The Teen Review: T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S 4G

galaxy s 4g cover

We all know T-Mobile’s got some pretty powerful 4G phones coming out this summer (*cough* HTC Sensation 4G *cough*) but what if you’re looking for a powerful, fast all touchscreen 4G phone right now? For that, we’d like to turn your attention to the Samsung Galaxy S 4G, a phone that’s stylish but quite the powerful beast too. Is it worthy of being your next phone though? For all that info and much, much more read on in our full teen review below.

Design and Screen

galaxy s 4g 2

When it comes to design, the Galaxy S 4G is both incredibly amazing and, at least on our review unit, a bit frustrating. Let’s start with what’s great about it.

The first thing you’ll notice– literally– is how awesome the 4 inch Super AMOLED screen is. If there is one thing Samsung is amazing at, it is producing top of the line screens and the screen here is one of the best we’ve seen. Everything we looked at– texts, websites, videos (like the pre-loaded full copy of Inception), pictures– looked incredible. If you’re looking for your phone to have a screen that will impress everyone who looks at it, then the Galaxy S 4G is perfect for you.

galaxy s 4g inception

Inception on the Galaxy S 4G

We also we’re very impressed with how well the phone felt in our hands. It’s very thin (about as thin as the iPhone 4) but at the same time feels solid in your hands. It’s kinda like a perfect mix for a phone like this: great, large but not too large a screen yet still very thin with a great feel.

Now we did run into one fairly large problem, at least on our review unit: a death touch (yes just like the iPhone 4). Where we tested the Galaxy S 4G, all across the NYC area, we had excellent coverage– constantly getting 3-4 bars of T-Mobile 4G– however, every time we held the phone in our left hand we saw the signal drop from 4 to sometimes no bars and no service.

Again though this may just be an issue with our unit  (there doesn’t seem to be any other reports of this happening anywhere else online) and the ones you buy in a T-Mobile store or online may be 100% fine. We contacted Samsung about this and will update this review once we hear back.

Assuming that this just an issue for us, the Galaxy S 4G is one of the most stylish phones we’ve seen.

Cameras

galaxy s 4g front camera

The Galaxy S 4G, like pretty much all of T-Mobile’s new 4G phones, packs not one but two cameras: a 5 megapixel one on the back with a VGA one on the front for video chat (pretty much the same as what’s on other high-end phones like the iPhone 4). While we wish the back camera had a flash, the pictures and videos we took with it were incredible. Just look at these pics we took (click to enlarge).

galaxy s 4g mets galaxy s 4g mets 2 galaxy s 4g mets 1 galaxy s 4g mets 5

The front camera, while not as great as the back one, took solid pix as well and was more than fine for video chatting. Speaking of video chatting the Galaxy S 4G comes pre-loaded with T-Mobile Video Chat powered by Qik and it works pretty well for Android to Android video chat.  We couldn’t get it to work for Android to iPhone video chat (this is something Qik is aware of and hopes to have a fix for soon). Of course like all Android phones you can download other video chatting apps like Fring (which we did) and this worked fine for iPhone to Android video chatting.

Sound/Call Quality

galaxy s 4g back

When it comes to playing back music or videos on the Galaxy S 4G prepare to be blown away. The sound that we got out of the back speaker here was not just loud, but crystal clear as well. Like the screen it’s just amazing.

Unfortunately, calls didn’t sound as great both on and off speaker. It was still very good and should be more than fine for most people, just calls didn’t always come in loud and clear both on our end and those we called. After hearing the speaker for music, we were hoping for better.

galaxy s 4g headphones

Oh, and the Galaxy S 4G also comes with some really nice in ear headphones, that at least to us, felt and sounded almost as if they were noise cancelling ones you’d find for $50 at a Best Buy. They make those bundled iPhone headphones look (and sound) downright pathetic.

Battery Life

Battery life on the Galaxy S 4G was remarkably solid. We figured with the 1 GHZ processor, 4G, and super screen this thing would be dead halfway through a school day but we were happily very wrong. We were able to get about 10 hours (from 7 AM to 5 PM) with emails and texts constantly being pushed in along side lots of web browsing, video streaming and music playing. You’re gonna need to recharge every night like any other 4G phone, but in terms of getting you through the day this should be no problem.

Software

galaxy s 4g lockscreen puzzle

Now that we’ve got the hardware parts of the Galaxy S 4G covered let’s move on to software.

The Galaxy S 4G runs Android 2.2 with Samsung’s custom TouchWiz UI on top. While we really like the uncustomized version of Android, we must say Samsung has done a pretty impressive job here. Everything was pretty much always quick to load (with the exception of the widgets menu for some reason, that always took an extra second or two). We also really liked the “tweaks” added here like the puzzle unlock screen for when you have a missed call or unread text (basically you drag the puzzle piece for either the phone or text to the hole which then unlocks the phone in either the phone or messaging app depending on which you chose– see pic above) and the easy access to turn off WiFi, Bluetooth or GPS right from the notification bar (great for saving battery– see pic below).

galaxy s 4g notification bar

We also like that T-Mobile and Samsung didn’t load this up with crapware (such as a whole bunch of game demos and trial apps that you can’t remove even if you never use them). Sure there are some apps like Gogo (a link on your apps menu which takes you to an expired program for free inflight WiFi), Layar (an augmented reality app. Cool but something we don’t think needs to be on every phone and something we rarely ever used), and TeleNav GPS (which we also don’t see any need for considering Google already offers a great free GPS option in Google Maps Navigation) that we wish we could remove (we couldn’t), but most apps we actually found pretty useful (like T-Mobile Video Chat, Amazon Kindle and Mp3, and AirSync and doubleTwist. The last two we really loved as it’s not only an easy way to sync you iTunes music and videos with your phone through the doubleTwist PC/Mac app but with the AirSync app it lets you sync them wirelessly over your home WiFi).

Oh, and you also have the awesome Swype keyboard on here which we and everyone we showed the phone to really loved using.

All in all, when it comes to the Android side of things the Galaxy S 4G is equally solid.

4G

galaxy s 4g speedtest

That’s really fast!

So seeing as this is a 4G phone let’s get to the biggest part of this review: how fast it is. In our tests all around the NYC area we found the Galaxy S 4G to be super fast. Yes that’s right, super fast. We’re talking constant speeds of 5-6 Mbps download and 1.5-2 Mbps per second upload or in simple terms: fast enough to do anything you want. YouTube videos and live T-Mobile TV loaded pretty much instantly and looked great, songs downloaded in seconds, while apps, games and sites all downloaded just as quick.

When it comes to 4G, T-Mobile and Samsung made sure this thing flies.

Wrap Up

galaxy s 4g browser

Ok so now we get to the big final question: if you’re looking for a new T-Mobile Android phone should you get the Galaxy S 4G right now over something like the more powerful LG G2X and upcoming HTC Sensation 4G?

We really loved using the Galaxy S 4G and right now find it to be deservedly one of the top phones in T-Mobile’s lineup. That being said, the uncertainty over if/when this will get upgraded to the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread (something both the G2X and Sensation 4G will have and something Samsung reps wouldn’t confirm with us) and the signal drop issue are both major concerns (though again, the signal drop may just be with this particular Galaxy S 4G we used and all others are perfectly fine).

Of course, if you can find it during one of T-Mobile’s sales for free (which they did recently as a “midnight sale”) or even at $149.99 like on Amazon with a 2 year contract, it’s definitely worth a strong look. Assuming this does get Gingerbread (which we think will happen at some point) and the signal issue is just our unit then this is one of the best and fastest phones T-Mobile has ever offered and one that you’ll be more than happy to use for the next two years.

The Galaxy S 4G is available now for $179.99 with a new 2 year contract and after $50 mail in rebate from T-Mobile.

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Posted on April 21, 2011, in Cell Phones, First Look/Reviews, T-Mobile and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I was an iPhone user who decided to buy new SGS4G for some “freedom” and cheaper cell/data service. And another reason I bought this device is because it is very close to iphone. Here comes my review after a week of its ownership.

    Pros

    1. Cheaper and faster: Speed difference from iPhone is obvious with 4G and better processor. T-mobile provides with cheaper plans.

    2. Smooth and beautiful Video: I rarely watch TV/movies on a smartphone. This device made me think again. Quality of the movie screen is amazing – smooth and clear. Watching experience is close to laptop. I will enjoy this on flight.

    3. Camera: Without considering more resolution, this camera is better than the one in iPhone GS. It is much less sensible for small shaking.

    4. Wireless tethering: I didn’t really care for tethering with 3G because of its terrible speed. But this device’s 4G now and supposed to be 21 Mbps. After rooting, I first installed wireless tethering. And it works like a charm. This portable wifi router does not really make 21 Mbps but 8 Mbps but it’s still practical. Think about IPad or Kindle with this phone in my pocket. They are always connected without paying a buck for 3G plan/device.

    5. Unlimited expandability: Since it’s android OS, unlike iphone, the device is not much restricted to expand. You can virtually install whatever you want.

    Cons

    1. Lack of internal memory: 500MB internal memory is too small to store apps. So after getting this device, you’d better start moving apps into internal 16G SD card. As I will mention about this below, however, not all apps can be moved to SD.

    2. Bloated apps: Unnecessary apps occupy in apps screen and some of them also automatically run. And most of these bloated apps can’t be deleted nor moved to SD card. – Solution: Root and Titanium Backup. See the last part of this review.

    3. No flash LED: I rarely use it for taking pictures so it does not matter much to me. But it’s one component people may want to have at some point. Besides, you can use it for other purposes with apps. As other devices in this price range have the LED, I am not sure why Samsung is not getting it with this excellent device otherwise.

    4. Bad battery: I guess this may be the reason SGS4G is so light but its battery life is not close to the one in iPhone 3GS. My daily use is not that heavy but I always get 20-30% battery power remaining at the end of a day. In my test, playing 2-3 hours of a movie will drain the battery out. UPDATE: I’ve looked ways to overcome this issue, and so far, the best one is buying extra OEM batteries and charger to keep replacing battery on the device. I first thought it’s one of the stupidest ideas. But with charger taking care of the extra batteries (two extras in my case), you are free from worrying about battery life and your device doesn’t have to be connected to USB cable. The OEM batteries are already cheap so don’t think about buying cheaper batteries as I did. One of cheapest batteries I tried almost bricked my device.

    Root: Root is like easy jailbreak for Android device but without any downside. Of course Rooted device can be bricked and void of warranty but in reality, most of times, CS will fix the bricked device under warranty. Google “Super One Click” for more details.

    Titanium Backup: After root, get the Titanium backup app to delete all unnecessary apps. One thing to remember: don’t delete telenav app because it will mess GPS up otherwise.

    In summary, root is almost required for this smart phone – root will take less than 30 mins. Other than that, with its amazing speed and powerful customizing ability from Android OS, I still have to figure out what it can do. This device is truly a personal computer + more in my hand. I like it a lot more than iPhone.

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