The Droid Charge ships running Android 2.2.1 and not Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but you get the standard Google services, as well as the solid contact and calendar management, social networking integration, and full Web browser that come with Android. The handset comes preloaded with a healthy selection of apps, including some staples like an office suite (ThinkFree, in this case), a calculator, and more fun extras, such as the Amazon Kindle Android app and TuneWiki. Verizon also loads the Charge up with a handful of its services and you can't uninstall them, so you're stuck with them whether you use them or not.
One app we had fun with was Samsung's Media Hub video store, through which you can rent and buy movies and TV shows. There are few handsets that we'd watch long videos on, but the Droid Charge's beautiful display just drew us in. The music player is also more than capable, offering the basic player functions plus a built-in equalizer, effects, and 5.1-channel surround sound.
The phone's 8-megapixel camera includes a flash, autofocus, and a good dose of editing options, including blink detection and antishake. The picture quality was great, with very detailed images and sharp lines. In indoor shots, there weren't any strange hues ruining the picture and colors looked bright. Photos taken outdoors looked even better. The camera can also shoot 720p HD video of good quality: the picture was sharp and it was able to capture action sequences with little blur.
You can share your media in various ways, including the usual social networking channels, and you can project them onto larger screens via the HDMI port or via DLNA. The Samsung Droid Charge has 2GB of internal memory and comes with a 32GB microSD card.
We tested the dual-band Samsung Droid Charge in New York using Verizon service, and call quality was good. We enjoyed clear audio with little to no background noise, and voices sounded true to life, without any type of distortion or garbling. We also didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period. Callers were impressed with the sound quality on their end and didn't have any complaints.
Samsung Droid Charge call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was also impressive. Calls didn't have that typical hollow sound that a lot of speakerphones do, and the audio was richer than on most phones. There was also enough volume to hold conversations in noisier environments. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problem making calls or listening to music.
We got continuous 4G coverage here in Manhattan, and Verizon's LTE network continued to impress us with blazing data speeds. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of 15.11Mbps and upload speeds of 5.21Mbps. With such speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 17 seconds on the smartphone, while the mobile sites for the CNN and ESPN came up in 4 seconds and 3.5 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos buffered within seconds and played continuously, and we were able to watch Flash videos from CNET TV with little problem.
We also paired the Droid Charge with our MacBook Pro and used it as a mobile hot spot. We didn't see quite the same speeds that we did on the smartphone itself, averaging 8.35Mbps down and 3.75Mbps up, but it was more than enough to allow us to download the new Beastie Boys album in 2 minutes and upload a 7.3MB photo album in 22 seconds. Not surprisingly, though, using the mobile hot-spot feature takes a toll on battery life, so be sure to keep an eye on your battery levels.
Underneath the hood are a 1GHz Hummingbird processor and 512MB of RAM, and generally speaking the smartphone felt responsive during our testing period. We didn't experience any system crashes, and there weren't any delays long enough to make us think there was a problem. That said, there were instances when the smartphone would hang a bit, such as when we were launching apps or a different menu. These moments were quick and didn't really disrupt our workflow, but it's something we did notice.
The Samsung Droid Charge ships with a 1,600mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 11 hours and up to 12 days of standby time. Over a 4G connection, the Droid Charge provided 6 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests. However, we can tell you that the Charge's battery life is longer than the HTC ThunderBolt's. With moderate use of the browser, e-mail, and some media features, the smartphone lasted a full workday before needing to be recharged. Sure, we pretty much had to plug it in as soon as we got home, but it's so much better than the ThunderBolt, where we were scrambling for our charger by afternoon. Still, it would be nice to have a way to toggle between 3G and 4G for even more battery savings.
According to FCC radiation tests, the Droid Charge has a digital SAR rating of 1.01W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T4.
The Samsung Droid Charge definitely has its downsides. Its design is large and uninspiring. It doesn't have a dual-core processor, and the high price is a major turnoff. However, there's plenty to like about the Android smartphone as well. The Super AMOLED Plus display is absolutely stunning, and the Charge offers great call quality and has an excellent camera. What's more, it offers better battery life than the HTC ThunderBolt, so if that's high on your priority list and you need a device now and can afford the price, we'd certainly say the Droid Charge would be a better choice.