Droid Charge excellent except for price tag

Gary Hsu

The Droid Charge is a powerful phone. It runs Android, has a large 4.3 inch display, is only 12mm thick at its thinnest point and comes packed supporting Verizon Wireless’ brand new and speedy 4G cellular network.

The phone itself is mainly plastic, which makes the phone very light. However, the plastic exterior does make the phone feel a bit cheap and it is very prone to scratches. The screen itself is vibrant and even readable outside. There are four physical keys on the bottom of the screen, a power switch, a standard earphone jack and volume rocker on the sides.

On the back, there is a 8 megapixel camera with flash. The camera takes overall excellent day photos — its colors are more vibrant than the iPhone 4. Dark photos are what you usually expect for phone night shots, but the flash did seem to overpower the camera in some of our test shots. The camera also shoots 720p HD video, which can be streamed to your television either wirelessly via Wi-Fi or through HDMI. Just note you cannot record video when the “low battery” indicator is flashing. There is also a front-facing camera, which makes it perfect for video chatting and doing self portraits. The Charge comes with a 32gb removable memory card pre-installed.

The phone comes running with a slightly outdated version of Android (Froyo) but it is skinned with Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. The interface is very well polished and everything feels natural. The phone has access to the Android marketplace, so thousands of games, apps, movies and books are avaliable to you. Hulu Plus members will be sad to hear the Hulu app does not support streaming on this phone.

Typing is difficult with the included default keyboard. The keyboard often fails to predict the correct words. Luckily, you can change the keyboard by downloading new ones from the Android Market.

The browser on the Droid Charge is speedy. One perk it has over iPhone’s browser is that it supports Flash playback. That means that the websites you load on the phone will look exactly how they would appear on your computer. That said, flash ads will also play when you load websites, which can be annoying.

The Droid Charge supports both Wi-Fi and 4G. Verizon Wireless turned on 4G in Austin only two weeks ago and it has proven to be fast. The 4G speeds are even faster than most people’s home internet connection. The result: you won’t be stuck waiting for pages to load.

Phone calls sound excellent on both ends and the calls sounded more clear compared to the iPhone 4, yet the speaker sounded unusually tinny.

Battery life on this Droid is quite excellent for a 4G phone. Only doing light internet browsing, text messaging and phone calls, the phone was able to get around 13 hours of battery life. But when using the phone to take pictures and watch videos, the battery died only after a few hours. If you often forget to charge at night, this phone may not be your best pick.

Overall, the phone is excellent. It has a wonderful camera, a big screen and is overall fun to use. The biggest issue with this phone is its price tag. It costs $300 with a two year contract. With most smartphones costing only $200, it is difficult to justify the higher price tag just for Long Term Evolution (LTE) speeds. That said, if you want a good phone and are willing to pay a premium for faster data speeds, the Droid Charge is an excellent choice.

Printed on September 27, 2011 as: Droid fuses latest features with upgraded price tag