Samsung Galaxy S Glide Review (Video)

Daniel Bader

December 26, 2011 2:05 pm


Almost six months after the initial release of the Samsung Galaxy S II we have the Galaxy S Glide. For specs, it sits somewhere in the middle of the original Rogers Galaxy S Captivate and Galaxy S II LTE. In terms of modern features, the Glide checks them all off: dual-core chip, 21Mbps HSPA+ baseband, 8MP camera. But it’s running the slightly older Tegra 2 CPU and has the same 4-inch 480×800 Super AMOLED screen as the Captivate.

Though it may not be the market’s hottest phone, it has a fantastic slide-out QWERTY keyboard that just needs to be used to appreciate. Can the Glide charm its chubby way into your heart? Read on to find out.

Specs:

- Android 2.3.5 with TouchWIZ 4
- 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED display
- 1Ghz Tegra 2 dual-core processor
- 1GB RAM / 8GB internal storage
- 8MP camera with flash / 1.3MP front-facing camera
- 720p video capabilities
- WiFi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 w/ A2DP, A-GPS
- 124.5 x 63.5 x 12.7mm
- 147.4 grams
- 21Mbps HSPA+ (850/1900/2100Mhz)
- 1650mAh battery

The Phone

There is no way around it: the Galaxy S Glide is a bit on the heavy side. While not the thickest QWERTY device we’ve used, it’s 4-inch 5:3 ratio’d screen gives it more of a oblong appearance than any device in recent memory. It’s not what we’d call thick, either — not in any way that would overload your pocket — but it’s stout, with a moderate heft that runs a fine line between “just right” and bulky.

Unlike other Samsung devices which curve slightly at the sides, and avow themselves with a lithe profile, the front of the Glide is remarkably plain. There is a sizeable area below the four capacitive touch buttons that is meant to accommodate the extra width of the keyboard underneath, but when viewed straight on it looks awkward, like Samsung swung and missed.

But my goodness does the Glide feel lovely in the hand. I have said it time and time again: 4-inches is the sweet spot for smartphones, and the added thickness actually makes the device more comfortable to hold. It’s hard to explain, but Samsung has done a great job balancing the device when held in portrait or in landscape when the keyboard is open, which may end up being its most common orientation.

When you turn on the screen (via the right-side power button) you’re greeted with a product of 2010: a WVGA Super AMOLED display replete with a PenTile pixel distribution. Two years ago the screen was the best in the business, but as we’ve been exposed to sharper, smoother and far less aliased displays, with higher resolutions and brighter brights, the Glide’s LCD looks dated. The fundamental characteristics are still there, and largely positive: great contrast, excellent colour saturation, best-in-class viewing angles. But whites, especially at moderate brightness, have a blue tint, and text is often difficult to read when zoomed out.

Ports are where you’d expect them on a Samsung device: besides the aforementioned power button, there is a headphone jack on top and, next to it, a USB port covered by a sliding drawer. Behind the device the 8MP camera sensor peeks out next to a LED flash. The backing is plastic and feels somewhat flimsy, but has a ribbed texture that aides in keeping the phone secure during those marathon texting sessions. Which brings us to…

The Keyboard

The showstopper here is what Samsung has achieved with its slide-out keyboard. I have used a lot of HTC and Motorola landscape sliders in my day, but this is my first from Samsung and it doesn’t disappoint. At first glance the individual keys appear shallow and square — much like the often-derided original Motorola Milestone — but they are spaced apart enough to provide plenty of room for big thumbs. Each button, which is made of a rubbery plastic, has enough give to provide assuredness at each press.

The layout is well thought-out and effective. Despite having only four rows (so unfortunately no dedicated number row) there are plenty of auxiliary keys, like a dedicated www/.com, ? and  period. They’ve also managed to fit four directional keys and and an OK button for those who prefer to do their letter selection with the keyboard instead of the screen (and since this is running Gingerbread, they are a lifesaver). The four Android buttons are emulated on either side of the ‘board, too, allowing you to live in landscape mode, for all intents and purposes.

Typing quickly on the Glide turned out to be more pleasant than I initially thought possible. Samsung finely balances the key depth, so while your thumb sinks down just enough to feel impactful, it takes no time at all to come back up and find that next button. The keys are also big enough that you can press down your entire thumb, and not just their edges, on a key, resulting in less finger strain and ultimately smoother typing. I’d have liked the keys to be slightly offset, since it’s easy to lose your initial landmark position and end up needing to re-shift your thumbs, but for the most part this was not an issue.

I’d have liked to see a second ALT button on the right side of the keyboard for those awkward situations where you need to move your right thumb to the far left side of the device to hit that single number. This can be avoided by double-tapping on the ALT button to activate Numlock, but for one or two presses that should not be necessary.

The Glide’s sliding mechanism is strong and nimble, so opening the phone with one hand is not a problem. It is, however, a bit loose once opened, but you won’t feel it until you close it from an open position — it doesn’t affect regular use.

Performance & Software

The 1Ghz Tegra 2 processor inside the Galaxy S Glide is no slouch, but a year after its debut in the Motorola Atrix can now be considered a mid-range part. Not only has the once-mighty NVIDIA chipset been bested by its competition in Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Samsung itself, but by the upcoming quad-core Tegra 3, which should be hitting smartphones en masse early next year.

Despite that fact, I have a fondness for the Tegra 2: it produces some of the smoothest overall Android performance I’ve seen yet, and while it doesn’t compete with the newer guys for sheer power, its tendency to be ultra-stable and super-smooth is a recipe for harmony. Though the benchmarks say otherwise, I was not able to see, or feel, a discernible difference in UI performance between the Galaxy S Glide and the Galaxy S II LTE which runs a 1.2Ghz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Pinch-to-zoom in the hardware-accelerated browser is buttery smooth, and there is less of a delay between the time I press the home or back button than in any other Android device in recent memory. If the hardware itself isn’t as fast, the software has been heavily optimized to make up for it.

The TouchWIZ skin is fairly lightweight, at least by performance standards, and there is no appreciable slowdown throughout the OS. I have grown quite fond of Samsung’s overlay, which replaces the stock Gingerbread launcher long-press behaviour with one that’s more akin to Google’s newer Ice Cream Sandwich. To add a widget, for example, you hold down anywhere on the home screen and after a second a dock appears below a zoomed-out layer, allowing you to scroll horizontally through your list. To add it, just select and drag to the area on the home screen you want it to go.

The app drawer has also been tweaked: it is a dynamic horizontal list with excellent support for tweaking and getting your icons the way you want them. You can add folders and uninstall apps in two steps; you can add or delete whole pages and move them around at will. Many of these features were added to the stock launcher experience in Ice Cream Sandwich, but the Samsung implementation has an extra layer of polish that I really appreciate. Too bad you cannot adjust it for vertical scrolling, but I digress.

Preinstalled apps run the gamut from useful (QuickOffice) to plain unnecessary (Mini diary) and there is a lot of fluff in between. Rogers and Samsung are both heavily pushing their own agenda here. For example, Samsung has a Games Hub powered by mobage, which competes with the Android Marketplace, while Rogers has its UrMusic service to sell you MP3s, ringtones and concert tickets. Both can be useful, certainly, but they tie the user to either the brand (Samsung) or the carrier (Rogers). It’s a mismash of confusing services and self-serving revenue schemes that users will balk at.

A ray of sunshine among the software mess is Rogers Live, nee Rogers on Demand, which allows you to watch movies and Rogers-sourced TV shows on your phone for $5/month. The selection is limited — mostly news and snippets of shows from Rogers-owned subsidiaries and some NBC and CBC fare like The Office and Strombo, but it’s nice to be able to check the latest headlines or the weather without turning on the television. There a fair amount of free content, too, but it’s mainly music videos and interviews. And while you can’t uninstall any of the pre-installed system apps, you can place them in a folder and never look at them again.

Samsung does a good job bringing decent functionality to their replacement Android apps, such as its Messaging and Email apps. The interfaces are simple and fairly consistent throughout, and but for a minor issue authenticating the SSL certificate on our IMAP account, everything worked as expected. This is a great phone for constant communicators — the ones who can’t seem to put down his or her phone before receiving another text or needing to compose another email — and the interface is plenty conducive to that. With the keyboard, text selection is flawless and only slightly finicky when copying-and-pasting due to the reliance on the touchscreen for activating it in the first place. And because you can press back, menu, home and search from the keyboard in landscape mode, it negates the need to constantly be returning your phone back to portrait for those menial Android tasks.

From the We Can’t Believe It’s Not Ice Cream Sandwich department, there are only a few things I miss from Android 4.0, as Samsung nicely fills in those gaps. Being unable to swipe away individual notifications is frustrating, and the now-antique multitasking menu feels so inefficient compared to the dynamic list from ICS. The native Gmail app in Gingerbread is still better than anything you’ll use on another platform, but after using many of the built-in apps on the Glide I pined for the effortless swipe-and-scroll dynamic of the Galaxy Nexus.

Though the Glide will likely receive an Android 4.0 upgrade, we are certain it will utilize an updated form of TouchWIZ. The colourful palette and cartoony widget selection is a stark contrast from Ice Cream Sandwich’s lovely blue-and-black scheme, but the beauty of Android is that with a bit of work you can make it look and work how you want. If you don’t like TouchWIZ, download Launcher Pro or ADW Launcher EX from the Marketplace and forget about it. All your apps will look the same, but you won’t have to deal with the majority of Samsung’s interface.

Camera

Like all the optics in the latest round of Galaxy S devices, the Glide is capable of taking great photos. Its 8MP camera is fast, accurate and mostly intelligent, adjusting to different lighting scenarios with aplomb. While its shutter speed leaves smething to be desired (a trait I found on all Tegra 2 devices) its autofocus generally finds its mark, and if you’re patient enough, photos are plenty detailed.

With a fantastic macro mode and tons of scene options, there is nothing really bad about the Glide’s camera. That being said, I find the Samsung software to be clunky and slow, full of menus and submenus that eschew graphics in favour of cold hard text. Its one redeeming feature is its ability to add four custom shortcuts to the left side of the interface, making it easy to turn on and off the flash, add an effect or adjusting white balance settings on the fly.

Though technically capable of higher, the Glide can only capture video at 720p, something of a disappointment considering the similarly-equipped LG Optimus 2X can do 1080p. We’re not certain the reason for the limitation, but it probably had to do with wanting to ensure a consistent frame rate, something that the Tegra 2 often has trouble with under strenuous lighting conditions.

As always, though, the video quality is fantastic, with smooth pans and tons of detail. My only concern was with the mediocre sound quality captured by the built-in microphone.

Network Speed and Call Quality

Like the Bell Galaxy S II, the Glide can pull off decent HSPA+ speeds of up to 21Mbps in the downstream and 5.76Mbps up. These translate to excellent browsing performance over the Rogers network with low enough ping times as to be virtually indistinguishable from its 42Mbps Galaxy S II X counterpart. When compared to its Rogers Galaxy S II LTE variant, however, the differences are more noticeable and the performance lag mounts up, but considering the Glide is priced below many of the high-end smartphones on the market we have little to complain about.

We achieved a stunning 5-8Mbps down and a healthy 1-2.5Mbps up in most of our tests, but the real boon to page load times were the graciously low pings of under 100ms.

Call quality was fine over the Rogers network. Samsung traditionally utilizes earpieces with slightly low output, and the Glide is no exception. I had no trouble hearing our callers in a quiet room but when walking down a busy street it was more difficult. They could here me just fine, and there is a second microphone installed on the back for noise cancellation.

I was also disappointed with the quality of the mono speaker on the Glide. Located near the camera on the rear, it emitted shrill, formless sound at adequate volumes. Though it should suffice for conference calls and such, it does not fare well when listening to music.

Battery Life

I wanted to call this the Little Droid that Could, because the Glide just wouldn’t die. The battery life on the device is stellar, almost too good considering the components inside. Granted there is a 1650mAh battery powering a relatively small, lower-resolution AMOLED display, but I was able to get nearly two full days of use from the device.

Putting the Glide through my usual rigorous battery tests, which involve a fair amount of “normal” activities like browsing, calling, tweeting, emailing and YouTubing, it lasted me longer than any other Android device to date. Likely due to the combination of Samsung’s TouchWIZ not running many background tasks, the low-powered Tegra 2 chipset and a proportionally large battery, you’ll likely be very happy with the Glide’s longevity.

Plus, Samsung has added a helpful Power Saving Mode, whereby it will turn off power-hungry hardware features like WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and background updates at a pre-set battery percentage.

Wrap-up

There isn’t much new about the Galaxy S Glide, but what it does it does very well. Considering it can currently be purchased for 1c on a 3-year term (though its outright price of $549.99 is a bit high for my tastes) it’s a bargain if you’re looking for a competitive messaging smartphone. Its keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on an Android device, with plenty of room for larger thumbs and a conscientious button layout, while performance on aging hardware is surprisingly spritely.

While it lacks the bells and whistles of many modern day Android devices, there is no arguing that the Galaxy S Glide is a full package, and an efficiency animal. It appeals equally to text-hungry teens and business-hungry professionals, while staying slim enough to be attractive many people in between.

  • Sean

    You guys really do the best reviews.

    • Wia

      Better than Eng*dget.

  • Andy

    ^
    Agree
    plus first time being 2nd comment

  • Vitor

    I dont understand why the benchmark scores are low. I am using this phone now, and it’s so incredibly smooth! It also runs android and plays games much better than the EVO 3D I had before this. I would say the Tegra 2 is better than the Snapdragon dual cores, esp for games.

    • Matty

      No s**t Einstein, much better GPU core.

    • KingK

      Check the SmartBench numbers, it still beats all the other phones and clocked lower. Those other crappy bench marks don’t matter anyway.

      Run Quadrant on this thing and you’ll get 4000 stock.

      Saying Qualcomm and Ti passed Tegra 2 is a joke.

      Even at @1.5ghz they barely keep up, Evo 3d chokes on so many games.

  • M1K3Z0R

    Looks like an amazing phone, but can’t wait for the price to drop to something more reasonable

  • 4inchesrocks

    I would get this phone in a second (there are not many 4″ screens) but the QWERTY kills the deal for me. I don’t like it, I don’t need it, makes the phone more expensive and heavier for me.
    in 2012 It seems like:
    3.5 ” is budget,
    3.7″is low entry
    4″ is mide level ?? Hopefully, since there are more 4.3″
    and 4.5″ is high end.

    The amazing thing is that Im talking about SCREEN Sizes.
    The LG Optimus one with a 3.2″ screens has the same dimensions as the samsung Exhibit 2 which has a 3.7″
    So maybe we will get 4.3″ phones with the dimensions of 4″ phones……the problem is the Battery remains THE SAME.
    The only solution to the problem is better technology in screens (OLED) otherwise you will be getting a bigger screen with a lower battery life. (hence my personal preference for 4″

    • Rio

      Screen size is more of a personal preference rather than how much a person can afford.

      I might get a 3.5in screen because I have tight pants and it is easier for my phone to fit in. Someone else might want a 4.3in because they like the real estate and are able to carry that around.

      It is not a matter of low and high end phones.

  • pasuljko

    Nice review but one remark … how “almost 2 days of battery life” can warrant 9.5 mark, please don’t lower the criteria to fit the unfortunate reality of the moment.
    While in today smartphone world 2 days of battery life is definitely way above the average, let’s call it “acceptable” and give it between 6 and 7.

  • primetime

    In regards to the battery life, what sort of things were you doing on the device? Usage descriptions like browsing (heavy/moderate/light), apps, gps, etc.

    Also, a battery rundown would be useful, Engadget uses a method wherein they loop a movie at 65% brightness and they see how long it will take for the phone to die.

    Great review regardless, makes me want to get this because i’m a huge fan of qwerty keyboard phones.

  • Clockwork

    I’ve had this phone for a month now. I got it as part of my HUP to replace my x10 mainly because for the following reasons:
    1) Qwerty keyboard: there’s very few devices that have come out recently with one (Xperia Pro is the other which comes to mind)Even though I use Swype, I still wanted one. Personal preference.
    2) 4″ screen. I find anything bigger just too much for a mobile device. Again, personal preference.

    Negatives so far:
    1) I find the colors to be off when snapping photos, no matter how many settings I try. Maybe it’s an indoor thing. =/
    2) Some complain that network disconnects for data/voice, and depending on where I am, sometimes I don’t receive calls even though I have coverage, but a text msg still arrives.
    3) Back of phone plastic feels a bit slippery. I wish they added some rubber to the back cover. When you open the slider, you think the phone will take off from your hands.

    One positive though is that the phone has already been rooted (thx to the guys at XDA) so you can remove all the crap you don’t want.

    As for battery, I can go through about 2 full days without problem which includes:
    -auto brightness ON
    -about 1.5hrs of music listening
    -checking facebook, twitter regularly.
    -receive my gmail and work email.
    -sms’ing

  • arber

    I regret getting the skyrocket. I wish I got this instead

  • Max

    Bought this phone outright from someone selling their HUP. Got it for 350$ and at that price I am completely happy with it! Granted, I was upgrading from a dumbphone (SE K850i), I am extremely satisfied with all the features with this phone. I was, initially, unsure about the keyboard, but after using it for a couple weeks, I couldn’t be happier with it! Also, games run super well on it!

    Fantastic phone! I would give it 8.5-9/10!

  • leobg

    the display is a deal breaker for me. At this price display must have been super AMOLED plus (non-pentile) Bezel seems quite large too, feels like 4.3 inch SGSII display would have fit there just fine.

    They should have simply taken the Galaxy S II and add a qwerty keyboard. I’d buy such phone in a heartbeat!

    • DG

      I have to agree with you leobg. I don’t understand why you need to make so many sacrifices to get a physical keyboard. I assume it’s to keep the thickness under control. Still, it’s tough to try and prioritize when both options lack. Hopefully in a year they will figure out how to make a cutting edge phone that has a keyboard.

  • D1MW1T

    This phone on wind is amazing! get signal anywhere. You should have gotten it from wind!

    • chemicaltree

      Honestly I would love to get this on wind but they dont offer it. wish i had the funds to buy it outright and put it on wind….

  • d1mw1t

    sorry did not mean to yell but I am right! My store sold all of the returns as new phones! losers!

  • Joey

    Nice review and nice granite counter-top! Exactly the same as mine … LOL.

  • jim

    tried a demo model at FS yesterday…the keyboard is crap compared to obviously blackberry, and also droid 2-3…..it reminds me of the droid 1 as far as keyboards go. it also felt really cheap…now ill say that it could have just been the demo model that is cheap feeling. but id reccomend you try it out, write an email, or long text before you purchased. anyways fyi.

  • Jeremy

    I ordered this phone from rogers today, and will be back with some more feedback on the device once I have received it and play with it for a while

  • Andrew

    Anyone know if there is FM radio on the rogers version of this phone?

  • veronica

    can you put books on the galaxy glide???

  • Anita

    Would you recommand this phone because I wanna get a phone thet I will like and will work good! Is it an Android? Please give me all the info you can give me :) Thank you!

  • Kels

    I’ve had this phone for 6 months. Yes, it works fantastically wonderful for the first few months.. And then come the glitches. YouTube doesn’t close properly. The camera will not open half of the time. Battery life is reduced to about 6 hours, maybe. Texts don’t send. Texts aren’t received. When people call you, you don’t receive it and it doesn’t tell you that you have a missed call. And eventually, every half hour the screen will freeze and go pale with lines across it. Yu need to reboot it to make it work again. And a small while after that, it will stop turning on. For five minutes… Then half an hour… Then a few days… And then indefinitely.

    My phone is currently in for repairs. It won’t turn on. It is not a battery issue, because I purchased a new one and it made no difference

    Don’t get this phone, quite frankly, it sucks.

  • Yad

    I got this phone.. (SGH-I927R)
    love the QWERTY…
    love the microphone option…
    applications are great…
    battery life is poor… 3hrs max… and it heats up rapidly… must cool off prior to recharging…
    after 1mth of use, had to purchase unlock code… have used it 3 times already in less than 3 mths…

    I need to download its software… because when I connect to laptop it does not read the phone and cannot download pics…
    can someone suggest a link?
    my search skills are faltering, have not found a thing…
    thanks…

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  • unknown

    Is this phone out in the UK yet? If so where?