For the Galaxy S phones, Samsung has changed the app menu from the usual vertical slide-up screen to an iPhone-like four-by-four grid of icons arrayed across a series of swipable horizontal screens. As on the Captivate, apps on the Vibrant can’t be re-arranged from their automatic alphabetical sequence.
The Galaxy S’s white-on-black Contacts app is a throwback to monochrome screens, but actually makes info easier to read, especially in a dark environment. The haptic touch dial pad has large, easy-to-read alphanumeric keys.
Similarly, the well-spaced haptic touch QWERTY keyboard is possibly the best of the Android phones thus far, and is naturally far roomier than the keyboard crammed onto the smaller Cliq XT screen.
T-Mobile’s 3G network on the Vibrant out-performed the Captivate on AT&T – when you can get it. While sitting in a Times Square hotel lobby, we started off with speedy 3G service, but Vibrant mysteriously lapsed to EDGE for no discernable reason. Mobile-optimized pages such as CNN and ESPN loaded in 3-4 seconds while in 3G, twice to three times as long for standard HTML pages.
The Vibrant also takes photos better than the Captivate, with deeper blacks and brighter colors. HD videos – and Vibrant is the only T-Mobile phone to offer full 30fps HD video – don’t offer the level of detail of even Flip pocket cams, but are far superior to any captured by other T-Mobile phones.
Then there’s the side power button, found on all the Galaxy S phones. In almost all other apps, you hit this key and the phone shuts off. But in record mode, it locks the screen and all the buttons, a status indicated by a tiny, barely perceptible on-screen padlock icon. We’re not sure why this camera lock is necessary. With no immediate and obvious status indication, it frequently delayed snapping candid shots.
Technically, the Vibrant is rated at 6.5 hours of talk time – a half hour more than Captivate – and 450 hours standby – 150 hours (nearly a week) more than Captivate. Neither of these numbers are up to Motorola Cliq XT’s numbers, but our test model easily lasted a whole day or regular usage without needing recharging.
T-Mobile’s best all-around Android phone has been the Motorola Cliq XT. It has the same 5-megapixel camera as the Vibrant, only with a flash. But it’s slower for surfing and loading apps than the Vibrant, it has just a HVGA video recorder, a smaller QWERTY, less memory, and a screen nearly an inch smaller. But it’s also $70 less than the Vibrant. If you can afford it (and don’t take many indoor pictures), the Vibrant is definitely worth the extra dough.
- Bright, colorful, glossy 4-inch AMOLED screen
- Google Android OS v2.1
- 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording
- 16GB built-in memory
- Light, sleek, uncluttered exterior
- Touch controls backlighting out-of-sync with screen
- No camera flash
- No front-facing camera
- Power switch acts odd in camera mode
- Inconsistent 3G connectivity on T-Mobile