It's big, it's bold, it's thin, it's fast and has one hell of a camera -- and it's caught in the middle of AT&T's '4G' propaganda

Samsung Infuse 4G 

From the outset, the Samsung Infuse 4G on AT&T just sounded too big. Ridiculously big. Some 4.5 inches big. If you don't count the Dell Streak as a smartphone (and we don't, really), it's the biggest damn Android device that's intended to be occasionally used upside your head to make phone calls.

But we'll clue you in on a little secret: It's not too big. No, really. We've spent the last week or so with the Infuse and have found ourselves thoroughly surprised by just how usable a 4-and-a-half-inch phone can be.

That's not to say the Infuse is without its quirks. But we put it through its paces the best way we know how -- in the field, on the road, and in our hands at the Google IO developer conference.

So how'd it hold up? Read on for our complete review.

Infuse 4G SpecsInfuse 4G Forums | Infuse 4G Accessories

Infuse 4G hands-on

Youtube link for mobile viewing

The hardware

There's no denying it, the Infuse 4G is big. But it's also thin. And that makes all the difference here. Put it next to, say, the 4.3-inch HTC ThunderBolt, and the differences are pretty apparent. The Infuse is a tall 5.2 inches, and it's wide at 2.8 inches, but it's a mere 0.35 inches thick. And that's the ball game, folks. That and it weighs 4.9 ounces. It's tall, but it's thin and light. It's wiry.

Samsung Infuse 4G

The front of the phone is dominated by the display, of course. It's at the usual 480x800 resolution. But before you spec nerds go crying for a qHD screen, remember that this is Super AMOLED Plus, and that means 12 subpixels for every one pixel, instead of the standard eight subpixels. In layman's terms, it's big, it's bright, and it's colorful. (The banding you see in the pictures above and below is the result of the still camera, not the screen.) Above the display is the 1.3MP front-facing camera. One thing you won't find up here is a notification light, and that's just criminal.

Samsung Infuse 4G

Below the screen you have capacitive buttons in the menu-home-back-search configuration. They're stenciled onto the phone, so they don't disappear completely when the screen is dark. And we're just fine by that.

Samsung Infuse 4GSamsung Infuse 4G

The left-hand bezel has the volume rocker buttons, and the power button is on the right-hand bezel, Samsung's usual placement these days.

Samsung Infuse 4GSamsung Infuse 4G

On top is the 3.5mm headphone jack and a noise-canceling microphone. On the bottom is the microUSB port that doubles as a high-definition video output. (More on that later.)

Samsung Infuse 4G

Flip the phone over and you'll find the speakerphone and 8MP camera with flash. We'll spoil the surprise and tell you now that we're completely over the moon for this camera. (More on that in a bit, too.) Notice how the phone's not completely flat -- it's got a bit of a reverse chin on the bottom.

Samsung Infuse 4GSamsung Infuse 4G

The textured plastic battery cover pries off from the top. It's about the flimsiest battery cover we've seen. That doesn't really mean anything, as it fits to the phone just fine -- it's just a bit of a shock on what is on all accounts a solid and sturdy phone. But if this bothers you, we suggest taking a deep breath or maybe try walking around the block. It's just a battery cover.

Samsung Infuse 4G

Remove the battery cover and you see the SIM card and 1760mAh battery. The microSD card is kind of hidden. You'll find it under the SIM card. It's spring loaded and pops out toward the bottom of the phone. But there's yet another trick -- it's seated face-down. Normally the gold contacts point down. But on the Infuse, it's just the opposite. There's actually a little picture on the FCC sticker that can help you remember, but it's not exactly labeled clearly.

Youtube link for mobile viewing

What's under the hood

The Infuse doesn't have one of those newfangled dual-core processors, which is a bit of a shame. But Samsung has ramped up its single-core workhorse to 1.2GHz. And through our use, it's been plenty fast for daily use.

We're seeing 428MB of useable RAM. And there's no lack of storage on this thing. You've got 1.59GB of "internal phone storage," plus another 13GB on an "internal" SD card, and then whatever size microSD card you pop in there. (Our review unit came with a meager 2GB card.)

So it's not dual-core. Oh well. While we'd love whatever battery savings that could bring, the Infuse isn't lacking in speed, and it's got lots of storage space.

Battery life

Hold the phone, folks. We weren't really expecting great results from the Infuse 4G when it comes to battery life. First there's the massive screen -- and we don't care what kind of newfangled battery-saving technology it uses, 4.5-inches is a lot of real estate to light up. And then there's the fact that a "4G" phone usually suckage when it comes to battery life. But seeing as how AT&T's "4G" is vastly different (hint: slower/faux/whatever) than LTE, we're seeing a vastly different experience.

Put it this way: We crank through e-mail like nobody's business during a show -- and especially during Google IO. And on top of that, we were taking pictures left and right with the Infuse's camera (again, more on that sweet piece of sweetness in a minute), and shooting video, too. So when we hit 4 p.m. and still have 55 percent left? It's a Christmas miracle, folks.

Maybe it's the Super AMOLED Plus screen. And the 1760mAh battery is larger then what you'll usually find in a phone, but not grossly so. But the simple fact is that the Infuse made it through a hard day's work on the road, and probably would have made it through most of the night on the town, too. Your mileage will vary, of course. But for our money, we're impressed. We're tough on phones.

AT&T's faux-gee 4G

It's not too often we have to break out a section on data in a review. But with AT&T naming the phone the Infuse 4G, a few things need to be cleared up. There's 4G, and then there's 4G. With Verizon, 4G is done with a technology called LTE. Sprint uses Wimax. And both of them are fast. Very fast. T-Mobile's got a zippy HSPA+ network, too.

Samsung Infuse 4G speed testBut AT&T, which also is using HSPA+, is fudging things a bit while it breaks in its "4G" network. First off, it has actively disabled the high-speed upload capabilities on several other phones and is just now reactivating them. Secondly, AT&T's HSPA+ network requires "enhanced backhaul." That's a fancy way of saying they have to do something to the towers. And they're not saying where (or if) anything's actually been enhanced yet.

The point is, 4G on the Infuse 4G is different (for the time being, anyway) than 4G on other carriers' phones. It's something to be aware of.

As for our tests? We've used the Infuse 4G in a trio of markets. Pensacola, Fla.; Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, and San Francisco. In Atlanta and San Francisco, we'd see speeds around 2500kbps to 3000kbps.  Not exactly slow, but hardly what we'd consider to be 4G. And, in fact, not all that much faster (on the downstream side, anyway) than we see in the much smaller Pensacola area. Confusing the matter is that you get an H+ icon in all three markets in which we tested.

Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on where you live. And as a 3G phone, the Infuse is plenty competent. But AT&T's marketing it as a 4G phone, and that just doesn't sit well with us.

The software

The Infuse 4G ships with Android 2.2.1 Froyo. That's not the latest version of Android (not even the most recent version of Froyo). The good news is that we fully expect the Infuse to be upgraded to Gingerbread, and possibly even the upcoming Ice Cream Sandwich sometime next year.

Samsung Infuse 4G

The Infuse has Samsung's Touchwiz user interface. It's not the newest version of Touchwiz that we're starting to see on other phones, but that's OK. It's colorful, easy to use and fairly intuitive. The default setup it pretty sparse, though. You've got a widget for social updates (you can connect Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to it), a smattering of app shortcuts, and the Google search bar, and that's it. Of the seven home screens, four are empty when you first launch the phone. It might have been nice to see a little more design initiative taken. But if you like setting things up your own way, there's not much to undo.

Samsung Infuse 4GSamsung Infuse 4G

The app launcher is the usual Touchwiz horizontal scroller. By default, it's set up as an alphabetically organized grid. But you can switch that to a list, or our favorite, the customizable grid, in which you can rearrange where apps are listed, as well as swap out the four quick-launch apps that reside at the bottom of the screen.

Don't like the launcher? Don't like Touchwiz? No worries -- you can install a third-party launcher at your leisure.


Samsung Infuse 4G sideloading

Oh, happy day. With the Infuse 4G, AT&T has ended its ridiculous practice of locking down its phones so that they can only install apps from the Android Market. That's been a headache for more than a year now, but AT&T didn't seem to care until the Amazon Appstore took off and its phones were all left behind.

To enable sideloading Settings>Applications and hit the checkbox next to "Unknown sources." If you're worried about any potential security concerns (we're not), you can always uncheck the box again and lock the phone back down.

That means you'll not need the Sideload Wonder Machine with the Infuse 4G, and we're OK with that. It's time AT&T ended the lockdown.

Pre-installed apps

Like most other Android phones, the Infuse 4G comes with a handful of applications already installed. Most notably, it's got a special edition of Angry Birds. It's still called Angry Birds, and the only special features we've seen are some tweaked levels. But it's on there, and it's special, and we'll take it.

You've also got a sprinkling of Samsung's custom apps, including AllShare, Media Hub and a task manager. But more Samsung's excellent Daily Briefing app is nowhere to be seen, and that's a shame.

If you have a hankering for AT&T's branded apps, you won't be left disappointed. There's AT&T Code Scanner (a barcode scanner), AT&T FamilyMap (track your family), AT&T Navigator (Telenav) and MyAT&T to manage your account. All in all, it could be worse, and you've got plenty of storage left over on the phone.

The camera

Let us just say this about that: We're madly in love with the Infuse 4G camera. Samsung's software is decent enough, and you've got a number of effects you can apply when shooting, and easy one-touch access to the video camera. But it's the business end that has us over the moon.

Samsung Infuse 4G camera

The Infuse, by default, takes still pictures at 8 megapixels. That means a bigger file size, but it doesn't always mean a clearer image. But the Infuse completely delivers. So much so, that a good number of photos that we took in and around Google IO were taken with the Infuse.

Images below open in full resolution in a new window

Samsung Infuse 4G camera test

Samsung Infuse 4G camera testSamsung Infuse 4G camera test

Samsung Infuse 4G camera testSamsung Infuse 4G camera test

Samsung Infuse 4G camera testSamsung Infuse 4G camera test

Video, by default, shoots at 720x480 (seen below), but you can crank it up to 1280x720 in the settings.

Youtube link for mobile viewing

Other odds and ends

  • Fun fact: The Infuse is so big and vibrates so hard, it registers as a small earthquake. OK, not really, but it's really annoying that there's no way to completely silence the phone using the volume rocker.
  • GPS worked just fine for us in the three cities in which we tested.
  • Hackability: Super One Click roots the Infuse with ease. Huzzah. Can't wait to see some custom ROMs on this thing.
  • The rear speaker is surprisingly loud.
  • There's no HDMI port on the Infuse. Instead, there's an "MHL adapter" that plugs into the microUSB port. Seems simple enough, but it also requires you to plug a microUSB charger into the adapter in order for the whole thing to work. That's a pretty big fail. But if you never use HDMI out, no biggie.
  • As a phone, the Infuse works just fine. No issues with call quality in our testing.

The wrap up

The Samsung Infuse 4G has quickly become the best AT&T has to offer. We were a little dubious when it was first announced, thanks to that 4.5-inch screen size. But in practicality, the thinness of the phone more than makes up for it being a bit oversized. You really do have to try it to believe it. And, oh, that camera. That sweet, sweet camera.

Froyo is Froyo, and Touchwiz is Touchwiz. We expect to see custom ROMs in the near future, and a Gingerbread update is likely relatively soon (and hopefully Ice Cream Sandwich next year). And while we'd love to have seen a dual-core processor, the 1.2GHz chip is plenty fast.

The only real niggle we have with the Infuse doesn't actually have that much to do with the phone. AT&T hopefully will get its 4G strategy figured out, and it might even do so with actual data speed, and not marketing jargon. We can only hope.

But the name aside, know this: if you're looking for an Android phone on AT&T, you can't do any better than the Infuse 4G.


Reader comments

Samsung Infuse 4G review


Man that phone is sexy! I got the inspire but I sure would love to have this instead. Screen is gorgeous. I'll have to go play around with it at the store and see how big it really is in my hands.

Ok the review of the phone didn't review the phone! May I ask how the call quality is? That is the most important feature of a phone to me.

So let's see:

* Dual core: NOPE
* Real 4G: NOPE
* Notification light: NOPE
* QHD screen: NOPE
* Current Android version: NOPE

So the screen is a bit larger and has a nice size battery and decent camera. Just doesn't make up for the rest.

Atrix 4G has some of that, qHD, dual core, android 2.2.2, Notification light, lots of Ram, but only a 4 inch screen. Super Amoled + makes up for not being qHD. IMHO

Just cause they call it 4G doesn't mean it gets good download speeds. AT&T 3G has always beaten Sprint's 4G for me here in DC. It isn't even close.

Another htc fan boy. Keep bragging about their second rate taiwanese company with less than top shelf components, bulky/heavy, horrible battery life phones to yourselves. The galaxy s 2 will make your evo 3d and sensation look like a toy by comparison.

WOW spoken like a Samsung fanboy. I have had phones from both manufactures for a few years now, and I find each does something well. HTC is improving build quality, and Samsung has started to improve the software. Even HTC cameras have gotten usable. The sensation is a nice phone, and the MyTouch 4g slide is amazing looking. I know that Sense 3.0 is really nice to use as I have run it on my Mytouch 4g before selling it and going back to my Vibrant in order to merger-proof myself. Love both phones.

once the infuse is enabled, its capable of up to 21Mbps, and the AMOLED is great, AND its a 1.2Ghz who cares if its not dual core?

Yea notification light is a bummer. I had the iphone and I hated not having my little blinking light lol.

I can't wait, I've read every review, seen every youtube clip, ported my number to google voice yesterday, all that's left is to go pick up the phone tomorrow.
The two biggest complaints I've seen in reviews is the dpi, I guess most people have better vision then I even though I'm at 20/15, because I'll be moving from a 186dpi screen to this with 207dpi, and I already can't see the pixels.
The other is the processor. Sure dual core will be nice when it brings better battery life, but just how much faster is it going to load a webpage, email, or simple apps. Sure some games might take advantage of it, but I guess I'm not a gamer either.
It's going to be nice to have a phone that can actually take decent pictures and video too. It might not replace a point and shoot for everything, but should be fine for most.
12 hours or so to go.

"12 hours or so to go." :)

I'm in the same boat! Can't wait to bring this home. As for your complaint about the DPI, I wonder how much of that -- as appearing in other reviews -- is based on pure speculation and not actually handling the phone and seeing the screen in action. If it were just a SAMOLED screen, and not a SAMOLED+ screen (and the increased number of sub-pixels that goes along with it), then I think the 4.5" variable would work against it. I know it's hard to tell from any video, but the screen looks GORGEOUS to me.

Glad to hear that the large area of the phone is mitigated by its thinness. That's a relief!

hey phil, great review, can you have a story from the motorola atrix finally getting the bootloader bypassed as of today from kholk. awesome news

Phil I see that your speed test screen shot that Wifi is on? Hope those weren't done then and you claim that to be At&t's "4G".

Also if you hate At&t's 4G so much we get it, complaining to the wrong crowd here as the techy's check sites like this we know VZW's 4G LTE owns.

Write at&t and get a response from them so we can hear their side of the story, rather than you just saying their HSDPA+ is a hoax. Provide some real information that is shown from all sides rather than biased reviews. And if you're going to be biased don't say just At&t is a joke with saying they have 4G etc. What about T-Mobile's 4G as well because really if your going to shoot that angle then everyone is a joke other than VZW as far as 4G goes because we all know Sprints won't cover anything come VZW's full blown release of LTE.

I'd say TMo's 4G is pretty damn solid. I consistently get 8MB down and as high as 13.46 in a suburb 40 miles from Atlanta.

Well my argument was based off of Phil's article a few days prior. I'm not saying T-Mobile is a joke or crap, was just using then as an example for a previous article.

You don't read much for a "techie". Sprint Network Vision, which is in progress, replaces their current 3 tower service with multimode towers, giving them better coverage AND saturation, and depending on who you believe, allowing them to roll out LTE on the unused spectrum they are clearing by moving iDen to their CMDA network. They may end the year with end to end 4G LTE, way ahead of the other guys.

Can't wait!!! Returned the Atrix today, there's things I definitely liked on it compared to my Captivate, but I wasn't too happy with it. Ready for the Infuse!!!

Me too, Me too, returned Atrix last week and really had a hard time letting go. That phone was very very well put together, But hey, I'm all about the 4.5 inch Super AMOLED + the rest is is so close between the two phones that I'm sure I will be very happy. See you at the AT&T store in the morning.

Nice review. Over the past few days I was able to get 7-9Mbps down in the Boston area with the Infuse. That's solid.

I am on AT&T and I am waiting for a new Android phone.
1. Is there an in-depth review of both phones?
2. Is the Galaxy S II coming to AT&T?
3. If the Galaxy S II is coming to AT&T when & is it worth the wait?
4. Can the Infuse be rooted and have GingerBread installed on it without TouchWiz.

This phone looks even better than the Galaxy S II, but 4.5inches? Are they for real? I can only imagine people with huge hands even wanting this phone. IMO 4 inches is the ideal screen size for a phone that will be pocketable. I have a Thunderbolt and even I have to admit, it's kinda huge in my pocket, chicks are always asking me if I'm Happy to see them..LOL

be careful, there is a big misunderstanding in the Android world:

Samsung didn't wrote that one pixel has 12 subpixel per dot ! They just put two small screen parts side by side:

AMOLED old version uses 2.5 (!)subpixel per dot
SAMOLED new version uses 3.0 (!) subpixel per dot

Samsung only put this small areas side by side to show the different way of orientation of the subpixel!
In the AMOLED they used the green subpixel for two dots, in the new SAMOLED they provide for each dot three (RGB) subpixel like every other display too!

Just think about: The display has an electrical interface for 480x800 dots, how should they get a better resolution as they put in ? This is just possible for pictures by interpolation through a picture processor - it's not possible for small letters !

To use one subpixel from two dots together is easy, just build the average of two green subpixel (two resistors and one capacitor will do this job).Some like this is done in AMOLED displays!

So I will wait for a device with a QHD screen (or better). Today I got an email newsletter about anounced tablets on the SID with resolutions of 2560x1600 dots (in a few years)!

I went to AT&T store today to try the infuse , GPS didn't work at all , anyone had luck with GPS signal on infuse???

Very odd the gps didn't work. I've been rolling with the Infuse for a bit and have had no problems with gps. maybe mention it to their staff so they can troubleshoot their own device?

Yes ! i tried the GPS on my local ATT store and it worked fine..I really liked the phone a lot...I played around 20 minutes with the phone and i liked the screen a lot, the size its great, does not feel too big, very thin which makes up for the size...very fast too..So overall i was happy with the device...Not sure if i want ot wait for the Galazy S2 or get this one now...or get this one now and trade it in or sell it on ebay when GS2 comes out...

No notification light, again. What the hell is wrong with Samsung, seriously? Wake up Samsung. It's just amazing how they don't include the simplest of things that people want. Is there anyone that doesn't want a notification light? Let's not engineer one in no matter what we do. Good thinking, Samsung. I wonder if the GPS works? I have to ask these questions after owning a Captivate. Can you put the GPS through a rigorous test for us?

just climbed out of the clamshell dark ages - went to att yesterday to buy an iphone because i've been using macs for 20 years and that's what we do - but then i saw the infuse, and the love, it was felt.

and now, taking a little tour of the "dark side" landscape, i find your review and the delight kicks in again. you are such a great writer! understandable and knowledgeable and freaking hilarious! consider me your newest fan . . .

Takes some getting used to the touchwiz but now I'm used to it now. The phone is awesome. I've had iphone, evo, inspire, thunderbolt and others. This one is over all the best. Why:
1. The Screen size and clarity combined to make it more useful on the road without needing laptop most of the time.
2. The camera is awesome.
3. The noise canceling mic works great
4. The AT&T network has finally been speeding up 3-12 mbps ( I've been averaging about 4mbps) which gives me total functionality + video calls work well above 3 mbps. The hotspot function is good enough for the road. LTE is cool if you want to do a bunch of speed tests for fun or hook your hdtv to to your phone.
5. The ability to use in car dock is better due to screen size.
6. Very good battery life(much better than all the others I've had).
7. Audio out on car dock is very good.
8. Call quality is very good.
1. Samsung Car dock
2. "Dock sound redirector" from android market for the car dock(don't use the samsung one it directs the sound all wrong and your stuck with limited functions when in the dock)
3. VLINGO -Redirects your audio properly for using bluetooth to do searching etc.
-----with the above items all the nav-music-phone-internet search-voice dial all work flawlessly when using bluetooth in car and redirects music and nav to stereo plus it pauses and resumes perfectly for all functions.
1. So light it takes getting used to(it will almost flip out of your hand sometimes). Looking for larger battery to add some weight get more battery life as a side benefit.
2. Doesn't wake from standby when using bluetooth voice dial button on headset-searching for solution.

Bought the Attic about 2 weeks ago and liked everything about it except the location of the power/data cord. Very uncomfortable using it while plugged in- necessary while using GPS.

Returned it for an Infuse last Sunday and will never go back.

Each one has benefits over the other. Other than the power correct placement, I would be happy with either device.

Really love the larger screen on the Infuse though. Would hate to go back to smaller screen.

Wow. enough about the Infuse camera. I've had it for a few weeks, and no complaints. But the camera is not that overwhelming. It's just a camera.

I love how the Dell Streak has been virtually demonized by dwarves all over the World (5' screen) but here comes a 4.5 inch screen and guess what? IT'S PERFECT!!! Maybe some of you should have actually tried a larger screen before you flamed the normal-sized people around you, carpal-tunnel syndrome really isn't that much fun.

Be cautious of this phone. Google "Samsung Infuse wifi problems". The first phone: attached to my home wifi. If I moved any further than 10 feet or so from the router, the signal quality dropped to poor. My iPad, desk and laptop have no issue. Speed would drop to a few hundred kbps.

If I turned the wifi off or moved out of range then attempted to reconnect (of course turned wifi on or moved into range), the phone would claim the wifi was out of range. If I moved to 4 or 5 feet of the router, it was hit or miss. Turning the wifi off then on usually did not help. The only thing that worked was a battery pull or forgetting the wifi then configuring it again.

Tried connecting at restaurants and at AT&T store. Did not work. Yes, I have the latest firmware. On phone with Samsung and AT&T for 2 hours. Determined phone was defective.?.?

Exchanged the phone. Same exact issue. Contacted AT&T and Samsung. Samsung was 0, nada, zero, no help. I do this for a living. I know a lot about wireless and networks. This phone does not work.

I tried home, work, stores, resturants. No go.

I love my Samsung Infuse, I haven't any Wifi issues with it so far, and when I use Wifi I get about 15Mb(I have a 20Mb ISP connection) download speed and can go as far as 100 feet before I drop the signal.

No dual core, not an issue, I can still play GameLoft's Nova 2 @ 30fps. I mean 1.2Ghz is pretty damn fast for a phone especially an already super fast Humingbird processor. You also have to remember that most Android apps don't even support multi-threading yet, and Gingerbread has very little support for it, so I'm not missing the second processor core yet. I do admit a little more RAM would have had me at bragging(750MB+) but 512MB does just fine for everything I do with my phone.

My only real gripe is the NO Notification LED. That was just criminal of Samsung, I take it that Samsung did not want the Galaxy S2 to suffer from loss in sales due to it's similarity to the Infuse.?

I love my phone, now I can never go back to anything under 4.5 inches or smaller. My next phone will be the Infuse2(if it ever comes out)I will skip the whole dual core craze and wait for the quad core race to begin. I'm sure that games on Android by that point will be of PS3 quality(graphics wise) if not better.

Hi All - First time poster here!

The above review has enticed me into seriously considering purchasing the Infuse. But I have one question.... I need to have my phone on silent at work, so I rely heavily on vibrate to alert me of msgs and calendar reminders, therefore I need a GREAT vibrate strength. The review above states "The Infuse is so big and vibrates so hard, it registers as a small earthquake...." Which sounds great. But on another forum ( they discuss the vibrate on the Infuse being weak to the point that it cannot be felt in one's pocket when in busy/noisy surroundings...?

I'm quite confused - can anyone shed further light on this?

Many thanks in advance.

I got this phone all excited to use it and it's awesome features. Aside from the wonderful camera, this has been the worst phone I have owned. The GPS fails to work every time I try it, the files I save get randomly deleted very often, and there is tons of connectivity issues. I do not reccomend this phone to anyone.