Phone and Data
Data speeds on Verizon's second LTE 4G phone are simply remarkable, especially since there are relatively few 4G Verizon devices crowding the airwaves and vying for bandwidth. We averaged 11-13 megs down and 2-5 megs up according to Ookla's Speedtest.net app, making it faster than WiFi 802.11b. Yes, the phone downloads web pages quickly and Android Market apps download with WiFi-like speeds. Flash 10.2 video streaming doesn't constantly buffer, and email attachments didn't send us off for a coffee break. But the real pleasure comes when using the Droid Charge as a mobile hotspot: it's faster than most public shared WiFi services and we never wished we could get back to the office for real data speeds. The Charge can serve up to 10 WiFi clients simultaneously, though speeds wouldn't be so impressive if you actually did share your 4G connection with 10 PCs. Note that if you're not in a 4G LTE coverage area, the Charge will switch to Verizon's 3G EV-DO Rev. A network. You can also manually select 3G in settings to conserve battery power. Data speeds on EV-DO Rev. A average 750k down and 450k up in the Dallas area.
So it's all roses and lollipops when it comes to the LTE data story. Alas, voice quality for calling isn't so rosy. Our unit's incoming and outgoing voice quality on 3G and 4G were sub-par with some garbling and a generally vague underwater quality that made us work a bit to understand what was being said. Reception on 4G was -5 db weaker than the Thunderbolt according to Android's phone status applet, and 3G was a bit weaker than some competing smartphones like the Motorola Droid X and Incredible 2. The good news is that you can do simultaneous voice and data if you're in a 4G coverage area.
Horsepower and Performance
In terms of processing power, the Charge has a lot in common with the Samsung Fascinate and other 1GHz Hummingbird phones. Though the CPU doesn't benchmark particularly well vs. the second generation Snapdragon CPU using in the Thunderbolt and Incredible 2, though phone feels responsive. The Droid Charge scored 967 in Quadrant vs. 1676 for the Incredible 2 and 1845 for the Thunderbolt. The Samsung managed a weak 13.5 on Linpack vs. scores in the 30s for recent high end Android smartphones. Though the Hummingbird is an impressive single core CPU with PowerVR SGX 540 hardware graphics acceleration, it's showing its age a bit vs. the latest Snapdragon CPUs and the dual core Tegra 2, at least on paper. Had Samsung gone with a dual core CPU, the phone's price would've risen even higher while battery life might have dropped (LTE is enough of a challenge to battery life).
The phone has a gig of available internal storage and Verizon includes a 32 gig microSD card.
Camera times 2, GPS
Samsung makes good cameras and the Charge takes quite good photos. The 8 megapixel rear camera has autofocus, macro and face detection modes. There's an LED flash and a wide variety of settings, and you can even use "outdoor visibility mode" which sets display brightness to max when in the camera app. You can shoot 720p video with the rear camera and in our tests video looked colorful and fairly sharp with little of the blockiness we see in some camera phone video. Images are pleasing with plenty of detail, low noise and good color saturation.
The front 1.3MP camera lacks any accompanying video chat software (in contrast, T-Mobile includes Qik with their video chat-capable phones). Thus it's off to the Android Market to test out Tango, Oovoo, Fring and Qik to see which works or works best.
The Droid Charge ships with Google Maps and Navigation as well as the pay-for VZ Navigator for Android. Both Google's and Verizon's products worked well in our tests and the Samsung could get a fix indoors in a 2 story home and hold onto that fix when driving on highways and tree-lined streets. The speakerphone is loud and clear and we had no trouble hearing spoken directions even with a window down.
The Droid Charge ships with a 1600 mAh Lithium Ion battery, and in our tests on the more power-hungry 4G network, it had much more stamina than the HTC Thunderbolt. Battery life is the Thunderbolt's Achilles' Heel and we wondered how much was due to the demands of LTE. Apparently LTE isn't all that bad because the Samsung managed to last us through the day with average use while the Thunderbolt quit by 5pm if not sooner. Then again, the Charge's relatively weaker signal may be the result of serious 4G power management.
The Droid Charge by Samsung is a solid 4G LTE smartphone with a stunning and large Super AMOLED Plus display. If you want the best in display technology or have grown accustomed to Super AMOLED, the Droid Charge has your number. 4G LTE performance is excellent and on par with the HTC Thunderbolt without the battery life hit. However, we found the Charge's voice quality and reception to be less than optimal, and the HTC clearly wins that battle. In the CPU race, the Charge runs on Samsung's 1GHz Hummingbird CPU, which is a fine processor, but it doesn't benchmark as well as second generation Snapdragon CPUs or (obviously) dual Core Tegra 2 CPUs. That said, it's a responsive phone that doesn't lag in real life use.
Pro: Top dog display, extremely fast LTE 4G, better battery life than the HTC Thunderbolt.
Con: Plasticky looks, call quality not very good.
Price: $299 with 2 year contract
Websites: www.verizonwireless.com, www.samsung.com/us/