Sunday, August 22, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S phones do Android platform proud

SAN FRANCISCO — The more phones that hit the market using Google's Android operating software, the harder it is for each offering to stand out from the black-and-silver crowd.
Samsung is the latest company trying to turn heads, hoping consumers will snatch up its new Galaxy S smart phones, which are both attractive on the surface and well-appointed beneath the hood.

AT&T already sells the Samsung Captivate, and T-Mobile offers the Vibrant. Two more are coming: Sprint will start selling the Epic 4G at the end of August, and Verizon plans to roll out the Fascinate this fall.

I tested the Captivate, Vibrant and Epic 4G, which all have plenty of great features in common: bright, crisp screens; 5-megapixel cameras that can also take high-definition videos; speedy 1 Ghz Hummingbird processors and Google Inc.'s easy-to-use Android operating software.

The phones have plenty of memory, too: The Epic 4G includes a 16-gigabyte microSD memory card, while the Captivate and Vibrant have the same amount of internal storage.

This could come in handy when Samsung opens up its forthcoming Media Hub, which will let Galaxy S users rent or purchase movies and TV shows on their phones.

Beyond all the similarities, there are plenty of things that make each Galaxy S phone unique:

Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile, $200 with a two-year contract and after a rebate)

Though the Vibrant's black body — with silver trim — looks like an older iPhone, it distinguishes itself as a pretty solid Android phone that's good at multitasking.

The phone is the lightest of the bunch, tipping the scales at 4.2 ounces. While its design isn't revolutionary, it has familiar-looking rounded corners, so it fits really nicely in the palm of your hand.

One catch: The Vibrant also seemed to freeze up fairly frequently, such as when I was searching the Android Market for new applications or using ones I already have. Most of the time, though, it worked speedily, whether I was snapping photos or streaming music from online subscription service Rdio.

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