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Review: Samsung Epic 4G

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For years I complained about the lousy TouchWIZ interface on some Samsung phones, and the company has finally toned it down to the point it's practically an interface theme with no real changes to the organization or design of Android. While my colleague Eric Zeman found the colorful app icons a bit too cheery for his taste, I like the big, finger friendly square with their colored backgrounds. On the dazzling Super AMOLED display, more color is always a good thing.

The Epic 4G offers a seven panel home screen that you can fill with app icons, widgets and shortcuts. At the bottom of every panel lies a persistent row of shortcuts for the phone, the contact list, the messaging app and the application menu. I'm not sure why Samsung doesn't let you customize this group with your own favorites, since it seems to be a customizable option on the Samsung Vibrant, another Galaxy S phone, but you're stuck with what they offer.

Beyond the look of the home screen and the application menu, which swipes horizontally on this phone instead of vertically, the interface is mostly unchanged from the basic Android 2.1 designs. Pulling down the notification shade from the top also exposes a row of buttons to control the radio, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G and GPS. Otherwise, some of the worst aspects of Android remain. The settings menus are still a boring list of white text on black background, with a feel that is much more BlackBerry than Android.

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Strangely, after a couple days using the Epic 4G, when I pressed the home key it would always ask me if I wanted to “Complete action using” Home or TwLauncher. I assume the latter stands for TouchWIZ launcher. The former turned out to be a three panel home screen with no icons at the bottom and a more standard Android app drawer. I asked the phone to use the TwLauncher by default, but it was never able to remember this preference, and every time I pressed the home key I was asked to choose my launcher. This behavior seems like a bug and hopefully Samsung will fix this in the future.


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