Last week, I dished out a few of my thoughts on the DROID Charge by Samsung, for Verizon Wireless. I’ve had some more personal time with the device, so now can give you a more in-depth review.
In general, I like the phone. While this isn’t technically a Galaxy S phone, it takes a lot of cues from the S line. Samsung also piled some upgraded features on top. On the flip side, it’s also not a Galaxy S II, or a ‘next gen’ device. It doesn’t have a dual-core processor, a super-mega-high-resolution screen, and it doesn’t run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Since Samsung likes to use prefixes and suffixes (see: Super AMOLED Plus), I’m going to call this a Galaxy S Plus phone.
Awesome screens are pretty standard issue on most of the current Samsung phones. The Super AMOLED Plus screen on the DROID Charge is no different. The “Plus” nets you 50% more sub pixels, which is supposed to make the display more clear, thinner, brighter and more energy efficient. I compared it to a Samsung Vibrant that one of our developers has. Just arbitrarily looking at it, we didn’t notice much of a difference. Maybe that’s the point. The Vibrant has a 4″ screen, whereas the DROID Charge has a 4.3″ screen. Super AMOLED Plus is supposed to give the illusion that both phones have the same PPI, even though they don’t. In any case, the screen is big and beautiful.
Verizon 4G LTE
This isn’t the first 4G phone on the market; It’s not even the first 4G phone for Verizon or Samsung. All that aside, the DROID Charge is still a contender in the 4G race. Apps install in seconds. Streaming music buffers quickly. Queueing up YouTube videos is almost instantaneous. I’ve had solid 4G coverage everywhere I’ve been in the Twin Cities — except at my house, which is affectionally known as the “Verizon Black Hole”. I’ve used the mobile hotspot feature with my Macbook, and it works just as well as a purpose-built MiFi or other 4G hotspot. There’s even a setting, deep in the menus — but not as deep as the ThunderBolt — that allows you to turn 4G off (Settings>Wireless & networks>System selection> LTE Automatic or CDMA mode). This could help out the folks that want to conserve battery life. Speaking of 4G, Verizon is now offering unlimited 4G for $30 per month. That’s a pretty good deal.
In a world where more and more manufacturers are switching to capacitive touch buttons, the DROID Charge says “PSH! You and your touchy-feely buttons”. The Charge rocks four physical buttons, that are tactile and easy to find. Personally, I would have reordered them so that the menu button wasn’t the furthest away (for a right handed chap). The only drawback is that the backlighting is a little dim on the buttons. I also miss physical camera buttons. Why don’t more manufacturers include them? If these phones are intended to replace my point-and-shoot camera, they have to have a two-stage camera button. </rant>
TouchWiz = TouchWhat?
I’m going to go on record by saying that I have no problem with manufacturers adding their own layer for the user interface. I’ve been a proponent for HTC’s Sense UI since day one. For me, it’s just another deciding factor when I’m making a new phone purchase. Plus, there are plenty of apps, tricks, hacks and mods that can pretty much erase — and in some cases, improve upon — this extra layer. The original TouchWiz UI layer, on the Galaxy S models, was pretty toned down, with the exception of the blue highlights everywhere. The color palette for the DROID Charge is a bit different; It’s brown and orange. It literally reminds me of the Cleveland Browns or Autumn. So it’s just limited to the TouchWiz UI right? Wrong. It’s deeply rooted. Every pop up dialog box is orange. Every toast notification is brown. If an app developer (i.e. Google) doesn’t override all of the stock UI assets during development of an app (i.e. Gmail) you end up with a brown header bar in an app that’s not really brown.
If you’ve ever held an HTC phone, like the EVO or the ThunderBolt, you’ve probably thought “Hmm. Hefty. Durable”. If you were to hold a Samsung phone, you may thing “Meh. Flimsy. Cheap”. Don’t get me wrong, the DROID Charge is a durable phone. It’s well put together. The seams are tight. There are really no flaws. However, the back cover is very ‘plasticy’, if you know what I mean. It’s glossy, and doesn’t have a texture; Soft-touch or otherwise. This makes the phone slippery, and it doesn’t hide blemishes very well. I’ve only had the phone a couple of days, and there are already some minor surface scratches on the back. I’m VERY careful with my phones…especially phones that are loaned to me. Also, with the phone being so slippery, it slides around in your pocket a lot. Usually it falls over on its side, which gives me a wicked case of ‘phone bulge’.
I’m not going to talk about this too much, because it’s pretty common. However, many of the bloat apps aren’t even apps on the phone. They’re shortcuts to install an app. To top it off, you can’t even delete these shortcuts. NO MORE BLOATWARE!
There is only one ‘ugly’ aspect of this phone; The price. Verizon Wireless has priced the DROID Charge at $299.99 (new contract and such). That is $100 more than any other phone, on the other carriers. The DROID Charge is an awesome middle-to-higher end phone. It’s on par with the EVO 4G or the Inspire 4G or the myTouch 4G. It’s is not worth the extra $100-$150. The Charge is almost, if not, identical to the Samsung Infuse 4G (not yet available), which has been rumored to be priced at $178.88 at WalMart. Amazon Wireless briefly had the Charge listed at $249.99 (contracts, yadda, yadda), but has since taken it down. If a ‘gen 2′ Android phone is priced at $300, I’ll be interested in seeing how Verizon prices the next generation of phones; I.e. the dual-core DROID Bionic.
At the end of the DROID Charge by Samsung is a great phone. There are no major flaws or annoyances that would keep me away from the phone. However, I wouldn’t be able to justify the price.