I've had the Samsung Epic 4G for a few hours, so this article is a first impression in every sense of the phrase. That said, here's my thought - the Epic 4G just might be the most well-rounded, best Android device on the market.
With 4G (WiMAX) support, a front-facing camera, mobile hotspot, and a physical QWERTY keyboard, It's the most feature-packed of the four Galaxy S devices. Thanks to Sprint, it's also one of the cheapest options over the course of a two-year agreement. Once criticized for a lackluster phone selection, Sprint seems to be making all of the right calls as of late. There's some negative chatter out there about the $10 "Premium Data" charge, but at the end of the day, Sprint's price plans are still cheaper than most alternatives.
While the device is made entirely of plastic, the larger build, chrome accents, and battery cover make it feel less cheap than the Vibrant and Captivate, pushing the "it's plasticky" claim to the backseat. Though the Epic is a bit thicker due to the keyboard, the added heft gives it a nice feel in the hand. The 4-inch Super AMOLED display is gorgeous, and strikes a nice balance between the 3.7 and 4.3-inch devices.
One of my favorite Sprint-inspired changes is relatively minimal. Overall, TouchWiz works well enough and grew on me after extended use, but I don't care for the way it displays text messages. The interface is too colorful and bubbly, and it's obvious that it's attempting to mimic the iPhone. Sprint opted to preserve the stock Android messaging layout, so it's what you would see if you were dealing with vanilla Android. While on the topic, I don't care for the widgets that Samsung includes with TouchWiz. I'm still longing for a good weather, calendar, and time widget.
The physical QWERTY keyboard is absolutely phenomenal. Usually, I prefer keys that are together (like DROID 2) versus "island keys," but Samsung makes up for it by providing a dedicated row for the space bar and commonly used symbols. Typing is excellent, and within five minutes, I was banging out e-mails with ease. Keys are tactile and large enough to accommodate large thumbs, and they're positioned in a way that makes it easy to type. For those that prefer using a virtual QWERTY, Samsung offers the stock Android keyboard and Swype. Interestingly enough, the Samsung keyboard found on the Captivate and Vibrant isn't offered.
The Epic 4G offers the same 5.0-megapixel camera that the other Galaxy S units use, but a flash is included, along with an external shortcut button. The autofocus and the Super AMOLED display make images look great. For video chatting and those candid shots, a front-facing camera is included on the device.
In the three test calls I've made, call quality has been astounding. Callers have sounded crystal clear, and they've been able to hear me well. Earpiece volume is abnormally loud and clear. It's so loud, in fact, that I had to turn it down - a first for me. Bluetooth works perfectly (as a side note, Epic offers Bluetooth 3.0), and speakerphone is equally loud.
The device is going through the initial charge at the moment, so I don't have any concrete battery life numbers. I've noticed that the Galaxy S devices seem to take longer to charge, so that combined with general Android battery life may be frustrating for those that rely on those quick 20 minute charges to make it through the business day.
When I started testing the device, I was under the impression that the GPS was malfunctioning, but after speaking with Samsung, the issue was rectified. Long story short, Google requires A-GPS to be disabled by default on new devices, so the user has to manually enable it prior to using Google Maps and other location based services. It's as easy as going to "Settings," clicking on "Location & security," and checking the box beside "Use wireless networks." Once I did so, I was in business.
The Epic is available today for $249.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate, breaking the $199.99 mold and making it a pricey $349.99 out the door. Is it worth the extra $50? If you want a physical QWERTY keyboard and Super AMOLED display, absolutely. Otherwise, the HTC EVO 4G is a fantastic Android alternative.
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