samsung captivate 31 260x693 TNW Mobile Review : Samsung Captivate, a Galaxy S smartphone.The Samsung Captivate, a Galaxy S smartphone, is part of the series of Galaxy S smartphones which also include: Vibrant (T-Mobile), Epic 4G (Sprint), and the Fascinate (soon to be Verizon), each with their own unique look, and of course, different built-in carrier-driven features.

I tested the Captivate which boasts Android 2.1, a 4-inch Samsung Super AMOLED touch screen display, utilizing the wireless network of AT&T.  Was I captivated by the best Android device AT&T has to offer and the latest of the Samsung smartphones, and wildly popular according to recent figures, to hit U.S. soil? Let us swipe through the good, the bad, and everything in between to find out what the Captivate is all about.

Features

Powering the Captivate is a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird Application Processor, making the Captivate an extremely fast device, although I did notice some sluggishness at times when switching between applications.  Surprisingly this speed issue was most noticeable when using email (inbox refresh times were slow) and Google Talk.

The processor also allows the Captivate to produce slick 3-D graphics, faster upload and download times and HD-like multimedia content. Another neat feature of the Captivate is the device’s 3D sound capabilities, providing the user with surround-sound stereo quality when using headphones with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.

The Captivate’s other features include a 5 megapixel camera, a camcorder with auto-focus and HD video recording capable of shooting video up to 720p, a built-in MP3 player, and expandable memory up to 16 GB.  Combine the expandable memory with the Captivate’s built-in 16 GB of memory, and the Captivate is capable of holding storing up to 32 GB of whatever it may be that you want to store on your mobile device.

As for the memory, while expandable memory may seem like a nice feature to some, I am not a fan. I imagine that many who are not tech savvy would have no idea how to add additional memory to their phone, nor would they want to add any additional costs associated with owning a smartphone.  That said, the feature exists on the Captivate, and is an option should one need the additional storage capacity.

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In Use

The Handset

Out of the box I noticed several things about the Captivate. The first is the feel of the phone.  The Captivate is consists of a plastic front with a metallic, carbon fiber posterior, making the device extremely light at only 4.5 ounces, 0.3 ounces lighter than the iPhone 4, and 1.5 ounces lighter than the Motorola Droid.

The second thing I noticed was the thickness of the Captivate.  At only 0.39 inches thick, combined with the lightweight, the Captivate is a device that could easily slip out of one’s pocket or potentially fall from one’s hand, causing the device to break.  A prospect too stomach churning to imagine.

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The Super AMOLED Screan

In February Samsung unveiled their Super AMOLED screen at Mobile World Congress and the screen is one of the more impressive features of the Captivate.  The 4-inch screen of the Captivate provides rich color, excellent contrast, works well when used in direct sunlight.  Most incredible? I was stunned at the lack of fingerprints left on the screen when using the device.  Anyone with any other touchscreen phone has no doubt dealt with a constantly smudgy screen, or added a smudge-free screen cover to combat the fingerprint annoyance.  The Captivate allieviates this issue with remarkable ability.

Call Quality

Using the Captivate on AT&T’s network to make calls was a good experience.  Those I called loved the call quality and the sound of my voice (a first, as my voice has been described as something similar to Kermit the Frog’s) on the other end of the line. On my end however, the voices of those I called sounded muffled or something similar to what one would hear on AM radio.

On the reception side, there were no strong drops in 3G strength, and with WiFi connectivity available, I experienced a strong signal regardless of location.

Battery Life

The Captivate has a removable 1500 mAh battery, which provides adequate battery life despite the strength of the processor, impressive Super AMOLED screen and other features of the device.  Heavy users can expect battery life to last between 6 and 8 hours before a charge may be needed.  Light to medium users can stretch that a bit further, a day and a half before needing a charge for medium users and with only light use, a full two days of use is achievable.

The downside?  Charging the Captivate.  The Captivate is charged by sliding a trap-door-like sliding mechanism at the top of the phone.  Not a problem.  The problem is getting the charger to remain connected to the Captivate.  I quickly discovered that unless the phone is laying completely flat and will not be moved, the charger will disconnect from the phone.  Annoying to say the least.

Software and Other Features Quick Hits

Samsung Touchwiz 3.0 with “Feeds and updates,” which tie into your Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts, and Samsung’s “Daily Briefing” widget, which displays weather, stocks, news and calendar information on a single screen.  Not needed and something I quickly removed from the device.

Android crapware in the form of AT&T’s pre-installed apps, 13, which help subsidize the phone, are unneccessary and clog up the device.

The keyboards, plural.  The Captivate touchscreen keyboard is nice, but nothing to write home about.  My absolute, favorite feature, second only to the smudge-resistant Super AMOLED screen, was Samsung’s inclusion of Swype.

For those unfamilar with Swype, it is described on the Swype site as, “With one continuous finger or stylus motion across the screen keyboard, the patented technology enables users to input words faster and easier than other data input methods—at over 40 words per minute.”  I absolutely loved Swype and feel it should be standard on all touchscreen devices (hear that Apple?).

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Things We Like

  • Super AMOLED screen is “captivating”.
  • Built-in Swype functionality makes the Captivate a joy to input text on.
  • Look and feel of phone reflects the top of the top of the line device it is.
  • Strong to quite strong battery life for such a powerful device.

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Captivate can, on occassion, be slow when switching between apps.
  • Sleek design of the Captivate could make it prone to dropping.
  • GPS doesn’t work well out of the box and requires calibration to be effective.

Conclusion

The Samsung Captivate is a great device.  As far as Android devices go, it is the best option on AT&T at present, and the Galaxy S series as a whole rank right up there with the likes of Android devices from HTC and Motorola.

The Super AMOLED screen, the keyboard options and impressive processor on the Captivate make it a captivating choice for those looking for an Android device, either as an upgrade from one’s current Android device, or for those looking to switch from a smartphone running on another mobile operating system.