Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

Samsung Epic 4G: vs the Palm Pre, Apps, Tips

by Eric Stewart on Sep.06, 2010, under Cell Phones & Providers, Technology

So I’ve had some time with my Samsung Epic 4G, and I have a few things to say about it.  Hopefully, this won’t be a complete retread of my Day With post.

First, a few words that were left out from the Day With post:

The Samsung Epic 4G is a Sprint phone running Google’s Android 2.1 operating system (scheduled for an upgrade to Android 2.2 – “Froyo” – by the end of the year).  Android is Google’s competitor to the Apple iPhone, with the difference that Android can be used for free by phone manufacturers.  To say it another way, Apple makes both the hardware and the operating system for the iPhone (and is currently officially only available on AT&T in the US).  Android can be used by any manufacturer, and the manufacturer can make the phone run on any provider they choose.

Next – What I miss from the Pre:

There is one major thing I miss from the Palm Pre, one thing that the Palm Pre has done better than any Blackberry I’ve had, and does better than Android does: Email.  Don’t get me wrong; Android’s mail app(s) is(are) nice, but it’s lacking some crucial functionality.  In addition, the Palm Pre had it’s mail functions for all providers in one app; whereas Android has split GMail into it’s own application, and Exchange and IMAP mail into a separate one.  And while you can sort GMail mail into folders, the ability to move a message from one folder to another is a crucial function that is missing from the regular Mail app (at least in a majority of manufacturers’ phones) and that functionality doesn’t appear to be being added to the the mail app in Froyo.

So, if I was the top exec at Google right now, I’d be saying two words quite often: FIX IT.  I’d frequently follow that up with “It’s broken.  FIX IT.”

There are several mail apps out there that you can buy that do mail better, but a lot of them focus on either IMAP or Exchange, not both.  And it’s something you shouldn’t have to pay for.

The “minor” things I miss:

  • I had a patch on the Palm Pre that showed the battery life as a percentage.  The battery life indicator on the Samsung Epic leaves a little to be desired.
  • The Palm Pre seemed to charge faster; the Samsung Epic takes forever to charge up (though that could be because I’m still playing with it quite a bit)
  • On the charging front, the Touchstone wireless charger was nice to have.
  • The Pre did feel really good in the hand, but while smaller than the Epic, it feels heavier.
  • Copy and Paste: It’s not global on Android (I couldn’t paste from an email into a memo, and was a bit perturbed by that at the time).
  • I could turn data (3G/1X) off completely to still have a phone and greatly extend my battery life.  I haven’t figured out how to do that with the Epic.

Why I’m keeping the phone:

  • The screen is gorgeous.
  • Battery life: I’m hard on batteries and I think the Epic’s lasts at least a little longer than the Pre’s.
  • Camera: It has up to 4x zoom (digital I think, though, so you might notice some pixelation in the photos) and is capable of 5 megapixels.
  • Apps: There’s just more available.
  • The keyboard: It’s very nice.  I’m not quite used to it yet, but I am getting quite proficient with
  • Swype: The virtual keyboard comes preset with Swype.  Essentially instead of “typing” the word, you “trace” the word, and it is entered into your text box.  It’s very nice for quick text messages.
  • Voice quality: just seems to be significantly better than the Pre was.
  • I’ve figured out I can have the phone completely in the holster and have my headset plugged in.  I could never do this with the Pre.

One of the key things I would suggest for the app shopper is checking out AppBrain.  It is a bit easier to use than the on-phone App Market application, and allows you to search for and review applications for your phone.  Take things one step further by setting up an account and downloading the AppBrain phone app, and you can browse the web directory, choose apps to install, and then go to your phone and use the AppBrain application to do the installations all at once.

My list of apps (all free, so far) and notes about each:

  • c:geo ~ geocaching for Android – Free Geocaching app – I haven’t really tested it yet.  The pay app might be worth it but it’s a bit pricey, and I don’t geocache that often these days.
  • Freecell Solitaire – Every phone should have a solitaire app.
  • CNN News – One of the higher rated news apps.
  • NPR News – Another news app.
  • Bluetooth File Transfer – I haven’t tested it but I was looking for a wireless file transfer method, and I’m around enough Bluetooth enabled systems to download this app.
  • Alchemy – You can waste so much time with this game it’s scary.  You start out with Air, Earth, Water, and Fire, and can end up combining and recombining stuff to make 300 elements.  I’m at just over 200 now.
  • MyIP – Network utility.
  • Movies – A Flixster application.
  • WordPress – For posting/editing blog items.
  • Hypnotoad To Go – Wait!  How the heck did this get-ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!
  • Drudge Report – Another news app.
  • SoundBox – Standard sounds, like a drum roll, etc.
  • fring – free video calls, IM – Haven’t tested it yet.
  • OpenSudoku – Another game.
  • ConnectBot – Free SSH application.
  • Amazon MP3 – Upgrade to a default application.
  • WeatherBug – I like WeatherBug’s widget.
  • Air Control Lite – Free version of a neat little game – try not to crash your aircraft in to one another while you’re getting them to land safely.
  • Pandora Radio – Great in theory but I haven’t played with it much; you give them a search phrase and they give you music.
  • Jewels – Kind of like Bejeweled.
  • TweetCaster for Twitter – Supposed to be a really good Twitter client but I have been using the actual Twitter client more often.
  • Twitter – The official Twitter for Android client.
  • Wifi Analyzer – Another network utility.
  • Talkback – I think this is a screen reader of sorts; I haven’t played with it.
  • Verizon FiOS DVR Manager – One day I might be stuck with Dule Hill and Alan Tudyk in a bank robbery and need to make sure I catch my favorite show on TV.
  • IP Address Calculator – Sometimes I hate doing the math by myself.
  • Word Drop – I get into Text Twist or Word Whirl type applications.
  • Net Tools – Yeah, I’m a geek.
  • Facebook for Android – Upgrade from a default application, this is a must have.  The default app is buggy and you should upgrade to this one immediately.
  • Password Keeper – Um.  Yeah.
  • AppBrain App Market – Take a wild guess.
  • Mobile Queue – Ad Supported – Netflix application.
  • Qik Video – Upgraded default app.  Tested it a little bit; needs a bit of an upgrade for the Epic (stretches the video).
  • PodKast – I haven’t fully tested it but some day I might want to listen to a podcast on my phone.
  • Barcode Scanner – You’d be surprised how useful this can be.
  • AndFTP – It supports SFTP sessions.
  • Solitaire – Again, every phone should have a Solitaire app.
  • Handcent SMS – A free SMS replacement application, it supports per-contact notification customization.
  • Google Goggles – Take a picture of it and see if Google can find similar stuff.
  • Google Sky Map – This is da bomb – take it outside at night, turn on your GPS, and point your phone at a star, and it might just tell you what you’re looking at.
  • Google Earth – The pint-size version of the Google application.
  • Google Maps – Google’s navigation software.
  • Google Voice – See my Google Voice post; this is the Android app that you should have if you use Google Voice.
  • The Weather Channel – It’s probably going to get removed soon, since WeatherBug does everything I need.
  • Advanced Task Killer – The jury is out as far as just how useful this is for extending battery life.
  • File Manager – I used this once to copy some files on my flash card to another directory so that they’d be found by a particular app properly.
  • EStrongs File Explorer – A recent addition, this may replace the previous File Manager as it does all the same things, but can also mount files via FTP and SMB (though I’m having issues with my work files; EStrongs apparently can’t handle DFS systems or “$” hidden shares).

I haven’t found a pay app (or pay version of a free app that I have) that I’ve seriously considered paying for yet.

And, additional tips:

  • If a majority of your pictures are for Facebook or Twitter, you’ll want to lower your settings on your camera, so that pictures upload a bit faster.  With the camera open in landscape mode:
    • Click on the “gear” (settings) icon on the lower left of the screen
    • Hit the down arrow once so you can see the “Resolution” choice
    • Choose “Resolution” and change it.  I have mine set to “1600×960”, which is still a bit high
  • Indoors, the brightness can be all the way down and still quite usable.  The screen, while supposedly energy efficient, is still probably the biggest source of battery drain on the device (at least according to my statistics).  Unfortunately, outdoors you’ll need the brightness all the way up for it to be useful.
  • It’s been my observation so far that the (working perfectly fine on my unit) GPS (when you’ve got it “active”) stays off unless the application starts requesting your location.  Still, you might want to keep the GPS off completely; it will probably extend your battery life if you do so.
  • WiFi and 4G should be off unless you’re near a WiFi node/4G location and are doing some heavy networking.
  • Live wallpaper, while beautiful, may also impact battery life.  I’d suggest sticking to a still picture.
  • If you’re new to Android, don’t forget about the “menu” button (the left-most one on the Epic).
  • From the home screen: “Menu”, “Settings”, “Sound & Display”, and at the very bottom, “Keyboard timeout” – change the keyboard timeout to something longer (like, say, “Same as Screen timeout”) to prevent the Android buttons from going dark too quickly.
  • There are a couple of “system” apps installed that could use updating, not the least of which is Facebook.  The default Facebook app had some issues with notifications (Cannot retrieve notification. Please try again later. Error message: [601/parser error: unexpected ‘-‘at position 64.]) for me, and I was alerted by AppBrain (and it’s accompanying app) that there was an “update” available.  At the very least, search for Facebook in the App Market and download/update it.
  • The front ports on some computers aren’t sufficient for plugging in the phone and mounting the flash/SD card.  I’ve had the problem on at least one system, and a review of a few forums indicated that folks were having similar problems (the drive shows up as “Removable Disk” but doesn’t actually mount), and that those that tried different USB ports usually ended up plugging the phone into one of the back USB ports on the system.
  • SWYPE: Hold a letter to get the symbol.
  • FACELIFTED from Sprint’s Samsung Epic 4G: Swiping on the notification bar will change the brightness of the screen.
  • Lern2LongTap: Commonly used with MMS messages and perhaps the web browser, if you tap and hold an image, you should get an option menu after a moment that allows you to save the image out.  Long Tapping may have additional functionality in other apps as well.
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6 Comments for this entry

  • Eric

    Hey – some accessories notes:

    The holster allows access to the headphone jack – if you put the phone in the holster the right way. This was something that for a while really irked me about the holster for the Palm Pre. Was going to gripe about the Epic 4G – until I realized if I flipped the phone around I could get to it easy.

    Next, the desk mount for the phone has some serious issues. First, if you’re not careful, you can end up turning the volume all the way down. And with the volume buttons on the “bottom” of the phone when it’s in the desk dock, there’s no way to change the volume when you are using it as a music device.

  • Eric

    I did a little battery watch experiment today. The final results were:

    – 19hrs 52mins since unplugged
    – blinky indicator/4% (percent taken from a battery indicator widget)
    – Battery usage reported:
    – – Display 39%
    – – Cell standby 26%
    – – Phone idle 16%
    – – Media server 7%
    – – Android system 4%
    – – Voice 2%
    – – Android OS 2%

    Mind you roughly 8 hours of that 19 was while I was asleep overnight. WiFi was on but I think WiFi goes into a wait state when the phone screen isn’t on.

  • Nick Bianco

    You should get a battery life widget to show you the percentage on your homescreen

  • Dan Ziskin

    I am thinking about switching from a pre to the epic. I like the webos format better but found the following that might make me switch. Look at a free android app called itching thumb. It makes your android phone use the card system like a pre. Reboot your phone after installing it. Go to for a look at it.
    Let me know your thoughts.

  • Eric

    I played with Itching Thumb briefly but didn’t get into it all that much. I’ve since switched to LauncherPro (Plus).

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