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Samsung Epic Touch 4G: Slim and Steady

Samsung Epic Touch 4G

The arrival of Samsung's Galaxy S II phones has been a long time coming. We first saw the next generation of Samsung's popular line of Android phones back in February at Mobile World Congress. After many successful months in Europe, the Galaxy S II line of phones is finally coming to U.S. shores. The first of the phones, the Samsung Epic Touch 4G ($200 with a two-year contract with Sprint; price as of September 12, 2011) will be available starting on September 16.

Ridiculously Thin:

The Epic Touch might be a bit larger than the previous generation of phones, but it is incredibly thin. Measuring 5.1 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.38 inch, the Touch feels pretty comfortable in hand--and this is coming from somebody with small hands! Samsung phones have a bit of a reputation for being plasticky, and the Epic Touch unfortunately falls under that descriptor. In her hands on of the Epic Touch at Samsung's launch even, my colleague Melanie Pinola remarked that it felt "less refined" than AT&T's Galaxy S II version. On the bottom of the phone, you'll find the MHL port, a feature we've seen on many of this year's high-end smartphones. The MHL specification, which stands for Mobile High Definition Link, is a 1080p video and digital audio interface for connecting smartphones and other portable devices (tablets, cameras, and the like) to HDTVs. So what's the big deal? It simultaneously provides power to your phone--something that HDMI cables don't do.

Super AMOLED Plus Display:

The 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display on the Epic Touch is quite nice, but text isn't quite as sharp as what we saw on the European Galaxy S II. The Epic Touch's display is slightly larger than the European version (which has a 4.3-inch display) so it seems like the text sharpness may have been compromised by larger screen real estate. The text is still quite readable, but it is something I noticed right away upon using the phone. Otherwise, the display's colors looked bright, details were crisp, and the viewing angles were very good. Blacks were deep, and colors were richly saturated without being overdone. Even when held in direct sunlight, the Epic Touch's display remained incredibly visible. Whites had a bit of a bluish tint, but it wasn't too noticeable. According to Samsung, Super AMOLED Plus displays have 50 percent more sub-pixels than the first-generation Super AMOLED displays (seen on the Vibrant , Mesmerize , and other Galaxy S phones) and perform even better than their predecessors in bright light.

Android Gingerbread With TouchWiz 4.0:

The revamped TouchWiz 4.0 is fairly similar to the previous version, but it has a few aesthetic and functional enhancements here and there. For instance, the new lock screen displays missed calls and unread text messages; you can swipe these notifications rather than having to unlock your phone and then dig through menus to find the missed messages. The Epic Touch's keyboard isn't the native Android one, but it retains the multitouch key-chording feature (you can simultaneously press Shift and a letter to produce a symbol or number--no need to switch between modes) and the ability to use your voice to correct words as you type.

Taking a page from (or directly ripping off) HTC Sense , TouchWiz lets you pinch your homescreen to see thumbnail-size versions of all of your screens. Samsung borrowed another feature from HTC Sense, too: When the phone is ringing or playing music,you can silence it by flipping it face-down on a surface. Contacts gets some cool new gesture-based functions. Swipe right on a friend's name, and you'll start a call with them; swipe left on their name, and you'll jump to the SMS composer, which you can use to send them a text message. Each of your contact's cards comes with your communication history--for example, when you last called, texted, or emailed the person.
One funny new feature is the ability to reject a call by sending a text message. Let's say that your brother is calling to ask when you're going to pay him back for dinner the other night. A menu will come up giving you the option to answer the call, hang up, or reject it with a text that says "I'll pay you back tomorrow!"

All of Samsung's Galaxy S II phones have six-axis motion sensing, powered by an accelerometer and a gyroscope. This feature is great for gaming, but Samsung also throws in some gesture-based phone controls. For example, you can zoom in and out of images in your gallery or in the browser by tilting the phone. This feature feels a bit awkward and unnecessary, however; I can't see myself ever using it.

TouchWiz isn't for everyone, so be sure to spend some time with it before purchasing a Galaxy S II phone.

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