Hands-on with the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S 4G

T-Mobile is rolling out their updated Vibrant, called the Galaxy S 4G, today with HSPA+ support, a front facing camera, and Inception movie. It is a decent device worth consideration.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Back in July 2010 I took a look at the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant, a Galaxy S device, and then bought one for myself. I actually returned it within two weeks because it couldn't get a GPS fix and had other software issues. Today, T-Mobile releases a new version of their Galaxy S device, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G that is essentially a Vibrant with Android 2.2 (Froyo) and an HSPA+ 21 Mbps wireless radio. Samsung finally updated the Vibrant to 2.2 just about a month ago so you may be wondering if this device is worth an upgrade if you already have a Vibrant and you can read my thoughts below to find out. You can also check out a short video of the device below and an image gallery with a several photos of the Samsung Galaxy S 4G.

Image Gallery: Check out some photos of the Samsung Galaxy S 4G on T-Mobile.
Image Gallery: Back of the Galaxy S 4G
Image Gallery: Galaxy S 4G in hand

In the box and first impressions

The Vibrant was released last year with the movie Avatar and this time around we see Samsung and T-Mobile including the hit movie Inception on the Galaxy S 4G. T-Mobile uses some nice solid boxes for their phones, unlike the standard thin wall cardboard I see on AT&T phones. The box contains the Galaxy S 4G, Quick Start Guide and some other pamphlets, a recycle bag, stereo wired headset, A/C wall charger, USB to microUSB cable, and the battery.

The Galaxy S 4G is the exact same size as the Samsung Vibrant and has the same shiny silver band around the outside. It feels nice in your hand and is a well made device with a fantastic 4 inch Super AMOLED display and cool new silver back.


Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy S 4G include the following:

  • Android 2.2 with Samsung Touchwiz experience
  • Cortex A8 Hummingbird, 1GHz processor
  • Quad-band GSM and dual-band 3G (1700/2100 MHz) with HSPA+ 21Mbps support
  • 4 inch WVGA (480x800) capacitive Super AMOLED touch display
  • Integrated 185MB of memory and microSD card (16GB included)
  • 5 megapixel camera without flash
  • Front facing 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Dedicated, touch-sensitive Home, Menu, Back and Search areas
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Integrated GPS receiver
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 1650 mAh battery
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Dimensions: 4.82 x 2.54 x 0.39 inches and 4.16 ounces

If you look at my thoughts on the Vibrant you will see the only differences are the front facing camera, lack of large amount of integrated flash memory, support for HSPA+ 21 Mbps, and slightly larger battery. The Galaxy S 4G comes with a 16GB microSD card compared to the 2GB card in the Vibrant, but the Vibrant also had 16GB of internal memory with the ability to add a 32GB microSD card. The Vibrant now has Android 2.2 so that was one major difference that was just taken off the table.

There are some differences in software, such as the inclusion of the Samsung Media Hub service, WiFi calling utility, doubleTwist AirSync, and Qik Video Chat applications.

Walk around the hardware

As I mentioned the hardware is essentially the same as the Vibrant with the The front of being 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. There is a front facing camera for video conferencing with supported applications. 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 Galaxy S 4G. 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 1650 mAh battery, SIM card, and microSD card slot below. The gray back cover is pretty cool with a gray finish that has a bright highlight that appears to "move" as you angle the device in the light and it has a real sci-fi look to it that seems to be made to match the Inception movie.

I can't say enough about the fantastic display and that along with the HSPA+ radio have me actually thinking about this device. Speaking of HSPA+, I tested the Galaxy S 4G out at Seatac airport and was seeing consistent download speeds of 6.4 to 6.7 Mbps and 1.5 to 1.7 Mbps upload. This is pretty screaming compared to the T-Mobile Rocket 2 USB stick that was showing me only 4.7 Mbps down and 1.3 Mbps up. The Galaxy S 4G is a 21 Mbps device while the Vibrant is a 7.2 Mbps HSUPA device so you should see something like double the speeds in actual usage. There is a mobile access point utility on board too so you can use the Galaxy S 4G as a mobile hotspot.

Discussion of the software and services

The software and services are pretty much the same as you will find on the Samsung Vibrant with apps such as Kindle, Slacker Radio, Gogo inflight Internet, T-Mobile TV, ThinkFree Office, TeleNav GPS, Qik video chat, and Wi-Fi Calling. Remember, the Wi-Fi Calling utility simply lets you use your plan minutes over WiFi and is not the same as the previous UMA technology.

I love that Swype is included for text input and can fly with this keyboard. The display is very responsive and the whole experience has been fast and fluid. I am not personally bothered by TouchWiz since you can customize the heck out of Android with things like LauncherPro if you desire.

Usage and performance

The Samsung Galaxy S 4G performed quite well over the few days I have been using it with a GPS receiver that actually works. The single speaker on the back is quite loud and worked well for listening to podcasts. The display is absolutely beautiful and I can't stop playing with the device just to use the display. Everything worked extremely fast of the Galaxy S 4G, including the connection to T-Mobile.

I do not like the Samsung Exchange implementation at all on these Galaxy S devices, while it is very good on HTC Sense and even plain vanilla Froyo devices so if I was going to use one of these I would likely have to use a 3rd party app like TouchDown.

The camera seems to take decent photos and since I have only found the flash to be helpful on the Nokia N8, the lack of flash on the Galaxy S 4G is not that big of a deal to me.

Battery life seemed to be quite decent and even with fairly heavy usage I was able to go a full day without ever worrying about the battery or running it out, which is kind of refreshing for an Android device.

Pricing and availability

The Samsung Galaxy S 4G is available on T-Mobile starting today for $199.99 with a $50 rebate for those who want a 2-year contract or extension. The full no contract price is $499.99. I really enjoyed using the device, but with the Galaxy S II already announced with its dual-core processor and huge 4.3 inch display I have a hard time committing to this device. It is a great choice for those considering an Android phone and thinking of the myTouch 4G, but it is not something existing Vibrant owners should worry about picking up since it really is not much of an upgrade.

If you are thinking of the T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S 4G then also check out these other reviews:

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