The Verizon Fascinate (the Samsung Galaxy S) launches Wednesday in stores. The phone, like the Android platform in general, is not without its detractors. However, its top hardware all but guarantees that it will be a hot seller on America's largest network.  (Source: Engadget)
Bleeding-edge Android smartphone goes on sale Thursday at stores

Samsung's Galaxy S may be late to the Android game, but it quickly established itself as the Android phone to beat, selling one million units in the U.S. alone in its first 45 days of availability on Sprint and AT&T.  Likewise, the "Fascinate" on Verizon may be off to a late start versus its brethren -- the T-Mobile Vibrant, the AT&T Captivate, and the Samsung Epic 4G (Galaxy S Pro) -- but seems destined to be a hot seller in its own right.

Verizon, the largest cellular service provider in the U.S., aired a commercial last night revealing that the Fascinate would hit stores September 9th, the same date previously rumored based on leaked shots.  That commercial was followed by an official press release from Verizon today, listing the price as $199.99 USD with new 2-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate.  The release also revealed that the phone would launch online a day early on Wednesday, September 8th.

The phone packs an LED flash that its GSM brethren the Vibrant and Captivate lack.  Unlike the Epic 4G, however, there's no pull-out keyboard and no 4G modem.  Also missing in the Epic 4G's front-facing camera for video calling.

The phone packs a pretty standard 512 MB of RAM, a microSD slot, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, and an AGPS radio.  While the phone's screen size 4-inches isn't the biggest on the market (see the 4.3-inch HTC EVO 4G or Motorola Droid X) and its resolution (800x480 pixels) is also less than amazing, the screen is an AMOLED, which means it should deliver sharper crisper images versus WVGA TFT LCD displays in phones such as the Droid X.

Where the phone stands out is its GPU – an Imagination Technologies PowerVR SGX 540, a step up from the PowerVR SGX 530 found in the Droid 2/Droid X and the PowerVR SGX 535 found in the iPhone 4.  Samsung's CPU, the 1 GHz Hummingbird Cortex A8 ARM processor, appears to be a top performer in terms of raw performance.  Benchmark site GLBenchmark shows the Hummingbird processor outperforming similarly clocked ARM processors in the iPhone 4 and Droid 2/Droid X.

Of course the GPU/CPU advantage is largely subjective in the majority of performance scenarios and most users will see little difference overall.  For those who game heavily on their smartphones, though, it may be a deciding factor.

Reportedly, the phone will get an even bigger boost when it gets an update to Android 2.2 Froyo later this month or early next month, which features Just-in-Time compilation of Java code..

The rear-facing camera is a solid performing 5-megapixel design whose shots rival 8 megapixel units due to the quality of the image sensor.  Early customer reviews report that the phone can get up to 2 days of use out of its 1500 mAh, which is significantly better than the HTC EVO 4G, which gets at best a day on a charge (barring significant process/OS tweaking).

Despite its solid hardware, some aren't impressed with the phone.  In its review
Engadget disliked the look of the phone and some English grammar errors in the GUI.  Despite praising the hardware, and being "particularly impressed" by the 720p video, the site concludes its review on a resoundingly negative note, writing:

When it comes to Android on Verizon, there are some seriously excellent choices, and what it has to come down to is: is the Fascinate at the top of that heap? From where we stand, the answer is an obvious "no." It's not that the device isn't a solid phone or a reasonably capable Android representative -- it's just that Samsung and Verizon have made far too many compromises on this device to class it with something like the Droid Incredible or the Droid X (though we have complaints about the latter device's software as well).

The conclusion goes on to blast the Android OS in general, writing:

Unfortunately, the Fascinate (and perhaps the entire line of Galaxy S phones) are a byproduct of Google's ongoing fragmentation issues and seeming lack of focus for the Android platform. As partners scramble over each other to differentiate their products through often meaningless software tweaks, the end user suffers by being served with rushed, incomplete devices made more complex and less stable by companies that should be concentrating on making great hardware instead of "fixing" Android.

Despite this criticism, Android is currently the top selling smartphone OS in the U.S.  While there are indeed some issues with individual OS distributions (and iOS is not without its own issues), the platform has proven the favorite of the majority of American customers at the moment. 

While the phone may lack the looks and polish of the iPhone 4, according to some, the Fascinate appears to be destined to be a top seller for Verizon.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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