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Samsung Droid Charge review: Samsung Droid Charge

Samsung Droid Charge

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Bonnie Cha
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Bonnie Cha

Former Editor

Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.

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8 min read

Samsung Droid Charge (Verizon Wireless)
8.3

Samsung Droid Charge

The Good

The <b>Samsung Droid Charge</b> has a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus touch screen. Verizon's 4G LTE data speeds are superfast, and the smartphone offers longer battery life than the HTC ThunderBolt. Call quality and camera quality are also good.

The Bad

The Droid Charge is large. It's also pricey, especially considering it doesn't have some of the latest features, like a dual-core processor.

The Bottom Line

It's not the prettiest or most advanced smartphone, but the Samsung Droid Charge takes advantage of Verizon's great 4G data speeds, while offering decent battery life.

It was about five months ago that the plainly named Samsung 4G LTE Smartphone was first introduced at CES 2011, but now the Android smartphone is ready to rip it up on Verizon's 4G network, and, thankfully, it's got a new name. The Samsung Droid Charge joins the HTC ThunderBolt as the carrier's second LTE handset, offering a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus touch screen, mobile hot-spot capabilities, and an 8-megapixel camera. However, it also comes with the high price tag of $299.99 with a two-year contract. Given that it doesn't even have a dual-core processor, is it worth it? For some, it might be. Read on to see what we mean.

Design
Like most touch-screen devices, the Samsung Droid Charge has a slab design, but it comes to a slight point at the bottom and has a bit of a bump on back. The sloped back makes a nice place to rest your palm, but the Charge still is not comfortable to hold because it isn't a dainty smartphone. At 5.11 inches tall by 2.66 inches wide by 0.46 inch thick, it's a handful and perhaps too large for some, but a plastic construction helps keep it lightweight at 5.04 ounces, so at least you're not getting a double whammy of bulky and heavy.


The Samsung Droid Charge is quite a handful.

Similar to the Samsung Galaxy S models, however, the trade-off with plastic is that you get a phone that doesn't have quite the premium feel of some of its competitors, like the HTC ThunderBolt. At the very least, it would be nice if Samsung would add a soft-touch finish to the back so it wouldn't feel so slick, because as we've said many times before, if you're paying good money for a phone (and the Droid Charge is no drop in the bucket at $300), you want a device that feels high-quality.

All that said, you might be willing to overlook some of the downsides when you get a glimpse of the 4.3-inch, 480x800-pixel Super AMOLED Plus touch screen. It has 50 percent more subpixels than the original Super AMOLED touch screens, so the display offers more clarity and better outdoor visibility. It really is stunning: the sharpness of the AMOLED Plus display really comes through when watching video, and colors are rich and pop right off the screen. Also, as promised, outdoor visibility is better than with a lot of smartphones, and we were able to read the screen at various angles.

The touch screen is responsive; applications launched as soon as we tapped on them, and moving through the various home screens and menus was smooth. For text entry, you can use Samsung's onscreen keyboard or Swype. The Droid Charge uses Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, which runs atop the Android OS. You get a total of seven home screens that you can customize with various widgets and shortcuts. TouchWiz now also has a feature similar to HTC's Leap screen where you can pinch the screen to get a thumbnail view of all your home screens or menu pages. The main menu of apps is shown in a simple grid layout with bold icons. It's a very simple presentation of Android and definitely makes the OS easier to use for newbies, but we're sure Android purists will have a very different opinion of TouchWiz.


A soft-touch finish on the back would go a long way to mitigate the Droid Charge's plastic feel.

Below the display are four physical buttons for home, menu, back, and search. On the left side, you get a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port, and on the right are a power button and HDMI port. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits on top, and just below it on the upper left corner is the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. There's also an 8-megapixel camera on the back with a flash.

Verizon packages the Samsung Droid Charge with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 32GB microSD card, and reference material.

Features
The Samsung Droid Charge offers a standard set of voice features, including a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. The smartphone can handle video calls using its front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera, but unlike a number of Verizon's other devices it doesn't support Skype Mobile. In fact, it doesn't come preloaded with any video chat clients at all. You can, of course, download such apps (such as Fring) from the Android Market, but making video chat easy right out of the box would have been nice.

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS are all onboard, and as we mentioned at the beginning, the Droid Charge is Verizon's second 4G-capable smartphone. Verizon's LTE 4G network, which is, as of this writing, available in 45 markets and more than 60 airports nationwide, promises average download speeds of 5Mbps to 12Mbps and upload speeds of 2Mbps to 5Mbps. We experienced great data speeds with the HTC ThunderBolt, and the same was true here (check out the Performance section for more details), which made for painless Web browsing and media streaming. It's also great since the Droid Charge can be used as a mobile hot spot, and you can share a 4G connection on up to10 devices and a 3G connection on up to 5 devices. Normally to use this feature you would need to sign up for a Mobile Broadband plan, which costs $20 per month and comes with a 2GB data cap, but for a limited time Verizon is throwing in the feature for free, so enjoy it while it lasts!

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 Droid Charge's 8-megapixel camera produced bright and sharp photos even in dim environments.

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.

Performance
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 Listen now:

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.

Conclusions
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.

Samsung Droid Charge (Verizon Wireless)
8.3

Samsung Droid Charge

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9
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