Hands-On with Samsung's Galaxy S Phones for the US
Of the four, the Vibrant for T-Mobile is most like the Galaxy S for international markets. The design is nearly identical; it looks very much like an iPhone from the front, has a very thin profile, and a little lump across the bottom of the back. The only real difference is the layout of buttons below the display. It has 16 GB of built-in memory, plus the memory card slot.
Really, the Vibrant is just the Galaxy S for T-Mobile USA, so we'll use that as a baseline to discuss what's different about the other US models.
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The Fascinate for Verizon is very much like the Vibrant. The design is similar, but just a tad larger in all dimensions. Not by much, but just enough to be noticeable without measuring. There's no lump on the back, though; it's a very smooth, rounded phone.
Like the Palm Pre, Verizon will offer a mobile hot-spot service with the Fascinate, meaning you can use the Fascinate as a Wi-Fi hot-spot for another device - such as your laptop - to get on the Internet using the Verizon network. Sprint will offer the same service on its Galaxy S, the Epic 4G. The Vibrant and Captivate won't get that feature, but that seems to be a function of which carriers are comfortable offering that service.
The Fascinate also adds an LED flash for the camera, although it only has about 2 GB of memory built-in; you'll need to rely more on the memory card with this model.
The Captivate is AT&T's version of the Galaxy S. It's certainly the one with the most distinctive design of the four.
The Captivate we tried didn't have final software, but we were disappointed to find it lacked Swype, the great text-entry software that lets you enter whole words in one motion. The Captivate does, however, come with apps for the major instant messaging networks, and voice memo, which not all of the other Galaxy phones come with. Like the Vibrant, it has 16 GB of built-in memory, plus the memory card slot.
The Captivate feels exceptionally thin, but even at it's thinnest, it's thicker than the iPhone 4.
The Epic 4G is only the second 4G phone Sprint has announced. 4G means it includes support for Sprint's faster WiMAX data network, in addition to its standard CDMA 3G network.
Like the EVO 4G, the Epic sports a front-facing camera for use with video-chat apps like Qik. Unfortunately, the early version we tried didn't offer a way to use the front-facing camera to take simple self-portraits with the included camera app.
The Epic also sports a slide-out QWERTY text keyboard. This naturally makes the Epic thicker and heavier than the other Galaxy S phones, but it still feels thin and light for a sliding-keyboard phone. The keyboard itself works well. The keys feel flat and slippery, yet we had no problem typing quickly on them.
Like the Fascinate, the Epic has a mobile hotspot app for sharing the Internet with other devices over Wi-Fi. Also like the Fascinate, the Epic has an LED flash for the rear camera.
Curiously, the Epic 4G is the only one of the four with a dedicated camera button on the side. Kudos to Sprint for requiring that, but shame on Samsung for not including it on the other three models. A dedicated key makes it faster to start the camera - so you don't miss that fleeting special moment - and also makes it much easier to snap the photo once you get it framed. Fiddling with an on-screen "take photo" button is cumbersome.
Oddly, the early unit Epic we tried lacked a voice memo app. It also has relatively little internal memory (less than 500 MB available to the user,) so you'll be relying on the memory card for storage.
Of the four, the Epic 4G is the most different, with its slide-out keyboard. But in the end, they're all quite similar, with their best features in common. It's hard to go wrong with a huge screen, fast processor, good camera, and thin body. With one for each carrier, the Galaxy S phones are sure to give the iPhone a run for its money, and may provide a notable boost for the Android platform in the US.