Samsung Galaxy Indulge Hands-on: Metro PCS’s LTE Android Phone Has Blinding Speed, No Contract

Verizon may be proud of its LTE network, but it’s not the first carrier to offer an LTE-enabled smart phone. Brace yourself, because the winner of that race is Metro PCS. Today the fifth largest carrier in the country announced the Samsung Galaxy Indulge, a 3.5-inch Android smart phone with big features for a pre-paid carrier, features like a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 1-GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird CPU, and, last but not least, an LTE radio for access to the carrier’s own 4G network.

The Indulge, featuring Android 2.2, will be on shelves later this week (Thursday or Friday according to Metro PCS) and will cost $399.99. Metro PCS paid us a visit just yesterday and left one of its brand new handsets with us. Want to see how fast it surfs the LTE waves? Read on for our hands-on thoughts, a few speed tests, and a gallery.

Before we gas into the speed section, here are a few thoughts on the look, feel, and guts of the Indulge.

Desgin of the Samsung Indulge

First, the plastic around the chassis is a little hollow, making it seem a bit fragile. Similarly, the hard-skin buttons along the bottom felt chintzy to one of our co-workers, and in a time when many phones (the Epic 4G, HTC Inspire 4G, Samsung Nexus S) are opting for touch Android buttons, hardware buttons are starting to feel old-fashioned.

Second, though the Samsung Galaxy Indulge is a Samsung phone, it’s not a Samsung Galaxy S phone. Why? Because there’s no AMOLED screen here. In fact, the Indulge rocks a display that’s pretty standard for Android phones. The 3.5-inch, 800 x 480 screen looks really washed due to extremely low contrast, particularly in comparison to other Samsung phones (Correction: It’s a 480 x 320-pixel display.) On the upside, the touch response felt prompt and accurate. In addition to run-of-the-mill trim, there’s also little fanfare around the phone’s edges. A volume rocker’s on the left side, a slightly recessed headphone jack sits top-left with a screen/power button on the top-right, and along the right edge is a microUSB port followed by a camera button. Round back is a 3-MP camera sans flash and a speaker with a 3.7-volt lithium ion battery that covers the included 4GB SD card (the phone can support up to 32GB).

And in case you’re wondering, the keyboard’s decent. It’s got flat keys that were almost flush with the deck of the pad area and is divided into four rows with a dedicated line of numbers at the top There’s both a .com and an @ key but you’ll have to use the red ‘FN’ button to use them. Four direction pad buttons are off to the right, and the space bar is awkwardly placed just left of center on the bottom row. Also, there are no Android hardware buttons on the keyboard. So far, the Samsung Epic 4G’s keyboard feels more comfortable for typing, but that’s not wholly fair since that phone has more room for a larger keyboard thanks to its 4-inch display. For lovers of soft keyboards, Swype is at the ready.

Update: We’re especially impressed with the keyboard’s back-light. It’s bright, evenly-lit, and illuminates every key.

4G Tests

Metro PCS has been rolling out its LTE network since last September, and, as it stands now, the service is available in 13 of 14 of its metropolitan markets. So, inhabitants of the following places are in luck: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Tampa, number 14, is on the way.

We tested the Indulge here at our midtown Manhattan office and sure enough, it notched some pretty impressive download and upload speeds. We’re talking quick-paced speedy downloads of 4.7 Mbps and uploads of 3.8 Mbps. To provide you an example of how fast that is, the Droid X running on Verizon’s 3G EVDO Rev. A network in the same location sped in at 1.64 Mbps for the download and .48 Mbps for the uplink. On the other hand, the Indulge didn’t dent the speeds of the HTC Evo Shift 4G, which lasered in at 6.7 Mbps downloads when we reviewed it last month, nor did it serve dust to Verizon’s own New York LTE network where the carrier expects to provide download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps and we’ve seen speeds as high as 18 Mbps.

Still, more speed is good, as evidenced by web page download times. Loading full HTML pages like the New York Times, CNN.com, and Laptopmag.com on the LTE-enabled Indulge were much faster than on the Droid X. The averages were respectively 8, 8, and 13 seconds as opposed to a twice-as-long 15, 19,and 26 seconds.

When compared to the Samsung Epic 4G, which coasts along Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network, the gaps were smaller, but the Indulge, Metro PCS, and LTE still won out: The NYT’s site, CNN.com, and Laptopmag.com each loaded in 8, 8, and 13 seconds on the Indulge while the same pages needed 12, 16, 25 seconds to load on the Epic 4G.

Services

The Samsung Indulge won’t work as a mobile hotspot for now and there’s no LTE roaming just yet, so outside of the 4G blanket, subscribers will feel the cold of MetroPCS’s CDMA 1xrtt 3G coverage (but is that really so bad?). To help make LTE radio access all the sweeter, the Indulge includes MetroStudio, a hub from Metro PCS that includes stream-ready TV shows, and movies in addition to purchasable music and ringtones. We stumbled across a recent episode of “The Office” inside MetroStudio and watched 10 minutes of stutter-free, buffer-less Steve Carrell high-larity. Those 4 Gs might really pay off if this service offers entertaining, relevant content. In addition to productions from channels like Bravo ToGo, CNBC, Syfy, and USA today, we also spotted “The Monique Show” in the library, so “relevant and entertaining” may be up in the air until further notice.

Value and Final Thoughts (For Now)

In case you don’t know how small carriers operate, Metro PCS lets users pay for service month-to-month. Smart phones are unsubsidized and monthly plans are relatively cheap compared to the Big Four.

Metro PCS offers two data plans for its 4G-enabled smart phones. One, for $50 dollars a month, includes unlimited talk, text, and data and caps special data services like VOIP calling or media streaming services at 1GB a month. The other plan costs $60/month and comes with unlimited everything, including bandwidth-heavy data services like streaming music or video. With low prices like that, Metro PCS is hoping eager subscribers will be more than anxious to indulge the Samsung Galaxy Indulge’s $399 price tag. We say, for the freedom of a no-contract cellular service and the generous speed burst of LTE, $399 might not be a bad fence to climb. But we’ll know for sure after our full review.


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  1. diva Says:

    am very dissapointed everyone say about the dual camera andthe phone doesn’t have, also what happen with the 5 megapixel??? i don’t know if am going to get the phone i find it a little high price just because of the 4G i don’t think is fare price… they should lower the price i will pay that price if the phone werelike the tmo my touch or iphone or the other samsung the coming out now with the dual camera and all the good stuff but for this, nah!!! i wont… let see if is really worth the price…

  2. dose Says:

    @diva
    i know right? all this talk about a 5mp camera and we end up with 3….
    they could have kept the amoled screen from the samsung craft come on now…
    dam you metro!

  3. daniel alejandro carrillo Says:

    in my opinion the resolution is a bit low i was so really looking toward this device to come out so i could buy it now im having second toughs since the device doesn’t offer what it was been speculated maybe they will come out with a better phone later in the year and then ill have some choices………..and it doesn’t front cam? i tough it did, well over all i will wait and see more review maybe a YouTube hands on will explain a bit more about this device and i will be able to see more of it but if it i get the same result then im pretty sure ill have wait even more for the next metro phone to come out

  4. daniel alejandro carrillo Says:

    im pretty sure it does posses a front facing camera but you guys didn’t mention it

  5. Josh Says:

    I just ordered this based on the initial review – and then cancelled my order (hopefully they will honor that) when I realized the actual screen resolution was so pitiful. It is a waste of such an amazing phone to have such a low resolution screen. Very disappointed – I have been waiting for over a year for a decent Android phone on Metro PCS. Is there any news of one coming soon?

  6. angel Says:

    Well.
    Nice review but I will wait for a better phone. Meanwhile I’m gonna stick with my LG Optimus M.

  7. Lyn OShell Says:

    Right now ALL android phones are unable to connect to the server. This means No google, No internet, No facebook, Etc. Metro PCS has no answer as to WHEN this issue will be resolved.

  8. Lyn OShell Says:

    If you get an LG Optimus smart phone and want to show somebody a picture you have taken, either from your gallery or from your facebook, well, forget showing anybody a picture. By the time the picture gets to clear quality (it shows up on the screen right away, but it’s blurry while the phone continues to load), by the time the picture gets clear, whoever you want to see the picture (even yourself), by the time it gets clear they are disinterested (and so are you) so it’s a worthless feature. I was VERY uninpressed with the LG Optimus smart phone. The Metro PCS Navigator, by the way, is NOT Compatible with this phone. You have to go into google and use that instead. I had other problems with the phone. Volume while navigating was one. 4 replacement phones gave me 4 phones I could not hear (had to hold phone to my ear while navigating) then the 4th one something was wrong with the speaker. When they replace a phone, they don’t replace the battery. My battery was defective. They wouldn’t believe me at the service center. They kept saying “it’s because you are using the applications”. Bull! Finally, when the battery wouldn’t hold a charge (when I did not use it at all), they offered me a spare they had laying around (they don’t sell batteries for this phone yet or I would have originally bought one). But then I had to BEG to receive the working battery because I gave up on the phone, bought a cheap slider to use instead and the sales rep said “why do you need a battery for the phone since you are purchasing another to use”. My response “I spent $300 for this piece of crap phone I no longer want to mess with. If I spent $300 for something I don’t want to use, I want a battery in it that works. It’s MY $300. Give me the battery!” I got the battery by physically taking the defective one out, handing it to the lady and saying “Here … Trade me … NOW!”. Another problem I had with this phone was the screen freezing. Beware when loading facebook at which time I lost ALL my contacts (replaced by facebook contacts), something to do with sync. Here’s how customer service handled when they realized Metro Navigator did NOT work on this phone (any LG Optimus Smart Phone). They offered me a replacement. When they transferred all my data onto the phone, before they handed me the different one I chose (of equal value), they asked me for another $300. Very insulting. No, I walked out with the Optimus … used google navigation instead. 5th visit to service center I walked out with a ZTE slider ($117). LG Optimus is now on a shelf next to a hammer. That’s what their smart phone is worth. I call it their dumb & dump it phone.

  9. Metathias Says:

    Indulge does NOT have a front facing camera. I own one. I like the phone very much despite its downfalls. Many of the applications push other phones to their needs due to excessive resolutions i believe. If your interested in excellent performance in every respect with admitedly lower resolution this is the phone for you. I would place this phones performance in the same league with the very best on the market, And once this phone gets rooted and cpu unlocked it might be able to set some records for single core cpu perfomance. Also the LTE network Metropcs is rolling out is i dare say the best yet, it does’nt have the raw bandwidth available that sprints wimax (so called 4g), but destroy all carriers thus far on Ping time and holds a signal in my experience better than sprint wimax (4g not really). The only thing i would really love to see for this phone is an extended battery because LTE does suck up alot of juice. Technicly the a 3500mah battery already exists however a proper battery covery door does not. Almost willing to engineer something myself, almost =).

  10. eshcelle Says:

    I paid all this money and I’m very mad it wasn’t worth it the batery sucks dies every five seconds doesn’t stay on long enough for me to enjoy the phone wat waste

  11. Warren Says:

    I finally broke down and bought this Samsung Indulge “smart phone’.. I hate it.. my old Samsung messager NEVER dropped a call.. I could access the internet slowly but I could do it.. 9 times out of 10 the Indulge says “no connection”.. the battery is absurd.. dying in a matter of a couple of hours.. compared with up to two days on my old messager.. I’m an attorney and need a reliable phone.. I live in Miami… so Metro has been a GREAT alternative to the high costs my apple att colleagues are using.. a lot of us use metro.. it’s just plain silly to spend more than twice as much.. for Att, verizon etc. .been there done that.. BUT.. will be headed away from metro to get a phone that WORKS! OR will simply return to my “dumb” phone that did just fine.. I hate this phone!

  12. Deneka Says:

    im completely disappointed with this phone especially since i paid so much for it. it was working ok at first but it freezes alot it cuts off on its own and recently it just started goin black and now im having problems downloading music. i can download apps but when i try to download music it either dnt download or it download and dnt let me play the music it says its not supported on this file or sum like that anyway can someone plz help me with this problem pleeeease!!!

  13. debra robinson Says:

    I bought this Galaxy Indulge in Oct.2011. At first it worked very well, until Jan.2012. I have reloaded it three times and taken it back to the authorized dealer four times, each time it will work from 2-6 hours. I have a warrenty on this phone and it has never been wet or dropped. I’m very dissappointed in Metro, thier return policy sucks, Does anyone know where to reach a reliable number where I may actually get some action. Been with Metro for 5 years and this is the first time I have had any problems, but then I never had phone problems. Thinking seriously about going to Boost or another company.

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