The Epic 4G has almost everything you could want in a smart phone -- a blazing fast CPU and GPU, cutting-edge wireless, video-conferencing, and a physical keyboard.

The phone impacts the market on Aug. 31.
Epic 4G is packed with the same attractive features as the Vibrant -- plus 4G and front-facing camera

Samsung in May quietly slipped into first place in the overall U.S. mobile market.  However, in the Android smartphone market, it's been forced to endure sitting in third place behind HTC and Motorola.  That was largely because despite having a couple Android handsets (Moment and Intercept) it didn't have a truly dominant handset like its competitors -- until now.

Then Samsung unleashed the Galaxy S.  In July the super smartphone hit the T-Mobile network, dubbed the "Vibrant", and the AT&T network, dubbed the "Captivate".  Now Sprint has become the third major carrier to announce the pricing and availability of a Galaxy S variant, and the first to announce the keyboard-equipped variant of the phone, the Galaxy S Pro.  Sprint is rebranding it the "Samsung Epic 4G".

Specs-wise the Galaxy S Pro is a beast.  It features a relatively large 480x800 pixel 4.0-inch AMOLED screen, a commanding PowerVR GPU, 512 MB of RAM, between 8 and 16 GB of memory, microSD expansion (up to 32 GB), a rear-facing camera capable of shooting 720p video, and a front-facing VGA camera for video calling (on some carriers).  

The phone features a powerful 1 GHz ARM Cortex A8 based CPU code-named "Hummingbird", co-developed by Samsung and Intrinsity.  In early benchmarks, the 1 GHz Hummingbird smoked the competition, proving to be about 50 percent faster than Apple's A4 found in the iPhone 4 or TI OMAP processor found in the Droid X.  The Hummingbird makes the Galaxy S the world's fastest smartphone.

The phone is among the first offer Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity.  It also is among the first to offer support for the DivX HD/XviD format.

Sprint's version of the Galaxy S sports numerous advantages over its T-Mobile "Vibrant" brethren.  First, it adds support for Sprint's 4G WiMAX network, which has already spread across numerous urban areas in the U.S.  In testing with HTC EVO 4G, Sprint's next-gen network showcased significantly higher data transfer speeds (especially useful while tethering) and the ability to simultaneously make voice calls while transmitting data (not possible using Sprint's traditional 3G CDMA).

The Epic 4G also adds the front-facing camera of the international ("Pro") version, which was stripped from the Vibrant.  Also added is the LED flash of the international version.  The only downside is that it gets thicker than the Vibrant -- going from 9.9 mm thick (the thinnest Android phone on the market) to 14.3 mm thick (due to the QWERTY keyboard) -- just slightly thicker than the EVO 4G.

Finally, it adds a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard.  While this makes the phone a bit thicker, it will be appreciated by many who dislike touchscreen virtual keyboards.

The only spec not yet announced by Sprint is whether the phone will feature 8 GB or 16 GB of internal memory.  The phone ships with Android 2.1, but an Android 2.2 Froyo update will be available before the end of September.  A leaked build is already available for those who want to root their phones (though this is a test build, so admittedly may have issues).

Regardless of that unknown, if you want an Android smartphone, Sprint's Epic 4G 
at this point is the best handset on the market, hands down, in everything except screen size (the HTC EVO 4G and Droid X have it beat in this department).  One final aspect in which it dominates is battery life.  The AMOLED screen turns off black pixels, which allows the battery to be milked to almost two days in standard use scenarios -- much better than the almost one day that the HTC EVO 4G is getting.

The Galaxy S will eventually hit Verizon rebranded as the "Fascinate", but it won't have the front-facing camera. 

Sprint will retail the Epic 4G at a $50 premium from the Vibrant, charging $249.99 USD for the smart phone with new contract, and after $100 mail-in rebate.  Contract pricing is identical to the EVO 4G -- $69.99 USD for unlimited cell-to-cell calling, data, and texts per month, $10 monthly USD premium for the privilege of earning a 4G-capable smart phone ahead of the masses, and $29.99 USD if you opt to tether from your device.

The phone goes on sale August 31 and this Friday (August 13) pre-orders begin.

At this point it seems relatively straightforward -- the Samsung Epic 4G features the fastest processor-- by far -- of any Android phone on the market.  It also has industry leading battery life.  And of the Galaxy S smartphones in the U.S. the Epic 4G is clearly the cream of the crop.


There were some questions about the $10 "4G fee" on the device.   Sprint spokesman John Taylor wrote an explanation of this fee for the HTC EVO 4G, elaborating:

If you buy the Sprint 4G EVO, you have to pay this $10 charge each month. This is specific to the device. It's not related to whether you are using 3G or 4G. It is required if you have the phone.

Because the phone has a faster processor, a huge 4.3 inch screen and an 8 megapixel camcorder/camera, we expect you will be using a lot more data than you would with our other devices. These features will give you capabilities that have previously never been available on a wireless device and we think they provide a premium experience. (Remember, this is the world's first 3G/4G Android phone.)

Essentially the message seems to be that the fee is essentially for the 4G coverage, but Sprint doesn't want to call it that, so instead is saying it's for the handset(s) overall greatness -- including the 4G.  While we think this is a bit of a strange approach, Sprint is the first carrier to widely offer "true" 4G (Verizon offers it in 5+ cities currently, but has few compatible handsets; T-Mobile offers the 3.5G tech HSPA+), so we're not complaining.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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