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printed July 23, 2014
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Review: Samsung Fascinate

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The Samsung Fascinate has its ups and downs with music. The music player is not stock Android, but it does mimic the Android player's only good feature, the YouTube search ability. The music player is a hodge-podge of design. There are translucent bits and transparent bits. There are gradients with flat buttons and a 'chrome-free look,' and a place indicator that is polished with a bit of lens flare. It's not a cohesive look and it doesn't add to the capabilities on screen. Thankfully, most of the good stuff hides just beneath the surface.

There's a customizable equalizer, as well as a stereo widening "5.1ch" surround sound-like effect for earbuds. To me, it sounded more like hitting a 'noisy and loud' button, but the EQ was a welcome addition. There are also some cool visual effects. Samsung has a nice riff on the Cover Flow theme with a merry-go-round of floating CDs, each printed with their respective album artwork. There's also an EQ visualizer that bops along to the music, albeit at a sluggish frame rate.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the sound quality of music on the Fascinate. Neither tracks I purchased from the V Cast store nor tracks I sideloaded sounded especially good through my earbuds. The special effects changed the tone significantly, but not usually for the better.

The Amazon MP3 store is absent from this phone, and it's replacement, the V Cast Music Store, is quite strange. It looks and acts like the same app on Verizon's touchscreen feature phones. It responds poorly to the touch, reacts slowly for information requests, and it seems aimed more at selling expensive singles than catering to real music enthusiasts. In fact, you can't download an entire album at once. You have to buy songs individually for $2 a pop. You can download music in the background while you perform other tasks on the phone, but you can't set the Store to download a queue of music, you have to wait for one download to finish before you can buy the next song and start your next download.

There is no music widget preloaded on this phone, so you can't start playing tunes from the homescreen without downloading a 3rd party music app. Once your music is playing, playback controls appear in the notification shade, and you can jump directly to the Now Playing screen by tapping on the album artwork.

In terms of hardware, Verizon Wireless goes the distance with the Fascinate. The phone comes with 2GB of storage built in, and Verizon Wireless is also preloading a 16GB microSD card. That gives you plenty of internal storage for applications, plus that whopping card, and pushes the Fascinate to the top of the Galaxy S pile in terms of out of box storage generosity. The 3.5mm headphone jack is up top, just where I like it.

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