With each generation, Samsung's Galaxy line of Android smartphones has made big improvements. Here's a look at the progression of Galaxy phones that launched on US carriers.
Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile)
The launch of Samsung's latest and greatest incarnation of the Galaxy franchise, the Galaxy S5, will no doubt make a big splash. Just like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3 before it, it's yet another superphone sold worldwide and on all major American carriers. And in typical Samsung fashion, the Galaxy S5 packs the most bells and whistles Samsung, or anyone else, can muster into a modern Android KitKat smartphone. Still, the Galaxy smartphone saga is long, venerable, and worth reflecting upon. Sit back as we review all the Galaxy class devices to officially hit US shores. Of course, if we've missed one, please comment and let us know.
Let's begin with the Samsung Vibrant. There were a couple of other Galaxy handsets before it, but the Vibrant was the first handset in the family to land at a US carrier.
CNET Review bottom line: Sleek and fast, the Samsung Vibrant was one of T-Mobile's top smartphones for entertainment, but its feature set did take a toll on the battery life.
True to its name, the Samsung Epic 4G had a knockout Super AMOLED display, a 1GHz processor, a front-facing camera, an impressive QWERTY keyboard, and a 5.0-megapixel camera with an LED flash, and supported Sprint's 4G WiMax network.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Epic 4G was a multimedia powerhouse for its time with features the other Galaxy S phones didn't have, such as a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, front-facing camera, LED flash, and support for Sprint's 4G WiMax network.
The Samsung Facinate certainly turned heads with its Super AMOLED touch screen. Powered by a 1GHz processor, it offered a great multimedia experience as well.
CNET review bottom line: Sleek and powerful, the Samsung Fascinate made a strong addition to Verizon's Android lineup. Its user interface wouldn't appeal to everyone, particularly seasoned Android users, but it was certainly a good smartphone for the masses.
While its call quality could have been better, the Samsung Mesmerize sported a lovely Super AMOLED screen like its other Galaxy S siblings. Its 5-megapixel camera also captured excellent photos and video compared with other phones at the time.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Mesmerize was a top-notch smartphone for U.S. Cellular customers, offering a brilliant touch screen, speed, and plenty of features.
We initially thought the secondary display might be more of a gimmick than a useful feature, but after some use, we found it to be a great way to stay informed on the go or on the sly. It also had a 1GHz processor and you could use it as a mobile hot spot, but some features were locked down.
CNET review bottom line: More than just a gimmick, the Samsung Continuum's secondary display is a useful management and multitasking tool, but its constant flow of information might not appeal to everybody.
Though it didn't carry the Galaxy name, Samsung's first pure Android handset was certainly a member of the family. After landing first at T-Mobile, it also came to Sprint and AT&T.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Nexus S got points for its slick design, satisfying performance, and authentic Android user interface. But outside of the then-new Gingerbread OS and a faster processor, it didn't offer as many fresh features as we had hoped.
The Samsung Galaxy S 4G had plenty to offer, including 4G connectivity, a front-facing camera for video calls, a larger battery, and Android 2.2. The phone also boasted impressive data speeds and good call quality. Other highlights were a rich and vibrant Super AMOLED touch screen and a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video recording.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy S 4G was a fantastic Android smartphone for T-Mobile customers, delivering fast data speeds and other improvements.
Boost Mobile's second-ever Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Prevail had an elegant design complete with metallic accents. Too bad, though, that call quality could have been better and its weak components made the device underpowered.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy Prevail married sophistication with good value to become one of Boost Mobile's best smartphone deals.
As a Samsung Galaxy S II class handset, Sprint's Epic 4G Touch boasted a large and bright 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. With a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, the Android smartphone was also fast and 4G-capable. Camera quality was also excellent.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Epic 4G Touch offered speedy performance, a beautiful screen, and a great multimedia experience to make it one of Sprint's top Android phones for 2011, but its large size won't be for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S II (AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular)
AT&T got it first with T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular following behind.
Taking the successful features of its predecessor, the Galaxy S, the Samsung Galaxy S II boasted a beautiful display and a thin design. With a dual-core processor, the Android Gingerbread device delivered fast performance, as well as good battery life. Camera quality was excellent too.
CNET review bottom line: With its dual-core processor, vibrant display, and great performance, the sleek and powerful Samsung Galaxy S II rose to become AT&T's top Android smartphone of 2011.
The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket added support for AT&T's LTE network to an already long list of impressive features, including a beautiful 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, a dual-core 1.5GHz processor, and an NFC chip. It also shipped with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and has an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
CNET review bottom line: If you live in an area that gets AT&T's LTE network, we highly recommend the powerful and beautiful Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless and Sprint)
Available on Verizon, the very first Android Ice Cream Sandwich handset also came to Sprint. One big difference, though, is Sprint's Galaxy Nexus offered access to the Google Wallet mobile payment system.
CNET review bottom line: As the first-ever US phone with Ice Cream Sandwich, Verizon's Samsung Galaxy Nexus takes a coveted, solitary step forward. However, now that other premium handsets boast the updated Android OS, the Galaxy Nexus loses some of its competitive edge.
The Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G is an eye-catching Android 2.3 device that runs on MetroPCS' 4G LTE network. While the Attain's specs aren't cutting-edge, its camera takes admirable outdoor shots and its low price for a no-contract, prepaid carrier won't break the bank.
CNET review bottom line: Samsung's middle-of-the-road Galaxy Attain 4G has a nice price and attractive design for MetroPCS customers, but those seeking true LTE speeds should choose a different carrier.
The Samsung Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch HD screen is ideal for showcasing multimedia. It has 4G LTE, a great 8-megapixel camera, and a souped-up S Pen stylus that brings new ways to interact with your phone.
CNET review bottom line: With its huge screen and throwback stylus, the Samsung Galaxy Note is a polarizing smartphone that winks at tablet territory. Those who like their screens extra-large will find a top-notch device that lets multimedia shine. The S Pen adds some artistic potential, but for some, the phone will just simply be too big.
You can think of the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G as an affordable phone one step below the Galaxy S II. It offers a pretty 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, Android Gingerbread, a solid 5-megapixel camera, a speedy 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and T-Mobile's faster HSPA+ 42 speeds.
CNET review bottom line: With the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G, you're looking at a solid midrange Android smartphone that packs a punch, and has a reasonable initial price tag. T-Mobile customers wouldn't go wrong with the handset, especially if they don't want to pay top dollar, but it isn't for those looking for the cutting edge.
Though it wears the Galaxy name, the Galaxy S Aviator doesn't quite measure up to Samsung's other Galaxy-branded handsets such as the Galaxy Nexus or even Galaxy S II.
CNET review bottom line: With the Samsung Galaxy S Aviator, US Cellular gains another Android smartphone option. Unfortunately, the carrier's limited 4G LTE access and the weak single-core CPU weigh down an otherwise high-flying handset.
One of the best things to say about AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Appeal is that it's another Android smartphone prepaid option for a carrier that has a limited roster in this area. It's a solidly middle-of-the-road 3G handset, with Android 2.3 as its operating system, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that makes for tough typing, and a basic 3.2-megapixel camera.
CNET review bottom line: The Samsung Galaxy Appeal delivers basic Android 2.3 functionality with a slide-out keyboard and wallet-friendly price, but there are performance and design trade-offs.
Samsung Galaxy S3 (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular)
For its third incarnation in the Galaxy handset line, Samsung shared the love with a whopping five US carriers. Besides T-Mobile you also can find it with AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular.
CNET review bottom line: Pumped with high-performing hardware and creative software features, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an excellent, top-end phone that's neck-and-neck with the HTC One X.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 ( AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon)
Samsung took a similar no-holds-barred approach with the Galaxy Note 2 as it did with the Galaxy S3. Not only was this massive device launched on five US mobile carriers, it packed a bevy of powerful components including quad-core processing, 4G LTE, plus a stunning 5.5-inch OLED screen. Also equipped with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the tablet-like handset featured the company's S Pen stylus input device and an impressive 8-megapixel camera as well.
CNET review bottom line: Samsung delivers a powerful, boundary-pushing device that gets a lot right. Yet its complicated features and high price raise questions about its purpose.
More than the sum of its parts, Samsung's last Galaxy phone, the Galaxy S4, was the smartphone to beat for 2013.
While it didn't use metal in its design like the HTC One, it offered a sky-high laundry list of new features including a bigger 5-inch 1080p screen, blisteringly fast quad-core processing, plus an interface method smart enough to monitor your eyes.
CNET review bottom line: Its laundry list of features requires time and effort to truly master, but the Galaxy S4 is the top choice for anyone looking for a big-screen, do-everything smartphone.
Samsung doubled down on the success of the Galaxy S4 by extending its Note line of phablets. The Galaxy Note 3 is unquestionably the best Note device the company ever created and customers found its unique blend of massive screen, screaming quad-core processing, long battery life, and wild stylus tricks intoxicating.
CNET Review bottom line: Though its plastic skin doesn't do its high price justice, Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 makes the most compelling case yet for a supersize phone.
Behold the mighty Samsung Galaxy S5, the latest and most advanced evolution of the Galaxy smartphone franchise. Our experience with the device confirms that Samsung has learned a great deal from its past Galaxy products, and trust us when I say it’s a good thing. The S5 is the fastest, most powerful handset has ever created. Additionally Samsung has streamlined its custom Android interface and worked to rein in aggressive carrier bloatware.
CNET Review bottom line: Subtly improved and smartly refined, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a superior superphone that hits every mark but the sharpest design.
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