Name: Samsung Epic 4G Touch
Price: $200 (w/ two-year contract)
The Back Story: The original Samsung Galaxy S series took the smartphone market by storm last year, bringing a quartet of powerful and visually stunning handsets featured on each of the big U.S. carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon). Since its inception, the Samsung phones have become the fastest selling Android devices, moving over 10 million plus units across the globe. In February, the manufacturer announced its successor, the Galaxy S II, and made the decision to first release it overseas. The result: over 3 million devices sold in 55 days. That's 1 phone sold every 1.5 seconds. Now after months of anticipation, the U.S. finally gets its licks with Sprint being the first out the gate, introducing an updated version to its Galaxy model titled the Epic 4G Touch.
Despite sporting a keyboard-less form factor, the new Epic tackles an overhauled TouchWiz UI that gives HTC's interface a run for its money, as well as Samsung's powerful and alluring Super AMOLED display. Throw in the Galaxy S' signature media vistas and advanced camera settings—you're looking at a top contender for Android phone of the year. But where does it stack up against Sprint's other powerhouses?
• Upgraded TouchWiz UI and features: It’s hard to sell us on any Android overlay that isn’t HTC Sense, but Samsung’s polished and feature-centric UI has finally won us over. The manufacturer has simplified the process of swiping across the homescreens by integrating a scrolling feature that can be accessed by holding down the bullet-point navigator and shifting across any of the seven windows. Widgets can now be resized to take up a majority or a small portion of the screen. Like most Sprint Android phones, you’ll run into a bunch of Google and carrier-based bloatware like Sprint Music Plus and NASCAR, but you can uninstall some of it through the preloaded Task Manager. The management app also informs subscribers of their recently downloaded programs, RAM status, and system storage.
Sprint includes a number of Sprint ID packs designed to meet users interests by including special themes that come with apps, widgets, and wallpapers to enhance the Android experience. Best of all, the Epic 4G Touch comes equipped with a photo and video editor to create and edit projects on the go using any footage or photos stored on the device. Splice and trim clips, or add effects for visual flair. Our favorite feature is the screenshot grab, which is accessible by holding down the home key and power button at the same time. It's the simple things...
• Jaw-dropping display and motion functionality: Samsung's new 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display is by far the most visually stunning touchscreen we’ve laid our eyes on. Aside from offering an expnaded viewing experience with its mammoth size, it’s ridiculously bright (even on the lowest setting) and produces vibrant output. The 800 x 480-pixel resolution might be a step down from the Photon 4G’s 960 x 640-qHDscreen, but still, overall, the Epic 4G Touch's display is better. Another great addition to the touchscreen is motion gesture capability. For instance, you’re able to zoom in and out of the web browser by placing two fingers on the screen and tilting the phone, or setting the phone to mute by turning it face down. Voice commands and icon homescreen placement is supported as well by going into the motion settings options.
• Built for multimedia: A beautiful screen is nothing without dope media. Netflix is a top download priority, as the streaming quality and video output on this phone is remarkable, especially when screened onto a compatible HDTV. For those big on owning and renting content, Samsung and Sprint overload you with extras like Media Hub and Sprint TV & Movies. A majority of media formats are supported, along with DIVX and XVID 1080p video playback. Android Market and HD games (N.O.V.A. 2) run smooth and display rendered graphics well thanks in part to the 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos CPU. Lastly, as a DLNA-enabled device, there’s the option to wirelessly share files using the AllShare app, or view call logs, videos, photos, SMS, and other mobile information from your computer with the Kies Air app.
• Sprint's best camera phone: Some claim the Motorola Photon 4G to be the better of the two, but we found the photog experience on Samsung’s device to be superior. The shutter speed on the 8MP rear camera is super fast and takes shots at an est. 0.5 seconds, plus the auto focus is accurate and lag-free. Image quality is, to say the least, stellar, as images looked sharp and highly detailed in both dark and light environments. On top of that, it’s capable of recording 1080p HD and 720p videos, though we recommend shooting with the latter as you’ll be able capture clips at 30fps in any setting. The front-facing 2MP camera offers better image quality for self-portraits and video conferencing, too.
• Solid battery performance: A 4G phone capable of holding a charge? Believe it. Samsung’s 1800 mAh battery goes the distance on heavy use, producing between eight to 10 hours of battery life, while conserving enough energy through moderate use to last for an entire day. Here' some advice: turn on the phone's Power Saving Mode via the "Settings" screen and keep tabs on Task Manager consistently for the best battery saving results.
• Underwhelming 4G and voice calling: We found WiMAX coverage to be faster on other Sprint phones, specifically the HTC EVO 3D. Data speeds clocked in at a dismal 6 to 8Mbps during our DataSpeed.net tests in the Tri-State area. Call quality wasn’t any better, as the low sounding speakerphone and subpar noise-cancellation technology made it difficult to communicate on both ends.
• Missing peripherals: The one component that made the original Epic 4G one of last year’s premier Android models was its great QWERTY keyboard. Now that the manufacturer has decided to phase out the slider in favor of a fully functional touchscreen with motion capability, the second-gen device might not sit well with physical button conformists. In addition, the phone is missing a real HDMI port and requires an MHL adapter to mirror content onto any HDTV.
• Not a world phone: Considering the Galaxy S II has been on the international market for quite some time, it’s dumbfounding to see that Samsung didn’t make its US version a global device. But as a CDMA phone, subscribers can still make calls and send emails in foreign countries that fall under Sprint’s data roaming agreement such as India and China.
Final Say: Once again, the improved UI, multimedia features, and sleek presentation value push the Galaxy S II to the top of the next-gen Android platform. At least until we get our hands on the Ice Cream Sandwich OS devices. In the same vein as the original Galaxy models, the Epic 4G Touch’s selling points are its impeccable media delivery and limitless entertainment options. Plus the addition of cool offerings in the form of a mobile video editor and simultaneous voice and data coverage over 4G make it a mobile cellular king. The Exynos dual-core also does a great job of multitasking, while zipping through web pages and menu navigation. As cool as the touchscreen motion-gesture technology comes off, we prefer the phone's trademark QWERTY keyboard instead. Another gripe is the inconsistent data speeds delivered by Sprint’s WiMAX network, which continues to be an issue for some of the carrier’s elite Android handsets. As far it being Sprint's top phone, it shares the throne with the Photon 4G. Overall, the Epic 4G Touch is a great introduction phone for the Galaxy S II series that will easily draw the attention of the mainstream masses come holiday season.