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Samsung Galaxy S 4G

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Carrier: T-Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's hot: Excellent display, solid camera with good video recording, 4G HSPA speeds are great.

What's not: Attractive but plasticky, 1GHz Hummingbird no longer the cream of the CPU crop.


Reviewed February 23, 2011 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Last year’s Samsung Vibrant, T-Mobile’s version of the Galaxy S, was a hit: T-Mobile sold large numbers of what was then an Android Superphone with a Super AMOLED display and fast 1GHz Hummingbird CPU. Roll around to early 2011 and the Vibrant is looking a little long in the tooth. While few phones are actually shipping with dual core CPUs now, they are sporting 4G, front cameras and multimedia streaming services. And that’s just what Samsung has dished up with the Galaxy S 4G: it’s a Vibrant with a front-facing video chat camera, 4G HSDPA, a higher capacity battery and both Samsung’s Media Hub and T-Mobile TV.  The 4G Samsung runs Android OS 2.2 Froyo with Samsung TouchWiz 3.0 software. If you’ve used the Vibrant, Captivate or other Samsung Galaxy S family phone, you’ll feel right at home. And if you’ve been waiting endlessly for Froyo, it’s finally here.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G

Specs at a Glance

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4G has a 4”, 800 x 480 multi-touch capacitive Super AMOLED display with the usual deep, deep blacks and super-saturated colors. It runs on a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU  (ARM Cortex-A8) with hardware graphics acceleration and approximately 190 megs of internal storage. A 16 gig microSD card is pre-installed in the slot located under the back cover, and the movie Inception is pre-loaded. The phone runs Android OS 2.2 Froyo with TouchWiz 3.0 and Flash 10.1. It has WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth and a GPS. Like the Vibrant, it has a 5 megapixel autofocus rear main camera with no flash and a front VGA video chat camera. The phone has a 1650 mAh Lithium Ion battery and it’s quad band GSM with 3G/4G on T-Mobile US’ 1700/2100MHz bands.

Design and Ergonomics

From the front, the Galaxy S 4G looks nearly identical to the Vibrant, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s an attractive slab with chrome accents and a 4” display that dominates the front. The Vibrant drove use crazy with its fingerprint-loving gloss black plastic back that got mucky quickly and made the thin curvy phone as slippery as a bar of soap. The Galaxy S 4G has a very interesting matte plastic back with a faux metallic finish that changes as you move it under the light. It’s almost iridescent and though not expensive looking it is cool. The surface texture and raised ridge make it easier to keep safely in hand.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G

Unfortunately, the power button is still on the right side, directly across from the volume controls. It’s far too easy to accidentally press the power button when pulling the phone from pocket or purse and when using the volume controls. Please Samsung, start putting the power up top where it belongs. The micro USB port lives under a sliding door as it did on the Vibrant, and the 3.5mm jack is up top. Though there’s just a small speaker grille on the phone’s back, it’s incredibly loud and full sounding.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G


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The faintly masked Android capacitive buttons below the display are unchanged from the Vibrant, and they remain hard to see when backlight is off. The front-facing video chat camera that works with Qik sits above the display to the right of the earpiece.

Video Review

Here's our Samsung Galaxy S 4G video review:

Calling and 4G

T-Mobile has aggressively rolled out 4G HSPA+ across much of the US, and we have solid coverage in Dallas. The Vibrant was no slouch on data speeds, though it technically is an HSDPA 7.2Mbps 3G phone that could make some use of HSPA+ enhancements. The Galaxy S 4G has HSPA+ 21Mpbs (that’s the max speed, it doesn’t mean you’ll get 21 megs for download speeds), while the myTouch 4G has 14.4Mbps HSPA+.  Our download speeds as measured using Ookla’s Android app averaged 3.5Mbps down and 1.6Mbps up with a solid but not exceptional 4 to 5 bars and -89 db signal. We saw peaks of 10.5Mbps down and 4Mbps up! Those figures rival LTE—color us impressed. In contrast, our 3G HSPDA Samsung Nexus S managed 2.6 megs down and 1.4 megs up in the same location.

Voice quality is solid on both incoming and outgoing ends. Volume is good and we had no trouble hearing our caller when we stood in a noisy big box store. Reception is also good, and we got a slightly stronger signal (2 to 5 db) than with our Samsung Nexus S and Vibrant.

WiFi Calling and Mobile Hotspot

The Galaxy S 4G is capable of WiFi calling and it has the WiFi hotspot sharing feature where you can turn your phone into a WiFi hotspot that shares the 3G/4G connection (T-Mobile charges $15/month for WiFi hotspot).  To use the WiFi hotspot feature, simply go into wireless settings and activate the Mobile AP feature. You can assign an access point name and set encryption to none or WPA2.

With WiFi calling, you can place a call using WiFi rather than the cellular connection, though the call still uses your plan minutes. WiFi calling sounds crystal clear and is a handy option if you’re in an area with WiFi coverage but little or no cell coverage.

Multimedia and Performance

The 1GHz Hummingbird is one of the faster smartphone CPUs on the market, though Qualcomm’s second generation Snapdragon is making strong inroads.  Froyo offers speed improvements over previous Android versions, and that helped the Galaxy S 4G achieve a 970 on Quadrant. That’s a better showing than the Vibrant, but not as good as the very impressive 1796 we got with the myTouch 4G running on a second gen Snapdragon CPU. In terms of feel, the Galaxy S 4G feels responsive with very little lag despite the demands of the TouchWiz user interface. It’s faster than the Vibrant and we don’t get those odd occasional pauses we noted on the Vibrant.

Samsung as always does an excellent job with multimedia on their Galaxy phones, and the 4G has enhanced music and video players as well as Samsung’s own Media Hub where you can rent or buy movies and TV show episodes. T-Mobile TV (MobiTV) is also on board for streaming live video and TV episode downloads. The service costs $10/month and it performed well in our tests with reasonably high quality full screen video and a wide selection of popular TV shows.

Video playback is a pleasure both via the YouTube app and for high quality locally stored content like the included Inception full length movie. The Super AMOLED display makes video look fantastic thanks to deep blacks and vivid colors.  Flash 10.1 playback is similar to what we’ve seen on other single core CPUs from the Hummingbird era: controls are slow to respond and frame rates average 15 to 18fps. Honestly, we prefer using the YouTube player when possible.

The rear 5 megapixel autofocus camera is much the same as the Vibrant’s in terms of still photo quality. It renders sharp photos with very good color saturation but we miss the flash for low light shots. The 720p video camera is improved with surprisingly good detail and color.  The front camera works with the included Qik software for video chats over 3G, 4G and WiFi. Quality is acceptable but not great over 3G and it improves greatly with a fast WiFi connection.


Good news: the GPS troubles that plagued some Samsung Vibrants and Samsung Captivates are gone. The new chipset works wonders and the phone gets a GPS fix nearly immediately even indoors, and holds onto that signal when driving. The phone also has a digital compass (handy for walking) and both Google's navigation and TeleNav are on board.

Battery Life

The Samsung Galaxy S 4G’s upgraded 1650 mAh Lithium Ion battery provides more staying power than the somewhat smaller Vibrant’s. With heavy use, the Vibrant just made it through the day while the 4G had some juice left in reserve. Like most high end smartphones, you’ll want to charge nightly if you use the phone heavily. With moderate use, the Samsung lasted us 2 days on a charge.


The Samsung Galaxy S 4G is an evolutionary upgrade to the Vibrant. Think of it as the Vibrant with 2011 tweaks: 4G, a front video chat camera and Froyo with Flash 10.1. If you already own a Samsung Vibrant, you likely won’t want to shell out the out of cycle upgrade price for the Galaxy S 4G, but if you’re coming from a lower end Android phone like the myTouch 3G or a feature phone, the Galaxy S 4G has major appeal. The vivid 4” Super AMOLED display, fairly fast 1GHz Hummingbird CPU and Samsung’s newbie-friendly TouchWiz software make for a compelling experience.  Your toughest choice will be deciding between the also capable myTouch 4G by HTC and the Galaxy S 4G. The Galaxy wins hands down for display quality but the HTC phone is faster (and also $50 more expensive at press time).


Price: $199 with 2 year contract after a $50 rebate


Samsung Galaxy S 4G


Samsung Galaxy S 4G


Samsung Galaxy S 4G


Samsung Galaxy S 4G


Samsung Galaxy S 4G


Display: 4" Super AMOLED multi-touch capacitive display. Resolution: 800 x 480. Supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has ambient light sensor and proximity sensor.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1650 mAh.

Performance: 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird CPU (ARM Cortex-A8). Approximately 190 megs internal storage.

Size: 4.82 x 2.54 x 0.39 inches. Weight: 4.16 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band world phone with 3G and 4G HSPA+ on the 1700/2100MHz bands.

Camera: 5MP autofocus rear camera, can shoot 720p video. Front VGA video chat camera that works with the included Qik application.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth.

Software: Android OS 2.2 Froyo with Flash 10.1 and Samsung TouchWiz 3.0. Google apps including search, Maps, Navigation and Places, YouTube player, Gtalk, Gmail, email and webkit web browser. Samsung apps: Media Hub, Mini Diary, Voice Recorder, AllShare (DLNA), Desk Home, widgets and Write and Go. T-Mobile and 3rd party software: My Account, TeleNav, Qik Video Chat, WiFi Calling, Slacker, ThinkFree Office, T-Mobile T, GoGo in-flight WiFi, Kindle, Amazon MP3, DoubleTwist Air Sync and DriveSmart.

Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot. 16 gig card included.


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