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Thursday, February 14, 2013

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Samsung Epic 4G Touch Review

Anonymous - 08:44

The Samsung Epic 4G Touch is a high-end Android smartphone available now from Sprint. Features include a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 3G/4G network connectivity, WI-Fi, and two cameras, 8 megapixel on the back and 2 megapixel for video calls on the front.

The Epic Touch, Sprint's version of the Galaxy S II, is costs $200 with a new two-year service contract.


This is one of the biggest phones that I've reviewed in recent memory, but it's not the sort of thing that you really notice until you try to sit down with it in your pocket. The device is very wide, but it's right under the limit of where it would be difficult or uncomfortable to hold.

It's very thin too, which certainly helps. The back of the device is textured, but in a good way -- it increases grip without being too sharp or annoying, though it does seem to hold on to dust in a major way. I found myself cleaning off the back of the phone almost as often as the front!


The display truly is epic, so you could say that this phone is well-named. The 4.52-inch display is one of the largest I've ever used, and I really enjoyed being able to interact with the content on the device, rather than wasting a lot of my time scrolling and squinting.

The Super AMOLED Plus display is indeed super sharp, and I just can't say enough good things about this screen. There was nary a pixel or jaggy edge to be seen, and I am also quite pleased by the outdoor performance of this display. With some phones you have to adjust the brightness, adjust your position and the viewing angle, etc. just to get a glimpse of what's on the screen. I didn't have that problem with the Epic Touch, which makes it much more useful as an on the go navigation and entertainment device.


There's no physical keyboard here, so you'll be using the virtual QWERTY keyboard on the display. That large screen makes this easier than usual; the virtual keys are a bit larger than normal and therefore easier to hit with more accuracy.

I was disappointed by the lack of Swype, but I don't have any other complaints about the keyboard--it just works.

Other Buttons & Controls

The power button is on the top right side of the phone, which I found to be a source of endless frustration. It's a little thing perhaps, and unimportant to most, but not to me. I think it's because I'm left-handed, and I generally use smartphones with one hand -- I had to adjust my grip every time I turned the phone on. The button just isn't in the right spot (it's "supposed" to be on the top edge of the phone) and the Epic unlock screen requires a swipe up and to the right, starting on the bottom left corner.

The volume up/down buttons are on the left side of the phone; you can also use them to control the camera's zoom level. The headphone headphone jack is the only thing you'll find on the top of the phone, and the micro USB charge/sync port is on the bottom.

The microSD card slot is located underneath the back cover of the phone, which is easy to remove. That card slot is not under the battery, which is a welcome change -- it's easy to swap out cards if you need to do so, and you won't have to power down your phone.

The Menu, Home, Back, and Search buttons on the front of the device under the display aren't real physical buttons, but capacitive touchscreen buttons. They work well enough, though I would rather have had actual buttons, since they're easier to locate and use in low light conditions.


The Samsung Epic 4G Touch runs Android version 2.3.4 on a dual core 1.2 GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 2GB of storage memory. I found it to be entirely responsive no matter what task I was performing. I didn't often have to wait for anything that wasn't network dependent. The Quadrant benchmark results seem to agree with that assessment; the Epic received a score of 3256, which blew all of the comparison devices right out of the water.

Network speed testing provided more mixed results, though it could have been that I was in a relatively poor coverage area when I ran my tests. On the 3G network, results were between 351 to 796 kbps download, 134 to 462 kbps upload, and 99 to 120 ping. With 4G turned on, the download speeds were much faster, ranging between 1831 to 2372 kbps download, 49(!) to 214 kbps upload, and pings of 175 to 183.


This a 3G/4G hybrid device, so you'll have to choose whether you want to accept the battery life hit if you want to go with the faster 4G network. I was quite pleased with the signal strength; even inside notorious dead zones like my office I was able to get at least two or three bars out of six.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work flawlessly, and the Sprint Hotspot feature is handy if you need to share your mobile connection with other devices. I like the way security is handled as well; the password you're required to enter on that other device is your phone number, which is easy to remember.

Call quality is very good, but not exceptional. I didn't experience any major issues such as voices cutting in and out, tinny or otherwise odd-sounding voices, static, etc. Background noise wasn't a problem either, though my callers could tell that I was on a cell phone.

Social networking is handled by the Samsung Social Hub, which attempts to streamline and integrate all of your contacts, email accounts, and social networking activities into one app. It's OK, but it's no HTC Friendstream, and I preferred to use the standard Facebook and Twitter apps available for free on the Android Market.

The email experience is Android-standard, but gets a few extra points due to the extra-large display--less scrolling makes the overall experience more pleasant. The web experience is also pretty much par for the course, but I wasn't expecting anything all that different or exciting. Particularly complicated sites, such as the Moodstream site with video and music, can be a little slow to get started, but that can be attributed to network conditions more than the phone itself.


All of the standard PIM apps are here: Calculator, Calendar, Clock, and Contacts. A Task application is also included, but please note that this is a standalone app, not anything tied to Google Tasks. The PIM experience is a good one thanks to the Android goodness that automagically pulls down everything from your Google account, but none of the apps appear to be enhanced in any way.

The Epic Touch includes Polaris Office, which is an app that I hadn't seen until I found it pre-installed on this phone. I really like it, especially the extended support for Office '97 through Office 2007. It supports creation and editing of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and the built in file manager is particularly easy to use. It's a nice alternative to Thinkoffice, which seems to be the standard for Microsoft Office-compatible software on smartphones these days.

Google Maps is included, as well as access to the beta navigation feature. I used it quite heavily during my review and was impressed by its accuracy and ease of use. Turn-by-turn directions with voice prompts were generated quickly, with easy to follow maps that got me exactly where I needed to be, even when I didn't have the slightest idea of how to get there.

If you're more interested in finding out what's available along the way, you'll be happy to find the Google Places app. You can search for particular places like restaurants, bars, gas stations, ATMs, and attractions, or just get information on everything nearby. If you're already using Google Places on the web, you'll get personalized recommendations, and it's easy to rate and review the places you visit right within the app.

If you're not interested in using the relevant Google apps for navigation, the Epic also comes with TeleNav GPS for mapping and directions, as well as TripAdvisor and even Urbanspoon for restaurant reviews.


There are a bunch of Sprint-specific apps included with the Epic, such as Sprint Music Plus, Sprint Radio, and Sprint TV & Movies. They're all good apps, though they don't really provide access to anything mind-blowing--the whole idea is to encourage users to pay extra monthly subscription fees, after all.

A standard music player app is included, though I immediately downloaded the Google Music beta app so that I would have access to all of the music that has been uploaded to the cloud. Sound quality on the external speaker is excellent, so you can easily share all of your favorite tunes without having to plug in your earbuds.

Google Books is also included, though if you're already a Kindle user you'll likely want to download the free Amazon Kindle app from the Android Market. There aren't any games or even game demos included with the device. so I downloaded a few of my favorites to try them out. Whether you love Angry Birds or Solitaire or TapFish, you'll probably find something you like, and it might even be free.


The eight megapixel camera takes truly great photos. I was so impressed with the quality that while I took my regular Sony digital camera with me on my last trip, I didn't pull it out of my bag even once and could certainly have left it at home.

The camera has plenty of extra features that I don't normally expect, such as blink detection, image stabilization, an outdoor visibility mode, and a variety of shooting, scene, and metering modes. There's a self timer mode too, if you can find somewhere to prop up your phone so that you can join in the picture instead of always being stuck behind the camera.

The LED flash helps you take better photos when you need help taking photos in a low light area, but it won't substitute for other lighting. I also ended up with a few bad photos due to exposure issues, but I was generally very impressed with the quality of photos I was able to capture using this phone. I was able to capture photos quickly, without any excessive delays for focusing or writing the file to memory.

Battery Life

I'm not overly impressed with the battery life on the Epic Touch, but it's good enough. I used it as my primary device for two and a half weeks, and one of those weeks I was on the road. I used it very heavily, checking email constantly, taking photos, getting directions, and performing the odd web search or playing a few rounds of Jewels in my down time.

There were a couple of days where it was rather iffy whether or not it would last until I got back to my hotel room, though that shouldn't be much of a surprise. These weren't your regular get to work by nine and leave by six kind of days either; when I'm on the road for business it's more like a 6AM to 10PM kind of day.


I really like the Samsung Epic 4G Touch -- it seems that the more I use it, the more I like it. It's quite large, but the big, beautiful screen makes that extra size worthwhile, and it's thin and light enough that you don't really notice just how big it is. Performance is exceptional, voice quality is good, and the camera takes great photos.

The only downsides, aside from the rather unfortunate power button placement, are the good (but not great) battery life and the very good (but not excellent voice quality). If I were going to buy a new Android smartphone today, the Epic would be at the top of a very short list.

Gorgeous display
Excellent performance
Good battery life, but could be better
Excellent camera

Voice quality is slightly less than I would expect
Annoying power button location


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