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Samsung Fascinate Review

As the newest Android phone to land on Verizon, the Samsung Fascinate has to compete directly with the Droid franchise which as you may have expected, sparked our interest immediately.  There is something exciting about seeing the next batch of Android devices on their quest to not only drive this mobile OS, but to bring a level of competition that forces manufacturers to continue to innovate and push technological boundaries.  Did the Fascinate do all of those things? We’ll find out.

Before you read the full review of the Samsung Fascinate, you may want to check out our unboxing video which gives a nice walkthrough of the device’s exterior, plus a brief hands on with its TouchWiz custom UI.

The Good:

  • Screen:  How can you not instantly fall in love with a 4″ Super AMOLED screen?  It really does feel like the perfect screen size.  I still have yet to re-adjust my grip to reach the notification bar or top left corner for an app like I do almost hourly with my DX.  And you’ve got to love the weight of the device which you can almost 100% thank this super thin screen for.
  • Battery Life:  The battery life on Super AMOLED phones, especially the Galaxy S lineup is supposed to be horrendous, however, I actually found a good deal of life.  On Saturday night, I took to the town around 6:30PM, pounding Foursquare in a pub crawl, taking pictures, sending texts and making calls all the way up until 2AM and still woke up with 30% left on my charge.  Not bad right?
  • Gaming:  If you watched our unboxing video, you probably noticed the 60FPS during our Quadrant benchmark.  And let me just say that in an actual game, this phone performs that exact same way.  I put it through the works in both graphics heavy first person shooters and then simple animated games like Angry Birds and loved the performance.  The GPU on the Fascinate is unmatched.
  • Feel:  You can’t help but love the feel of this device. It’s ultra light, has an amazing screen and is incredibly thin.  The first time you pick it up, I guarantee you’ll come away impressed at the design, feel in hand, and ease at which it slides in and out of a pocket.  No humps here folks.
  • Call Signal/Quality:  No issues with call or signal quality.  Phone gets plenty loud, works as expected on Verizon’s rock solid network; new Fascinate owners should be able to avoid the antenna-gate category for sure.

The Not-so-Good:

  • TouchWiz:  Uggh.  If you thought Blur on the Droid X and 2 was laggy, wait until you get a minute with TouchWiz.  Overall it looks really pretty, has a bunch of flashy colors and live wallpapers, seems to function in a semi-intelligent way, and then you actually use it.  What’s with the puzzle piece theme?  If this is going to compete with the manly Droid lineup, adding kid toys to your OS skin might not be the direction to go.  I also found that doing something as simple as setting a ringtone for a specific contact was quite the chore.
  • Android 2.1:  We thought about giving TouchWiz a break and blaming everything on Android 2.1, but that’s not really fair.  However, having Android 2.1 on a phone launching weeks after phones have begun to launch with 2.2 is simply not OK.  What makes it even worse, is that Samsung has yet to give us any definitive timeframe as to when their Galaxy S lineup will receive an update to 2.2.
  • Software Package:  An Android phone not coming pre-loaded with the entire Google mobile app package is about as odd as Paris Hilton not spending monthly scheduled drug bust time in jail.  Bing?  Really?  It doesn’t even include multi-touch in its map feature.  Spare me the competitors, just give me Google and life will be grand.
  • GPS:  Every GPS I’ve used on a phone since the Droid 1 has been pretty poor and the Fascinate falls right in line.  One tip that will save you some frustration though, is to make sure all of your location services are checked or the phone may never find you.  It’s not the worst I’ve used, but it definitely struggles at times, even while connected to wi-fi and sitting on a non-enclosed deck.
  • ButtonsKeys:  The lock button on this phone is about enough to make me chuck it out the window.  I’m still trying to figure out why Samsung thought it would be intelligent to put this button on the side of the device.  Try locking your phone without hitting the volume rocker switch.  It’s impossible.  The soft keys were also a little irritating at times.  Not only do they go to sleep in 1.5 seconds, but you are then left guessing as to where they might be on a completely black glass screen.
  • Camera:  This actually started out in the “Good” section and as I continued through the review, it had to be moved.  5MP?  Really?  The picture quality of shots taken with the camera aren’t bad at all, but with the Incredible and Droid X both sporting 8MP beasts, you’ve got to come strong.
  • Look:  It actually does resemble an i*od Touch or i*hone 3GS quite a bit.  Bad news.

Camera Shots:

(right click, “open image in new tab”)

Video Action:

The Verdict:

The Samsung Fascinate doesn’t disappoint in look and feel, but the custom OS skin, lack of Google experience apps and Android 2.1 are a pretty substantial turn-off at this point.  We understand that the phone will get Android 2.2 someday, but until then we’re not ready to adopt our new Verizon Android relative.  Like I said, the phone doesn’t disappoint in some aspects, and it will surely fit the niche of users looking for something slightly different to that which accompanies the “Droid” name.  And while I’m not about to call this device anything less than a winner, I’m just not ready to put it up there with the Droid X or Incredible.  It has an amazing screen and specs to put many phones to shame, but it’s just not ready to play with the big dogs until it gets one major OS update, a Bing removal and a LauncherPro installation.

And stay tuned later this week for the Droid 2 vs. Droid X battle!

  • kasandramillls

    I bought this one after my Blackberry Bold 9930 and I am very impressed. I have two others and neither look as good or feels better than this one. Also a Samsung Fascinate Skin should be a mandatory purchase with the phone because you will love it. Sleek, form fitting, and rubber accent on the edges keep the availability of the keys on the outside in use.

  • meyersnatalie1

    well what if you just want that phone for searching and calling and texting? is it then a good phone? 

  • Cellstoreonline.com

    Great review. I’ve had my Fascinate for a while now. I can honestly say its the best smartphone that I’ve had….I’m saying this after coming from a Blackberry Storm. Keep up the good work Samsung!

  • Bnitschke

    I just got my Fascinate and what pisses me off the most is the stupid timeout on the home buttoms. I took those for granted on my former phone (droid 1). But not only doese this phone flip the home/menu buttons, but I cant even see the darn buttons in most low light.

    There is plenty to love (and hate) about this phone. But the home light seems like such a stupid bug to let slip through QA.

  • Bnitschke

    I just got my Fascinate and what pisses me off the most is the stupid timeout on the home buttoms. I took those for granted on my former phone (droid 1). But not only doese this phone flip the home/menu buttons, but I cant even see the darn buttons in most low light.

    There is plenty to love (and hate) about this phone. But the home light seems like such a stupid bug to let slip through QA.

  • Realestateshawna

    Help…………..my Droid Fascinate sucks at delivering my cox.net mail. I have the K9 app. downloaded and still no luck. Anyone else having email trouble that has found a solution. Please advise.

  • Free1_30240

    Just go to google.com to search for stuff. GAH!
    Til they let you use google automatically.

  • Frances

    I agree 100 % I had the Incredible thought I upgraded when I stwiched to the Samsung Fasinate I did not know it was a down grade. I can't stand BING It's a waste of time. I miss google maps and adding events with addresses and just hitting th address and your on your way . You did not have to think with the Incredible It did it for you . So My question is Does anyone know if the 2.2 will offer an improved naviagation? and easy vocie commands and a better google search I miss that stuff on my Incredible I am actually thinking about going back to the Incredible but In one way it looks like a dinosaur next to my Fasicante but much more reliable . Howver if 2.2 will offer what I had with the incredible I'll stay Any advise?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-Barry/100000489380498 Benjamin Barry

    I'm so happy with my new unlocked cell phones! This has an unbelievably fast processor, great feel and easy to text on. I used to own a unlocked htc phones, but I'm so much happier with my brand new unlocked samsung phones. This Samsung Fascinate is so much better for my business and pulls my email in so much faster. And I really couldn't be happier with it since it is an unlocked tmobile phones and it's a unlocked 3g phones I can take it overseas. My family loves my new phone and can't get enough of the games. I'm going to purchase another one for my son for his birthday from gsmauthority.com. Definitely would recommend this phone.

  • Thompson Andyj

    …if you root the phone and or install a custom ROM…you eliminate almost all of the negative aspects of this review.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Smith/100000303551668 Robert Smith

    Not to mention the phone freezing up, and not turning back on, 3 of them, one with no apps downloaded.

    Sold and went back to DX

  • Satisfied

    I have had my Fascinate for 3 weeks now, and I simply love it. Having had PDA's and SmartPhones for over a decade, and this is, by far, the most useful and well rounded device I have had to date. While I agree the lock button is inconveniently located on the side vs HTC's location on the top, it works well with your thumb once you get used to it. The camera takes stunning images, just remember it is a phone, not a DSLR. I have added LauncherPro, removed Bing, installed all the Google search apps including maps, and even rooted it to allow Wireless tethering. The ONLY major problem I have with the Fascinate is absence of a forward facing camera to enable video teleconferencing. Battery life? Don’t ask…I keep a charger at my bedside, my office, and my car. Oh well, you can't have everything…

  • Drspaztic

    Have had the Fascinate for a week now. Love it! Anything more than 3MP is plenty, go buy a camera if you think you need more. Pics on the Fascinate are outstanding, plus it has a flash. Not to mention the outstanding HD Video. Agree on the location of the off/lock button, but with use (as with anything) it becomes easier. Android 2.2 is due to be released late October (hoping this is not just a rumor). Looks like a i*one 3GS?? That's why I bought it!!! Was tired of Apple's proprietairy stuff, but loved the phone. Agree with not wanting Bing on my Google phone. Seems this may be another Microsoft ploy (like IE) to make us use their products. Could this be another anti-trust? Have found some methods online of removing Bing, however, not sure if I'm comfortable entering the root to make changes, especially from unknown sources. Still have not found a fix nor a Google Search App available on Market. I have LauncherPro installed, perhaps it has been updated.

  • Sh

    Did you take the pictures above with a Driod X? They are pretty blurry.

  • Dave

    You didn't even Mention SWYPE, which I can't live without now.

  • URNIdiot

    You realized that the ammount of MPs doesn't represent the quality of the picture on something as small as a cell phone screen, right? Take that 2MP picture and print it out as an 8×6 print, and it won't look near as good as the 5MP picture printed out at the same size.

  • URNIdiot

    You realized that the ammount of MPs doesn't represent the quality of the picture on something as small as a cell phone screen, right? Take that 2MP picture and print it out as an 8×6 print, and it won't look near as good as the 5MP picture printed out at the same size.

  • Justin

    i have had all the droids and this is far better than all of them very light very crisp colorful screen makes other droid screens look faded. very fast gps works fine, very good battery life. highly recommend.

  • Ktmotoxer

    The Fascinate looks to iphoney to me.
    Icons and all. I'll take my DX over that iphone clone any day. But that screen does bring a tear to my eye ha ha.

  • Samiam_18

    I went to turn the light on the background down and accedently turned it all the way down and now the screen is black and i have tried taking out the battery but all it does is make noise what do i do ??

  • Dave4321

    You would think that an Android site would note that touchwiz can easily be replaced by launcher pro or ADW in 30 seconds. This isn't rocket science.

    Stop with the megapixel comments. With sensors this small, more megapizels make photos look WORSE.

  • Brad

    Wow, such harsh feedback comments. I hate Bing as much as the next guy, but using that as a sole reason to hate this phone? Really? Hmm, let's see. Install Google Maps and Navigation, and set as default map and nav apps. Then, set browser homepage to Google, open browser, do search. Not that hard. Also, install Google search widget from the market (if it doesn't show up, use AppBrain and Fast Web Installer to push it down). Okay, okay, for all you diehards out there, no, it's still not fully integrated search, but I guarantee you it won't be long before the code monkeys figure out a way to fix that. Remember, the Vibrant has a virtually identical ROM, except for having Google apps instead of Bing. I'm sure somebody can figure out how to do a transplant of the search components. 😉