Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

Summary: Samsung is rolling out their Galaxy S line of smartphones and the first carrier to get the device is T-Mobile USA. This $200 Google Android device looks to set the bar for smartphones on T-Mobile, don't you agree?

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The smartphone market moves at an amazing clip today and in May I put together a top 10 list of smartphones at the time that has radically changed over the last couple of months. I also mentioned top smartphone on each carrier in June and would make at least one change to that list. You could buy a Nexus One and use it on T-Mobile, but it was never sold through the T-Mobile retail channels and all the other Android devices were more mid-level quality. The T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant has now changed that and rises to the top of the heap for T-Mobile smartphones. I thought the HTC HD2 would be that top smartphone, but the device let me down too often to take that spot. I have been very happy with my Sprint HTC EVO 4G and wasn't really thinking I would buy my own Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile, but I didn't have a high end smartphone for T-Mobile so I decided to swing by the store and check out the device. After just about 5 minutes of playing with the Vibrant, I went to the counter and found out I was eligible for the $199.99 price (after $50 rebate) so I quickly paid and was on my way. I have now spent several hours with the Vibrant and personally find it better than the Nexus One is several ways and am even enjoying it more than my EVO 4G at the moment. I understand some of this is part of the "new, shiny device" phase and plan to spend a lot more time with it. Check out my image gallery that includes photos and screenshots, my YouTube video, and my first impressions walk around below.


Image Gallery: Check out photos and screenshots of the Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile. Image Gallery: Samsung Vibrant in hand Image Gallery: Typical Home screen panel

In the box and first impressions

T-Mobile and Samsung have some pretty heavy promotions going on with the Samsung Vibrant that include the movie Avatar, Amazon Kindle app, MobiTV service, and The Sims 3 game. Each of these four have icons on each side of the box with the device showing Avatar on the front of the compact, solid box. When you lift off the top of the box you will find the Samsung Vibrant wrapped in plastic with a small black compartment below this and divider under that. The small black compartment stores an extra (red tinted) back cover, Quick Start Guide and some other pamphlets, and a recycle bag. Under the divider you will find a stereo wired headset, A/C wall charger, USB to microUSB cable, and the battery. The included cover has a slight blue tint and that is what I kept on there so far.

I placed my SIM card in the Vibrant, slid the battery in place, and put on the back cover. The Vibrant feels great in your hand and is quite light at just 4.16 ounces. It is almost all plastic, yet it doesn't feel cheap. It looks to be a fingerprint magnet, but is also easy to wipe off. I turned on the display as it was charging up and was extremely impressed with the colors and clarity of the display. The Super AMOLED touch screen looks fantastic and may alone be a reason that people pick up this smartphone.

Specifications

Specifications for the Samsung Vibrant include the following:

  • Android 2.1 with Samsung Touchwiz 3.0 experience
  • Cortex A8 Hummingbird, 1GHz processor
  • Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G (1700/2100 MHz)
  • 4 inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive Super AMOLED touch display
  • Integrated 16GB flash memory and microSD card (2GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera without flash
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.82 x 2.54 x 0.39 inches and 4.16 ounces

Some of the more impressive specs from above are the Super AMOLED display, integrated 16GB of memory with support for a 32GB microSD card, Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 b/g/n, and Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor. I cannot find definitively if there is a FM radio in the device or not, but there is currently no application to use it if the hardware is in there. The size is also quite impressive and even though the display is 4 inches, it feels quite pocketable.

You will also find a few software goodies on the device that I will talk about below. The 2GB microSD card seems quite minimal, but it is preloaded with the full Avatar movie that is protected by DRM so if you do not plan on watching the movie you can simply take it out and put in a card of your choosing.

Walk around the hardware

The front of Samsung Vibrant is dominated by the brilliant 4 inch 480x800 Super AMOLED screen. You really need to see this display to be impressed with the awesome colors and clarity. I had a rare full sunny day today to try it out in and the screen was completely viewable in direct sunlight. There is no front facing camera on the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S device so there will be no video conferencing with it from the front camera. A proximity sensor is found above the display too. Below the display you will find the four flush touch sensitive areas for the menu, home, back, and search functions. I have not seen any indicator lights on the device, but I honestly rarely use or need them myself. However, it is nice to know when a device is fully charged or you missed a message or call when your phone is laying on your desk.

There is nothing on the bottom of the Vibrant. The right side simply holds the very small lock/power button that sticks out just a bit from the side. I found it to be quite functional so far. A single button volume bar is on the upper left side with a lanyard opening above that. The 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB port are found on the top. The microUSB port is actually protected by a sliding plastic door.

Flipping the Vibrant over reveals the 5 megapixel camera (with no flash) and the single mono speaker opening. There is Galaxy S branding on the back cover with a 1500 mAh battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot below.

I read some initial feedback that the RF reception was not super on the Samsung Vibrant and am seeing fewer bars on it than I do on other devices I run with my T-Mobile SIM. I wonder if this can be improved via a software update and will keep an eye on this to see if it is a real issue or just a reporting issue.

Walk through the software

One of the reasons I wasn't really giving much thought to the Samsung Vibrant was my past experiences with a cartoon-like Touchwiz user interface on my Samsung Omnia. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Touchwiz 3 interface primarily consists of some device customizations like scrollable widgets, custom live wallpapers, Swype text input method, slide to unlock, puzzle notification lock option, application launcher, and handy wireless manager in the notification bar. If you don't want to use the widgets, wallpaper, or text entry method then you do not have to so you get a great experience with the device. I find the Swype implementation on the Samsung Vibrant to be one of the best I have tried and am loving this text entry method. I like their live wallpapers and wireless manager too. I can now say that Touchwiz is no longer a reason to avoid this Samsung smartphone.

Samsung is also known for adding some utilities on board their devices and you can find things like their alarm & clocks utility, AllShare (DLNA) utility, Daily Briefing widget, Media Hub (not yet launched), Music Player, Memo, Mini Diary, Voice Recorder, and Video Player. In my video I mentioned I could not figure out how to change the stock name and a reader sent in a note to let me know that you don't just tap the check box, but you also can tap the stock name (and the same for the weather and AP News links) to access more settings.

Exchange is supported with email, contacts, and calendar syncing up with ease. It isn't the most robust Exchange experience, but it gets the job done in most cases.

You will find Avatar on the microSD card, The Sims 3 game (full version), Kindle for Android, Slacker Radio, Gogo inflight internet, MobiTV, ThinkFree Office, and TeleNav GPS navigation. MobiTV has come a LONG way since I tried it on my HTC HD2 and it is a TV streaming service that I plan to use for the free 30 day trial and may find myself adding as a $9.99/month subscription if the content and quality is as good as my initial usage were. The ThinkFree Office app is a viewer and I personally loaded up QuickOffice to meet my own Office needs. I love the Kindle and Slacker apps so kept them on and set them up too. I look forward to trying out the Gogo internet service when I take a supported flight.

I was worried a bit about the 5 megapixel camera with no flash, but I honestly cannot remember ever taking a quality image in the dark with a flash on my smartphone so really could care less about a flash. I was encouraged to see the options in the camera software with multiple shooting modes, quality, specific settings, and more that should help take decent photos. I love the easy panoramic mode where you press the button once and then just move right to capture the rest with the green border guide. I included a macro and panoramic shot I took in my image gallery and they look decent, but I am seeing a bit of fuzziness in photos and think they could definitely be sharper. This seems like a software fix more than anything and maybe we will indeed see an improvement with an update. Video is also captured in 720p quality so I plan to test out this capability soon.

The phone dialer is also quite good with large numbers and smart dial support. There are four easy to access tabs on the top of the dialer for dialer, call log, favorites, and voicemail.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Vibrant is available on T-Mobile right now for $199.99 with a $50 rebate for those who want a 2-year contract or extension. The full Even More Plus (no contract) price is $499.99. This $500 price is a bit too steep for me, but at $200 I couldn't pass it up. I was actually told I had two eligible lines for the full reduced upgrade price and I could have bought one Vibrant and gotten one for free (BOGO), but I didn't want to add smartphone data to another line on my family plan. Every carrier will be getting some version of a Galaxy S device, but T-Mobile is out of the gates first with the Vibrant.

Topics: Samsung, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

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16 comments
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  • Vibrant is an awesome phone

    During the past weeks, based out of reviews on the web, my impression was that the Vibrant had too many flaws. Had the chance to test drive it a week back, my impressions then were similar.

    Yesterday I had one in my hands for over an hour. Along with a Droid X a Captivate an a 4G. Vibrant came out on top on many fronts:

    - The screen is amazing
    - Processor adored speed is outstanding
    - HSPA+ makes all other phones seem, like they use dial up.
    - T ouch screen is amazing
    - Quality is great
    - TV out exist over the 3.5mm jack or HDLA
    - Bluetooth works like it sould
    - Video is better than all other phones even 4G.
    - Camera bight shot makes the need for Flash workable.
    - The camera could use some improvements zoom & flash.
    - Reception is great

    Only issue was the somewhat directional antenna which had minor signal loss in some weak signal zones.but a slight correction in orientation would fix it.

    T mob Samsung you made a very nice device. Fix the camera add an FFC, HDMI with Froyo and you would have the perfect phone.
    Uralbas
    • TV out works, huh?

      @Uralbas I will have to grab one of my Nokia cables that uses TV out via the 3.5mm headset jack and see if that works with the Vibrant. I didn't even think to check the 3.5mm headset jack for that since the latest devices have HDMI ports.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
    • Why Carry cables or wires? :O

      @Uralbas Nice review, but I'll add some features you're missing. FM and not just FM receiver, FM Transmitter, so you can play your music on any Car or Home Stereo (support coming in Android 2.2)!

      DLNA and it works over both Wifi Direct (device to device). Meaning; why carry a cable when you can deliver full 720p HD video w/ surround (no less) to your DLNA capable device (PS3, Xbox360, cable box, new Google DirectTV, Logitech GoogleTV, HDTV', etc). These also include your PC via Wifi Router or BlueTooth 3.0 which is faster than WiFi-N at 6ft and just as fast at 30ft. No HDMI cable even needed!

      For me being into games, the Wifi DLNA will rock playing games on my 65" HDTV wireless instead of draping a super long HDMI cable out for people to trip over. Also my HDMI ports on on the back of the TV and I won't have to touch my PS3, TV's media PC or anything ever!

      btw...... Android 2.x update will make this phone a dream. For once this hardware is ahead of the curve!
      i2fun
      • FM specifications?

        @i2fun@... Where did you hear about the FM specifications? I looked all over and never heard about the FM radio or transmitter capabilities on the device. I sure hope it is true since I only have a couple of Nokia phones with the FM transmitter capability and this would make the device much more usable for me.
        palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • FM Transceiver, Just not Supported til Android 2.2!

        @i2fun@... It's in the combo radio, but I'm not sure that it's active until Android 2.2 update for support. If not then it'll get the update in the fall. That's what I gathered from a Korean site. That support was coming and that some surprises having to do with high res fonts and icon in an update soon. That would show off the Super AMOLED's Resolution (a swipe at Retina, because it's the 300dpi fonts Apple's using that are making it look sharper for reading along w/ extremely high dpi icons. Compared to Android's low res icons and low dpi non SVG converted to SVG fonts (for vectored Resolution Free fonts).<br><br>I've seen other mentions of the radio referred to as FM RDS so that would mean something about it being capable of receiving road construction bulletins, etc.<br><a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-12261_7-10002899-20.html?s=0&o=10002899" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-12261_7-10002899-20.html?s=0&o=10002899" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-12261_7-10002899-20.html?s=0&o=10002899" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-12261_7-10002899-20.html?s=0&o=10002899" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-12261_7-10002899-20.html?s=0&o=10002899</a></a></a></a> <br><br>This is Broadcom page on the part number from the tear down:<br><a href="http://www.broadcom.com/products/Bluetooth/Bluetooth-RF-Silicon-and-Software-Solutions/BCM20751" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.broadcom.com/products/Bluetooth/Bluetooth-RF-Silicon-and-Software-Solutions/BCM20751" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.broadcom.com/products/Bluetooth/Bluetooth-RF-Silicon-and-Software-Solutions/BCM20751" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.broadcom.com/products/Bluetooth/Bluetooth-RF-Silicon-and-Software-Solutions/BCM20751" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.broadcom.com/products/Bluetooth/Bluetooth-RF-Silicon-and-Software-Solutions/BCM20751</a></a></a></a><br><br>Samsung Galaxy Series phones are the first to receive this WiFi Direct capable SoC and some interesting things are coming from other features in it too. <br><br>FM Radio w/RDS and FM Recording as well in Wave. So Bada supports more features than Android does as yet. Same chis in both though!<br><a href="http://www.careace.net/2010/06/08/comparison-of-iphone-4-vs-samsung-wave-and-samsung-galaxy-s/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.careace.net/2010/06/08/comparison-of-iphone-4-vs-samsung-wave-and-samsung-galaxy-s/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.careace.net/2010/06/08/comparison-of-iphone-4-vs-samsung-wave-and-samsung-galaxy-s/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"><a href="http://www.careace.net/2010/06/08/comparison-of-iphone-4-vs-samsung-wave-and-samsung-galaxy-s/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.careace.net/2010/06/08/comparison-of-iphone-4-vs-samsung-wave-and-samsung-galaxy-s/</a></a></a></a><br><br>Note: All Action Graphics, Games, etc in the future are going to look far better on Super AMOLED Galaxy than iPhone or any other LCD or AMOLED Screen. Because of the super fast response time and contrast ratio and the fact NO IPS LCD has a chance in hell of competing with it. iPhone's abysmal 25ms is more like the first desktop LCD screens in speed. Fast action Games & Video will ghost and display irregularly. Especially since the Galaxy has been designed for the future w/ that 3x the display capability of iPhones SGX535 GPU at 90million Triangles/per/sec rendering speeds. Which is the reason it can put up HD 720p graphics over WiFi Direct DLNA or BlueTooth 3.0 DLNA to your HDTV. This is the reason they did not bother putting in an HDMI out port. Also because HDMI restricts graphics w/ HDCP. DLNA doesn't restrict anything being a wireless broadcast in the first place and being both Wifi 2.4ghz and 5.0ghz (unlike iPhone4, etc's 2.4ghz ONLY)!<br><br>My plan is to buy either the DirectTV Google Box or the Logitech GoogleTV Box. They are going to be WiFi Direct (I believe dual band as well). Along with Bluetooth 3.0 DLNA capable. This feature can auto Sync and because of it's extremely fast speed (faster than Wifi G or N) and low 6 to 30ft range it will not conflict with any other signals. Bluetooth 3.0 DLNA is the FUTURE!
        i2fun
  • I have the Galaxy S

    And it's a great phone. It has an FFC, still no flash, but as Matthew says - when was the last time you took a night shot with your mobile phone? (and there was no other light source around)

    Only down side is it looks very similar to an iPhone and ifans come up to me and say... oh, you've got an iPhone.

    I used to just say no, but now I say it's the new iPhone 4a, they look a bit puzzled, then I explain that it's the iPhone 4 but with the antennae, bluetooth, and proximity sensor problems all fixed.

    ;-)
    iTeaBoy
    • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

      @iTeaBoy

      hahahaha, that's awesome! 10 points man.....
      gidman
  • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

    I've gotten deep into these remarkable phones Samsung is releasing and there is no doubt they far outrank every single phone out there in so many ways!

    #1 - Screen; 100,000:1 compared to iPhone4's 800:1 Real World contrast ratio. But it's the response time that kicks every phone on the planet to the curb being 0.01ms. Which is as close to instantaneous as you can get. Especially compared to iPhone4's snail response time of 25ms. Why is this so important? Because these phones are NOT eReaders!

    If you want a over rated ereader, then iP4 is your best choice. If what you want is a Multimedia Phone then Samsung's Super AMOLED is your BEST CHOICE. Play games or watch action movies? Super AMOLEAD!
    http://cfile27.uf.tistory.com/original/140B801A4C183C762FE807

    (note: the original page this graph is from destroys the myth of higher pixel density. It explains that in the fall when 2.2 Android is available for Galaxy Series phones SVG vectored fonts (resolution free 300dpi) and higher dpi icons will shed a new light on the subject. Also it relates to the sweet spot view distance for the screen size)

    #2 - Samsung makes 50% of the cost of all parts in iPhone4. In so doing, they've strived to put better parts into their own phones while Apple went CHEAP. Hummingbird blows Apple A4 away merely by having the full Arm Neon Multimedia Engine and OS support programed into Android. But not fully deployed until Android 2.2. On top of that you have the first time the SGX540 GPU has been put in a device. It can display 3x what the iP4 or any other phone out can at 90million Triangles/p/sec and with that Super AMOLED screen, when 2.2 comes out it'll get all phones to the curb.

    #3 - Samsung has the newest and best radios out. Compared to any other device. First phone to have WiFi Direct b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 (10x speed of iP4's BT2.1), DLNA Media Server and w/ Android 2.2 full OS support for all these. 3G/4G Baseband Radio w/ Full VOIP (Voice/Video) supported radio. Meaning when Google/GIPS HD Video Conferencing is released for Galaxy, they will have Facetime's Engine running on hardware capable of using it over 3G/4G (btw Facetime is running GIPS Engine). Galaxy has TV-Video Out via it's headphone jack. Cameras both have Smile and Face detection. 5mp camera has outstanding low light capability and again when 2.2 comes out dramatic changes will come into use with it's ambient light sensing abilities and auto backside lighting effects. Adobe is expanding the features of it's Photoshop Mobile for Android. Of course there is more on the way in features that are hidden at this time, but you've made a great choice if you own one of these Galaxy Series Phones!!! ;)
    i2fun
  • The display is amazing

    The display is simply amazing. Compared it with my colleague's iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4 looks washed out (although there seems to be a bluish tinge to the whites).<br><br>It's extremely fast all though every once in a while there's a lag. The 3G speeds in Atlanta have varied a great deal. Still trying to get a definitive feel for it.<br><br>Surprisingly good TouchWiz interface - except for the iPhone like icons pages in the apps drawer. The notifications enhancement for wireless toggles and for music is very WebOSish. <br><br>I haven't been able to figure out how to get DLNA working. Windows 7 can't see the phone and the phone can't see Windows 7.<br><br>Does anyone know which cable I should be using to hook it up to the TV? Is there a 3.5" to hdmi cable?<br><br>A few annoyances<br>1. The Android keys are not hard keys and the back light keeps going off in 4-5 seconds. I can't find out how to keep it on.<br>2. Can't figure out how to change the stock apps in the dock. But Launcher Pro fixes that problem.<br>3. This one is really annoying. On my G1, I could restrict my contacts group to just "My Contacts" in Google Contacts. Here I have only the option to show contacts with phone numbers or all contacts. All the contacts Google automatically adds with just email addresses are now flooding my contacts list.

    Problem #2 is solved with some rather unintuitive steps documented at http://www.cellpassion.com/2010/07/12/review-samsung-galaxy-s-part-one/
    os2baba
  • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

    The only flaw I see is the stalling, and the bars not being properly calibrated. I show no coverage at home but I can make calls and things just fine. There is a thread on XDA about it.
    seemytailbby
  • Email setup on Vibrant Samsung Tmobile

    Email set-up for IMAP is very juvenile. Setup on Iphone was about 3 minutes. Setup on TMobile Shadow about 3 minutes. Setup on Blackberry Curve about 3 minutes. So far, no combination of attempts work. The problem is that the error messages are two (2). So it is hard to know what the phone does not like about the settings. So, after almost four years of using the same email servers...I guess the phone goes back to the store.
    mxlouis
    • Simple!

      @mxlouis First of all if you're using pop or imap why aren't you aggregating everything within gmail? It's simple in gmail to get all your mail even from accounts that charge you to aggregate mail, like Yahoo or AOL within their own systems. You can keep track of all your email in gmail so much easier. If you have problems because of screen size, just use a PC to do all the setup by logging into the same account.

      Then by all means get yourself a Google voice account number to aggregate all your phone numbers so that one number calls all of them. My home phone had this service..... for a price of course. The Google Phone number is FREE for Life. It helps you stay safer and eliminates the guess work out of friends having to guess where you're at and call five numbers to get you.

      I admit I don't have the phone, but it's childish to think you'd give up on a phone that's the most powerful one out there to date over email setup!

      http://www.knowyourcell.com/samsung/samsunggalaxys/galaxy-s-guides/498611/how_to_set_up_pop3_and_imap_email_accounts_on_the_samsung_galaxy_s.html

      This is just one page of "How To's" to help you. But it looks like there is an odd setup procedure at the bottom of this page. Get through that minor roadblock and you're home free!
      i2fun
  • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

    Is there a way to cut, copy, & paste from an e-mail that I received in either the e-mail or Gmail app? I tried, but it didn't even give me anything to click on, in order to copy & paste from an e-mail. I heard that this is an issue with all Android phones, especially touchscreen models. Can anyone point me to a solution to this problem? That's the only serious usability problem I've run into with the Samsung Vibrant thus far. Hopefully 2.2 Froyo will fix it.
    analog spirit
    • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

      @analog spirit <br>I was looking for anyone else that had that problem. It's pretty annoying coming from an iPhone (which only of late got the functionality, which works). I can select text in the Web browser, but it is inaccurate. In Gmail app if you hold down on a word, an option pops up to select but not always and doesn't let you modify your selection. <br><br>2 things I need from Android/touchwiz better email app and copy and paste (to specific words).<br>Anyone else have any ideas on this? Will Froyo improve this?
      tjrchka
  • Hands-on with the Bell Canada Samsung Vibrant S Android smartphone FM Radio

    I got Galaxy Vibrant S from Bell Canada last week. Among other goodies it has a FM Radio which works, like a FM radio should. I travel to Toronto daily on transit train, 1 hour each way, and listen to Metro Morning (early morning show) and Here and Now, on CBC Radio 1, 99.1FM. I have 6 preset stations and manual tuning slider.

    FM radio app is built-in. See this link http://support.bell.ca/Documents/User-Guides/Mobile/Samsung/Samsung-EN/Samsung_Galaxys%28en%29.pdf?ver=2.0, jump to page 69 of PDF or page# 58 of the user guide.
    wirelesscanada
  • RE: Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant Android smartphone

    It is actually pretty far from the iPhone - <a href="http://www.phonearena.com/htmls/Samsung-Vibrant-phone-p_4747.html" target="_blank">Samsung Vibrant full specs</a>. Even the design can't get Android device anywhere near. So far...
    wrkiso