The Samsung Epic 4G is Sprint's second 4G-capable phone, and the second to launch on any major US carrier, following in the footsteps of HTC's Evo 4G. Epic, like Evo, runs Google's Android OS and features 3G/4G compatibility, WiFi, a large touchscreen, and dual-cameras meant for still photography, video capture, and video chat.
Epic 4G also just might be the best Android phone in the world right now. Maybe. I've had my review loaner for just under a week now (thanks, Sprint!) and so can't say for sure. While it has some minor bugs still to be ironed out and I wish it ran Android 2.2, in general Epic has shown a great blend of performance and usability that's enhanced by its form factor and hard QWERTY board. So far, so great.
Now, then, specifically after four or five days of Epic-ness:
- Epic is the best hard QWERTY Android device I've ever tried. By a healthy margin. Kudos to Samsung for giving this thing a full four-row thumbboard with isolated buttons and a bunch of dedicated-function keys. It's not the best phone keyboard ever, but it's pretty darn good.
- Due to the success of that QWERTY board, Epic is Sprint's first real BlackBerry replacement device for would-be Android users. Evo is a powerhouse, and its virtual keyboard is really good, but there are plenty of road warriors out there who aren't about to give up their thumbboards any time soon. Moment and Intercept didn't quite deliver the goods when it comes to power and QWERTY. Epic does, so far.
- The phone is relatively light for its size, but the extra thickness of the keyboard layer makes it feel quite a bit bulkier than the other Galaxy S phones (Captivate on AT&T and Vibrant on T-Mobile). To me, it's still pocketable and the extra size is worth it. But Epic 4G looks and feels like a business-class device where those other phones are big and flashy yet thin and cool. Considering that Sprint already has a big, flashy, thin smartphone in Evo 4G, Epic rounds out their lineup with a hardcore superphone for hardcore users who want a hardcore thumbboard. That's a good thing.
- Overall the phone has that plasticky, hollow feel of Sammy's other smartphones. That's not necessarily a bad thing - I mostly notice it when the device vibrates. I adjusted to typing on Epic very quickly and don't much notice or mind the "this thing is kinda empty behind those keys" feeling I felt when I first pecked at the buttons.
- I don't get Sprint 4G service in Oakland, San Francisco, or any of the surrounding areas. And yet I have to pay the $10/month Premium Data fee (or I would if I actually owned this thing). That's annoying. I don't want Sprint to ditch the fee - I want them to light up the Bay Area with WiMax.
- Epic's 4" Super AMOLED display is just as good looking and responsive as those found on Samsung's other Galaxy S devices.
- Epic's main camera has a flash, which the other Galaxy S phones do not. So what? The camera is fine, not great. HD video capture is pretty good, though, and the front-facing camera is nice for self-portraits and Qik/Fring video chatting.
- My review unit came with Sprint Hotspot service activated. WiFi tethering works, but so far the speeds have been underwhelming. Web pages are slow to load, and I couldn't get a fast enough connection to do video livestreaming. Before I go posting any speed test numbers, I'm going to make sure there's no user error or strange, correctable interference mucking up the works.
Much more on Epic 4G, including a full review and Epic vs Droid 2 dogfight, in the coming days!