How Does T-Mobile's Samsung Vibrant Measure Up?

The Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant is on sale at T-Mobile stores starting Thursday, July 15. What sets the Vibrant apart from other Android handsets?
Samsung and T-Mobile held a small launch event for the Vibrant the other night in New York City. Since Samsung is selling four versions of the same phone with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, I asked T-Mobile what it was doing to make its version stand out from the pack. The answer? Software and services.

Before we get to the software, however, let's look at the hardware. At a glance, the Vibrant is as close to an iPhone 3G/3GS clone as you're going to get. All black, with a silver band around the edge. As with many Samsung devices, its looks are conservative to a fault. But it is light as a feather and feels well made.

There are four capacitive touch controls on the front that access the typical Android functions (Menu, Home, Back, Search). There is a volume toggle on the left side of the phone, and a power/lock key on the right. The power/lock key is a bit too small, if you ask me. It's a bit hard to find at times. There is a 3.5mm headset jack on top for headphones, and the microSD card is located under the battery cover.

The Vibrant's display -- which is the same as its Galaxy S brothers -- is simply amazing. Samsung's Super AMOLED display technology is as bright, sharp, and colorful as I've seen on any device. It elicited a "Wow!" from every person I showed the device to over the last couple of days. The Vibrant also has the same 1GHz Hummingbird processor, and 5-megapixel camera as its kin. With so many shared features, T-Mobile needed something to make the Vibrant unique and appealing.

Enter the software. Like all the Galaxy S variants, the Vibrant comes with Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 user interface skin. It isn't the best Android skin ever invented, but it is hardly the worst. Personally, I don't care for the way it puts all the application icons into tiles, but that's just me. In addition to TouchWiz 3.0, however, the Vibrant has The Sims 3, MobiTV, Kindle, Slacker Radio, Layar, ThinkFree Office, Write and Go, and GoGo on board.

This collection of games and media applications are pretty good. The one most relevant to business users is the GoGo app, which lets users access GoGo's in-flight Wi-Fi on participating airlines. The presence of The Sims 3 is also unique, as that's a big brand name game to have on a smartphone. MobiTV of course offers streaming video clips, Slacker Radios offers streaming music, Kindle is Amazon's e-reader software, and ThinkFree Office is a productivity app.

The Vibrant will also be the only Galaxy S handset to come with the movie Avatar pre-loaded. According to Samsung, the movie has been optimized for the Vibrant's screen. It looks phenomenal. I watched the first 20 minutes of James Cameron's flick on the handset, and the movie was razor sharp, and the colors were, well, er, vibrant and rich.

The Vibrant launches today at the attractive price point of $149. Given the quality of the screen, wireless performance, and blazing speeds offering by the fast processor, the Vibrant is the best Android handset currently available from T-Mobile. How long can it remain at the top?

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