Sprint Samsung Epic 4G

The Sprint Epic 4G is the third of the Samsung Galaxy S-class phones to be released in the United States. And it comes with a few additions over its already-released cousins, the AT&T Captivate and T-Mobile Vibrant. Initial thoughts and hands-on video are after the break, folks.

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For starters, as the name suggests, the Epic 4G can take advantage of Sprint's Wimax (4G) data, if you're in a location that has service. (The rest of the time it rocks 3G just fine.)

Then there's the addition of a sliding horizontal keyboard. The slider mechanism is pretty good, a little more springy than you'll find on the Motorola Droid and Droid 2.

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Sprint Samsung Epic 4GThe keys themselves are pretty darn good, and they've crammed five rows of them onto this puppy. Biggest niggle thus far is that you have to use the FN key to get to the @ symbol (or any number of other frequently used keys for that matter) while emoticons -- as in a :) smiley face -- have one-touch access.

The phone itself is as speedy as ever, thanks to its 1GHz Hummingbird processor. The 4-inch Super AMOLED screen is as good as what's on the Vibrant and Captivate -- and it should be, given it's the same screen.

The Epic 4G is launching with Android 2.1 and should get an upgrade to Android 2.2 later this year. Samsung's Touchwiz user interface is on board, though some of the tweaks found on the other Galaxy S phones have been removed. The Daily Briefing widget and app are gone, as are other Samsung customizations like the ability to swap out which apps are docked at the bottom of the screen. (That's a bad change.) On the other hand, save for the usual Sprint apps -- NASCAR, Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation, etc., there's really not a whole lot of bloatware on the Epic, which is good, because it only has 512MB of on-board storage, with about 450MB available to the user.

The phone feels pretty darn good in the hand. Lighter than the Evo 4G, more rounded. We'll give the 5-megapixel camera a proper what-for, but do note that you're going to have to work at it a tad to keep your fingers off the lens while shooting. Qik is pre-installed, so you can get your front-facing chat on.

To boil it down in a sentence: You're going to want this phone when it's available Aug. 31. Period.

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