The keyboard, while nice to have, is a bit mushy. The keys are decently spaced but there’s a bit too much vertical travel and the spacebar is too small for my liking. I have large hands, though. I actually found myself rarely using the keyboard after a couple days, as Android’s on-screen keyboard, and, in particular, Swype, have both done an excellent job at handling text input. I used to be a big hardware keyboard guy, but I’ve finally reached the point with most phones that I don’t miss one any more.
Battery life is average. You’ll be able to get an entire day of mixed use out of it, but you’ll definitely want to keep the charger nearby. The 4G data connection can be toggled on and off quickly, but leaving it on all day will drain the battery much, much faster than the 3G signal. If I were to keep using this as my regular phone, I’d be on the lookout for extended batteries just so I wouldn’t have to worry about it as much.
As a side note, I wasn’t able to fully test the 4G connection here in Boston, as it hasn’t been officially rolled out by Sprint yet. The network is live in certain pockets but I’d either frequently disconnect or experience odd speed test results. At home, for example, I get 4G upload speeds of more than 1Mbps but download speeds of only around 512kbps.
When switching to the 3G connection, I get download speeds of over 1Mbps and upload speeds of around 150kbps. In one part of the city, I was able to consistently clock 4G downloads in excess of 3Mbps. I was able to tether the phone to my laptop at those speeds and found the connection to be refreshingly fast, though it ran the battery down entirely within a few hours.
So I can’t really comment thoroughly on the 4G connection except to say that if you live in an actual 4G coverage area, you likely won’t be disappointed in the speeds you’re able to achieve. Sprint promises average download speeds between 3Mbps and 6Mbps, which is on par with most first and second tier broadband plans offered by various at-home providers.
The Samsung Epic 4G is a solid phone overall. It’s a good showcase of Android’s capabilities and makes a great addition to Sprint’s handset lineup. If your requirements are a 4G handset with a keyboard, this is your only option on Sprint right now but it won’t feel like a compromise at all. If you don’t care about the keyboard, the HTC Evo 4G is another solid option.
In the end, the decision to purchase this phone will likely come down to price for most people. At $250 after a $100 mail-in rebate and two-year contract, the phone isn’t cheap. Add to that the required $10-per-month premium you have to pay for the 4G connection (whether you use it or not), and the $30-per-month fee to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and you’re looking at around $150 per month for unlimited voice minutes when the dust settles.
If the price doesn’t concern you, though, there’s a lot to like here. The little annoyances like the non-tactile Android buttons and the awkwardly-placed power button used to wake the phone out of standby are offset by the slick user experience, fast connection speeds, and gorgeous screen.
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