When you’re trying to choose a smartphone, there are a lot of variables to consider — the size, the keyboard, the camera resolution, battery life, and finally the price. But what do you do when two different carriers offer what is, in essence, the same device with only a few minor tweaks? This is the case with Samsung Galaxy S II and the Samsung Epic 4G Touch? You get a bonus carrier vs. carrier showdown as an extra round.
Design and Portability
This is a very difficult category to judge, because the Epic Touch and the Galaxy S II are almost exactly the same size, and share the same basic design. The Galaxy S II has a slight edge because it feels ever so slightly smaller and thinner than the Epic 4G Tough. This is due to the squared off edges on the Galaxy, rather than the the angled sides on the Epic 4G Touch.
The Galaxy S II is more comfortable to hold in the hand, as well, because the texture on the back isn’t raised quite as much as on the Epic 4G Touch, which feels rougher. In all other respects the two phones are almost identical, with a few minor design touches on each one being all that distinguishes them from each other.
Display and Keyboard
This category is a dead heat, since both devices feature the same 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. Neither one has a physical keyboard, and since they’re both sporting the same size display, their virtual keyboards are almost identical. Swype comes pre-installed on the Galaxy S II however, giving it a very slight edge since I happen to prefer that method of text entry.
Features and Capabilities
When it comes to benchmark testing, the Epic 4G Touch came in with a score of 3256, edging out the Galaxy S II which had a score of 3129. That’s a headscratcher of a result, because the Epic 4G Touch has only a 1.2 GHz dual core processor, while the Galaxy S II is slightly newer and is equipped with a 1.5 GHz dual core processor. That shows that clock speed isn’t everything, since the Quadrant benchmark program tests graphics capabilities and other features as well.
When it comes to network speed testing, the Epic 4G Touch fared much better on the download test, but for uploads the Galaxy S II was the clear winner. This is network dependent, of course, so results will vary by area.
The Galaxy S II gets the nod here, though I suspect that’s got as much to do with the carrier and my local network coverage than anything else, since both of these phones are from the same manufacturer. Voice quality and background noise cancellation on the Galaxy S II was simply exceptional, with test callers (and this reviewer) uniformly pleased.
The Epic 4G Touch is no slouch in this department, with overall good results, though my test callers were better aware of the fact that I was calling from a cell phone. There weren’t any major complaints, but there weren’t any compliments for it as there were for the Galaxy S II.
Productivity and Entertainment
This is another virtual dead heat, since both of these phones are basically running the same version of Android — the Epic 4G Touch came out first, so it’s running 2.3.4, while the Galaxy S II has version 2.3.5 preinstalled. In all other respects the experience is the same, with the same mail experience, the same PIM apps, and the same Polaris Office app for Microsoft Office file compatibility.
The only real difference between the two phones is the superior performance of the Epic 4G Touch as a navigational device. It comes with the same apps, Google Maps and Telenav, but it pinpointed my location and provided directions much more quickly than the Galaxy S II. Since these devices are from the same manufacturer, I believe there might be some sort of defect or problem with the specific phone I received as a loaner, but I can’t be sure of that without testing another device of the same model.
Battery and Camera
The Galaxy S II was the clear winner in the battery life category; I was never worried that I would run out of juice during the day after the commute home. While the Epic 4G Touch never actually let me down, its battery did seem to drain much faster, and I wasn’t able to get through more than a single day on a charge with average use.
When it comes to photography, both phones seem to have exactly the same 8 megapixel camera, both with LED flash. They offered all of the same shooting modes and scene selections as well. The only difference was that the Epic Touch 4G was very slightly faster at capturing a photo when I pressed the shutter button onscreen. Whichever phone you choose, you’ll find that the camera is more than sufficient for all of your everyday shooting needs.
Price and Carrier
The Epic 4G Touch is currently available from Sprint for $200, while the Galaxy S II is $230 from T-Mobile. That’s a negligible difference, so the next step is comparing the monthly cost of ownership. If you want true unlimited service, the monthly cost will be $110 for unlimited talk, text, and web, which includes the $100 unlimited fee plus the $10 smartphone surcharge. If you’re a cheapskate, or just don’t have any friends so you rarely talk on the phone, you can get a plan for as little as $80 a month with a 450 minute talk allowance.
The situation isn’t quite so clear on T-Mobile, which offers a much larger variety of plans. They offer three “unlimited” plans based on the amount of data you expect to use each month; when you go over your monthly cap, your network speed is throttled but your connection is not cut off. The most expensive plan is Unlimited Ultra for $120 per month, which includes up to 10GB of unthrottled data; the least expensive is Unlimited Plus for $80.
There’s no overall winner in this comparison. The devices are so similar, with so many of the same features — same screen, same camera, virtually the same size, etc. — that the choice of device that’s best for your needs is more likely to come down to the carrier. The best thing to do is gather local carrier strength evidence in order to make your decision, because the maps on the carrier sites don’t always tell the whole story.
In my local area, for example, T-Mobile’s network coverage is much better than Sprint’s, and the Galaxy S II from T-Mobile would be a better choice for me. Your experience may be completely different, however, so no matter which of these two devices you choose, you can rest assured that it’s capable of organizing your busy life, entertaining you duing the down times, and so much more.