Top critical review
180 of 215 people found this helpful
Purchase At Your Own Risk!
on October 19, 2011
EDIT: As of 1/5/2012 I am now highly recommending this device, providing certain conditions are met, as described in my update below. If you would like to review the issues history, read on; if not, jump down to the 1/15 update
On paper - this phone is amazing. And in many ways it is. The screen is brilliant (and surprisingly manageable given its large size). The CPU is fast. The AMOLED technology delivers an incredibly vivid image, AND (theoretically) saves battery power, because 'black' pixels are un-lit, and thus require no power.
BUT HERE's THE RUB
Follow my analogy - Let's say you bought a BMW 6-series for $85K or so; beautiful design and engineering, specifications to die for. So you get into your new car, and find that with every few miles of driving, the engine suddenly, and randomly, shuts itself down.
Now, while scratching your head on this problem, you're looking at your gas gauge and expensive on-board computer and it's telling you that you have about 400 miles left. You drive 150 miles and guess what: you're out of gas.
I'll close my analogy now: you call BMW, and despite all of the other 6's that are on the side of the road with the same problem, BMW won't recognize the issue. Instead, the recommend for problem (a) to disconnect and reconnect your battery whenever this happens, and for problem (b), perhaps carry a little spare gas with you.
Despite its rich feature set, and some engineering marvel, this phone suffers from serious issues; the most serious is known as the "LOS issue" or Loss of Service, wherein the radio randomly shuts itself off, and cannot be turned on without a battery pull - and that's once you're aware it's off after missing how many calls? Not to be confused with the other LOS issue, Loss of Signal, wherein your Samsung has one bar (or has started roaming) and your buddy (on Sprint w/a different phone) has 4 bars. Not clear whether the two LOS issues are related.
The second issue is MASSIVE unexplainable battery drain. Theoretically this phone should get - and many people do achieve, 20-30 hours of battery life per charge. Heck, it's one of the reasons I waited 8 months for this phone (they announced it in Feb. 2011). I, and many others, get 5-10 hours per charge, max. Nobody's quite sure why, but the latest thinking is that some out of control processes prevent the phone from 'sleeping' when it's not being used, resulting in diminished battery life. The first issue may in fact be a contributor to the second.
Too much detail to provide here, but if you're seriously considering this phone, check out the XDA Developers forum, or any other popular Android forum, search on 'AOS issue' and/or 'LOS issue' and you'll see what I mean.
And here's what discourages me most - Samsung/Sprint will not even recognize the issues, as (many have theorized) they are astutely aware, but either don't know what's causing the problem, or don't care (even the Sprint Forum is clogged with complaints and no word from Sprint). To be clear - not ALL phones seem to be experiencing this, but MANY are. Roll the dice if you like.
I'm writing this review because I had to find out about these issues - and all of these forums - AFTER I bought the phone, and perhaps I can save some of you that issue.
Seems that a lot of frustrated owners are venting in the Sprint forums, but people who don't own the phone yet typically don't go there. If you're reading this and you don't own the phone yet, you should check out the owners forums. If you DO own the phone and are having these issues, please post your personal experience in a separate review here on Amazon (the many comments to this post are great, but will not get as much attention as an independent post/review.) Thanks!
After far too many delays, Sprint/Samsung has released firmware fixes that are intended to address the major issues mentioned in this review. I have had the opportunity to evaluate these, even before they were made public, thanks in large part to the great developer community at XDA Forums.
Above I stated that I can now endorse this phone under certain circumstances, and those are that the purchaser's phone contain the necessary fixes. At this time I do not know if these have been 'pushed' over-the-air to all existing users, if they are by default being included in new phones, or if one has to wait for the issues to occur and then have to waste time with Sprint Support to get the update.
There is an easy way to determine if any phone you are considering has been updated. If you are in a Sprint Store, you can follow the instructions below. If the phone meets the requirements, congratulations - you now own what may be the finest mass-market device produced to date. If not, tell them to pull another one from stock, or take your chances by learning how to root your phone and updating it yourself.
HOW TO DETERMINE ROM/KERNEL/MODEM UPDATE TO LOOK FOR:
1) With the phone at its Home Screen, press the <Menu> softkey. Select <Settings>.
2) Scroll down the next screen and select <About Phone>.
3) On this page, scroll down and confirm the following:
- "Baseband Version" (this is the modem): Should have a series of numbers and letters. At the end of this series, make sure you see 'EL13' 'EL26' or 'EL29'. If you see 'EG30' 'EG12' or 'EG31', then RUN AWAY.
- "Kernel Version" (this is the OS): Should also have a series of numbers, beginning with 2.6.3X.X- etc. In the middle of this series, you'll want to see 'EK02' 'EL13' 'EL26' or 'EL29'.
- "Build Number" (this is the ROM version): Since my device is rooted with a custom ROM, I don't know the exact wording of the 'default'. However, if you see any of the recommended codes from <Kernel Version> above somewhere in this description, then you're in good shape, because the ROM that's loaded determines the kernel version (not necessarily vice-versa).
NOW - Enjoy this device - it's pretty amazing!