Review: Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G for T-Mobile
The Relay has an unsurprising collection of apps on board for discovering and listening to music. The stock music player is on board, as is the Google Play Music App. The media player will find and play back any music files stored on the device. It’s limited in functionality, but wins points for its simple nature. You can use the Google Play Music app to stream and/or purchase full music tracks.
The Google Play Movie Store and Book Store are also on board if watching movies or reading books are more your thing.
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T-Mobile's Live TV app, which lets users stream short video snippets over the network to their phone, is also on board. Quality of video playback through this app was mixed at best, and relied heavily on having a strong signal.
Then there's the Samsung Media Hub. The Media Hub lets Relay owners rent/download movies, videos, and television shows. It requires an account with Samsung and a credit card on file. It works the same as Google's content store, more or less. You're simply paying Samsung instead of Google.
Music sounded good through my favorite headphones, and movies looked OK on the display.
The Relay includes a 5-megapixel shooter that has the same interface as the camera on the GS3 and other Samsung devices, though not necessarily all the same features. The Relay does not have a dedicated camera button, but the camera can be launched via the lock screen shortcut. It takes about 2 seconds to launch.
The camera's controls are laid out in a way that makes sense and is easy to use. I had no problem making changes to the behavior of the camera or altering the settings.
Once you've spent a moment familiarizing yourself with the controls, the camera is a breeze to use. It focuses and shoots photos quickly. You can choose to use touch-to-focus if there is something in particular you want to be in focus.
For a 5-megapixel camera, the Relay does an OK job. The images I captured were exposed correctly, and had accurate color, but were often out of focus or a bit fuzzy. I didn't seen an over-abundance of grain, through it did make its presence visible in some indoor shots. For the most part, though, the results were of mediocre quality. They were just barely worthy of sharing via social networks.
The Relay captures video at a maximum of 720p HD, but don't let that fool you. It does a better job of recording video than it does of taking still images. The Relay's video consistently had good exposure, and white balance and kept graininess to a minimum. Focus was better than what I saw in the regular photos, but it was still soft in some places.
The Relay's gallery application is very close to the stock Android 4.0 gallery app and includes only a minimal set of features. Images can be shared via every network or online service possible with but a few swipes, but editing options are few. Images can be cropped and rotated, as well as renamed. There’s no third-party photo editing app on board, either.
The gallery app does work with Samsung's crazy photo-sharing feature Buddy Photo Share. Buddy Photo Share lets a group of people instantly share photos with the other members of the group. The idea is meant to allow everyone attending an event to have all the pictures captured at the event without having to send emails to the attendees the following day bugging them for the photos. The only problem is it only works with other Samsung phones that support the feature.
With 48 apps installed out of the box, the Relay rates "average" when it comes to bloatware. There's plenty of T-Mobile apps and services on board, including More for Me, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV, a VPN client, and so on. As is the norm, many of these cannot be deleted, but don't fret, there is nearly 5GB of space on board for you to store your own apps.
The Relay has Bluetooth 4.0 and it works with any Bluetooth gizmo you have laying around, including mono and stereo headsets, cars, speakers, and so on. The Relay worked flawlessly with each. Phone calls sounded excellent through standard Bluetooth headsets and music sounded very good though stereo Bluetooth headphones.
The Relay ships with the Android browser on board. It’s a decent browser, no doubt, although I like Google Chrome much better. As noted earlier, download speeds were nearly always good. They ranged between 5Mbps and 27Mbps and averaged about 11Mbps over T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. These speeds are more than fast enough for mobile browsing.
There's a white digital clock on the lock screen. It’s big enough to be seen at an arm's length, but be careful with the wallpaper you pick. Light or white backgrounds will make the clock impossible to see.
The Relay ships with Google Maps (complete with Navigation and Latitude), as well as the TeleNav's navigation app. The TeleNav-based app work great and offers an extremely rich set of features that would be perfect for the Relay did they not require a $10 per month subscription. Google Maps is free, and offers nearly identical features. For basic navigation, free trumps $10 in my book. The Relay's GPS radio performed quite well. It found me consistently within about 15 seconds and located me to within 25 feet.
Samsung tossed its S Voice app onto the Relay for good measure. Like Apple's Siri, S Voice is a voice-controlled assistant for the Relay. Double tap the home key and S Voice launches, asking you what you want help with. You can search for contacts, dictate SMS messages, check the weather, see alarms, and so on. Performance was mixed at best. At times, it was very fast and very accurate. Other times it was slow and inaccurate.