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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