By Daniel Webster | May 27, 2011 3:50 PM
Verizon wowed the tech community as the first carrier in the States to offer lighting fast 4G speeds thanks to its LTE infrastructure. Until now the only option to access these amazing speeds was to pick up a network card or the first LTE Android, the HTC Thunderbolt. Even though the Samsung Droid Charge was released as the second LTE device for Verizon, it is in no way in second place. Read on for our review to find out if the Droid Charge will top the Thunderbolt or Revolution on your short list
The Droid Charge comes bundled with all of the essential items to get started. Sliding off the cover and opening the box reveals the large Droid Charge itself, a microUSB charging/sync cable, a small cube-like USB wall charger, and a 32GB microSD Card preinstalled. Unfortunately there is no headset or microHDMI cable included.
Although the Droid Charge is utilizing hardware similar to what debuted with the Galaxy S line of yesteryear, a couple improvements set it apart. The newest being the Super AMOLED Plus screen technology and of course the ability to access Verizon’s LTE network. Super AMOLED Plus adds more sub-pixels, increases contrast further, and improves upon power consumption.
The powerhouse of the Droid Charge comes from the single-core Hummingbird processor which is operating at 1GHz speed, combined with 512MB of RAM. The internal memory of the Droid Charge is 2GB and the auxiliary memory comes from the preinstalled 32GB class 2 microSD card, expanding the total memory to 34GB.
The 4.3-inch WVGA Super AMOLED Plus delivers clear and crisp images.
Unlike the Android capacitive buttons on the Fascinate, and other Galaxy S variants, Samsung decided to switch to physical push buttons. While many consumers find the capacitive buttons visually pleasing, they can at times be irritating if accidentally touched — kicking you out of an app or feature.
The 8MP rear camera, with single LED flash, captures still photos comparable to other smartphones with the same resolution. The rear camera is also able to record video at 720p HD. The front facing 1.3MP camera will work well for video chat and is a nice improvement over the VGA resolution of previous Samsung models.
The ports include a micro USB 2.0, for both charging and syncing, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microHDMI which is capable of broadcasting up to 720p HD. The Droid Charge has two microphones for noise cancellation, and a speakerphone. For sensors, we have one for proximity and light, plus there is the usual accelerometer and digital compass. The radios keeping the Droid Charge connected include Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, assisted GPS, CDMA 800/1900/2000, and LTE 700. The battery is a 1600mAh lithium-ion that will keep everything “charged” for around 660 minutes of usage and 280 hours of standby.
The Samsung Droid Charge ships with Android 2.2.1, but will probably get Android 2.3 Gingerbread in an update later this year. Alongside Froyo, Samsung has also integrated the TouchWiz 3.0 user interface. While TouchWiz 3.0 debuted last year on the Galaxy S line, the user interface is still simple enough for anyone to customize while being graphically attractive. The similarities between the stock Android UI and TouchWiz 3.0 will most likely not distract from the usability of Android. With TouchWiz 3.0 come a few widgets that help to unify status updates to social networks, get important information about finances or news, and change settings from the Droid Charge’s seven home-screens quickly. Some other apps that come standard on Android 2.2 have been re-skinned to form a cohesive look to keep them matching the other TouchWiz 3.0 alterations. With future updates the Droid Charge might also see the TouchWiz 4.0 UI that is integrated into Samsung’s flagship device for 2011, the Galaxy S II, if the hardware is able to handle it.
Verizon, like all other cellular providers, have added their own software to the mix. Naturally there are some good applications that will keep track of usage, allow contacts to be backed up to Verizon’s Backup Assistant server, and display the context of voicemails visually. But with the good must also come the bad, and there is quite a bit of it. Most of the apps that come preloaded on the Droid Charge are trials, which cannot be removed without rooting. They include apps like BitBop, Blockbuster, City ID, Lets Golf 2, Mobile IM, Rhapsody, Rock Band, Slacker Radio, and much more. Some users may find these apps desirable and others, particularly the tech savvy consumer, will find them obnoxious.
The 8.1MP camera of the Droid Charge not only takes excellent still photos but also records 720p HD video well, even while transitioning between exposures. The front facing camera will take stills at 1.3MP and capture video at VGA resolution.
The photography software of the Droid Charge has many appealing advanced settings. The settings range from customized effects to a straightforward approach at capturing panorama shots.
Despite the fact that the specs of the Droid Charge are nearly parallel to the Galaxy S line the performance is not. The Droid Charge lags frequently, particularly while opening or switching between apps. The speeds experienced were far less than that of a stock Android 2.2.1 device. The benchmark results yielded average scores:
Smartbench 2011: Productivity 842, 2068 Games
LinPack Pro: 12.1 MFLOP, 6.9 Seconds
Samsung and Verizon state that the Droid Charge should be able to provide around 660 minutes of usage and 280 hours of standby time. Even though the Droid Charge has a large 1600mAh lithium ion battery the actual usage time was far less than expected. On average the Droid Charge would only last a few hours on a full charge connected to 3G and even less on 4G.
CALL QUALITY/NETWORK SPEED
The audio quality of the ear speaker and speakerphone was clear with little distortion. At no time were there any dropped calls in the Seattle metropolitan area. Thanks in part to Verizon’s strong network; the Droid Charge seemed to never be without a missing bar of reception.
The network speed of the Droid Charge on 4G is phenomenal! The speeds experienced would rival most wired cable or high-speed residential service provider. Download speeds were around 28Mbps and uploads were consistently around 11Mbps average.
The Verizon 4G coverage map is not very accurate to what actual coverage entails. Many highly populated cities were void of 4G and even after connecting to the LTE the connection was spotty. Hopefully Verizon is able to remedy these erroneous coverage maps by providing a better connection.
PURCHASING AND AVAILABILITY
The Samsung Droid Charge is available now from Verizon for a subsidized price of $299.99 with a qualifying 2 year agreement. The non-subsidized price is $569.99. Both purchasing methods from Verizon come with free overnight shipping.
+ Super AMOLED Plus screen
+ 4G LTE speeds
+ Call quality
+ Build quality
+ 32GB microSD card included
+ Mobile hotspots
- Battery life
- No headset or micro-HDMI cable
- Thick design
- Lots of crapware
- Hefty price tag
- Spotty 4G LTE coverage
As the second LTE smartphone available for Verizon, the Droid Charge offers a glimpse as to what is to come. New technology always seems to start off big and slow, and the Droid Charge is no exception. That being said, speed addicts will be so appreciative of the fast connections on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, that they will tolerate the first bulky form factors.
Luckily as mobility evolves, the 4G LTE smartphone will be available in thinner form factors, have increased battery life, and be able to whip from one task to the next. If network speed is at the top of the list, then the Droid Charge will certainly deliver — within the LTE coverage area, that is.
We rate the Samsung Droid Charge 4/5.