Samsung Epic 4G: New 4G phone coming

Samsung Epic 4G: New 4G phone coming

The second 4G-ready Android smartphone for Sprint boasts a slide-out QWERTY keypad and a front-facing camera for video chat, but it lacks the latest version of Android; also, expect to pay a little more for Samsung’s new Epic 4G than you would for last June’s HTC Evo 4G.

Set to go on sale August 31, the Epic 4G (which marks the first of Samsung’s Galaxy S-class Android phones with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard) will arrive with a $249 price tag, and that’s after signing a two-year Sprint contract and receiving your $100 mail-in rebate.

The QWERTY-less HTC Evo 4G, on the other hand, costs just $199 with a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate (assuming you can find one in stock, that is; the red-hot phone’s still sold out on Sprint’s website). Indeed, most of the major smartphones we’ve seen this summer have come with $199 two-year-contract price tags.

So, what are we talking about in terms of specs? First, the basics, starting with the Epic’s 4-inch Super AMOLED screen (same as on Samsung’s other Galaxy S handsets, like the Captivate and the Vibrant). In back, you’ll find a five-megapixel camera with autofocus, a flash, 720p video recording — and yes, video-chat fans, there’s a front-facing VGA for two-way video calls.

Under the hood, the 5.5-ounce, 0.56-inch-thick Epic (blame the slide-out QWERTY for the extra bulk) has a speedy 1GHz “Hummingbird” processor plus 512MB of system RAM for multitasking. Out of the box, the Epic will be running Android 2.1 — a bit disappointing, given that the just-released Motorola Droid 2 is shipping with Android 2.2 (good for features like Flash support, a souped-up Web browser, and improved Exchange support) already installed. Sprint says the Epic 4G will get an over-the-air update for Android 2.2 in the “coming months.”

Back on the plus side, the Epic boasts the same mobile hotspot features we’ve been seeing on the latest and greatest Android phones, good for sharing the handset’s data connection with up to five nearby Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets. Nice, but bear in mind that Sprint will charge you $30 a month extra for mobile hotspot privileges, and it’s also worth noting that the competing HTC Evo 4G will wirelessly share its data with up to eight Wi-Fi devices, rather than just five.

Speaking of data, the Epic 4G is (as its name implies) is the second smartphone to support Sprint’s budding, next-generation 4G WiMax data network, which delivers data speeds that peak at about 10Mbps — several times faster than what you’d typically get over a standard 3G data network, even when you consider that average, real-world 4G speeds hover around 4Mbps or so.

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