Name: Samsung Droid Charge
Price: $300 w/two-year contract
The Back Story: The nation’s largest mobile network has been dominating the 4G wars, leaving AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the dust with its high-speed LTE network. Back in March, HTC set things off by releasing what would become the fastest mobile handset on the market, the Thunderbolt. But the phone’s inability to toggle between 3G and 4G and poor battery life made it a bittersweet purchase for subscribers. After experiencing some minor delays, Samsung has finally released the carrier’s second LTE phone, the Droid Charge, promising faster data speeds, and introducing the newest version of Samsung’s trademark Super AMOLED screen. So does the first-ever LTE Droid have what it takes to steal the Thunderbolt’s thunder as the superior Verizon Android phone? If you checked out our recent Top 15 Android Phones Available Now list, then you caught a sneak peak of what the 4G titan has to offer. Now here's our full breakdown.
• Warp-speed 4G: We were stunned by how amazingly fast Verizon’s LTE network ran on the Thunderbolt and Samsung’s latest left us with the same impression. Data speeds ranked high, as we tested the device using the SpeedTest.net app, which clocked download speeds between 12 to 15 Mbps throughout New York City. Upload speeds came in at about 3 to 4 Mbps. And once again, Android Market purchases zoomed through the notification bar and completed within a matter of seconds. With high-speed performance like this, Samsung should have named it the Droid Flash.
• All-new Super AMOLED screen: Samsung might have blessed the Infuse 4G with the biggest Super AMOLED display (4.5-inches), but this 4.3-inch beast tackles the latest and more advanced version: the Super AMOLED Plus display. The new display generates 50 percent more subpixels, supports 180-degree viewing angles, and outputs incredibly sharp and bright imagery. Using it in the sun is a breeze as it has superb outdoor visibility.
• TouchWiz interface goodies: Samsung's improved UI can be found on other Android devices, but this specific version comes packaged with a few Easter eggs. This version of TouchWiz lets you capture screenshots of web pages, menus, and even video games by holding down the Back key and pressing the Home key. Another unique option is the ability to re-arrange and delete apps directly from app tray. Samsung and Verizon also include a number of useful multimedia and customer portals like the Media Hub, V Cast Media, and My Verizon Mobile.
• Dope wireless features: Hotspot capability can connect up to 10 devices on the LTE network (five on 3G service). Plus, for a limited time, Verizon is offering the $20 monthly service and a 2GB data cap for free. You can store and stream content on cloud services like Amazon Cloud Music and wirelessly transfer data between other DLNA-enabled devices with the accompanying AllShare app.
• Superior call quality: If actually talking on the phone is your thing, the Droid Charge is sure to please. We enjoyed clear and distortion-free calls, as well as rich audio from the speakerphone. While network coverage varied across the city, whether it was 4G or 3G service, there were no dropped calls or noticeable background noise on our end.
• A 4G phone with juice: Some have knocked the handset for its lack of energy, but we found the 1600 maH battery to provide a sufficient amount of juice for a 4G phone. Besides getting a good 10 to 12 hours of talk time, we managed to pull about eight hours on heavy use, which is a two- to three-hour difference from our experience with the Thunderbolt. The phone also features energy-efficient solutions like a Task Manager and the ability to toggle between network speeds by disabling the 4G radio via settings menu.
• Bulky and unstylish form factor: At 5.11 inches tall and 0.46 inches thick, the Droid Charge is a handful to carry. The plastic body frame lacks the affluent look and feel of HTC’s 4G beauty, and its slippery back surface makes the handset susceptible to clumsy drops. Another design flaw comes from the manufacturer’s decision to run with old-fashioned physical button scheme (below the screen) instead of the stylish and more popular haptic touchscreen keys.
• Sluggish web browser and limited capability: The same lag issues we experienced with the Samsung Infuse 4G are present here. Flash- and ad-heavy websites would either take around 20 to 30 seconds to load, or lock-up the browser. It’s also worth noting that you can only open a max of four windows on the phone’s primary browser, so we recommend downloading a third-party browser like Firefox or Dolphin HD.
• On the expensive side: The first-ever LTE Droid phone just so happens to be the carrier’s most expensive (next to the iPhone 4 32GB). No one ever said 4G came cheap.
• Underwhelming CPU: Today’s smartphones either sport a speedy dual-core processor or dynamic second-gen 1GHz CPU. The same can’t be said here, as the device’s 1GHz Hummingbird unit drags in performance, especially when executing multitask functions and playing 3D games.
Final Say: It’s up for debate, but after taking its faster data-speed performance, illuminating touchscreen, and wireless support into account, the edge goes to the Droid Charge as the perennial LTE device. Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus screen is a marvel to stare at and produces eye-catching visuals that are comparable to the iPhone 4’s Retina display. Plus the fact that the device can hold a charge longer than the Thunderbolt solidifies our argument. That $300 price tag might persuade subscribers to seek other fast-speed alternatives, but, truth be told, if you want the best, you're going to have to pay for it. And judging by the speed and visual benchmarks, you’re practically getting what you pay for. At the moment, The Droid Charge is Verizon’s best LTE phone.