PRICE: $200 w/ Two-year contract
THE BACK STORY: Both Samsung and T-Mobile had one hell of a 2010. The latter rolled out its faster 4G mobile data network (that some quipped isn't truly 4G, rather just a souped-up 3G), while the former released its Galaxy S line of phones which managed fly off shelves to the tune of over 9.3 million units sold. So when it came time for Samsung to jump on the high-speed bandwagon, it seemingly made more sense to simply update T-Mobile's version of the Galaxy S, the Vibrant, with a HSPA+ capable antenna and a newer operating system. And that's exactly what happened. If the Galaxy S 4G looks strangely identical to the Vibrant, that's because the two are basically identical except for the aforementioned changes. So is it worth the upgrade?
• Beautiful screen: It wasn't broken, so Samsung decided not to fix it. Carried over from the Vibrant, the Galaxy S 4G gets the awesome 4-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 480x800 resolution. Colors in photos and videos are bright and vivid, and stand up well in sunlight. The size makes organizing all your home screens much easier, as well as giving making the video watching experience less hellish. It's a nice compromise between the smaller-screened smartphones, and the mini tablets that pass themselves off as phones.
• Fast data speeds: As the name of the phone suggests the biggest improvement over the Vibrant is the inclusion of 4G connectivity. If you're able to connect to T-Mobile's faster network, web pages load quickly, songs stream uninterrupted. If you've been jonesing for faster mobile Internet, you'll be happy with the Galaxy S 4G. Well, as long as you live in a major city. Venture out of a metropolis and you'll fall back down to 3G.
• HD video recording and front-facing camera: The only aesthetic difference you'll find between the Vibrant and the Galaxy S 4G is the new front-facing camera that allows you to video chat using the included QIK app. It worked well over the 4G network, only getting choppy a few times. Even better for us, though, was the ability to record 720p video using the rear video camera. Why do you need to record 720p video on your phone? We have no idea, but the fact that you can is remarkable.
• Surprisingly good battery life: With the new 4G antenna, would thought the battery life would take a tremendous hit, but we were wrong. Going through a full workday of texting, web surfing, e-mailing, and rampant Twitter checking, the Galaxy S 4G lasted throughout the entire day. If we talked on the phone more, we imagine the battery wouldn't last as long, but who talks on the phone anymore?
• Clean, responsive UI: Oh, the difference an update makes. With Android 2.2 Froyo, the Galaxy S 4G is like an entirely new phone. Response times are faster, the interface is cleaner, it's generally more pleasurable to use. Yes, that has a bit to do with the 1 GHz Hummingbird processor. We also came to appreciate the modest update to Samsung's TouchWiz software. Unlike other companies' overlaying software, TouchWIz isn't obtrusive and accents Froyo.
• Nice extras: Samsung and T-Mobile throw in a digital copy of Inception when you buy the phone. Pretty cool. Also dope is the AirSync app which lets you connect to your computer and stream you iTunes collection to the phone. It takes a while to get it running smoothly, but once you do it's pretty neat.
• Call drops: We found that when we couldn't get a good 4G connection, our phone would frequently drop out calls. When we had an alright 3G connection, however, we fared much better.
• Fit and feel: The Galaxy S 4G is a premium phone. It ranks up there with the other high-end phones on the market, but compared to the others, it doesn't feel like one. Though it weighs more than the iPhone, it feels less substantial in hand. That may be due to the use of plastic. Some users may appreciate the physical brevity of the phone, but we didn't.
• No HDMI port: For a phone that touts its ability to record high-def video and download HD movies, it's a bit strange that you can't output those videos to a larger screen.
• No flash: Party pictures are hard take without one.
Final say: The Samsung Galaxy S 4G is a refresh of the popular Vibrant phone. If you have a Vibrant, there's really no need to run out and upgrade to the Galaxy, especially since you can now upgrade to Froyo. However, if you're on T-Mobile and are looking for a new touchscreen smartphone, the fast and feature-filled Galaxy S 4G is worth the consideration.