May 17, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
AT&T was the last carrier to embrace Android, and that embrace was half-hearted. Big Blue released a slew of yawn-inducing phones until it finally went big with the Samsung Captivate, which had the distinction of being the best Android phone on AT&T for quite some time. The operative word is “had” because the Captivate has since found a rival in the the HTC Inspire 4G and Motorola Atrix 4G.
The Samsung Infuse 4G has dashed into the forefront of AT&T’s Android picture and removed most of the misgivings that we’ve held about Big Blue. It’s a slender phone with an eye-popping screen, great camera, strong processor, and key enhancements that make it worthy of best AT&T Android phone consideration. But given AT&T’s icy past with the hot mobile OS on the rise, is that really saying much?
There isn’t much to say to about the hardware of the Samsung Infuse 4G, but only because it leaves me speechless for a moment. The Infuse has a gargantuan Super AMOLED Plus screen that’s 4.5 inches big, yet the device is only 8.99 mm at its thinnest point. The phone actually feels lighter than the Samsung Droid Charge despite being taller and wider. Samsung designed the Infuse 4G to be a thin slab of plastic and metal that has a rectangular frame with round edges and delicate feel.
The Super AMOLED Plus screen provides one of the best displays available on a mobile phone, but there are other impressive media features to be appreciated. The Infuse 4G supports HDMI out through MHL, which enables HD video and digital surround. An MHL-to-HDMI output adapter is included that can provide live mirroring with audio to your phone to the television. MHL supports sharing of photos and videos from the gallery, games being played, and select downloaded content. The Media Hub and Camera apps are inaccessible.
The Infuse runs a single-core, 1.2 GHz processor that is more than capable of meeting your needs. Yes, we all know that dual core devices are more efficient and powerful, but don’t think for one second that the Infuse can’t keep up with your tweeting, gaming, and media consumption. The extra .2 GHz make the Infuse run smoothly without any of the problems I ran into with the Droid Charge, and as long as you don’t need a device capable of running games optimized for Tegra 2, processing power should not be a concern when considering this phone.
Battery life? Yup, that’s great, too. I put the 1760 mAh battery through hell during Google I/O, snapping photos, sending tweets, reading email, and calling back home from sun-up to sun down. You know how many times I needed to charge the phone? Once – as I slept in my rental. You’d think that such a large screen would lead to nightmarish battery life, but with brightness set to 50 percent, I managed to make it through an entire day every day without having to reach for my backup phone. You may still need to charge if you plan to watch a lot of videos or play a lot of games, but “normal” use should get great results out of the Infuse 4G battery.
I’ve yet to see a noticeable difference in battery life with “4G” because the AT&T HSPA+ coverage in my area is spotty at best and non-existent at its worst. San Francisco proved to be a little better but I never noticed any particular benefit to write about. Results may vary in your neck of the woods.
There’s really nothing new about TouchWiz on the Infuse 4G because Samsung didn’t load the newer version of its custom UI that’s seen on the Galaxy S II. That means it also didn’t load Gingerbread (Android 2.3) and instead opted to go with the year-old-software of Froyo (Android 2.2). Sigh, when will companies learn to update faster?
Infuse users – Infusers? – will still find a very capable device with incredible media players and extensive support for playback format options. They’ll also find a skinned version of Android that looks prettier than the default option with some tweaks to common apps that can be clever (Calendar and customizable app drawer) or add no value (keyboard) . Swype is also valuable for gesture-based text entry.
While we’re on the subject of tweaks, let’s talk about the most surprising feature of the Infuse 4G: AT&T allows the installation of non-Android Market apps on the Infuse 4G. Yes, “allows” as if you’re not old enough to decide to install from the Amazon App Store or beta apps that provide an early glimpse of what’s not on the Market yet. Strange as it may seem for something so trivial to cause excitement, but it’s one fewer entry on the list of AT&T Android gripes. Well done, AT&T
No one is surprised to discover pre-loaded software on Android phones anymore, so let’s just list out what intrusions, I mean inclusions, are available:
Angry Birds, AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Navigator, AT&T U-Verse Live TV, Samsung Media Hub (movie and television rental/purchase), and YP Mobile (Yellow Pages). Aside from Media Hub, which comes with $25 credit for purchases, and U-Verse if you are a U-Verse customer, I doubt you’ll find much enjoyment in any of these apps.
The Samsung TouchWiz camera software is kind of a big deal. It lets users shoot in several modes ranging from Action to Continuous to Panorama. It also changes exposure, auto-sets contrast, and provides anti-shake to steady your image (picture mode only). That comes very much in handy when taking pictures with the 8 megapixel rear camera.
The Infuse 4G has a 1.3 megapixel camera that does alright for taking self-portraits. It won’t provide much assistance in the way of self-recorded videos because the Infuse doesn’t support such videos. Either way, here’s a look at some photo and video examples.
The Bottom Line
The Samsung Infuse 4G is an incredible phone. That’s not the most poetic way to describe a product, but it’s the most fitting. Save for the dual-core power and updated Android version, there isn’t much to complain about with this phone. That makes its a great option for anyone, especially an AT&T customer. The Infuse is 1 of only 3 realistic choices for anyone walking into an AT&T store. The other two options – Motorola Atrix 4G and HTC Infuse 4G – are great as well, but the Infuse is the way to go if you’re not a hardcore mobile gamer. Everything from the screen to media and physical form factor are all top-notch. At $199 on a two year agreement, the Infuse 4G is a giant step on the road to AT&T’s recovery.