AT&T's portfolio of 4G QWERTY smartphones was looking fairly thin before it added the Samsung Captivate Glide. Sure, the phone runs on the carrier's HSPA+ 21 network rather than the 4G LTE network that AT&T is rolling out, but speeds will eclipse 3G, and it has the specs to impress. The Captivate Glide runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, features a 4-inch Super AMOLED display, a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and 720p HD video. It also has a reasonable $149.99 price tag.
However, in order to keep the cost from climbing, Samsung did have to compromise on the phone's build quality. Consequently, its looks--while utilitarian--are hardly premium, a shame considering that the phone has quite a bit to appeal to shoppers seeking a top-tier smartphone.
The Captivate Glide is an all-black phone with rounded corners and straight sides, top, and bottom. A muted gray plastic band encircles the periphery and there's a metal accent surrounding the camera lens on the back of the phone. Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Yes, Samsung has a habit of taking a successful design and running with it, over and over and over again. The Captivate Glide fits right into Samsung's family of Android-driven Galaxy smartphones. Measuring 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, it looks like a slightly smaller version of the Galaxy S II, with a slide-out keyboard and the plastic, nubbly backing of the budget Exhibit II 4G. On one hand, you know what you're getting with a Samsung phone of this type. On the other hand, familiarity can also breed boredom, especially when the phone's signature physical traits could handle a little improvement.
Not that the Captivate Glide is an unattractive device--it looks just fine. However, it does suffer from the same impressions of lightness, plasticky feel, and cheap build quality that CNET editors have long noted in many other Samsung models. While I assume that the textured plastic backing was added to improve grippiness, the phone kept slipping out of my hands, and I sometimes wound up fumbling to slide it open. I'd have preferred a coarser texture or more tactile material on the battery cover instead. The slide-out keyboard does add weight (5.2 ounces total) and thickness, which helps mitigate the phone's otherwise flimsier feel.
Luckily, Samsung does more than a few things right, and its Super AMOLED screens are one of them. The Captivate Glide has a beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED display with a WVGA resolution (800x480 pixels) and support for 16 million colors. Colors look bright and saturated, edges look crisp and sharp, and text is very readable.
The handset runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with Samsung's typical TouchWiz interface laid on top. There are seven customizable home screens you can quickly zoom through. You can also resize many widgets, easily access system settings from the notifications menu, and use a pinch motion on the home screens to see them as thumbnails in an overview.
Above the display is a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. Below it are the four now-typical touch-sensitive buttons for opening the menu, going home, going back, and launching search. On the right spine is the power button. On the left, you'll see the volume rocker. The 3.5 millimeter headset jack and Micro-USB charging port are up top (the latter is covered with a sliding door), and on the back there's the 8-megapixel camera lens with flash. Behind the back cover there's the microSD card slot, which takes up to 32GB in external storage.
Slide over the phone face to get your hands on the spacious four-row QWERTY keyboard. I really like the light-blue accent color on the backlit keys, and the square shape of the keys themselves, which can comfortably accommodate a fingertip. While fully separated, the buttons sadly have a common issue of being too flat, in this case almost flush with the surface. The limited tactile feedback of these buttons makes typing slower and far less satisfying than other keyboards in which the buttons rise higher from the surface. I was able to accurately compose e-mails and texts, but wouldn't be able to discern most keys by feel alone.
There are some nice additions to the keyboard as well, like the four navigation buttons flanking the letter keys, two on each side. The presence of these navigation buttons makes the keyboard a little more compact than it would otherwise be, but the slightly shorter configuration happens to better fit my smaller hands. There's also a dedicated microphone button for launching voice actions, plus functions for www. and .com shortcuts, navigation arrows, emoticons, and the ability to silence the phone.
An Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone, the Captivate Glide excels at communication. It supports multiple e-mail accounts, including Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, and other Web mail accounts, either in separate or combined inboxes. There's text and multimedia messaging, as well as Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi direct, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and hooks into multiple social networks, including Samsung's own Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In social hubs. The device also has settings for tethering, VPN, and hot-spot support for up to five devices (3G speeds only).
Google services include Gmail, Maps, Navigation (with turn-by-turn voice directions), Google Books, Search, Places, Talk, Voice Search, and YouTube.
There are a number of apps that come preloaded on the Captivate Glide. Samsung's All Share app helps share and stream content on DLNA-compatible devices. There's also Samsung's Social Hub and Media Hub, and a nicely designed voice recorder. AT&T makes its code-scanner app ready, along with AT&T FamilyMap and Navigator with turn-by-turn directions (it costs $9.99 for a monthly pass and $2.99 for the day pass.) AT&T also has its collection of featured apps, streaming and downloadable TV content through U-verse (it comes with a $9.99 monthly fee after a free seven-day trial).