Samsung FascinateNAME: Samsung Fascinate

PRICE: $199.99 w/ two-year contract on Verizon

FUN FACT: Verizon offers a free additional phone with the purchase of the Fascinate.

THE BACK STORY: Over the summer, Samsung introduced its scene-stealing Galaxy S series, and we reviewed the T-Mobile Vibrant and the Sprint Epic 4G models. Just in time for the holidays, Verizon introduces its own version of the Galaxy S series: the Samsung Fascinate. Did America's largest 3G network save the best version of the Galaxy for last? We called in the final model of the series to see if this phone lives up to the hype. Check out our review of the Samsung Fascinate below.


Special features and customization: Samsung's new Galazy phone utilizes Android's 2.1 OS. This platform features seven home screens, new versions of feeds and updates, and customizable widgets, folders, and shortcuts. For the Fascinate, Samsung upgraded its TouchWiz 3.0 interface, a social-networking application that now allows users to reply and edit retweets, display updates, and set the refresh-time rate for all of the big social network sites (Twitter, MySpace, Facebook). Samsung also added a "Buddies Now" widget that allows you to email and message a specific group of friends from an assigned homescreen. The Fascinate also comes with the addictive Swype virtual keyboard found on other Galaxy models, a great hybrid data-entry alternative to hard keys or a soft touch keyboard.

Specs and performance: The Galaxy S brand is synonymous with power and speed, and the Fascinate falls right into step with the Vibrant and Captivate Galaxy versions. It features the same 1GHz Hummingbird processor and 512MB of RAM, which allows data to load quickly. The touchscreen accuracy on this phone is sharp, allowing swiping functions to run smoothly with little lag.

Great display: This phone's four-inch Super AMOLED screen creates a rich color display that makes both still and video images look great, and features a variable brightness adjustment that helps when you're using it in bright sunlight. The pinch-to-zoom functionality does a great job of maximizing the screen by aligning images and reformatting text when you adjust the zoom level.

Pre-installed apps and App Market: Verizon pre-packages Samsung's AllShare app on this phone, an app that lets users stream multimedia (via wi-fi) from the Fascinate to any device, like a Samsung TV or Blu-ray player. Other notable pre-installed apps include Skype Mobile, Car Cradle, Write & Go, Bin, VZ Naviator, and ThinkFree Office. The Android App Market continues to grow, which helps make buying into this OS a good long-term commitment.

Impressive camera and video recorder: The Fascinate may have the best camera of any Verizon phone available. Its 5MP camera snaps sharp images and the LED flash takes great shots in dark settings. Video capturing is just as impressive, offering several options like Action Shot (for fast action shots) and Panorama mode (for less blur), producing 720p HD videos that you can share on Facebook, YouTube, and other social network sites.

Samsung Fascinate (1)


Design and button layout: Up until this point, each phone in the Galaxy series has had its own unique look, but the Fascinate looks like an exact replica of the Vibrant. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, but it also shares the same slippery back-end cover, which makes the phone more drop-prone. The minuscule power button also makes it difficult to turn the phone on and to break it out of sleep mode.

Synchronization and GPS troubles: Ideally, when you sync a smartphone, your address books and calendar should seamlessly merge, but we found we had to manually link contact information for a few entries. Not a huge deal, but it happened. Like other phones, this edition of the Galaxy brand has trouble with GPS pinpoint accuracy. At times it'll be off one block; other times, several. Samsung doesn't claim to be a TomTom alternative, but this can be a pain when you're lost in the city.

Extra charges: While the phone offers hot-spot capability for up to five devices, Verizon requires owners to sign up and drop an extra $20 per month for a 2GB data cap Mobile Broadband plan. Any additional overcharge fees will run up to $0.05 per MB. If you're not careful, that can turn it into America's most expensive network.

The little things: We're guessing there was some payola involved with Verizon's choice of Bing as the default. You can't change it, and typing in kind of sucks every time you search. The camera and video recorder work great, but the lack of a camera shortcut button seems silly. Our final gripe is that the Fascinate doesn't run on Froyo (Android 2.2) at the moment, and app storage must be saved on the phone's 2GB internal memory rather than on an external SD card.


FINAL SAY: As a Verizon phone, the Fascinate is going up against the Droid 2 and Incredible, and it can compete. It has similar advantages to the other Galaxy phones in the marketplace, and, since it appears the iPhone is not coming over to Verizon, the Fascinate is a good alternative. The tweaked TouchWiz interface and promise of Froyo in the next few months are incentives to go with this phone, and we think that for Verizon users, this is a good get.