The Samsung Droid Charge runs Google’s Android OS 2.2, aka Froyo. It’s a shame that it doesn’t run the most recent version of Android (OS 2.3, aka Gingerbread) but Froyo is still a perfectly fine version of the OS. Powered by a Cortex A8 1 GHz Hummingbird processor, the Charge packs 512 MB of memory, has 2 GB of onboard storage, and ships with a 32 GB microSD card.
Overall, the Charge’s processor isn’t the most powerful thing in the world, especially since it isn’t dual-core like so many of the recent smartphones to hit the market. But it’s more than enough to keep things flowing smoothly, though there was the occasional stutter when dealing with all of the preloaded widgets and software that come on the device straight out of the box. Once I did some clean up and streamlined my menus, everything was nice and smooth. Video and apps — even ones that were a little more intense like the Rock Band demo — were comfortably speedy, with no noticeable lag or slowdown.
I ran the Quadrant benchmark software to get some hard numbers and direct comparison to see how the processing speed of the Charge stacks up against the competition, and it landed right in the middle of the road. With a final result of 939, the Charge placed higher than the Galaxy S and the HTC Desire, while placing below the Droid X, HTC Evo 4G (running Android OS 2.2), and the Nexus One (also running 2.2), which ranked highest with a score of 1375.
I was looking forward to checking out the 4G LTE and seeing what kind of shockingly fast speeds it would provide, but it ultimately turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Aside from the fact that coverage was spotty at times, I never experienced blistering fast speeds, whether I was streaming, browsing, downloading, or uploading.
I ran a benchmark test with the SpeedTest app to get some official numbers, and the results pointed to better performance than what I was experiencing, though. After I ran the test, it said that the ping of the Charge was 56ms, while turned in a 13.77 Mbps download speed and a rather poor 0.48 Mbps upload speed. I assure you that you my experience didn’t reflect these numbers though (except maybe the upload speeds), as going to something as simple as the mobile site for CNN.com took a good 6 or 7 seconds to fully load; that’s no different than what I experience on other Android handsets. Downloads were probably when the speeds seemed the highest to me, but it still wasn’t anything shocking.
Should you find yourself with a wireless access point available though, that’s always a good fallback, especially with the Charge. Thanks to the Android interface, connecting to Wi-Fi is as simple as pulling down the menu located at the top of the screen and tapping the Wi-Fi button to turn the radio on or off. Wi-Fi connections were always speedy and reliable whenever I used them.
The Charge has hotspot capabilities, allowing it to wirelessly tether its data connection to up to five different devices and further enhancing its connectivity options. This should come in handy if you’re ever in a situation where you find yourself needing Wi-Fi but there isn’t an access point handy.
Again, the Android interface made for a streamlined email and web browsing experience, as syncing with my Google account upon activating the phone was all it took to have my mail start filtering in. You can have it push which, granted, uses more of what little battery life this thing has, or you can change your settings to have your email checked in intervals. The browsing remains a similar experience to other Android devices; the only way this could have turned out differently would have been if the 4G LTE speeds blew me away and offered a lightning-fast browsing experience. Alas, this was not really the case.
Though it’s not really the number one priority of smartphone owners these days, the call quality on the Droid Charge is perfectly fine. During my time with it, I never experienced any static, echoing, or dropped calls, which is all you can really ask for.
Android comes with a suite of apps to make you more productive, like a calendar, adress book, calculator, and more. Many of these tie into Google’s services, so you can access (and edit) the information online.
Verizon and Samsung have put some additional software on the Droid Charge, but most of it is either useless or trivial dreck that clutters your home screens. There are a couple of preloaded widgets, however, that are worth your time, including Samsung’s “Buddies Now” widget, which allows you to manually add contacts you’re your phonebook and arranges them in quickly-accessible wheel with shortcut buttons to text or call them. There’s also the “Feed and Updates” widget, which automatically filters in status updates and/or Tweets from your friends and contacts, depending on what accounts to which you’ve connected your handset.
And in terms of more work-centric features, the Charge comes preloaded with ThinkFree Office, which lets you view and share Microsoft Office documents. The phone can also be synced up with Microsoft Exchange accounts, for those looking to have access to their work email on their handset.
Aside from the video and music players that are part of Android (which are basic but reliable), there aren’t a ton of entertainment options on the Droid Charge straight out of the box. It doesn’t seem that way at first, but upon further inspection, you’ll found that most of the preloaded software is just garbage, in that most of the apps were either demos or just straight-up advertisements for the actual app itself! For instance, the Charge is Bitbop capable (a TV streaming app), but if you click on the Bitbop app that comes preloaded on the phone, it’s just a video advertising the service and urging you to go sign up for it. The same goes for the Rhapsody “app.”
Meanwhile, games like Rock Band and Let’s Golf 2 are on the phone only in demo capacity, offering you only a couple of levels (or in the case of Rock Band, one song) before cutting you off and telling you to buy the full version.
It’s not all a bust, however, as the Droid Charge is compatible with Samsung’s Media Hub software, a centralized service through which you can watch rented or purchased movies — as well as your own music and videos — across all Samsung devices. We mentioned it in our review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab on TabletPCReview.com, and it’s a decent service, especially if you have multiple Samsung products; I have a Samsung TV and it’s nice being able to download media to my phone or tablet and then stream it straight to my 46-inch screen. It may not be perfect, and the selection of rentable or buyable movies is somewhat limited, but it’s definitely a solid start. And if you’re really not feeling the Media Hub, there’s always AllShare on the phone as well, allowing you to use DLNA to share all of your media over a range of devices.
The Charge also comes preloaded with the Amazon Kindle app, as well as Slacker Radio and YouTube apps. These bring support for ebooks plus streaming audio and video suport.
Since the Samsung Droid Charge is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, it’s a slight step above what you would normally find on phones these days in terms of quality. Sure, in the grand scheme of things it’s still a phone camera and is still a step below even most point-and-shoots, but it ranks high among its competition. And of course, the pictures look great on the screen, even if their colors are a little over-saturated.
For those wondering, the phone also has a front-facing, 1.3-megapixel camera for video chatting.
In what is probably one of the biggest drawbacks of the Droid Charge, the battery life is painfully short, and I can probably attribute this, at least in part, to the display that I keep gushing about. So long as the device has the display lit up, the battery drains like a tub. Even with light usage — a couple of photos, one call, maybe a total of 30 minutes in apps, a few minutes in web browsing, and otherwise just poking around the phone — the battery lasted far less than a day (just shy of 12 hours).
Though the battery still drains quickly when in standby, I could at least get a couple of days of life out of it so long as I was…basically not using it at all. Also be aware that it takes ages to charge, requiring roughly 5 hours to get a full charge during my time with it. The point is, road warriors may not be too happy with the Droid Charge, as it won’t be winning any endurance challenges any time soon.
Part 3 of this review of the Samsung Droid Charge is the conclusion.