Apr 26 AT 7:00 AM Anthony Domanico 15 Comments

Samsung Droid Charge First Impressions

Verizon and Samsung have teamed up to release the Samsung Droid Charge, which will hit retail stores on Thursday, April 28th for $300. You may remember the Droid Charge from our coverage of CES, including Nick Gray’s hands-on of the early build. Then dubbed the unnamed Samsung 4G LTE Smartphone, the Droid Charge was one of a series of three phones Verizon is using to unleash its stupid-fast 4G LTE network. The Droid Charge marks the second of the three LTE phones to be released, with the Thunderbolt being released earlier this month. There have been many concerns regarding battery life on 4G devices, so the biggest question remains whether or not the Droid Charge will be plagued by the same issues that seriously plague the Thunderbolt.

Hardware

The Droid Charge is packing a gorgeous 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus display which makes the device easy to look at (and pleasing on the eyes), even in broad daylight. The Droid Charge is touting an 8 megapixel camera with a single LED flash on the back of the device, and a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video conferencing or self-portraits. The Charge is touting a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, and performs on par with the Thunderbolt and current line of pre-dual-core devices.

The volume rocker and microUSB charging port can be found along the left side of the device, while the right side of the device has the power button and HDMI out port. The 3.5 millimeter headset jack is found up top.

Samsung elected to go with the hard keys for menu, home, search, and back on the front of the display. Hard keys vs. capacitive buttons is really a matter of preference; some of you will be happy Samsung decided to go with keys you know when you’ve actually pressed down, while others have grown quite fond of the capacitive buttons found on many of the newer devices. Personally, the Nexus One is still my daily driver, and I have found in my limited time with the Droid Charge that the physical buttons are nice to have and don’t take too much screen space.

One of the most pleasant surprises with the Droid Charge can be found under the hood. Samsung has elected to preload the device with a whopping 32gb micro SD card, a nice gesture on behalf of Samsung, though one that’s desperately needed as the Droid Charge only features 2gbs of internal storage.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that the Droid Charge feels to be of the same plasticy-build quality that was often a criticism of the first line of Galaxy S phones. In order get an outsider’s opinion, I asked my wife to hold my Nexus One and then the Droid Charge, and she said that though the Droid Charge felt a bit heavier than the Nexus One, the build quality of the Droid Charge was far inferior. I couldn’t agree more, the Droid Charge simply feels cheaply made; like I’m going to break it through my everyday use.

Software

The Droid Charge is running Android 2.2.1 Froyo, with Samsung’s infamous Touchwiz UI. Touchwiz is a custom skin which overlays the Traditional Android UI, and is the manufacturer’s way of delivering Android in a way that gives them a competitive advantage over their competitors.

Now, I must admit that when it comes to Android, I am strongly biased toward stock “Vanilla” Android, the base flavor of Android that comes straight from Google. When it comes to custom UIs, I’d personally rank Touchwiz just slightly above MOTOBLUR, which I hate, and well below HTC’s Sense, which is “okay.”

Touchwiz UI just feels a bit too iPhone-y for my taste, a point which Apple may agree with considering they recently filed a lawsuit against Samsung for similar reasons. Touchwiz’s one redeeming factor for me is the lockscreen, which presents itself as a jigsaw puzzle that has one free piece you must drag to the hole to unlock your phone. But that’s not what I like about it, where this lockscreen concept is really useful is when you have an unread text message or missed call. The lockscreen will provide a puzzle piece for your texts or callss (or both) in addition to the standard unlock piece, and you can drag that particular puzzle piece to launch directly to your messaging or phone applications.

The lockscreen is right about where I lose interest with Touchwiz, as the rest of the UI feels a bit like overkill, such as the keyboard automatically inserting words as you’re typing, which is really frustrating if many of the words you use aren’t recognized as the first most likely one.

Software can make or break a device, and though the fact that the Droid Charge has Touchwiz isn’t enough to get me to steer you clear of the device, it certainly doesn’t make me want to rush out and tell you to drop what you’re doing right now and head over to Verizon to pick one up. It’s okay, but not good/great, and I look forward to the day when most Android phones are launched with stock Android.

Battery Life

I’ve only had the device for a few hours at this point, so it’s a bit too early to tell how well the battery is going to perform. I’ll have the device for a few more days, and will post my experience with battery life at the end of my time with the Droid Charge.  Look for a post by Friday.

That being said, I’ve been using the device off and on for 2 hours now, and the battery is already down to about 70%. I’m hoping this is more the exception than the rule, but that amount of battery use would put the Droid Charge just about on par with the Thunderbolt, signaling some rough times ahead for battery life on Verizon’s data hungry networks.

Final Thoughts

The Droid Charge will be available from Verizon Wireless on Thursday, April 28th, for the whopping 2-year contract price of $299.99. With that hefty pricetag and lack of a real differentiating factor other than the gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus screen, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend this device over the $50 cheaper HTC Thunderbolt if you’re in the market for a 4G-LTE device. Or just hold out for the dual-core Droid Bionic, set to drop in a month or two.

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Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

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  • http://huh? chad

    I think you mean you would be “remiss”, not “amiss”. heh

    • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ Anthony Domanico

      Ugh… good catch, and thank you! When you get these devices late afternoon, and have to get some impressions done by 6am the next day, editing goes out the window! :)

      Fixed!

  • http://Website olga

    iPhone is so much better than this scamsung lemon….

    • http://adomanico01.blogspot.com/ Anthony Domanico

      I <3 trolls.

  • http://Website HUH?

    Why isn’t this the same price as the Thunderbolt? I thought there were 4 Lte devices; TB, Charge, Bionic and Revolution.

  • http://Website Thaghost

    I’m noticing battery issues with my g2x as well.

  • http://Website Willard Potter

    Seems to me like this one is really just run down to personal preference. Personally, I agree on the vanilla android aspect. I absolutely love the look of HTC’s Sense UI, so don’t get me wrong. I just prefer a less resource intensive system. All of these “enhancements” are taking a constant chunk of resources that aren’t really “needed.”

    I’m still hooked on my Moto Droid 1(CM7 though). I remember reading a review somewhere that mentioned recent or possibly still unreleased android phone having a custom UI, but there was also an option to turn it off. I’m sure i’m not alone in hoping that becomes a trend. I’ve avoided good hardware just on the basis of not liking the UI when it’s all Android. I’d much rather see these things become optional so people, like myself, can have a wider set of options. By all means, go ahead and throw some phone/company specific widgets in the mix. That Sense Clock/Weather widget is one of the most popular and replicated I’ve seen. It’s good stuff, and like all widgets, optional.

    Though, I’ll admit, my sights have been set on the Bionic for a while now and i’m itching for release, but i’m going to end up installing ADW Launcher and hoping to theme my way back to stock. Which brings me full circle back to personal preference. Since my old CIngular Samsung(blasphemous name, I know. lol) flip phone, I’ve been using Motorola phones. Mostly because, with the exception of the RAZR and a few others, they build their phones like a tank and i tend to be a clumsy person.. lol

    Since i’ve already rambled on, and I’m sorry for that(I’m bored. lol), i’ll just sum it up… OPTIONS! Forcing a UI is something that can make or break what would otherwise be a widely popular device. but….. I can see the other side of the table and how people could want these phones purely for the UI and how that along can generate hype, which totally negates my entire arguement but I didn’t just say this last part… lol

    • http://Website Oliver

      ” in the model we were using, the Droid Charge supported the ability to use the Stock Android 2.2 Launcher. With any amount of luck, this will be a trend for Samsung in the future, as it seems pretty popular. ”

      From the _other_ hands-on post for the Droid Charge on this very site by Russell Holly on Apr 15.

      Seems to me today’s “hands-on” should provide an update on this very interesting possibility.

    • loren

      hola como estan todos tengo un problema con mi cell se me bloqueo el SAMSUNG DROID CHARGE 4G LTE SMARTPHONE ON VERIZON y me pide el sin original y no lo tengo que devo acer.

  • http://Website hnn

    why not mention the 800×480 resolution? it’s what i have on my Nexus One and many other phones have, but with a 4.3″ screen, qHD sure would have been nice.

  • http://Website watbetch

    Predictive text can be disabled as it is on most other Galaxy S phones. This must be Verizon’s choice or enabled by someone else.

    LOL @ the app drawer goes to the left and right so it’s all designed like an iPhone is. Nearly ALL of the similarities are shared with the TouchWiz “LAUNCHER” and not the entire UI. There are tons of things that iOS can’t even begin to do that TouchWiz does.

  • http://Website Richard Yarrell

    Nothing special here at all…Another OVERPRICED VERIZON PRODUCT WITH LAST YEAR SPECS being sold this year great way to go. I hope everyone is smart enough to STAY AWAY FROM THIS DEVICE just like the thunderbolt you will be luck to get 4hrs battery life….I guess LTE RULES….

  • http://hand-gadget.com Alex

    The Droid Charge has a huge marketing campaign behind it, but does it deserve your attention? Read my blog article to find out: http://wp.me/p1wchx-3M

  • http://Website Ali

    The battery life is the biggest drawback of this phone. It will last all day if I don’t use it and if there’s always a good connection. At work my connection is a bit low and it will drain the battery in a few hours with me not even touching it. I have had the battery go dead overnight when it was plugged in charging in a low signal area. Even with a strong signal, if I use it moderately it will not make it through the day.

    Other then that, it’s a nice phone. I would have exchanged it but went on vacation and when I got back I was past the new 14 day return policy.

  • Lee Swanson

    So far it’s been a good phone. Glad I didn’t pay 300 for it. Got in on the unlimited data plan with 4G!

  1. chadGuest 4 years ago

    I think you mean you would be “remiss”, not “amiss”. heh

    • Ugh… good catch, and thank you! When you get these devices late afternoon, and have to get some impressions done by 6am the next day, editing goes out the window! :)

      Fixed!

  2. olgaGuest 4 years ago

    iPhone is so much better than this scamsung lemon….

  3. HUH?Guest 4 years ago

    Why isn’t this the same price as the Thunderbolt? I thought there were 4 Lte devices; TB, Charge, Bionic and Revolution.

  4. ThaghostGuest 4 years ago

    I’m noticing battery issues with my g2x as well.

  5. Willard PotterGuest 4 years ago

    Seems to me like this one is really just run down to personal preference. Personally, I agree on the vanilla android aspect. I absolutely love the look of HTC’s Sense UI, so don’t get me wrong. I just prefer a less resource intensive system. All of these “enhancements” are taking a constant chunk of resources that aren’t really “needed.”

    I’m still hooked on my Moto Droid 1(CM7 though). I remember reading a review somewhere that mentioned recent or possibly still unreleased android phone having a custom UI, but there was also an option to turn it off. I’m sure i’m not alone in hoping that becomes a trend. I’ve avoided good hardware just on the basis of not liking the UI when it’s all Android. I’d much rather see these things become optional so people, like myself, can have a wider set of options. By all means, go ahead and throw some phone/company specific widgets in the mix. That Sense Clock/Weather widget is one of the most popular and replicated I’ve seen. It’s good stuff, and like all widgets, optional.

    Though, I’ll admit, my sights have been set on the Bionic for a while now and i’m itching for release, but i’m going to end up installing ADW Launcher and hoping to theme my way back to stock. Which brings me full circle back to personal preference. Since my old CIngular Samsung(blasphemous name, I know. lol) flip phone, I’ve been using Motorola phones. Mostly because, with the exception of the RAZR and a few others, they build their phones like a tank and i tend to be a clumsy person.. lol

    Since i’ve already rambled on, and I’m sorry for that(I’m bored. lol), i’ll just sum it up… OPTIONS! Forcing a UI is something that can make or break what would otherwise be a widely popular device. but….. I can see the other side of the table and how people could want these phones purely for the UI and how that along can generate hype, which totally negates my entire arguement but I didn’t just say this last part… lol

    • OliverGuest 4 years ago

      ” in the model we were using, the Droid Charge supported the ability to use the Stock Android 2.2 Launcher. With any amount of luck, this will be a trend for Samsung in the future, as it seems pretty popular. ”

      From the _other_ hands-on post for the Droid Charge on this very site by Russell Holly on Apr 15.

      Seems to me today’s “hands-on” should provide an update on this very interesting possibility.

    • lorenGuest 2 years ago

      hola como estan todos tengo un problema con mi cell se me bloqueo el SAMSUNG DROID CHARGE 4G LTE SMARTPHONE ON VERIZON y me pide el sin original y no lo tengo que devo acer.

  6. hnnGuest 4 years ago

    why not mention the 800×480 resolution? it’s what i have on my Nexus One and many other phones have, but with a 4.3″ screen, qHD sure would have been nice.

  7. watbetchGuest 4 years ago

    Predictive text can be disabled as it is on most other Galaxy S phones. This must be Verizon’s choice or enabled by someone else.

    LOL @ the app drawer goes to the left and right so it’s all designed like an iPhone is. Nearly ALL of the similarities are shared with the TouchWiz “LAUNCHER” and not the entire UI. There are tons of things that iOS can’t even begin to do that TouchWiz does.

  8. Richard YarrellGuest 4 years ago

    Nothing special here at all…Another OVERPRICED VERIZON PRODUCT WITH LAST YEAR SPECS being sold this year great way to go. I hope everyone is smart enough to STAY AWAY FROM THIS DEVICE just like the thunderbolt you will be luck to get 4hrs battery life….I guess LTE RULES….

  9. AlexGuest 4 years ago

    The Droid Charge has a huge marketing campaign behind it, but does it deserve your attention? Read my blog article to find out: http://wp.me/p1wchx-3M

  10. AliGuest 4 years ago

    The battery life is the biggest drawback of this phone. It will last all day if I don’t use it and if there’s always a good connection. At work my connection is a bit low and it will drain the battery in a few hours with me not even touching it. I have had the battery go dead overnight when it was plugged in charging in a low signal area. Even with a strong signal, if I use it moderately it will not make it through the day.

    Other then that, it’s a nice phone. I would have exchanged it but went on vacation and when I got back I was past the new 14 day return policy.

  11. So far it’s been a good phone. Glad I didn’t pay 300 for it. Got in on the unlimited data plan with 4G!