The Samsung Infuse 4G is the latest example of the trend toward big-screen smartphones, packing a whopping 4.5 inch AMOLED display, backed up by 18 GB of storage, and one of the thinnest designs on the market. It runs Android on a 1.2GHz processor and sports a front-facing camera.
It's currently available on AT&T with a retail price of $200 with new contract. The device is $550 without that contract.
BUILD & DESIGN
The Infuse could best be described as the hybrid child of a regular smartphone and an Android tablet. With a super-thin design, and one of the largest screens available on a smartphone today, it more closely resembles a miniaturized tablet than it does many old fashioned smartphones made in the Blackberry mold. But rather than being a curious one-off, the Infuse is simply the most extreme example of a growing class of devices which emphasize a large screen over the compactness that's traditionally been a hallmark of phones. This being the case, it's worth taking a moment to discuss the design of the Infuse, and why it's built the way it is.
The answer is deceptively simple, but deep. The Infuse, along with the increasing wave of large-screen Android phones, reflect a change in the way that people are using their devices. Simply put, there's a lot of us out here--myself included--for whom phone calls are a very secondary use for our phones. Yes, they're important for that, but the amount of time we spend reading, browsing, or doing other things far outpaces the amount of time we have the thing slapped to our head to talk.
That's where the Infuse's design principles come from. Why design a small, compact phone around the relatively little time that you're going to spend using it for a phone? Instead, build it for the majority of the use, which means having a larger, more comfortable screen to read off of. Include a bigger, better battery to keep it running through long hard days.
This is, in a very real way, a micro-tablet which also makes phone calls. That's not to say it's not perfectly servicable as a phone. Yes, if you're accustomed to a small phone, it is going to feel a little awkward at first putting it to your ear. But that goes away fairly quickly, and it becomes just another phone. When you think about it, it's only about half an inch wider than an iPhone 4-sized device -- a little more than the length of your thumbnail.
In all the other ways, the Infuse is remarkably robust. You would think that having such a broad, flat design would be an invitation to twisting and flexing, but it's in fact as hard as a rock. A part of this is the screen's Gorilla Glass covering, which we'll talk about in a minute.
The back of the casing has a small ridge at the bottom, to let you feel which end is up and which is down without having to look at it. This is something you don't think about until you use a device that you can't easily tell top from bottom.
Overall, I would describe the Infuse's design as simple but elegant. It's got no particular features other than a huge screen and a thin profile, but it looks good, feels good, and is durable.
Like many of Samsung's other models, the Infuse uses an OLED screen. This stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode, a newer screen technology which is supposed to offer potentially better power consumption than traditional LCDs. Unlike some of those other models, it has a new type -- called a Super AMOLED Plus -- which is supposed to eliminate some of OLED's downsides, such as poor daylight viewability.
I would say that the best short summary of the Infuse's screen is "wow." Not only does it look great, with true, crisp blacks, extremely vivid colors, and untinted whites but it also avoids any hint of the greenish tint I saw in shades of grey with my last Samsung OLED-based unit, the Nexus S 4G. Add to that the fact that it performs as advertised in direct sunlight: not just better than previous OLEDs, but better even than most conventional LCD screens. Compared directly to comparable LCDs in sunlight, the Samsung is visibly clearer and more readable. Even at noon on a summery day, you can still see not just details of the screen, but even colors, which are usually washed out. Get it into shade, it's even better. I wasn't really sold on OLED after the Nexus S, but the Infuse has made a believer out of me. This is definitely the future, and more manufacturers need to start implementing it.
I'm sure that there's some folks out there who'll be disappointed that the Infuse's 4.5 inch screen is "only" 800 x 480 (WVGA) in resolution instead of the 960 x 540 (qHD) screens featured on a number of new high-end units, such as Motorola's cutting edge Android phones. However, I can honestly say that I really haven't missed it. In fact, having the qHD resolution Droid X2 at the same time, I actually prefer the Infuse. The increased contrast, and more vibrant colors, make the screen more of a pleasure to look at than a standard LCD, even one with a slightly higher resolution. Of course I wouldn't turn down having both the resolution and the quality, either.
You would think that having such a large screen in such a thin device would be an invitation to a broken display. And frankly, you're not wrong. To combat that factor, the Infuse's display is covered with Gorilla Glass. If you haven't heard of Gorilla Glass, it's a product of Corning, some two to three times stronger than conventional soda-lime hardened glass. It's resistant to scratching, even with metal keys, very strong, and extremely hard to crack. I haven't exactly tried to see if I could smash the Infuse, but I can say that at no point while I've been using it have I been afraid of it breaking. More than once I've fallen asleep while reading on it, only to realize the next morning that I'd rolled over on top of it in the night. No damage. I've sat on it, dropped it, and gone bouncing around outdoors with it, and it still looks brand new.
Other Buttons & Controls
The Infuse retains the "slick" design ethos common in so many new phones. The only physical buttons are Power and Volume, and the only connectors are the 3.5mm headphone and micro-USB. It has the stadard set of buttons below the touchscreen: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. These are part of the touchscreen, not actually buttons that move when you press on them.
The battery cover is a little different than most, being a pry-off panel rather than the entire back of the casing coming off. In fact, if you don't look closely to find the niche to lever it up, you'd bare even know the seam was there. Underneath you've got the SIM card stacked on top of the microSD card. And of course, you have to remove the battery to remove the memory card. Why did I expect different?
The bottom-mounted Micro-USB port also doubles as the device's HDMI-out connector, using a dongle that's included in the box. The dongle provides both an extra Micro-USB port for charging, and a full size HDMI connector. While I'm glad for the full size HDMI, I think I'd rather take a mini-port mounted directly onto the device. Either way, you're not going to be able to plug directly into a standard HDMI plug; you'll need either the dongle and a standard cable, as with the Infuse 4G, or the standard-to-mini cable, such as with the Droid X2. But dongles can get lost, requiring you to either replace them or lose that capability. A standard port, even a not very common one, keeps you in business no matter what. That's not the only downside of the Infuse's HDMI implementation -- nor is it without upsides. I'll talk about this in more detail in the Entertainment section in the second part of this review.
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