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Hands on: Droid Charge is cool but costly

Dan Rosenbaum | May 15, 2011
Verizon's latest 4G LTE Android phone has a great display and high-capacity battery, but is it worth the price?

One differentiator is the user interface laid over the Android 2.2 OS. I don't much care for Samsung's TouchWiz UI; I find it cluttered compared to HTC's Sense UI and Motorola's MotoBlur, both of which integrate phone functions, social networking, and dialing favorites in a more elegant manner. It's not that you can't do all those things in TouchWiz; it's that it's easier in the other UIs.

As a phone, the Charge works pretty well. One cool touch: If you have the contacts database alphabetize people by last name, the phone highlights the last names and dims the first names as you scroll, restoring the first names when you stop. It's a nice idea, well executed.


At a Glance

Droid Charge
Price: On Verizon: $300 plus a two-year contract
Pros: Comparatively light weight; great screen; HDMI output; 4G network
Cons: Expensive; somewhat annoying UI

The Charge's camera is serviceable but not significantly better or worse than other phone cameras. No one buys a smartphone for the camera (despite the death of the Flip camcorder), and the Charge won't change that.


LTE performance

The Charge's data speeds are as breathtaking as those on other 4G LTE devices. Tests showed download speeds in the 10 to 14 Mbit/sec. range -- a variability that's completely normal given the unpredictability of network load and other conditions. By comparison, earlier tests with a ThunderBolt were in the 12 to 16 Mbit/sec. range. The Charge's 3G speeds are in the 200KB/sec. neighborhood.

One more nontrivial thing: The Charge sets a new and higher price point for Android phones. It costs $299 with a two-year contract and data plan, whereas the ThunderBolt costs $249, and most other smartphones cost around $200.

Verizon is promoting free tethering to 10 devices over a 4G network or five devices over 3G for an unspecified limited time, after which it will cost an undisclosed amount of money per month. This is a little open-ended for my taste; I like to know the price of getting hooked before I bite, not after.


Bottom line

Verizon now has two roughly equivalent phones at the top of its line. Is the Charge worth the extra $50 over its closest competitor? Could well be. The screen's better, the battery's bigger, the phone's about 20% lighter, and it's got an HDMI output. On the other hand, you may not like the UI.

I do like the Droid Charge. But I'm not sure I like it $50 more than its alternative.

And I still don't know what makes it a Droid.


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