The age of the smartphone

Kids ride their bikes with one hand,  not so they can carry an ice cream cone or a football, but so they can talk on their cell phone and organize important kid stuff. Teenagers and adults get behind the wheel and cause fender benders,  products of texting three letter acronyms like “omg.” Welcome to the smartphone age.

I’ve gone over to the dark side and purchased a Samsung Vibrant. There are many pros to this beautiful new device, but it struggles to realize its full potential.

My finger gently compresses the power button. This new phone’s screen is nothing short of brilliant. The colors and the clarity of the Super AMOLED screen let the phone play big budget movies like the pre-installed “Avatar.” Its beauty stands toe-to-toe with the likes of watching a Blu-Ray movie on an HDTV.

But the screen is not just for looks.

The phone is completely touch-screen oriented. The highly reactive screen utilizes  new texting and keyboard system called “Swype.” The texter simply slides his or her finger across the on-screen keyboard to type a word. This is the T9 texting system on steroids. Complex words are a breeze with Swype and there is not much of a learning curve. It only gets difficult when walking—not that walking is a good time to be texting.

Internet browsing is nice and speedy. Combined with the Swype texting interface, it makes looking up Youtube videos, auctions on Ebay, your Facebook profile and anything else that makes your friends jealous extremely easy and quick. It also offers tons of applications available in the Android Market.

It did not take long for me to find Ebay, Internet Movie Database (IMDB), The Onion, and New York Times applications, and some games just for fun. What is the point of having a smartphone if you cannot play games while waiting for coffee?

The only problem I’ve encountered with the apps in the first week of using the phone is that the preloaded Slacker radio (think Pandora internet radio) would not work unless I turned the phone off and on again.

There’s plenty to do with the phone, and it looks wonderful, but there are some major problems with the device straight out of the box.

The phone changes to landscape when the user tilts it on its side, which would be really cool if it worked correctly 100 percent of the time. The mechanism that controls this feature tends to be touchy or clunky at random times.

On top of that, the phone is so smart it thinks it can do whatever it wants (or I’m just dumb enough to accidentally bump buttons when I set it down or put it in my pocket). It’s not acceptable to set the phone down and have it start playing “Avatar.” Perhaps the screen is a tad too sensitive.

Finally, the battery life is flat-out awful. It is inconsistent at best.

After multitasking and playing around with applications, I had to charge it twice in one day. That may not sound like a big deal, but to me it’s inconvenient. If you expect the phone to last through those late-night excursions to Qdoba or White Castle, make sure you can plug it in somewhere, especially if you’ve been messing around with the software all day.  How am I supposed to look up around 11:00 p.m.? I’m already wondering if it will be necessary to have a car charger for the device in my glove box at all times.

Taking all this into account, the Samsung Vibrant is an average phone when unmodified and straight out-of-the-box. Have all the texting, internet surfing fun you can before the battery dies.

Hopefully with further research, time, and patience the phone can be upgraded, patched and modified through Samsung and third parties for a better Android experience.


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