Samsung Galaxy Stellar First Impressions

Aaron Baker
Writer from  Dallas, TX
| Published: September 17, 2012

If you're seeking a device with similar functionality as the Galaxy S III, the Samsung Galaxy Stellar is a surprisingly well-spec'd device that will appeal to several demographics thanks to decent specifications along with its "Simple Mode" for first-time smartphone users.  It's available at Verizon Wireless for free after rebate, and with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, it's an entry-level device with some great features.  After years of terrible low-end Android devices, it's fantastic to see Android OEMs taking their entry and mid-range devices to the next level.

I've been working with it for a few days.  Some initial impressions:

  • The Galaxy Stellar offers a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, and while the clock speed is slower than high-end alternatives like the HTC One X, Motorola DROID RAZR M, and Samsung Galaxy S III, the Galaxy Stellar is a fast device.  In my testing thus far, I've seen no lag whatsoever; it's great to see manufacturers bringing a fantastic CPU to inexpensive devices.
  • Featuring a 4-inch WVGA display, Stellar should work well for most users - particularly those moving up from the iPhone 3GS, HTC DROID Eris, or handsets with other similar displays.  It can be challenging to type on if you're used to a physical keyboard or a larger display, but the inclusion of both Samsung's virtual QWERTY and the stock Android keyboard (which is fantastic) is a nice touch.

  • Sacrifices must be made to bring the device down to a low price tier, and those come in the camera department.  Stellar's 3.2-megapixel camera is run of the mill at best and doesn't offer HD video recording capabilities.  Provided the lighting is decent, image quality is fine, but the lack of flash means that low-lit areas will be a problem.  Video recording is equally mediocre.
  • Packing Android 4.0 with TouchWiz, you'll find the overall experience on the Galaxy Stellar to be very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S III.  Out of the box, the usual Verizon suspects can be found, such as VCAST Apps, Visual Voicemail ($2.99 per month from Verizon), and VZ Navigator.  It's a small feature that may not matter to many, but I appreciate Samsung's decision (along with Pantech and LG) to include the option for a physical battery percentage meter, so you can have an accurate analysis of when you need to charge.

  • Given its status as the nation's largest LTE footprint, you'd expect Verizon's 4G network to be relatively saturated, but I continue to be impressed with the speeds in most areas.  In my office in Charlotte (one of Verizon's initial launch markets), Verizon continues to make good on their 5-12 Mbps download promise, with speeds reaching as high as 20 Mbps (thanks in part to the network enhancements from the Democratic National Convention). 
  • A small thing that's annoying about Verizon's recent smartphones is the inability to turn off Wi-Fi notifications.  The implementation on Samsung handsets is slightly less annoying than on HTC (the Incredible 4G LTE has a pesky little Wi-Fi symbol in the upper left corner at all times), but both have immovable "ongoing" notifications in the notifications bar.  I understand the need to educate consumers given the prevalence of tiered data plans, but it's a bit annoying for those that know how to use a smartphone.
  • The Stellar packs a 2,100 mAh battery, which is the same size as the much larger Galaxy S III.  While Verizon's 4G LTE is a notorious power hog, expect the battery life to be relatively decent.  I'll have firm numbers in the full review.

The Galaxy Stellar isn't going to sway the power user with its lack of an HD display and mediocre camera, but all things considered, it's a pretty stellar smartphone for many.  For free after rebate, you can pick up a device with a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU - a processor that's quickly shaping up to be the mobile powerhouse of 2012 - along with a moderately sized display, a giant 2,100 mAh battery, Android 4.0, and 4G LTE connectivity.  The gap between low-end and high-end is shrinking, and devices like the Stellar pair a fantastic price point with respectable specifications.

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