US Cellular's Samsung Mesmerize

US Cellular is certainly carving out a name for themselves in the Android world, and the release of the Samsung Mesmerize brings one of the best Android handsets currently on the market to their network.  It's a Galaxy S phone, and like its cousins on the big four networks, it's a powerhouse with an incredible Super AMOLED screen.  Hit the break to see my impressions of the Mesmerize, available at US Cellular for $199.99 on a two-year agreement.

We've already crawled all over the U.S. Galaxy S phones with the Verizon Fascinate, T-Mobile Vibrant, AT&T Captivate and Sprint Epic 4G. What does US Cellular bring to the tablet? Let's find out, after the break.

First and foremost, this is a Galaxy S phone.  It runs Android 2.1-update 1, has the TouchWiz interface, and the same internals as the Verizon Fascinate.  It even looks and feels like the Fascinate in your hands.  Since most of us here adore the Fascinate, that's all good news. Here's a short video of the phone, where you can check out the hardware and a bit of the software.

YouTube link for mobile viewing

Samsung Mesmerize seven default homescreens

The Hardware

The hardware is well laid out, even if it's a little plasticky.  You really only notice this when you have the battery door off -- assembled the Mesmerize feels fine in the hand.  Speaking of the battery door, once open, the microSD card can be removed without shutting down the phone or removing the battery.  This is a big plus if you swap cards and have a big music library.

battery door removed  microSD card

Bottom, with mic hole  Mesmerize -- ports

The smooth lines of the exterior are carried through with the ports and buttons.  Up top, you have the 3.5 mm headset jack, and a microUSB port -- covered by a protective sliding door to keep dirt and debris out.  On the bottom, you have the mic hole, surrounded by the curves of the phone.  It's very sleek. The left side of the phone has the volume rocker switch, and the right side presents the power button.  A lot of design work has gone into the Galaxy S line, and on the Mesmerize it shows.

Volume rocker switch  power button

The full monty  Back plate

And then there's the screen.  Until you see a Super AMOLED display, you really can't appreciate it.  Trust me, everything you hear about the color depth, and beautiful wet look of the screen is true.  A pic of the screen in the dark shows this a little, but you really need to see this for yourself.

SAMOLED

The Software

US Cellular has been kind enough to leave most of the bloat off the device.  Besides the normal Android and Google applications, and the few Samsung custom apps, the only things you won't find in Vanilla Android are CityID, MyContacts Backup, and US Cellular's branded version of Telenav.  We appreciate that, US Cellular, more than you know.

Apps, page one  Apps, page 2  Apps, page 3

The GPS

GPS gets its own section, and many of you who own Galaxy S devices know why.  I'm not sure if it's luck, location, or software, but the GPS on the Mesmerize was more than acceptable, and I'd even say it was good.  Driving around in the mountains where cell data is spotty at best (more on that in a bit) the GPS using Google Maps worked admirably.  I will admit, it doesn't lock as fast as some other phones initially, but it seemed to keep the minimum amount of satellites locked in to keep me heading where I wanted to go, and the only real issues were with Google Maps itself not knowing some of the roads trails I was driving on.

GPS status

As you can see, the GPS even finds and locks on to satellites indoors. While YMMV, I didn't see any issue with GPS here.

Call quality and signal

Call quality with the Mesmerize was about average.  Callers had no issue hearing me, but several mentioned the "airplane hanger" effect of having some reverb in the background.  On my end, I noticed the same thing -- depending on where I was.  Outdoors it was fine, but indoors, or under a big pavilion I noticed the effect.  Maybe I'm spoiled by noise canceling microphones, but even then the call quality is more than acceptable.

US Cellular's network on the other hand, gets a five-star, will-use-again mark.  Admittedly, I haven't used US Cellular before, so it's possible that outstanding network performance is the norm, but I was extremely pleased with both the voice and data signal, even in places where I didn't expect to have any. 

In short, if you're a US Cellular subscriber and an Android fan, this one's for you.  I would recommend this phone to any friend or family member, and the quality of US Cellular's network (in my area) is icing on the cake.