Samsung Fascinate: The Review

by Ryan Bailey

Have you heard about Samsung’s Galaxy S family of smartphones? If not, you’re about to. To be more specific, this is a review of the Samsung Fascinate, the Galaxy S phone carried by Verizon Wireless. It’s an Android-based phone, so it’s got a lot in common with other Android-based phones, and you’ll have to go elsewhere to read about that, because I’m assuming you want to know what makes this particular phone so special. Here’s my pitch:

Samsung Fascinate: numbers and such
Size 4.18″ by 2.5″ by 0.39″
Weight 4.16oz
Screen Size 4″ Diagonal AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
Storage 2GB internal; 16GB microSD included
Camera 5MP; LED flash, auto-focus, HD video
Battery Life 312 hours (standby) / 420 minutes (talking)
Cost $199.99 w/2-year Verizon Wireless contract and mail-in rebate

(The Fascinate also has WiFi, HD video recording, and the ability to turn into a 3G mobile hotspot with an additional monthly fee.) My favorite thing about the Fascinate is the form factor. It doesn’t look too special, but in relation to its size, it’s extremely light. It’s also really smooth. Combined, these two attributes make it easy to forget that this phone is in your pocket, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. While you can’t necessarily appreciate the phone’s feather-light chassis from afar, you’ll at least be able to see its screen. It doesn’t have as high of a resolution as some other phones, but it is otherwise the best screen I have seen on a phone. It’s built from the AMOLED technology that Samsung is known for excelling at, and it’s got the most vivid colors I’ve seen on a phone thus far. Normally, when you turn on a touch-screen phone, you have to manipulate some sort of on-screen widget to unlock the screen. This is so that the phone can’t perform mystery tasks while it’s in your pocket. The Fascinate has a really great unlock widget: In lieu of a slider, you are presented with a jigsaw puzzle piece. The background, a jigsaw puzzle, has a piece missing. Can you solve a one-piece jigsaw puzzle? I certainly hope so. At some point, you might see a second puzzle piece, a green one with a little envelope on it. This means you missed a text message, and you can finish the puzzle with that piece in order to review it. The unlock screen is normally overlooked, but the Fascinate’s is so unique (and useful) that I had to bring it up. The device appears to be highly efficient; I never ran out of battery and the phone never became warm, even during heavy use. The camera is high-quality, or at least it seems that way, due to the Fascinate’s impressive screen. The music player is great, and though the audio setting require some fanagling to get right, it’s always possible to get great sound no matter what you’re listening to. The Fascinate supports the use of the Skype app for Android over Verizon’s airwaves, and in fact, the app comes pre-installed. Last, but not least, Swype is always a good thing. I wasn’t all that impressed with the Fascinate’s custom flavor of the Android desktop interface, which I think is the third iteration of what Samsung calls its Touchwiz interface. It’s not so bad, but of all the Android OS variants I’ve tried, I like this one the least. I made a sad face when I found out that I couldn’t change the default search engine, which in the Fascinate’s case is Microsoft’s Bing. We’ve all got our own preferences when it comes to search, and I’ve heard that other search engines will be available in the future, but this would almost be a deal-breaker for me personally. What grinds my gears more than anything about this phone is the fact that it has a tendency to stall and freeze. I never once attempted to push the phone to its limits, and I frequently used the Android Task Manager to make sure I was never running a bajillion apps at once. Still, I would often tap a button and get no response, not even the little haptic buzz, for a few seconds. The camera was especially slow. At one point, the phone even froze on me entirely, and I had to remove the battery in order to restart it. This kind of this is irritating, but don’t let it sway you too much; this sort of thing is generally repaired with a simple OS upgrade. Aside from those things, most issues were minor. I accidentally ended a few calls with the side of my face, which could just be the result of the particular shape of my head. The power button is in a weird place, and there isn’t a physical camera button. While the screen was ultra-cool indoors, I couldn’t see a thing while in direct sunlight, despite the claims I’ve heard that this screen would look good anywhere. Also, the phone’s GPS was never able to pinpoint me within 3 blocks of my actual location. If you’re looking for a phone that’s extremely good at one specific thing, the Fascinate might not be too fascinating for you. If you’re and Android fan who is looking for a great all-around phone that puts a great media player inside a sleek and lightweight shell, the Fascinate is worth a look. Final verdict: give it a shot, and you’ll probably like it more than you expected to.