Mobility

Review: Samsung Vibrant is the flagship of the Galaxy S fleet

The Samsung Vibrant is now the flagship Android device for both Samsung and T-Mobile. Learn why it trumps the other models of the Galaxy S.

The Samsung Vibrant, T-Mobile's edition of the Galaxy S, is now the flagship Android device for both Samsung and T-Mobile. See how this smartphone combines top performance and a slender, attractive design, and learn why it's better than the other Galaxy S models.

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Samsung Vibrant is the sport sedan of Android phones

Specifications

  • Carrier: T-Mobile
  • OS: Android 2.1 with Samsung TouchWiz 3.0
  • Processor: Samsung 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Storage: 16 GB internal with 2 GB microSD (expandable to 32 GB)
  • Display: 4-inch Super AMOLED 480 x 800 pixels
  • Battery: 1500mAh Lithium (Li-on) battery
  • Ports: microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, six-axis gyro, digital compass, proximity sensor, light sensor and GPS
  • Weight: 4.16 ounces
  • Dimensions: 4.82(h) x 2.54(w) x 0.39(d) inches
  • Camera: 5.0 MP, autofocus, 3x digital zoom, 720p video recording
  • Keyboard: vertical and horizontal on-screen qwerty, and Swype
  • Networks: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, DLNA
  • Tethering: USB
  • Price: $199 (with 2-year contract)

Who is it for?

The Samsung Vibrant is the everyman Android device with high-end functionality for both work tasks and multimedia. And since it's on discount carrier T-Mobile (U.S.), its wireless service costs are a little more modest. Plus, at the time that I'm writing this, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one-get-one-free offer for the Vibrant. If you want an Android device on T-Mobile, the Vibrant is arguably the most useful and versatile.

What problems does it solve?

The Vibrant combines a powerful feature package with a slim, attractive design. It has nearly as many top-of-the-line features as the gigantic HTC EVO 4G, but it comes in a thin form factor that clearly drew its inspiration from the iPhone 3GS.

Standout features

  • High-end features - With its 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 16 GB of built-in storage, the Vibrant has a standard set of features that match all of the high-end Android phones of 2010. However, it also has a Super AMOLED screen, 802.11n, a six-axis accelerometer, front-facing camera, and HD video recording that go above and beyond most of the Android phones on the market.
  • Great performance - One of the most likeable features of the Vibrant is its speed for opening apps, sending messages, viewing multimedia, and loading Web pages (when the T-Mobile network doesn't hold it back).
  • Minimal Android doctoring - The best thing about the Vibrant and one of the main reasons why I consider it the best device in the Galaxy S fleet, is that T-Mobile has done the least amount of damage to the native Android OS. Meanwhile, AT&T, Sprint, and worst of all Verizon, each loaded up their Galaxy S models with lots of crapware promoting their own add-on services (and made the extra crapware apps uninstallable). The Vibrant isn't perfect in this respect. It still futzes with the Android home and apps screens and removes some of the standard Android apps and widgets, but it's better than its cousins on the other carriers.
  • Svelte design - For all of its high-end features, the Vibrant doesn't sacrifice as much in design as the oversized HTC EVO or Motorola Droid X. The Vibrant is much thinner, lighter, and easier to fit in a pocket, belt case, or handbag. It also has an attractive — if not flashy — look. The designers were obviously mimicking the look of the old iPhone (pre-iPhone 4) with the chrome edge around the screen and the plastic backing.

What's wrong?

  • T-Mobile network - The biggest hang up for the Vibrant is that T-Mobile has the worst wireless network of the big four U.S. cellular carriers. It has coverage and reception problems in several critical areas, including New York City and its mobile broadband upgrades are lagging behind the other three carriers. The one big plus for T-Mobile is that it's a great carrier for international travel, especially to Europe.
  • Mediocre battery life - While the Vibrant is not quite as much of a power hog as the EVO, its battery life is still a weak spot. That's one of the trade-offs of having a phone with top features like the AMOLED screen and multimedia functionality. Under heavy use, there will be times when the Vibrant has trouble making it through an entire business day without a charge.
  • Lots of plastic - While the design of the Vibrant looks sharp, the body is made almost completely of plastic, which makes it feel a little cheap. It certainly doesn't have the high-quality finish of the iPhone 4, BlackBerry Torch, or Nexus One.

Bottom line for business

If you're looking for an Android smartphone and the T-Mobile network has sufficient coverage and data bandwidth in the areas that you need, then the Samsung Vibrant should be one of your considerations. It offers a great combination of performance, multimedia, and lots of high-end features in a package that is slim and cost-efficient. This is a great device for combining work and play.

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About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.

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