Review: Samsung Droid Charge 4G

Verizon has never been shy to load up their portfolio with a plethora of Android. The initial stint was to help fight the iPhone, but now that Verizon has that phone on its store shelves, will they keep loading up on premium Android phones? The short answer to that question is yes, Verizon is continuing to attract high end Android phones to appease all of their customers.

On that front, Verizon sent us the brand new Droid Charge to dissect. The phone represents a new age for mobile technology as it can ride on the newly created Verizon 4G network. While not the first phone on the market with 4G for Verizon (that goes to the Thunderbolt and you can read that review here), it is an early entrant into the market and is in a field of highly competitive devices and platforms. 

Breaking down the Charge we find Android 2.2 Froyo, a 4.3 inches Super AMOLED Plus display with 480×800 WVGA, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, 1.0 GHz Hummingbird processor, 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for video calls, HD video recording, 2.0 GB internal storage, micro-SD card slot support with a 32 GB card included, 4G LTE, 802.11 WiFi b/g/n , Bluetooth 3.0, aGPS, HDMI-out, Mobile hotspot, and DLNA capability. To put it simply, it is a modern smartphone with all the features one would expect in a premium device. 

The first thing you notice about the device is that it is not a rectangle like most devices. The slightly angled tip makes it look like a shield and is something we at Neowin quite like. It is a distinctive shape and fits the form factor well. While looking at the angled edge, you can see that there are physical buttons on this device. It is refreshing to see that not everyone is going to touch sensitive buttons these days. The buttons provide great tactile feedback and the travel distance on them is relatively short resulting in little play in the buttons themselves.

Something else that differentiates this device is that there is a "chin" on this device on the backside. Underneath the buttons is a small hump where the speakerphone is located. It's mixed opinions on if this causes you hold the device any different but it does make the phone feel rather thick in the hand. Overall there is a feel of quality to the device. While the back plastic isn't the best on the market, it wont shatter if you drop it either. 

The 4.3 inch screen feels massive if you are used to anything less than a 4.3 inch screen. The AMOLED screen is bright and clear but does feel a bit oversaturated when the brightness is cranked up. Something that would make this device even better is if we had a bezeless design, the screen almost goes up to the edge but we have yet to see this on any smartphone at this point in time.  

Call quality is par for the course for a smartphone. The speakerphone is loud and clear and we had no issues hearing or being heard by the party on the other end of our phone calls. 

The cameras on this unit are bit of a mixed bag. It's not that they are of poor quality, it is the mechanisms to engage the rear camera that leaves room to be desired. Like I have said many times before, we are at the point where the camera's in cell phones have met their match because of the glass in front of the censor. Sure you can shove a larger megapixel censor in the device, but at the end of the day you are limited by the glass. 

To that degree, the colors are a bit on the warm side, but what can be improved upon is the amount of time it actually takes to snap a photo. After several consistent attempts, after you bring a subject into focus and tap the camera button, it takes an average of 1.5 seconds to take the picture. If you are trying to catch a memory in the moment, you better plan 1.5 seconds ahead to capture it. 

This device comes with Samsung's latest skin and it is a personal choice if you like such novelties. The skin is what I would compare to Windows XP, it appears a bit like it was made in the back of a Toys R US store. If you are wanting a mature look and feel, you will be putting a new launcher on this device right away. But that is the beauty of Android, don't like what you see, go ahead and change it. 

The Touchwiz UI is not a bad experience, but it doesn't offer anything innovative by any means. A standard set of icons for consistency, bright (possibly oversized) icons and a dock along the button similar to iOS. A few widgets here and there, but it still acts like basic Android at heart.

Battery life is always key on these types of devices. Fortunately this device has a 1600 mAh pack of juice which fairs better than the 1400 mAh in the Thunderbolt. We have only been able to put this device through one cycle but we will update this post after more time to torture test the battery to its fullest extent. But with our limited testing, it is beating out the Thunderbolt for longevity. 

It wouldn't be a complete review without mentioning that this device packs 4G and all that goes with it. Hotspot functionality? Yes it is included, you can now send your tweets and upload Facebook photos faster than all your 3G friends. 

So what is the conclusion on the device? It is among our favorite Android devices to date. There is a lot to like about this phone, 4G, beautiful screen, clear audio and comes with 32GB SD card. While it's not all perfect, the chin is a bit awkward, the UI is a love/hate relationship, but if you are an Android fan, this is a solid choice. If you are ready to jump into the large screen smartphone market, the Droid Charge is the phone for you. 

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“a device that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an instrument”

“someone who censures or condemns”
“a person who is authorized to read publications or correspondence or to watch theatrical performances and suppress in whole or in part anything considered obscene or politically unacceptable.”

I think you meant “sensor.”

alexalex said,
Still don't understand why new Android phones don't have the latest OS.

stability and foundation of what the OEM or carrier requires at the time of the products release.. bleeding edge 2.3.4 or 3.0 or whatever isn't going to be modified perfectly each time a new device comes out and that's why there's OTA updates when they're ready but we've all seen all the bureaucracy and nonsense US carriers drag with them when it comes to updates so they're mostly the problem over the manufacturer.

People would have the latest updates quick and easy if only a single firmware/rom like a 'world wide' one existed similar as it's done for unlocked phones.

alexalex said,
Still don't understand why new Android phones don't have the latest OS.

Well if you did, you would see the flaw in Android as a sustainable platform as well.

1) Google only supplies the base source code, the phone MFR has to design around the existing code, not a 'standard'. So if they are working on a phone now that they plan to ship next year, they have to base it on the 2.3 code model that exists now. There is a good reason to have actual baseline hardware standards, which Microsoft understands, just like they did with Win 3.0 over 20 years ago.

2) The MFRs and Carriers have a duality of responsibility for both maintaining the specific code base for the phone. Which is basically keeping a variant/fork for each phone and each phone revision of the code base, including drivers and features that are MFR or Carrier added.

3) The source development and building adds up to a lot of development work and cost for the MFRs and Carriers during the cycle of a phone's life, and then when you do the math of having several phones for both the MFR and the Carrier, it becomes an internal fragmentation nightmare.

4) As we are seeing more phones with Android, reasons #2 and #3 are why MFRs and Carriers are stopping any 'update' commitments, and dropping any further updates for existing phones.

5) MFRs are already giving up on the development and update race. Samsung and Motorola, which are big Android makers have already stopped updates, and are only offering the 'current' version that is shipped on the phone, unless the carrier takes over development for the device.

6) Many carriers are also stopping their portion of the update and development process for Android, which is why you won't see Verizon and others shipping out v2.3 to every customer, and it will only appear on a few select newer devices.

(#6 and #7 is why is interesting to see so many Android fans lampoon the initial updates from Microsoft for WP7, at least the WP7 customers WILL get the updates, as they only are dependant on Microsoft for the development and update for their phone, just like iPhone users only have to depend on Apple.)

8) All of this combined is creating a mass amount of versioning problems, for developers of Apps, and people buying phones. And this is in addition to the internal versioning and fragmentation happening at the MFR and carrier level.

9) Google doesn't get why Windows in the 90s was successful. People like to say it was Microsoft bullying, or this or that, but the reality is they set a 'hardware' standard for PCs, that included a robust driver model for previously non-standard/common hardware like sound and video cards. This took maintaing the OS and upper layer of the PC off the back of the OEM/MFR, which made Windows a good 'deal' for them, as they only had to meet the 'hardware standards', and didn't have to do anything else but load the OS and sell it. (It also did the same for developers, as they no longer had to even think CGA/EGA/VGA/8514 or write drivers for 100s of different printer models, and just could write software they knew would work.)

These reasons, with especially #9, is why Android will not be a long term success, and why Google is really messing up something that could be good.

Microsoft knows this game well, and even as weak as WP7 looks now, it is following the same road that Win 3.0 did, and doing the same thing for Cell Phones that Microsoft did for the PC industry.

With WP7, MFRs/OEMs just have to make the hardware meet the 'standards/specifications', and no longer have to make their own or deal with the OS layer, they pay Microsoft a small fee, and Microsoft handles all the crap, including updates and security fixes and even streamlining and optimizing drivers for their phones.

My predictions:

In less than 2 years Google will have fully closed the Android Platform, even now it is no better than a closed OS by defacto standard that only Google creates.

In less than 4 years it will fall to a fringe platform, as we are seeing happen with BlackBerry now.

Digitalx said,
not a bad looking device... too bad it's CDMA, always the same with verizon devices.

It's CDMA with LTE... You can actually go online and take calls at the same time as long as your area has LTE coverage... which most suburban areas do.

giantsnyy said,

It's CDMA with LTE... You can actually go online and take calls at the same time as long as your area has LTE coverage... which most suburban areas do.

Still incompatible with majority of the rest of the worlds GSM/HSPA mobile networks.

Not really a fan of the optics. Looks wrong to me. I don't know, it simply doesn't look attractive to me.

But with all those Android-Devices out there, I gladly had a choice, if I wanted to use Android. :-)

Nice review though.

instant.human said,
Not really a fan of the optics. Looks wrong to me. I don't know, it simply doesn't look attractive to me.

But with all those Android-Devices out there, I gladly had a choice, if I wanted to use Android. :-)

Nice review though.

Optics? Not sure what you mean except maybe you're saying you don't like the way it looks. I like the Samsung Galaxy SII better, but this still looks cool from back side. I actually like that the back is plastic, because it's just about the most durable thing out today. Remember Samsung has their own Petrochemicals R&D Department and this is a molecularly engineered plastic designed to flex, but still retain it's shape. You can't pretty much bend it in half it's so flexible. But once in place on the device, it's solid. Drop it? .....and it's got great abrasion resistance as well as taking extreme impacts at the same time protecting the much more precious insides. If you want to add some class to it, you can always get a carbon fiber back cover for it or case of some type!

So looks? Well you can always use 3rd party enhancements for that!