side houses the power button.  The top has the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the bottom contains the microUSB charging port.
  • Like you're probably thinking, I'm not sure why Samsung opted for the 3.97-inch Super AMOLED display over the regular 4-inch size.  Despite missing the few inches, the display looks nice and is filled with color.  I see this as kind of a "near-perfect" size for many users.

  • The 5-megapixel camera takes decent pictures, provided the lighting is good (with natural light being the best).  You get the usual editing options here like the ability to change the shooting mode, scene mode, resolution, white balance, and ISO.  Blaze's 720p HD video capabilities were decent as well, with audio and video looking good.
  • Blaze 4G comes with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), complete with TouchWiz 4.0.  I'm a big fan of TouchWiz 4.0, and the dual-core Snapdragon processor keeps everything running smoothly.  TouchWiz 4.0 is a huge improvement from previous builds, and it performs equally well on the Blaze 4G.  Out of the current user interfaces on the market, TouchWiz 4.0 seems to be the best combination of not-too-bloated-but-still-functional.
  • You get quite a few T-Mobile apps out of the box, and sadly, they can't be uninstalled.  Don't want 411 & More, Game Base, MobileLife Organizer, More for Me, Pro Apps, T-Mobile Mall, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, T-Mobile Video Chat, Visual Voicemail, Yelp, or Zinio?  Too bad!

  • The device supports T-Mobile's HSPA+ 42 Mbps connectivity, and while I've yet to approach the theoretical peak (and likely won't anytime soon), I've seen some pretty impressive download speeds that range from 2 Mbps to 9 Mbps in well-known T-Mobile spots.  Connectivity has generally been very fast on all fronts, be it downloading apps, browsing the web, or checking updates on Twitter.
  • I haven't had enough time to work with battery life, but the 1,750 mAh battery should be more than enough to make it through a day with moderate use including some downloading, calling, texting, and web browsing.  Heavier users will want to carry a spare charger, though the phone seems to charge faster than its Galaxy brethren.

Overall, I like the Galaxy S Blaze 4G.  It brings many of the great features from the Galaxy S II line to a more affordable price point - and perhaps better yet, a more manageable size.  It lacks the 8-megapixel camera and "Plus" designation in the display, but offers up a nice little set of features that are ideal for the mid-range to power user.  T-Mobile's Blaze 4G will be available nationwide on March 28th for $149.99 with a two-year agreement.

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