Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hands-on with T-Mobile's Galaxy S: the Samsung Vibrant.

Took a pit-stop by T-Mobile on my way home today to finally take a hands-on look at T-Mobile's Vibrant, the original Samsung Galaxy S.

All-in-all, very impressed. The phone was playing Avatar when I came in, no stutter whatsoever, and the display truly was amazing. The colors just popped from the phone, and alongside other phones displayed nearby, it definitely stood out.

I talked the ear off of a poor rep, but he seemed interested to hear what I had to say once he realized I didn't have any questions to ask him about the device. I told him I'd written about the phone, and he started asking me some questions of his own since they'd only been given a couple days to play with the phone before launch, instead of a couple weeks like normal. The guy was pretty cool and seemed very prepared to listen to me gab endlessly about the phone and compare it to other devices. He bemoaned the single-mindedness of iPhone fans and shared his own perspective on the phone, saying that he liked it a lot and could see it becoming T-Mobile's best Android seller, but that it almost felt too light for a smartphone, feeling strangely empty when held alongside a Nexus One.

I couldn't really get the phone to stutter or jerk no matter how I whipped through menus or piled on the applications. I ran some 3D apps and the power of the graphics processor was immediately apparent; rendering was smooth and quick. The TouchWiz UI wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but the phone definitely looked like an iPhone 3GS from a distance, particularly when browsing applications. I can imagine it easily being mistaken for one, which is a little disappointing.

The camera looked good, but the rep I spoke with tried to correct me when I tried to pull up the front-facing camera, telling me it didn't have one. I put it under a bright display light and pointed it out to him, at which point he told me his supervisor had assured him it did not have a front camera and it looks like he had been wrong. We couldn't pull up the front camera using the camera app (I would have thought it would have been an option) but I figure it'll only really be used by video conferencing applications.

UPDATE: I'm reading online now that T-Mo did delete the front-facing camera on the Vibrant. However, I clearly saw two separate spots on top of the phone, one definitely the image sensor, the other a pinhole perfectly sized for a VGA camera. Did T-Mo just disable it to prevent video conferencing eating too much of their fragile bandwidth?!

The lack of physical keyboard was less of an issue than I thought it would be; the touchscreen is extremely accurate (as Samsung had bragged was a feature of the integrated touchscreen in their Super AMOLEDs) and the phone provided 3 options for input: the standard Android soft keyboard, a very iPhone-like Samsung keyboard, and Swype. Swype was very forgiving, getting all of my very amateur attempts correct, which was impressive given the way my finger meandered across random letters as I tried to accustom myself to this new form of input.

Interestingly, as I was wrapping things up with the sales rep, another sales rep passed us, heading home for the day, and I recognized the guy as a member of my high school graduating class. We chatted a little bit longer and he told me to stop by any time. I headed back home and felt the familiar pangs of gadget lust as I left the Galaxy S behind...


  1. i loved my galaxy.. for the two days i had it, but alas samsung's manufacturing defects and being unable to process MMS over tmobile's network made me give it back..loving my BB curve though. the picture is amazing!

  2. Hey Lynn! Good to see you on here! I've heard some complaints about build quality too, and I've seen it in some of the reviews too. It seems like Samsung is cutting some corners to make up for all the hardware they've crammed in those phones. The question for me is going to be whether it's worth it... and your experience is valuable info.

    My Lynn is thinking about getting a Blackberry, and I think the Curve might be a good pick for her too. Message her and let her know what you think about it!