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AT&T's portfolio of 4G QWERTY smartphones was looking fairly thin before it added the Samsung Captivate Glide. Sure, the phone runs on the carrier's HSPA+ 21 network rather than the 4G LTE network that AT&T is rolling out, but speeds will eclipse 3G, and it has the specs to impress. The Captivate Glide runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, features a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 720p HD video. It also has a reasonable $149.99 price tag.
However, in order to keep the cost from climbing, Samsung did have to compromise on the phone's build quality. Consequently, its looks--while utilitarian--are hardly premium, a shame considering that the phone has quite a bit to appeal to shoppers seeking a top-tier smartphone.
The Captivate Glide is an all-black phone with rounded corners and straight sides, top, and bottom. A muted gray plastic band encircles the periphery and there's a metal accent surrounding the camera lens on the back of the phone. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Yes, Samsung has a habit of taking a successful design and running with it, over and over and over again. The Captivate Glide fits right into Samsung's family of Android-driven Galaxy smartphones. Measuring 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, it looks like a slightly smaller version of the Galaxy S II, with a slide-out keyboard and the plastic, nubbly backing of the budget Exhibit II 4G. On one hand, you know what you're getting with a Samsung phone of this type. On the other hand, familiarity can also breed boredom, especially when the phone's signature physical traits could handle a little improvement.
Not that the Captivate Glide is an unattractive device--it looks just fine. However, it does suffer from the same impressions of lightness, plasticky feel, and cheap build quality that CNET editors have long noted in many other Samsung models. While I assume that the textured plastic backing was added to improve grippiness, the phone kept slipping out of my hands, and I sometimes wound up fumbling to slide it open. I'd have preferred a coarser texture or more tactile material on the battery cover instead. The slide-out keyboard does add weight (5.2 ounces total) and thickness, which helps mitigate the phone's otherwise flimsier feel.
Luckily, Samsung does more than a few things right, and its Super AMOLED screens are one of them. The Captivate Glide has a beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED display with a WVGA resolution (800x480 pixels) and support for 16 million colors. Colors look bright and saturated, edges look crisp and sharp, and text is very readable.
The handset runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with Samsung's typical TouchWiz interface laid on top. There are seven customizable home screens you can quickly zoom through. You can also resize many widgets, easily access system settings from the notifications menu, and use a pinch motion on the home screens to see them as thumbnails in an overview.
Above the display is a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. Below it are the four now-typical touch-sensitive buttons for opening the menu, going home, going back, and launching search. On the right spine is the power button. On the left, you'll see the volume rocker. The 3.5 millimeter headset jack and Micro-USB charging port are up top (the latter is covered with a sliding door), and on the back there's the 8-megapixel camera lens with flash. Behind the back cover there's the microSD card slot, which takes up to 32GB in external storage.
Slide over the phone face to get your hands on the spacious four-row QWERTY keyboard. I really like the light-blue accent color on the backlit keys, and the square shape of the keys themselves, which can comfortably accommodate a fingertip. While fully separated, the buttons sadly have a common issue of being too flat, in this case almost flush with the surface. The limited tactile feedback of these buttons makes typing slower and far less satisfying than other keyboards in which the buttons rise higher from the surface. I was able to accurately compose e-mails and texts, but wouldn't be able to discern most keys by feel alone.
There are some nice additions to the keyboard as well, like the four navigation buttons flanking the letter keys, two on each side. The presence of these navigation buttons makes the keyboard a little more compact than it would otherwise be, but the slightly shorter configuration happens to better fit my smaller hands. There's also a dedicated microphone button for launching voice actions, plus functions for www. and .com shortcuts, navigation arrows, emoticons, and the ability to silence the phone.
An Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone, the Captivate Glide excels at communication. It supports multiple e-mail accounts, including Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, and other Web mail accounts, either in separate or combined inboxes. There's text and multimedia messaging, as well as Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi direct, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and hooks into multiple social networks, including Samsung's own Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In social hubs. The device also has settings for tethering, VPN, and hot-spot support for up to five devices (3G speeds only).
Google services include Gmail, Maps, Navigation (with turn-by-turn voice directions), Google Books, Search, Places, Talk, Voice Search, and YouTube.
There are a number of apps that come preloaded on the Captivate Glide. Samsung's All Share app helps share and stream content on DLNA-compatible devices. There's also Samsung's Social Hub and Media Hub, and a nicely designed voice recorder. AT&T makes its code-scanner app ready, along with AT&T FamilyMap and Navigator with turn-by-turn directions (it costs $9.99 for a monthly pass and $2.99 for the day pass.) AT&T also has its collection of featured apps, streaming and downloadable TV content through U-verse (it comes with a $9.99 monthly fee after a free seven-day trial).
Other apps are here, too. There's Amazon Kindle, an Asphalt 6 demo, Facebook, Mini Diary, Qik Lite for video chats, the Quickoffice productivity suite, and Yellow Pages mobile. Essentials include a task manager, a to-do list, a calculator, a calendar, and a clock.
Google's music app finds a minor upgrade in the looks department with Samsung, and there's a welcome option to turn on 5.1-channel surround sound. You can add music to a playlist on the fly, add to a quick list, and share music you're listening to.
In addition, Samsung adds Tilt, which zooms the screen in and out when you press and hold two fingers and tilt the screen back and forth. I suppose it's a neat capability, but I've never found it particularly useful since first encountering it on the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S II. In fact, it sometimes pops up at inconvenient moments.
As with other Android phones, you can switch among available virtual keyboards by pressing and holding within a text field and selecting "Input method." Although the Android keyboard loads by default, there's also Swype, which lets you trace words with your finger, and Samsung's own keyboard.
Samsung has often hit the nail on the head with good cameras, and so far the Captivate Glide seems to follow in the footsteps of others, like the Samsung Galaxy S II phones. The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera has nice features like auto-focus, smile detection, and panorama mode, but there's much more besides, like smile shot, which snaps the photo when it detects a smile, and action shot, which takes a panorama of moving objects.
There are automatic white balance settings, a timer, three color effects, six resolution options, and options for shutter sound, GPS tagging, grid, and self-timer. It certainly doesn't have the biggest variety of options, but the photo quality looked pretty good. I was able to get some nice detail when using the flash for an indoor night shot, and other indoor shots taken during the day also produced images with good color fidelity and sharp edges--it's easy for those to be, at turns, oversaturated, dull, or overexposed. There was the expected amount of shutter lag for indoor night shots when using the flash and auto-focus combined. Not all photos were equally fabulous, however, with some winding up in better focus than others.
The 720p HD video (30fps) performed well in our tests, and the microphone captured the subject's voice better than many other smartphones. There's room for up to 8GB onboard storage, with up to 32GB more in expandable memory.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 850/1900/2100) Samsung Captivate Glide on AT&T's network in San Francisco. Call quality was acceptable. Voices sounded loud on my end, and pretty natural, although there were moments of digital distortion that made my caller cut in an out, and I did experience a dropped call. On the other end of the line, one caller described volume as very good, but noted that my voice didn't sound particularly natural. He got the impression that as I spoke, my voice bounced against a tin can, a fuzzy distraction.
Samsung Captivate Glide call quality sample Listen now:
I tested speakerphone by holding the phone at waist level. Volume was strong to my ears, and callers didn't sound echoey, but voices did have a buzzy quality. On their end, callers thought I was less intelligible, cutting in and out. They said I sounded tinny, and my voice distorted more at high speaking volumes.
The Captivate Glide runs speedily and well on its dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. Apps snapped opens without delay, and I could scroll very quickly through the app tray and home screens.
AT&T's HSPA+ network hung onto the phone during my test period. CNET's mobile-optimized site loaded in 11.2 seconds, with the full site fully loading in about 18 seconds. Likewise, the New York Times' mobile site loaded in about 6 seconds, with the full site loading in just over 13 seconds. I also used the Speedtest.net app by Ookla for some diagnostic testing. Download speeds averaged about 1.5Mbps, and ranged from 0.83 to 1.92Mbps. Upload speeds ranged from 0.79 to 1.07Mbps.
AT&T's lineup is long on Android smartphones, but pretty short on those with QWERTY keyboards. Features-wise, the Samsung Captivate Glide hits all the high points when it comes to supplying high-end features with this type of form factor. Where the handset struggles is with its hardware (except for the gorgeous Super AMOLED display). Call quality does suffer a bit, and the keyboard literally falls flat. In addition, the build quality failed to impress; in fact, I'd go as far as to say I dislike the bubbly plastic backing, at least for this shape of phone. Still, the reasonable cost-to-features-ratio goes a long way to redeeming the blah look and feel, and for AT&T customers looking for a high-end Android device with a keyboard, there are few other viable choices.