Samsung Fascinate -- Sleek, sexy, fun and easy to live with
Written: Sep 28, 2010 (Updated Apr 28, 2011)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
I now work for an online cell phone retailer, so I have access to a lot of different cell phones. One that arrived on my first day was the Samsung Fascinate, one of Samsung's Galaxy S-series of phones that are all powered by the Android operating system. Each of the major cellular providers has its own version of a Galaxy S phone and the Fascinate is the version for Verizon's network.
At the moment, you can get the Samsung Fascinate for less than $20 with a two-year contract. Check suppliers such as Amazon and Wirefly for the latest deals.
What it is
The Samsung Fascinate is a smartphone similar in design and operation to the Apple iPhone, and it's something that I call an "iPhone wannabe." I have used a few different Android smart phones and the Fascinate is the lightest and sleekest, measuring about five inches long, 2.5 inches wide and only about 1/3 of an inch thick -- it is very slim. The unit weighs just 4.5 ounces with the battery installed. The Fascinate uses the Android 2.1 operating system and a free upgrade to Android 2.2 is promised at some point in the murky future. (April 2011 note: Android 2.2 is now available for the Samsung Fascinate.)
The front of the Samsung Fascinate is dominated by a four-inch Super AMOLED display. The display has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, and it is protected by something called "Gorilla Glass," which is supposed to defend the display from scratches. The back of the Fascinate has what looks like a carbon fiber cover. (This back is very lightweight, so it could be carbon fiber.) The back also has the lens and a single LED flash for the built-in camera. Speaking of the camera, the built-in camera takes 5 megapixel stills and up to 720p HD video.
One edge of the Samsung Fascinate has an on/off button, which is also used to put the phone in hibernation. The other side of the phone has a volume up/down rocker, which is used to control ringer volume, phone listening volume and audio playback volume. The top edge of the phone has a standard 3.5mm audio jack for headphones and a now-standard microUSB connector for charging and data access.
The Samsung Fascinate has a 1 GHz processor and it comes with 2 GB of built-in memory. Even better, it comes with a 16 GB microSD card, which gives the phone decent capacity. The Fascinate also comes with a charger and USB cable.
Note that the Samsung Fascinate is for the Verizon network. Each of the carriers has a version of this phone, but there can be some differences from carrier to carrier. The most different version is the Samsung Epic 4G, which is on Sprint's network. Among other things, the Epic has a slide-out keyboard and 4G networking capability, neither of which are on the Fascinate.
I was able to use the Samsung Fascinate for about 10 days before I had to return it and I was mostly impressed. In fact, I wish I could keep it.
First, I really enjoyed the Samsung Fascinate's size and weight. I could carry it in a shirt pocket and hardly notice it was there. And the four-inch display screen is noticably bigger than other smart phone displays I've used. In this case, bigger is most definitely better, and the Fascinate's display is downright gorgeous. It was a pleasure reading e-mail, surfing the web and performing other tasks with the Fascinate.
The Fascinate does not have a slide-out keyboard, so a QWERTY keyboard appears on the screen whenever you need to type information. With the Fascinate's four-inch screen, this on-screen keyboard was actually big enough to type without many mistakes. When you surf the Web or look at a photo, you can do a "pinch to zoom" to make the displayed information bigger or smaller. It's a little hard to describe but it is easy to understand when you see it.
I found the Fascinate's screen to be quite responsive to touch. In my 10 days of fairly heavy use, it never locked up or slowed down... it was a pleasure to use.
The Fascinate comes with a lot of applications, including a web browser, GPS capability, music player, still camera, video camera and the ability to work as a WiFi hotspot. Which brings up the Samsung Fascinate's networking capability: The Fascinate is a 3G phone and you will need to pay for a data plan to use it. I checked the data speed several times and got speeds from 200 to 900 kilobits per second (kbps). These are okay but not fantastic, especially if you want to use the WiFi hotspot feature and share the data bandwidth. I did test the WiFi sharing capability on the Fascinate -- it worked fine and was easy to set up.
October 26, 2010 Update: I have had the chance to use the Samsung Fascinate some more and did get an Internet data speed of 2.2 Mbps in one test (out of many tests). That is an excellent data speed for any wireless device, but it was for only one test. Generally, the Internet data speed of the Fascinate continues to be acceptable but not outstanding in my experience.
The Samsung Fascinate is a cell phone, not a camera. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the still-image and video quality of the camera is not fantastic. Stills are somewhat grainy in office light but are reasonably good in daylight. HD video (720p) from the Fascinate is grainy and has some compression artifacts. Pointing the lens in the rough vicinity of the sun will cause all sorts of lens flare, as there is no lens shade. Audio on recorded videos is highly compressed and fairly loud.
My editing software had no problem working with HD video shot on the Fascinate. However, you will need a powerful computer to deal with HD video -- a five-year old malware-ridden computer will probably never show HD video properly.
The Samsung Fascinate is a phone, right? Call quality on the Fascinate was okay but nothing special. I could recognize the voice at the other end but it was somewhat digital sounding.
Making a call on the Fascinate was reasonably intuitive and fairly easy to do with a single hand. However, it wasn't immediately obvious to me how to add someone to my contact list.
I used the Fascinate only briefly as an audio player, listening to just two songs. Still, I was impressed at the lack of background noise and the overall clarity of the sound. (This was using a cheap pair of Sony headphones that I had around the house.) There should be plenty of volume to listen on a noisy airplane, although I recommend noise-cancelling headphones.
The Samsung Fascinate comes with 2 GB of memory built-in, and is supplied with a 16 GB microSD memory card. 2 GB is not much for built-in memory, but a 16 GB card is a real treat. Together they provide a decent amount of memory.
However, the microSD card can only be accessed by popping the back cover off the phone, which is something of an annoyance. Further, you can plug the Fascinate into your computer to read the data but you will need to load Verizon's Navigator software first. I tried loading the Navigator software on a new 64-bit computer and found that it would not work... it only works on 32-bit computers. Therefore, I can't read data from the Fascinate directly on my computer -- the only thing I can do is pop the phone's cover off, remove the microSD card and insert that into my computer. Definitely something of an annoyance.
Android operating system
The Android operating system was created by Google and it is a direct competitor to the Apple iPhone OS. In theory, Android is supposed to be an "open" operating system, meaning that it is easy to create applications for it and that there are no licensing fees or restrictions for such applications. In reality, each carrier modifies its version of Android to force the user into doing things the carrier wants you to do.
For example, the Samsung Fascinate puts an icon for Bing, Microsoft's search engine, on the main home screen. Bing... not Google. My guess is that Microsoft paid Verizon for that icon placement. It's not hard to get to Google (or Yahoo... or Epinions, for that matter) but it's not as easy as getting to Bing.
There are some other bits of "crapware" that Verizon shoveled onto the Fascinate, but nothing that slowed me down for making phone calls and surfing the web. If you are really into the Android operating system, you can get into the guts and delete the stuff you don't want. Most of us will just ignore it.
For the record, the Fascinate has Android 2.1 and is eligible for a free upgrade to Android 2.2. I found the Fascinate to work quickly and smoothly with Android 2.1, and experts tell me that Android 2.2 will be even faster -- nothing wrong with that!
Upgrading Android can be tricky in some phones, so you may have to be careful with your data (music, video, photos) and contact list. I have no experience upgrading Android on the Fascinate but know others have had data-loss issues when upgrading the operating system on other Android phones.
April 28, 2011 Update:
The Samsung Fascinate still remains in Verizon's phone line-up, and it continues to be competitive among Android cell phones. It finally received the Android 2.2 upgrade, which gave it a small bump in performance. That made an already nice phone just a little nicer. I still recommend the Samsung Fascinate, even though it is a 3G phone and does not use Verizon's 4G LTE network.
With its big, beautiful display screen, the Samsung Fascinate was a pleasure to use. Its pinch-to-zoom capability, WiFi hotspot function and sleek size made it easy to live with. On the other hand, call quality was nothing special, and 3G data speeds never rose above the "decent-but-not-great" level.
I really liked the Fascinate and miss it already.
Read all 16 Reviews
Write a Review
Recommended for: Stylish Trendsetters - Hip and Trendy