Smartphones

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.

Rather than a long narrative, TechRepublic product reviews give IT and business professionals exactly the information they need to evaluate a product, along with plenty of photos, a list of competing products, and links to more information. You can find more reviews like this one on our Product Spotlight page.

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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.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

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 upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

17 comments
robo21
robo21

I had the usual problems with my Samsung Vibrant which I purchased about a week after release. I had to get a warranty replacement which was a new phone with a build date of 10/20/10. Now the phone is absolutely amazing. Everything works as it should including the GPS. What a great mobile device and value.

Hirado
Hirado

No voice calling on Bluetooth and no front face camera.

keithzorz
keithzorz

Just an FYI, the "crapware" from AT&T can be uninstalled after rooting by using Titanium Backup.

dirtylaundry
dirtylaundry

No LED flash and No front facing cam - maybe you need to actually hold one and use it before you do reviews and claim it is the *sport sedan* of android devices.... (T-Mobile *cough*)

jeffpaq
jeffpaq

I have a Vibrant, and it does NOT have a front-facing camera!

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I love my Vibrant. I think it's the fastest phone that I've found. the camera is ok not the gratest if you want to take a picture on motion.. I dont know about the verizon model, but the one from tmobile does not have a LED flash.. the network is fine in my area so using most of my apps with internet are fine. I also like that I can sync my exchange and personal emails/calendar .. bottom line, I think is a decent smartphone but the battery life is a joke. I have to charge it every 36 hours... which sucks.. Cheers :)

rdavis
rdavis

I think the objection to the crapware is a little silly. You have several pages on the launcher and you put what you want on those pages and ignore the rest. My concern is that, as far as I understand it, I cannot add apps outside the marketplace. I think I will avoid the rooting issue for now, I had trouble getting the Samsung Kies to work. I am not sure that ATT was aware it did not work!

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

In fact, that's my hand in the photo. :-) I just had the wrong spec sheet on the camera (that original info was the camera info for the Epic 4G). It's fixed now.

robo21
robo21

While I can think of a couple of instances where an LED flash might be useful, I can do without it. The Vibrant has an excellent camera for a mobile device which includes a low light, "Night Shot" mode. This mode works exceptionally well and offers relatively low noise. An LED flash offers limited range anyway so I don't really miss it. Not to mention, on many occasions, the LED flash can be obnoxious if not downright dispruptive.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

The Vibrant and the Captivate (AT&T) don't have an LED flash. The Epic 4G (Sprint) and Fascinate (Verizon) do have an LED flash. Go figure. As for battery life... 36 hours is pretty decent for a 3G smartphone. 3G radios are massive battery hogs.

drn
drn

- The buttons (front bottom, i.e. menu, home, return, search) are not tactile, i.e. you can't find them by touch. They are part of the touch screen, so you can't see them in the dark and you can't find them by feel. - No notification LED on the front, i.e. no indicator that you missed a call or have voicemail or have a calendar event reminder. - no trackball/D-pad: no way to scroll thru events in the "today" or "week" view in the calendar. - no camera flash - no front-facing camera - the bars of signal strength are flakey - the satellite GPS doesn't work (apparently a s/w bug) - I want my Tmo UMA.

chris
chris

The lead paragraph of your review indicates that you'd let us know why THIS Galaxy S variant is the best of the bunch. The article is very short. There are 3 other Galaxy S variants on 3 other carriers. Where do you compare the Vibrant to the Facinate, Captivate or Epic? If you printed it, I missed it. I appreciate the "Joe Friday's"... just the facts - Just the bits and bytes I need to give me the meat of your review, but unless I'm really off, you missed one of the major points of your review in the midst of your brevity. I'd really (and I'm sure everyone else would) appreciate a follow-up post...

techmedic.jim
techmedic.jim

However I could not get the Samsung Kies top work yet. Still looking for the correct install procedure.

jeffpaq
jeffpaq

You still have it listed in the "High-end features" paragraph. You're welcome ;-) Can I get paid for proof-reading? j/k It is a great device overall. It's speedy and feels solid and comfortable in my hand. Good article!

khryztyne
khryztyne

The phone is really cool looking, but it's very unstable. I have to call tmo again because I keep getting force quit errors. I've been having major problems with getting all of my text messages. Apparently, my bf, who is on Boost Mobile, texts me, and i don't get the majority of the text msgs... there are quite a few of mine that he doesn't get also. Other problems i've noticed... It doesn't "switch gears" very well. I find myself waiting on the phone to "think" more than normal. Bottom line, i like the cool features of the phone. And I would buy it over an iPhone because of the extra features it has, but i miss the stability of my blackberry. I've been with BB since the beginning of BB time, and this is my first full fledged switch (where my BB is NOT my primary phone)... and i gotta tell ya, i'm going through serious withdrawls.

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