T-Mobile TV and Samsung's Media Hub video store are also onboard if you want to watch video on the go. The latter lets you rent or buy movies and TV shows, and Samsung and T-Mobile just announced that purchases can be charged to your monthly phone bill.
The Galaxy S 4G isn't too shabby at capturing video itself. The smartphone's 5-megapixel camera is capable of shooting 720p HD video and has some light editing options (the camera offers more), and we found the video quality to be quite good. The camcorder was able to capture action sequences clearly, and the picture was sharp and crisp. Picture quality was also good. Subjects were clearly defined and colors were bright, even when the photo was taken in low light.
We should note that even though the handset ships with a 16GB microSD card and the expansion slot supports cards of up to 32GB, the Galaxy S 4G has less internal memory (around 185MB) than the Vibrant (16GB).
The biggest improvement that the Samsung Galaxy S 4G brings over its predecessor is 4G support, but it's also notable because it's T-Mobile's first smartphone capable of reaching theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps. The carrier's other 4G phones, such as the T-Mobile G2 and T-Mobile MyTouch 4G, peak at 14Mbps.
During our review period, the Galaxy S 4G didn't achieve results that were any faster than the aforementioned smartphones, but we were still impressed by the speed of T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. We used Ookla's Speedtest.net app to record download and upload speeds throughout Manhattan and averaged 5.01Mbps down (peaking at 6.89Mbps) and 1.70Mbps up (peaking at 1.82Mbps).
In real-world usage, CNET's full site loaded in 18 seconds on the phone's full HTML Web browser, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN loaded in 3 seconds and 5 seconds, respectively. A 16.44MB app from the Android Market downloaded and installed in about 35 seconds. YouTube videos, even high-quality clips, played within a couple of seconds.
The smartphone also has mobile hot-spot capabilities, though the functionality is a bit hidden. Unlike other handsets we've seen, there isn't a specific app for it; instead you need to go to Settings > Wireless and Network > Mobile AP to activate it. Note that if you want to use this feature, you will need to add the Tethering and Wi-Fi Sharing plan, which costs $15 per month, but you can share the connection on up to five devices. We connected the Galaxy S 4G with a MacBook Pro and were able to surf most Web sites with no problem. With download speeds averaging 4.17Mbps and upload speeds of 1.68Mbps, we uploaded a 7.6MB photo album in 45 seconds and downloaded a 9.3MB song from iTunes in 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Galaxy S 4G in New York using T-Mobile service, and call quality was excellent. The audio was crisp and clear on our end, with very little to no background noise or voice distortion. We didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period. On the other side of the conversation, friends also reported good results. There were a couple of mentions of some slight static, but the feedback was positive overall.
Samsung Galaxy S 4G call quality sample
Speakerphone quality was OK. Calls sounded a bit tinny but clear, so we had no problem carrying on conversations. There was also enough volume that we could hear our callers even in noisier environments. We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and were able to make calls and listen to music without a hitch.
Armed with a 1GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor, the Galaxy S 4G was able to keep up with most of our demands. We did, however, notice a bit of lag at times. For example, when we tried to e-mail a picture from the photo gallery, there was a slight delay bringing up the e-mail menu. Still, it was able to handle most tasks with no problems, as apps launched almost immediately and video and gameplay were smooth.
Whereas the Samsung Vibrant uses a 1,500mAh battery, the Samsung Galaxy S 4G ships with a larger, 1,650mAh lithium ion battery. The rated talk time is 6.5 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time, but we were able to get an impressive 9 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests. In general, we definitely saw an improvement in battery life over the Vibrant. We were able to go a full day with moderate to heavy use before needing to recharge. Using the mobile hot-spot feature does drain the battery faster, however, so definitely be aware of that if you're using this function.
According to FCC radiation tests, the Galaxy S 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.9W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.