David’s Take On The Samsung Vibrant

Let there be no question that I had hoped to have this review up for your viewing pleasure two weeks ago.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the time to write down proper thoughts regarding the Samsung Vibrant.  We have heard your thoughts though!

There is no question that this is T-Mobile’s top of the line smartphone.  The Galaxy S needs little introduction and I won’t bore you with pictures of the back of the phone or the hardware at all because, honestly, you’ve seen all of that.  The 4” screen needs little introduction as it’s already been discussed as one of the best screens currently available in the smartphone market.  It’s beautiful, it’s fantastic and I think I’ve watched Avatar about 26 times already just to see the colors “pop” on that screen.  In a world where the Retina display is often touted as the “best”, the Vibrant’s Super AmoLED screen isn’t going down without a fight and it’s ready to rumble. Cheesy, huh?

I said I wouldn’t talk about the hardware that much but there is one complaint I have that I really want to get out there.  The position of the power button on the right side of the device drives me crazy. I mean hair pulling, screaming out loud till my neighbors stare at me crazy.  Whose bright idea was that button placement?  Seriously, that was an awful design decision.  On the flip side, there is one excellent design decision on the hardware I want to bring up, the sliding door that protects the microUSB port.  Brilliant, simply brilliant.  Why?  I don’t know really but I love it.  Ok, so maybe I talked about the hardware a little.  On to the software.

Shipping with Android 2.1 and covered up by Touchwiz 3.0, the phone caused me a lot of mixed emotions on Touchwiz and whether or not its as viable or enjoyable as HTC’s sense ui. .  Let me just be honest and say that I’m not a huge Android fan.  Before you prepare to burn me at the stake, it’s not that I don’t like it.  I’m just not a “fanboy” by the standard definition.  I’m an unlocked iPhone user and I’m not a “fanboy” of the iPhone either.  It simply meets my standards and I like to stick with what I know.  In my opinion, 7 home screens is simply too much “busy work” and I would prefer that less becomes more.  In the defense of this statement, I didn’t like the iPhone layout of 5 pages worth of apps.  This was a true annoyance for me.  Folders make life complete. I will say one thing that always gives me cause for concern, the browser is fantastic, truly a great experience. I had little trouble with pages loading and definitely felt like it was a sharp competitor to other devices I’ve had in my arsenal.

That’s not to say I don’t find the bounty of homescreens functional.  I can definitely see the appeal and difference between the iPhone’s homescreens, which are just random apps vs. the Android experience that is widget based.  There is no question the widgets are a tremendous asset and it is one aspect of the Android OS that I adore.  Swiping right and left to find what it was I was looking may be what troubled me because I could never remember what widget was on what page.  Did I mention I love the screen?

Touchwiz is a mixed bag as the outward appearance seems to have taken on a very iPhone-like experience, which has been both good and bad.  The iPhone obviously has its system down pat and yet, with the Vibrant, it seems as though Samsung is working to both copy and take it in a different direction.  For the most part it works, but it’s not really my first choice for Android.  I’d take stock Android any day.  I honestly can’t really explain why, but I definitely recommend comparing the Vibrant to a Nexus if you have the opportunity to see what I mean.

Let’s talk about the camera for a moment as we all know this was hotly contested from the get go regarding the lack of flash.  Let’s just say this, night mode is no flash replacement but I think that goes without saying.  Night mode is, however, a worthwhile feature that does work and works quite well.  If you don’t believe me, check out this post of ours right here with some comparison shots that, in my opinion, shows that night mode works just fine.  Daytime photos are really nice and I would have little hesitation about carrying this around without concern for an actual camera.

I want to take a moment and talk about swype and how damn awesome it is.  I had some hesitation about trying swype as I wondered how it might work when entering a URL, for instance, where I needed some more freedom to enter text.  My concerns were immediately alleviated as I simply went to tmonews.com on the first try.  Boom, I was sold. Why, oh why won’t swype be included on every device made in the future?  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s fun to use, fairly practical and doesn’t really affect the time span to enter text.

Surely another area of concern with the Vibrant has been the GPS feature.  I wasn’t able to escape the trouble many other users are having and, even with some of the quick fixes, I wasn’t completely out of the woods.  Sometimes it would pinpoint me down the street and other times it would take me one town over and, on one stand-alone occasion, it took me out of state.  While it’s easy to say this was a disappointment, Samsung has readily admitted trouble and stated a fix is on its way in early September so I’ll reserve final judgment for then.

The bottom line for me is that the Samsung Vibrant has a lot to love.  While I wasn’t totally thrilled with the “feel” of the device, as the back casing did feel a little “plasticky”, I had no concerns about the phone’s build and never felt like I was going to snap it in two.  With its absolutely beautiful 4” screen, I found myself totally enthralled every time I booted up Avatar or watched a YouTube video.  I don’t know if it’s the best video experience in the smartphone market but I would wager good money it ranks in the top 3.  The Vibrant is easily the most powerful Android phone in the T-Mobile arsenal and you should give it a look for good reason.  I have mixed emotions about Android as a platform and I’ve yet to find a device that would make me feel comfortable about a full time position but that would be more platform related than device specific.  If you are looking for the best T-Mobile has to offer, the Samsung Vibrant is a logical choice.

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  • JG01

    Dave, you and I have communicated in past and some of thing stated above I ran into. However, I find that this version of TW3.0 is far better than before (Samsung is getting there). One thing I did find is, if you use TW as your launcher, its mechanism will drain the battery faster than other launchers. If you turn off the background data sync and use a different launcher, the battery life is much better. Overall, I really like this device (the missing flash is my only gripe). Hopefully, Samsung will through in a few new surprises with the next OS update due out in September.

  • Pee Jay

    Bought my Vibrant on launch day and still can’t put it down. By far the best phone I have owned on TMobile hands down. I normally purchase 2-3 phones a year with my plan but this is a keeper. Of course there are a few things I would change but overall it is one hot piece. Did check out my friend’s Vibrant with just the naked 2.1 on it and it certainly runs faster than mine. Love my 7 home screens due to the fact that I can customize it anyway I want. I have dedicated screens for certain groups of apps so I don’t have to go anywhere but the home screen most times. I have not experienced the GPS issue that I have hear about with some so maybe I’m a lucky one who knows. I really wish that the manufactures would leave the Android OS to Google and they would concentrate on the hardware and battery issues. These phones are getting more and more powerful with larger demands on energy consumption but the companies are not advancing battery technology at the same rate.

  • Yaniv C

    All I can say is I love my Vibrant.
    1st of all… the 4″ screen truly is the sweet spot. Not too big, not too small.
    The phone is not just the fastest in T-mobiles line up, but technically it is the fastest Android phone on the planet. The 1Ghz Hummingbird is just a variant of the Cortex A8 (at 1 Ghz) its the fastest mobile chip in mass production (easily beats the Snapdragon). Couple that with its power VR GPU (twice as fast as the Droid X) and its king of the hill for this baby.
    At first it did seem “plasticky” however… never cheap… just … for lack of better a better word, weird. However…. that quickly subsides to the pure joy of such a LIGHT phone. You barely feel this beauty in your pocket.
    Plus, I gotta say… Im actually starting to appreciate Touchwiz. Some things are plain goofy (iPhone-esque screen scrolling), however they managed to put a lot of useful stuff too. Power bar in the notifications panel, phone controls while making call in notifications panel. I kind of also like the blue font over Androids green.

    Now if only David would find out what kind of WP7 jewel we can look forward to ;)

    David…. do your job :)

    • Spencer

      How can you say it has the best processor? The Droid X has shown itself to have the highest of all the phones on benchmarks! Also, there are five phones with literally the exact same processor as your phone (the Galaxy S series).

  • rick

    The 7 home screens is a bit much, but if you don’t need or want all of htem, just delete some. On a screen hit Menu, hit Edit, click the minus since in red circle. IF you later want more go back the Menu > Edit and click the + sign at the bottom.

  • Jim

    Thanks for the review. Good details and impressions that are important at this point vs the standard review with all the same specs. How things feel is important.

    I finally ordered mine today. I’ve been looking at it since before it came out, but I tend to over think each decision.

    Got it from the customer loyalty group for 99 dollars, no activation cost, no shipping cost (and they did expedited shipping). I think it likely helped to wait a little while while other people kicked the tires, and customer care / loyalty rules relaxed a bit.

    Sure I could have gotten a captivate today for $0.01, but then I’d have to go over to the dark side. I was able to keep my 50$ loyalty unlimited voice plan and 24.99 unlimited data and 400 text messages combo plan. Pretty good deal. it’s about 20 dollars cheaper per month than the comparable plans combo from ATT, which is a huge deal.

  • cj

    I would agree about the Touchwiz, it was one of the many problems of the Behold 2. It helped in hindering the phones abilities. Why bother, they should just use the standard android. And what happened to originality, Samsung makes good electrics but they live to copy a little. Sony for years, and now Apple to.

  • remixfa

    touchwiz 3.0 is > > > > than touchwiz 2.0 found on the behold.
    I dont use the samsung widgets for anything because i dont think they are well done, but their take on app management is the best ive found on android.

    some things that you didnt mention (or maybe know to use) for the vibrant.. at the top of the page on your app page is a speed bar so you can quickly zip to a specific page of apps.. also its the only android phone that i know of that lets you rearrange the apps any way you want, as well as re arranging the icons that stay on the bottom of the screen. They make app life a breeze when you get tons of apps, instead of scrolling through one gigantic scroll page.

  • remixfa

    ooh.. also, if you slide your finger left and right on the notifications bar at the top it adjusts brightness. a pretty nice feature for power consumption control.

  • Flgirll99

    I got my phone the week it came out and I’m still loving it!! It really is the best phone that I’ve had. I will say that I wish the battery would last longer but I realize that’s a problem most smart phones have. So I have a charger at work and home. Other then that, I love it.

  • ikeweezy

    The phone is great cosmetically, but its whats on the inside that matters. My biggest issue is the GPS, because I was personally inconvenienced by the defect. Try being lost in DC ending up in VA and/or MD, due to this defect! How do you miss this??? I thought they test for these kinds of issues in the wild!?! Other than that TouchWiz is ok. It doesn’t stand up to HTC Sense. Some positives, to me is the Hummingbird processor is a dream! Market downloads and syncing is fast and seamless! I love android, but this is my first Samsung experience with it and it takes a lot of getting used to coming from HTC G1 rooted to my liking, but I’ll definitely be rooting soon if this next OTA release takes too long!

  • Paul

    I noticed while playing with my Vibrant you can edit the number of home screens, 7 is just the max.

    While you are on the main page press the menu button then select edit.

    Now you can edit the number of home screens, as few as just one and as many as 7. So if you only even use a total of 4 screens, perfect you can set it to 4.

    You can also delete the screens you do want. just select the delete option on the screen you no longer want.

    I currently use 2 home screens.

  • dreek21

    Samsung Vibrant vs G2 which phone would you guys recommend ?

  • erod188

    One major question I have about this phone and the gps is that from what I know there is 2 different types gps of gps assisted and not assisted. And if I’m not mistaken the non assisted is more accurate. Do you guys know which one ths phone uses?

  • z

    okay i really didnt read evrything you wrote cause i kinda got irrutated, first off you said too much screens,, thats y you can delete them and have the amount of screens you want,, i had 1 screen for a moment. second of android let you do what you want with your phone, you want stock android you can have it anyday i used tw3 for a week and ive been on stock for the rest…. so really i love android cause i really do exactly what i want with it.. no micro sim lol

  • Raymond Petit

    I’ve had my Vibrant for a little over a month. It’s been one happy month! I finally got around to using the night mode of the camera. OMG!, it really can take pictures in the dark! Not excellent, but damn good considering. I wonder if changing the shutter speed will make it better. Don’t know if the shutter speed can be altered but I intend to find out. It is too bad that neither Samsung or T-mobile are showcasing all that this phone can do. It is way better than any other android device and the iPhone 4 too! I downloaded launcher pro and it is true that my battery life was better. It’s got to be touchwiz that is sucking so much juice. I can’t wait for the Froyo update as I am sure this will make it better! Hurry up Samsung!