Samsung Galaxy S 4G Review

Introduction and Design

Last summer was a watershed moment for Android. The HTC EVO 4G, Motorola DROID X and Samsung Galaxy S lineup dominated the cellular landscape and rightfully so. The Samsung Vibrant was the Galaxy S variant for T-Mobile and was the first Galaxy S phone out of the gate in the US. It was quickly followed by the Captivate, Epic 4G, Fascinate and others. The latest is the Galaxy S 4G, a Vibrant refresh that takes advantage of T-Mobile’s 4G network to achieve theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps. The Galaxy S 4G adds a front facing camera for video chat and comes with a new pearlescent paint job for the back cover. Included with the Galaxy S 4G you’ll find a 16GB microSD card (class 2,) 1650mAh battery and microUSB data/charging cable.


The Samsung Galaxy S 4G retains the exact same design as the original Vibrant, save for the front facing camera (placed just to the left of the earpiece) and the new paint job on the battery door. Dimensions, weight, button placement and the chrome bezel remain unchanged. Given that we loved the design of the Vibrant, not changing it up for the Galaxy S 4G was a good move for Samsung. The phone is incredibly light and thin, sliding easily into your pocket and fitting comfortably into your hand.

You can compare the Samsung Galaxy S 4G with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

This isn’t unique to the Galaxy S 4G, but Samsung handsets in general feel a bit more plastic than we’d like. Plastic is nice because it reduces weight, but it also makes a premium device feel a little less premium. The battery door on the Galaxy S 4G has a uniquely cool paint job, but it is still plastic and slipperier than we’d prefer. Compared to premium HTC devices the Galaxy S phones just don’t feel as solid.

They make up for it with the brilliant 4” Super AMOLED display though. The Galaxy S 4G features the same one we’ve seen on all of the Galaxy S phones thus far, and it’s still as beautiful as ever. Colors are vividly reproduced, vibrant and bright. The IPS display on the iPhone 4 is great, but for our money the Super AMOLED screens are probably the best on the market and we can’t wait for the next generation to find their way into production.


Samsung has taken a lot of heat for their slow software upgrades (Sprint’s EVO 4G received a FroYo update about a month after launch, the Epic finally received it this week, nearly six months later) and there has been a lot of controversy about the Galaxy S FroYo update, but thankfully the Galaxy S 4G comes with Android 2.2 out of the box. This gives it some native features previously lacking in Galaxy S phones, such as Bluetooth dialing, Adobe Flash support and the ability to move apps to the microSD card.

Samsung still utilizes its TouchWiz UI on top of the Android software. By and large it is the same that we’ve seen in the past, but there are a few tweaks here and there. For starters, the lock screen has been redone and now you have to drag the entire screen to the side, something that is not accomplished in a flick. The old sliding lock wasn’t the greatest but the new one is downright annoying and requires attention to unlock the phone. We much prefer the ASOP sliders or Sense’s downward bar because they can be flicked easily and serve their purpose without getting in the way. Like Sense you can now pinch the home screen to view all seven panels at once and quickly jump between them. The phonebook has been improved both visually and functionally. The nicest feature is that you can swipe right on a contact to call or left to message them directly from the contact list. The Daily Briefing, Accuweather Clock and Calendar Clock widgets have all been done away with. We felt that there were some redundancies before, but Daily Briefing is arguably the most useful Samsung widget so it’s odd to see it gone.

All of the standard messaging options are available out of the box. Gmail is of course the most tightly integrated email service, but an email client allows the user to configure other POP and IMAP accounts and of course the Market has apps available as well. Swype is the default keyboard on the Galaxy S 4G, but Samsung’s keyboard is also preloaded on the device.

Responsiveness is still lightning quick, thanks to the 1GHz Hummingbird processor. We had no issues navigating through the entire interface, switching in and out of apps and watching multimedia. The Galaxy S 4G never stuttered or choked up. There isn’t a whole lot of memory available- out of the box you only have 218MB internally to work with- but thanks to Android 2.2 you can move most apps to your SD card and free up space. There are tons of preinstalled apps on the Galaxy S 4G (28, by our count.) The number of apps is staggering, but many of them are actually quite nice to have such as DoubleTwist Air Sync (normally $5,) ThinkFree Office full (normally $15,) Visual Voicemail and a month free to GoGo in-flight Wi-Fi service. Others, like Layer, Kindle and Slacker are nice to have, but they’re uninstallable and free in the Market. Allowing users to download them on their own, or even having a virtual preload like RIM does, would help to save internal memory.

The Facebook app comes preloaded on the Galaxy S 4G but not Twitter, which is an easy and free download from the Market. The Samsung Feeds and Update widget doesn’t tap into these apps, so you can sign into them (as well as MySpace) in the widget without actually using the apps to get one feed for all three services.

Camera and Multimedia:

Everything remains the same as in the Vibrant in these departments, with the exception of the front-facing camera. The rear shooter is 5MP and capable of shooting 720p video. As with all of the Galaxy S phones images were great and videos were very nice. It may not have the megapixels as other devices on the market, but the camera and lens used on the Galaxy S 4G is still first class. Unfortunately it still does not have a flash, though cell phone flashes are still of limited usability for the most part. The VGA front facing camera works on video chat applications, such as the preloaded Qik and our favorite, Tango. Cellular video chat is still in its infancy, but the Galaxy S 4G is on par with the rest of the industry right now.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G Sample Video:


Of course the main difference between the Samsung Vibrant and Galaxy S 4G is the addition of the 4G radio. Though this is the third 4G phone on T-Mobile, the Galaxy S 4G is the first to offer 21+ Mbps download speeds via T-Mobile’s HSDPA+ network. The phone is capable of HSUPA speeds of 5.76 Mbps but in our testing we only got around half a meg, which is the same as we found with our 4G comparison test.  At right around 3Mbps download speeds were considerably slower than the 7+ we achieved with our USB stick in the comparison, but still faster than 3G.  We wouldn’t exactly say it is 4G speeds, but given that we’re working with a handset here and not a laptop the speeds were plenty quick for loading web pages, downloading apps and streaming music.  If you’re looking to tether you might be a bit disappointed though.

Outside of the 4G radio the Galaxy S 4G keeps the same connectivity features as the Vibrant. It is a quad-band GSM and dual-band UMTS (1700/2100 MHz) handset that can make calls around the world but only has 3G connectivity T-Mobile's network. In addition, it packs 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for local internet connection and Bluetooth 3.0 to pair up with various devices for wireless transfers.

Performance and Conclusion:

Overall callers were impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S 4G. They said we sounded a bit distant and real nasally (in fairness we are a bit congested) but not hollow and they had no issues hearing us clearly. They rated us an 8.25/10, and we would probably rate them about half a point higher than that. Their voice sounded natural and clear, and though we could hear background noise from the store they were at it did not take away from the conversation. The battery has been beefed up to 1650mAh (from 1500) but the rating remains the same at 6.5 hours of talk time.

We were fairly impressed with the Samsung Vibrant the first time around, and the Galaxy S 4G is pretty much the same phone with faster data speed and video calling abilities. Even in today’s market the Galaxy S 4G slots in the upper echelon of handsets, even as the Galaxy S II is set to launch soon. The market is moving at a breakneck pace these days, and high-end handsets almost seem cookie cutter. Still, the Galaxy S 4G makes its mark with a wafer thin design, beautiful display and by being the fastest phone for data (at least in theory) in the nation.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G Video Review:


  • Wonderful Super AMOLED display gives great multimedia experience
  • Great battery life
  • 21+ Mbps 4G speeds is the best on the market
  • Comfortable, thin design


  • The materials could be better
  • Lots of bloatware

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