If you've ever had the hankering to watch live TV on your smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S Lightray 4G (boy, what a mouthful) may be of interest to you. The Lightray, a $459 (as of August 21, 2012) LTE-compatible phone on MetroPCS's prepaid network, looks a lot like the Samsung Droid Charge, which we saw on Verizon just over a year ago. The resemblance isn't purely cosmetic, however, as the Lightray also boasts similar internal specs to its older Verizon cousin. In a time when you can buy a dual-core phone for less than $300, it's hard to justify paying close to half a grand for what amounts to a year-old phone.
Aside from a few minor differences in design, the Droid Charge has a slightly more pointed base, while the Lightray has a small, 7-inch retractable TV antennathe Lightray and the Droid Charge are pretty much the same phone. The front face of the Lightray consists primarily of a 4.3-inch 800-by-400-pixel Super AMOLED display, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and physical versions of the standard Android navigation buttons (Menu, Home, Back, Search) that we see on pretty much every Android phone.
The left spine of the Lightray is where you'll find the volume rocker and the Micro-USB charging port, while the power button and MicroHDMI slot reside on the right spine. On the back of the phone is an 8-megapixel camera with an LED flash, but I'll talk more about that later. The back cover comes off to reveal a 1600mAh battery, and you have easy access to the SIM and MicroSD card slots.
Even though it's made of plastic for the most part, the Lightray feels well built. The phone is comfortable to hold, and fits easily in most pants pockets. In my tests, all of the phone's buttons had just the right amount of clickiness, save for the power button, which felt a tad too spongy.
Performance and Specs
With a 1GHz single-core processor plus 1GB of RAM, the Lightray is slightly outdated. Although the single-core processor provides relatively lag-free performance, we are rapidly approaching an era in which multicore phones are the norm. Developers will write more and more apps to use this extra processing power, and soon you will be limited in the kinds of apps you can run on a single-core phone. It's something to consider if you're hoping to keep this phone for two years or longer.
Even with its aging specs, the Lightray runs games such as Angry Birds and Temple Run without much trouble. In my tests, however, after about 10 minutes of playing a game, the phone began to feel hot and the battery had dropped by about 10 percent. If you plan to run a lot of apps on the Lightray, you may want to consider keeping a charger handy so that you don't get stuck without juice. We'll update this page once we've run the Lightray through our series of official PCWorld battery tests, but for now Id estimate that you can get around 4 to 5 hours of use from a single charge.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.