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First introduced at CES 2011, the Samsung Infuse 4G finally reaches AT&T's network on May 15 for $199.99 with a two-year contract. The Infuse 4G is the carrier's latest Android device, and it sure is getting a lot of fanfare. Not only is it being marketed as the thinnest smartphone available in the U.S., but AT&T says the Infuse is also its fastest 4G handset. Is it all hype or does the Infuse actually deliver? Read on to find out.
On the opposite end of the size spectrum from the petite HP Veer 4G, the Samsung Infuse 4G has a massive 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen. The rectangular slab of a phone is admittedly large at 5.2 inches tall by 2.8 inches wide, and its size will certainly be a turnoff for many. That said, it's only 0.35 inch thick, which Samsung claims makes it the thinnest smartphone available in the U.S., so despite its looks, the phone feels rather manageable once in hand.
Plus, the Infuse 4G weighs just 4.9 ounces, so it also feels light. This is largely due to its plastic construction, and though we've been very critical of Samsung in the past for putting too much plastic in its Galaxy S phones, the company at least added a textured surface to the Infuse's battery door to give it a more high-quality feel.
The 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display is the main attraction of the Infuse 4G. It offers 50 percent more subpixels than the previous generation of Super AMOLED touch screens, so you get better contrast and outdoor visibility. The display is indeed stunning, with its rich and vibrant colors and deep blacks, so videos and images looked exceptional. Plus, it offers good viewing angles and is still readable outdoors.
There's also the fact that the Infuse 4G has one of the biggest screens available on a smartphone. As you would imagine, the extra screen real estate helps when viewing Web pages and enhances the multimedia experience. It also makes for a spacious onscreen keyboard (you have a choice of using either the Swype, Samsung, or Android keyboard), and the extra-large text makes for easy reading. That said, with a WVGA resolution (480x800 pixels) stretched across such a large screen, text and Web images can look a bit pixelated. It's certainly not a deal breaker, considering the other benefits of the Super AMOLED Plus display, but it's something we definitely noticed.
Below the screen, you get four touch-sensitive buttons for the menu, home, back, and search functions. The top of the device houses the headphone jack, while the Micro-USB port is located on the bottom. There's a volume rocker on the left side, and the power button is on the right. We've said it many times before and we'll say it again, but it would be nice if there were a dedicated camera button. The smartphone's 8-megapixel camera and flash sit on the back, and on front just above the display on the left side is the 1.3-megapixel camera.
The Samsung Infuse 4G comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a preinstalled 2GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, an MHL-to-HDMI adapter, and reference material. We should note that the first 500,000 Infuse customers will also receive a $25 voucher to use with Samsung's Media Hub video store from which you can rent and buy movies and TV shows.
The Infuse 4G uses Android 2.2.1 with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. A majority of the smartphones shipping today run Android 2.2 so we're not particularly surprised that the Infuse does the same, but still, it would have been nice to see Android 2.3 Gingerbread on the smartphone. Samsung would not comment on future updates (perhaps after learning the hard way about sticking to update plans), but we expect to see Gingerbread come to the Infuse in the future.
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 in which you can pinch the screen to get a thumbnail view of all your home screens or menu pages. The main menu of applications 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.
The Samsung Infuse 4G offers quad-band world roaming, 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. The handset doesn't come preloaded with a video chat client, but you can find options such as Fring in the Android Market.
The smartphone is equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. It's also the first HSDPA Category 14 4G phone for AT&T. This means the phone is capable of reaching theoretical download speeds of 21Mbps, whereas the carrier's previous 4G smartphones maxed out at 14.4Mbps. In addition, the Infuse's HSUPA radio (Category 6/5.76Mbps) will be enabled at launch, so customers shouldn't run into any of the problems that Motorola Atrix 4G and HTC Inspire 4G owners did with upload speeds. We detail our experience with the "4G" data speeds in the Performance section below, but for now, let's just say they were disappointing.
The smartphone comes loaded with a number of apps and services, including the Quickoffice suite, Samsung's Write And Go (with which you can compose messages to send via SMS, e-mail, or Facebook) and Mini Diary apps, AT&T FamilyMap, and AT&T U-verse Live TV. A special edition of Angry Birds is also preloaded on the device. The version has a special level that, once completed, will unlock a "Golden Egg" Easter egg that will lead you to a Web site where you can register to win free prizes from Samsung.
Though you can't uninstall the AT&T services, the carrier at least now allows you to install non-Market apps on the device. To enable this, simply go to Settings > Applications and check the "Unknown sources" box. The Infuse 4G has 16GB of internal memory and an expansion slot that supports up to 32GB cards, so you should have more than enough space for apps and other files.
The Infuse 4G comes with an 8-megapixel camera with flash, autofocus, and 720p HD video recording. You get a myriad of editing options and tools, including antishake, blink detection, exposure settings, and various effects. Typically, we've seen good results from Samsung's cameras, but there were some issues this time around. Though picture quality was sharp, photos taken in indoor environments had a pinkish hue to them. Outdoor shots were much better, however, and recorded HD video clips also came out looking great.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Infuse 4G in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was slightly muffled. Though there wasn't any distracting background noise, voices sounded a bit garbled at times, both on our end and on the other side of the phone, so we had to listen very closely to understand our callers. We had a similar experience with speakerphone quality, and at the highest volume level, the audio at times sounded blown out.
Samsung Infuse 4G call quality sample Listen now:
We didn't have any dropped calls during our review periods. We also paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and had no problems making calls or listening to music.
Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app on the phone, we averaged download speeds of 3.99Mbps and upload speeds of 0.69Mbps. On the positive side, the results were better than what we got on the Motorola Atrix 4G and HTC Inspire 4G, but they're still slow compared with other providers' 4G networks. At such speeds, CNET's full site loaded in 20 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 8 seconds and 10 seconds respectively. High-quality YouTube clips loaded in several seconds and played back without interruption, but the Infuse's browser had some difficulty handling Flash sites and content.
The Infuse 4G is powered by a 1.2GHz single-core processor. We understand that many people are hungry for dual-core phones, but the Infuse 4G is still a pretty snappy device. Apps launched quickly, and we were able to navigate through the various screens and menus without trouble. Occasionally, there was some slight sluggishness when opening certain apps, but overall we found the Infuse to be a solid performer.
The Samsung Infuse 4G ships with a 1,750mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8 hours and up to 16 days of standby time. The smartphone fell an hour short of the rated talk time in our battery drain tests but 7 hours is still impressive. Plus, we experienced good day-to-day battery life; with moderate usage, we can usually go a full day or a little more on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Infuse 4G has a digital SAR rating of 0.20W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M3.
AT&T has slowly but surely been beefing up its selection of Android phones, and the Samsung Infuse 4G is another good addition to its lineup. There are certainly some aspects of the phone that were disappointing, including the unimpressive 4G data speeds and the lack of some of the latest features (such as Gingerbread and a dual-core processor), but in the end, the Infuse 4G is very much a solid Android smartphone. Obviously, its large size will mean it won't appeal to everybody, but if you're OK with that, you'll get a beautiful screen for browsing the Web and watching video, good performance, and decent battery life.