Rating: ★★★★★

There’s no such thing as the perfect phone. Just like computers a few years ago, it seems like as soon as you walk out of the store with a new phone, there’s something even newer, even better, and for less that just came out. So picking a good phone is, in many ways, one of the most important decisions we all make, one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Of course, most of us just walk into the store, look at what’s there, and pick one out. If you picked the Galaxy S 4G, you would be a very, very happy buyer.

The contoured rear faceplate is easy to grip, hard to discolor or damage, and comfortable to hold

Like last year’s Galaxy S phones, the 4G – exclusive to T-Mobile – is a lightweight and powerful device that competes with the best without breaking a sweat. Samsung has once again shown tremendous growth in the cellphone field by taking everything they’ve learned from handsets like the Fascinate and Epic 4G, and implemented updates into the 4G without compromises. For instance, even though it’s a 4G handset, it doesn’t freeze or have connection problems. It doesn’t have ¬†a short battery life. It’s an all-around success.

The 4G is phenomenally light. It’s barely noticeable in the pocket, yet still solid in the hand. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel weird…the Galaxy S phones (with exception to the Epic 4G) have always felt a bit hollow, but they won’t break if you drop it. The contoured design is a pleasant mix of the Fascinate and Focus, with a thicker bottom that makes it an easy handset to grip. The few physical buttons are tactile, the screen responsive, bright and beautiful. The SuperAMOLED is still difficult to view in direct sunlight, and on the 4G it’s actually visible.

Clockwise: The Samsung Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy Tab, HTC Thunderbolt and HTC Surround

Compared to other Android handsets, there really is nothing uniquely special about the Galaxy S 4G except for connection speeds, though it is absolutely worth mentioning that this device is excellent. The hardware is solid, the software quick and snappy, the display responsive to touch, and battery life remains excellent even when using 4G. In my testing over several weeks, I never had to charge the phone nightly, and could pull off at least a day and a half even under heavy use. The only time battery drain was epidemic, which is more likely to happen on T-Mobile than other major carriers, was when it couldn’t find a signal and was forced to roam.

So, if the Galaxy S 4G is practically similar to last year’s models, albeit refreshed, how much does having 4G speeds improve the handset? Significantly, to say the least. The Galaxy S phones were already capable of handling plenty of data, and in my testing of the general Los Angeles area, I received download speeds ranging from 2300kbps to 8400kbps down, and 840kbps to 1700kbps down. The disparity in speeds had little to do with distance from the tower as much as it did with the time of day and local population. Smaller towns tended to not have 4G available, and more heavily populated regions like around UCLA and downtown had faster speeds. Because of the newness of 4G for T-Mobile (and all carriers besides Sprint), it’s not uncommon for certain areas to have much faster speeds, up and down.

What most impressed me is that having traveled between various regions, especially on T-Mobile which tends to drop signals when moving between¬†densely-populated areas, is that battery life stayed solid even on 4G. I never had to turn off 4G to conserve battery life, which was a concern with the Epic 4G and which many using the HTC Evo 4G have dealt with for nearly a year now. However, when compared to 4G speeds from Verizon, the communications giant heavily beats T-Mobile. Then again, Verizon has only one handset currently capable of using 4G, and their larger infrastructure allows them faster speeds. 4G from T-Mobile seems consistent, if not slightly slower than Sprint’s current 4G speeds in Los Angeles.

The main thing to take away from the this review is that if you’re looking for a new handset and like T-Mobile, the Galaxy S 4G is an excellent upgrade option. It runs the latest version of Android, is fast and reliable, and can access T-Mobile’s 4G network. The handset itself is refined and feels great in the pocket, be it pants, jacket or butt. Battery life is great on and off 4G, camera quality is on-par with what we’ve seen in the prior Galaxy S models…it’s an absolute winner. But let’s be clear, this isn’t a standout device because of some new great feature. The Galaxy S 4G is a refinished 6-month old handset that can connect to a 4G network. Frankly, that’s great for a phone; familiar yet new, still high quality, just made a little better in a very important way. Throwing in Inception – easily one of the best movies this decade – is just icing on this most delicious cake. I can’t recommend the Galaxy S 4G enough.

Pros:

  • Screen is wonderfully vibrant and colorful. One of the best for viewing media
  • 4G is fast and doesn’t kill battery life
  • Handset design is top-notch in all ways: solid hardware, snappy software, and a powerful camera

Cons:

  • T-Mobile’s mediocre coverage will make this handset less appealing for those outside of high-density populations
  • Speakerphone produces sharp sounds, not comfortable to use










Alan Brandon