I’ve been testing two versions of Samsung Galaxy S phone. The Captivate that’s AT&T’s version and the Vibrant which is going to T-Mobile. It’s interesting to see how both carriers have approached the handset which offers a standard core experience. The phone hardware is excellent, and I’ll write that up in greater detail later in the week. What’s interesting is how the carrier customizations define the experience. The hardware is similar but overall, I prefer the Vibrant’s design over the Captivate. It’s somewhat sleeker and feels better in my hand.
Both carriers also load the phone with a lot of extra stuff. It’s a matter of taste but I think T-Mobile’s choices for Slacker and Kindle are better and more useful than the stuff ATT loads. (T-Mobile also tosses in the full version of Avatar on micro-SD. I hate the movie but it looks gorgeous on the Samsung screen). The phone has been described as the PC in your pocket and it looks like that analogy is correct. The phone’s now also getting loaded with a lot of crapware. Worse, unlike a PC, there’s no easy way to flatten the phone or remove the carrier added services. In this case, the T-Mobile additions, while not overly welcome, add more value that I’m likely to use and therefore not find offensive. For that reason alone, I’d pick the Vibrant over the Captivate. Worse ATT continues to lock down their handsets so they can’t use apps that don’t come through marketplace. That alone is a deal breaker for me.
For GSM Android use though, my device of preference would still be the soon to be discontinued Nexus One. First of all, it’s unlocked so it will work on any GSM network (although in the US you’ll need to pick your carrier version for proper 3G support). It’s also not loaded with anything but stock Android. No crap applications, full Google widgets and best of all, it’s the first device that’s capable of running FroYo today officially. That’s important to me. While almost all handset vendors have said that FroYo updates are coming, I personally don’t want to wait. I suspect that before some of those devices get FroYo updates, Gingerbread will already be on the market.
There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy S series (I’d love to see a stock device at some point with no carrier mods to compare.) for ATT, it’s probably the best Android device they offer but unless carrier branding was important, I’d go with the Nexus One on ATT or the Vibrant or Nexus One on T-Mobile.