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Samsung Infuse 4G impression

22 May

After being disappointed by T-Mobile’s LG G2x, my search for a new phone continues. The selections outside US are grand, between the highly praised Samsung Galaxy S 2, or Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc/Neo, etc. Alas, NONE of those phones are being released in the US by their respective douchebag companies. Instead, what do we have? Samsung released a rehashed Galaxy S 1 phone on AT&T, called the Samsung Infuse 4G. Trying to import the Galaxy S 2 is prohibitively expensive and risky (at least $750, and it will have no warranty whatsoever). However, I’m too annoyed with my Nexus One already that I finally bite and checked out the Samsung Infuse 4G from the lovely AT&T.

First of all, it IS a re-hashed Galaxy S 1 phone. It contains the same single core processor as with the Galaxy S 1 phones, albeit at slightly higher clockspeed (1.2GHz vs 1GHz). While people outside the US are treated with dual-core goodness of the SGS2, US gets some leftovers. Performance wise though, it’s actually not bad. Despite the old architecture and Samsung putting their own skin on top of Android, the phone seems to perform fairly well. AT&T, as bad as they are, did a decent job by not overloading the phone with too much junk ware. Remember my review of the G2x, where T-Mobile put buggy old junkware apps in it that you cannot force-close? AT&T didn’t do that. Sure, the stuff that are pre-installed on the Infuse cannot be uninstalled, but you can easily force-close them if needed. This probably explains why the Infuse, despite having an older hardware, feels better and more stable than the G2x. The only glitches I experienced are mostly related to Froyo as I also experienced them when I had Froyo on my Nexus One. Gingerbread should take care of those, if AT&T is kind enough to update the Infuse.

Did I say Froyo? Yeah, in 2011, while other countries are getting Gingerbread phones, US gets old phones with old OS sold as new. Pathetic and sad. Even worse, it’s not even the latest version of Froyo, which is 2.2.2. It’s 2.2.1. You might think what’s the big deal. OS updates is a HUGE deal in modern smartphones because it doesn’t only give you new features, but also bug fixes and security fixes. Emphasis on security. There are serious security flaws that are fixed in Gingerbread, leaving tons of Android with Froyo vulnerable. It is extremely irresponsible of the OEMs and carriers for not pushing updates in a timely manner. Imagine if Dell or HP blocked service packs of Windows. There will be a huge outrage and security concern.

The main seller of the Infuse is its 4.5″ screen. Yeah, it’s massive! It puts my iPhone 3GS and Nexus One to shame. It’s even bigger than the LG G2x. The 4.5″ Super AMOLED screen is a beauty, bright and vibrant colors. Alas, it still has the same resolution as my Nexus One, 800×480. Definitely not “retina” resolution, and it kinda shows on some fonts and icons, aliased jaggies aplenty. Still, there are times now that I appreciate the larger screen. Maybe signs of my eyes getting old. 😀

Another main seller of the Infuse is 4G, or more like fake 4G. AT&T is marketing HSPA+ as 4G. This may make you think the Infuse is somewhat more “advance” than something like the Galaxy S2, even though the Galaxy S2 also supports HSPA+, minus the hype and marketing. Is it fast? It is. I can get 3 to 5mbps down and 1mbps+ up. This is a lot faster than my iPhone 3GS, which usually gets only up to 2mbps down and a lousy 50-100kbps up. A far cry for sure. Still, it’s not really 4G, and it’s unfortunate that everybody now is misusing the monicker, thanks to T-Mobile. Now, the Infuse apparently is not compatible with GoPhone for data, even if you have purchased data packages. I have a GoPhone pay-as-you-go SIM for backup, and it works fine for data on my Nexus One and 3GS, but it doesn’t work at all on the Infuse, not even reverting back to 3G or EDGE. It just doesn’t work.

The camera is sweet. It’s not as fancy as the G2x though. The G2x can do 1080p video while the Infuse is maxed out at 720p. Still better than my Nexus One and 3GS. The front facing camera on the Infuse is also 1.3MP, beating the VGA resolution on most other phones, including the iPhone 4. Photo is at 8MP on the rear facing camera. Nice.

Samsung is quite generous on the internal storage, 16GB partitioned into the usual ~1+GB for apps and the rest as internal “SD card.” There’s also a microSD card for even more storage. I’ve been downloading apps like crazy, finally being freed from the limited internal memory of the Nexus One. The SIM slot is located above the battery so you can replace it without having to take the battery out. However, the microSD card slot is located UNDER the SIM slot, and access to it is blocked by the battery. It’s not that easy to take it out either since, so if you are those people that like to change SD cards often, well, look elsewhere. The Infuse comes with a measly 2GB microSD card, but considering you already have ~16GB internal storage, it’s not a big issue.

One thing I immediately miss is the trackball on the Nexus One. As silly as it may look, the trackball on the N1 serves as a very useful notification light, so I can see if the phone need my attention without having to turn it on. No such thing on the Infuse, just like the iPhone.

Another surprise is that the Infuse actually supports 5GHz 802.11n, a nice update from most other phones that usually only support the crowded 2.4GHz band.

One drawback of Android is its media capability. Let’s face it, nothing beats the iPod integration on iPhones, and their ecosystem of accessories and support, especially in cars. My car has a USB port that supports my 3GS. As expected, the Infuse doesn’t work with it like the iPhone did, it only works for charging, no difference than the Nexus One. Sad. 😦

The Infuse comes with an HDMI adapter. It basically converts the micro-USB slot into an HDMI slot. However, you have to plug-in a power source on the HDMI adapter instead, making it a dongle-cable mess.

So, let’s recap.
The goods:
+decent performance for an old single core phone
+not too much junkware from AT&T
+other sources for apps is enabled
+beautiful huge screen
+tri-band HSDPA: 850/1900/2100
+HSPA+ is decently fast

The bads:
-4.5″ may be too big for some
-old hardware released as new, while other countries are getting the dual-core SGS2
-old outdated and buggy OS
-all the stuff one may not like on Android (eg. media capability, accessories support, etc)
-locked to AT&T
-fake 4G

If you’re on AT&T and you need a new phone, what are your options on the same price range? The main one will be the dual-core Motorola Atrix 4G, which is sold for the same price. Despite having dual-core, the Atrix has poorer screen, only VGA front-facing-camera, and at this point, I have a felling Samsung is more likely to pull through with updates than Motorola. The Atrix does have fancy feature like finger-print scanner and you could turn it into a linux netbook using an optional expensive dock. I’m not a fan of Motorola though.
Another phone on the same price range is the 16GB iPhone 4. At this point in time, however, I wouldn’t get the iPhone 4 as the iPhone 5 is near the corner.
Then there’s the cheaper Samsung Captivate, which is an AT&T variant of the Galaxy S. Cheaper, smaller screen, but no front facing camera.
There’s also the HTC Inspire, but since HTC only made it with dual-band 3G (850/1900), I’m not interested.

So there you go, a quick impression on the AT&T Samsung Infuse 4G.

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