Samsung’s sequel to the highly popular Galaxy series of smartphones has arrived stateside after being available in Europe for months. We got our hands on Sprint’s version — the Epic 4G Touch — for a test drive before its official release.
First things first: This thing’s a beast. The 4.52-inch display is Samsung’s biggest Android smartphone screen yet, topping its other mammoth offering, the Infuse 4G by HOW MUCH MORE?
Taking on this much phone was intimidating. The Epic feels like a mini-tablet, much like the failed five-inch Dell Streak of last year.
If you’re buying this class of phone, however, you aren’t using it only to make calls. The huge display and powerful 1.2 GHz dual core processor make it clear Samsung is aiming this at media consumption.
Based upon our first impressions, Samsung has hit the mark.
The brilliant Super AMOLED screen was made for watching Netflix, browsing pics and reading e-books. It all worked, and well, but I couldn’t help wishing Samsung included a tiny metal kickstand like we saw at the HTC Thunderbolt launch.
One quibble: While the screen is great, the unlocking mechanism to reach the main menu is weird. Essentially, you have to drag a static screen-saver offscreen to access your home screen, a task as simple in concept as it is frustrating in practice. My screen felt jerky and awkward when I tried to drag it open, often requiring multiple attempts. I much prefer the stock Android swiping bar mechanism — or even HTC’s funky lock-screen ring — to Samsung’s design.
The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera is par for what you’ll find on today’s high-end smartphones. Pictures were crisp and 1080p video playback was smooth. The digital zoom sucks, but digital zoom always sucks.
Thankfully, the Epic 4G Touch runs the latest version of Android (2.3.4, or Gingerbread), though it is skinned with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz user interface. It isn’t a bad UI, but as an Android purist, I could go without the extra layer. Samsung ships the phone with some bloatware (Really &mdash is anyone playing NASCAR smartphone apps?), but not enough to be obnoxious.
Like the previous generation Galaxy phones, the Galaxy S2 is being released by all four major U.S. carriers (Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T), with little variation more than aesthetics differentiating the hardware. That’s much nicer for the contractually-bound customer keen on a specific piece of hardware.