Verizon is dropping its second 4G LTE device, the Samsung Droid Charge. Verizon continues to expand its 4G network into new areas and bring new smartphones that are compatible with it. The phone is finally ready to hit consumers soon after being first announced at CES in January. We’ve been playing with the Droid Charge for over a week now and are ready to finally share our thoughts on it. You may remember our HTC Thunderbolt review in March where we found the major downside to be battery life. Will that be the case on the Droid Charge? Hit the jump to check out the full review and find out.
The Samsung Droid Charge is a pretty large phone, but that is the norm these days. The phone itself is 5.11 inches by 2.66 inches with a 4.3-inch display. It weighs in at 5.04 oz and feels really light when holding it. We like the lightweight of the phone because it makes it easy to carry around without a giant outline of a phone in our pockets.
The part of the Droid Charge we dislike the most is the plastic back panel. We found it to feel pretty cheap and the plastic is just too thin. This week we have been carrying around a Droid Incredible 2 in the same pocket as the Charge and found that the plastic back scratches ridiculously easy. The rest of the phone has a nice build quality to it, it is just that back panel that creates a cheaper feeling.
The front of the phone consists of the touchscreen (we will get more into that), a front-facing camera, four buttons, Verizon branding, and Samsung branding. The four bottons near the bottom of the display will allow you to access menus, go home, go back, or search. These are physical buttons that need to be pressed, as opposed to the touchscreen buttons on the HTC Thunderbolt. The earpiece on the front is in the shape of a rounded triangle and is something you really need to get used to when talking on the phone.
Samsung has put an impressive 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen display. The display gives off very vibrant and bright colors, looking similar to some of the other Samsung smartphones out on the market right now. The display is very responsive to touch and is pretty accurate which makes for a good touchscreen experience.
The back of the phone, like we said before, is made from a thin plastic that scratches easily. It has a “with Google” branding and a small speaker below that. Up near the top is the 8MP camera with an LED flash for low-light situations. Finally, right below the camera is 4G LTE branding.
The left bezel has the volume toggles and a microUSB charging port. Turn it to the right bezel and you will find the power/standby button and the HDMI port. Up on the top there is what looks to be a microphone and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Inside the phone we have a 1GHz processor powered by Qualcomm and 512MB of RAM. There is 1GB of internal memory for apps and comes with a 32GB microSD card. These powerful internals create a faster user experience and reduce phone slowdown.
The Droid Charge runs Google’s Android 2.2 operating system with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface over it. You may recognize the TouchWiz interface from Samsung’s Galaxy S devices. TouchWiz improves the Android experience by giving a new way to browse through your applications, sort of iPhone like. It also gives you seven home screens that can all be customized for your needs with different widgets, shortcuts, and folders. Overall, we find that TouchWiz is a positive part of this phone.
There are a lot of preloaded apps that can come with the Droid Charge. First off, an keyboard alternative called Swipe is preloaded for those who prefer it over the traditional keyboard experience. Additionally, Mobile Hotspot is added to the phone to allow for 4G tethering to up to five other devices. Verizon seems to be doing a deal where you can use the hotspot for a limited time with no additional charge. Other apps that come preinstalled are Allshare, Amazon Kindle, Bitbop, Blockbuster, City ID, Daily Briefing, Lets Golf 2, Media Hub, Rhapsody, Rock Band, Slacker Radio, ThinkFree Office, TuneWiki, and V CAST. Unfortunately, you cannot remove any of these apps so you are left with a bunch of apps that are essentially useless.
The keyboard that comes with TouchWiz isn’t great. The auto-correct is plain annoying because it tries to guess what word you are trying to type and changes the actual word as you are typing it. So if you are typing testing, it will show test until you get up to the “testi” where it will show “testifies.” Continue to type “ng” and it will put it back to what you wanted. When you press a keyboard key, the device vibrates a tiny bit to let you know it registered the input, this part isn’t bad.
As the second 4G LTE phone available on Verizon, data speeds are going to of interest to a lot of you. Our data speeds ranged from as low as 3.52Mbps download speed to 10.72Mbps, while upload speeds varied from 2.41Mbps to 5.21Mbps. All of these tests were done in the Tampa, FL area. While the speeds were average for 4G, we did get some test results that were below the average expected download speed of 5 to 12Mbps and 2 to 4 Mbps upload speed Verizon boasts about.
On the other hand, our speeds improved when we would use the Mobile Hotspot app to tether to the computer and do a speed test. We used this as our main source of Internet at BlackBerry World and found it to be more than sufficient.
The Samsung Droid Charge has a 8MP camera with autofocus and an LED flash on the back. The picture takes decent pictures and even seems to be take good ones in low light (check out picture below). We didn’t have any problems with the camera and found it to be quite useful.
There is also a 1.3MP front-facing camera on the front of the phone that can be used for taking pictures of yourself or video calling a friend. While the camera is only 1.3MP, we still found it to take some quality pictures. I took one of myself after hours of writing this review below:
One of the biggest concerns that we had before getting the Droid Charge was that it would have horrible battery life. Our biggest complaint about the the HTC Thunderbolt, Verizon’s first 4G phone, was that the battery wouldn’t last us the entire day, even with not much usage. Fortunately, the Droid Charge performs much better in this area and can easily maintain a full day of moderate use with Internet usage, texting, and phone calls. The battery’s capacity is 1600 mAh, which is 200 mAh more than the Thunderbolt, but we speculate some of the internals are playing a part in the battery improvement as well.
The Samsung Droid Charge on Verizon is the best 4G phone offered by the carrier. Its big brother, the HTC Thunderbolt, had issues with the battery that made us hesitant to recommend it to consumer. However, that is not something we are concerned about the Charge. Its beautiful screen with Super AMOLED and 1GHz processor make the hardware run smoothly, but we are looking forward to a 4G smartphone with a dual-core processor on Verizon’s network. The build of the phone was nice, minus the cheap feeling plastic black panel that scratches easily.
We are confidently able to recommend this phone to consumers who want to take the leap into a 4G LTE smartphone on Verizon. It almost seems as if there are too many smartphone options available with the iPhone, BlackBerry’s, and tons of Android phones being available. However, we feel as if the Droid Charge is one of the better options available and think that it is almost foolish to not get a 4G smartphone when signing a two year contract.