MetroPCS may be the nation's fifth-largest carrier, but it plays in its own league. That's a fact I can appreciate when comparing its no-contract, 4G LTE phones to those on Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint (T-Mobile has 4G, but not yet the LTE standard.) The phones will typically have more modest features, and the network won't be as zippy.
So with that in mind, the Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G is a nice addition to the carrier's lineup. It's much more eye-catching than the bland-looking LG Connect 4G, the second new handset that Metro announced at CES this year, and the specs are bountiful enough to keep your interest--and keep the price to a sensible $199.99, after a $50 mail-in rebate. Now all you have to decide is if the network has enough muscle for your mayhem.
The Galaxy Attain 4G will be available in the coming weeks.
With a silver rim, sides, and backing to offset the glossy black face, the Galaxy Attain 4G is a pretty good-looking phone. It comes in at some fairly typical standards, at about 4.5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick, but unless you're obsessed with thinness, its dimensions won't get in your way. I was able to slip it into the back pocket of my favorite jeans, and hold it comfortably to my ear. It weighs in at about 4.5 ounces.
Speaking of screen size, the Galaxy Attain 4G has a 3.5-inch LCD touch display with an HVGA display (that's 320x480 pixels, if you're counting.) It looks bright and colorful thanks to the darker background and brighter icons, but will fade in direct sunlight.
As with the vast majority of handsets announced at CES this January, the Galaxy Attain 4G features Android 2.3 Gingerbread as its operating system. Samsung's TouchWiz interface rides on top, offering Samsung's familiar take on Android. There's the one-touch access to system settings from the pull-down menu, for instance, the overview screen you get by pinching any of the seven customizable home screens, and the look and feel of the app tray.
Below the display, Samsung has added four physical buttons to assist with navigation--they map to the usual Menu, Home, Back, and Search functions. Most handsets opt for the touch-sensitive route instead, but I must admit that I like the responsiveness and feel of these backlit buttons.
Like so many smartphones these days, I'm glad to see that the Galaxy Attain 4G has two cameras, a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing lens and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that's situated above the display. There's a physical camera button on the right spine, which I really like. Press and hold it to wake the camera app.
As for the rest of the externals, there's a Micro-USB charging port on the bottom, the volume rocker on the left spine, and a 3.5 millimeter headset jack on top. Next to that is the power button, which is about the same size and shape. Beneath the silvery, dimpled back cover is access to the microSD card slot. It'll take up to 32GB in external memory, but the phone starts you off with 2GB already inserted.
An Android phone, the Galaxy Attain 4G has the standard set of tricks, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and voice search. There's an almost-unlimited address book and social networking integration, along with communication staples like e-mail, text and multimedia messaging, and speakerphone. There's also access to Google's vast web of online services, including Google Music and YouTube.
One difference is that there's no hot-spot support with MetroPCS, since that's usually a feature that tacks on an extra $20-to-$30 per month, and Metro is all about offering the unlimited bundle.
In addition to the usual bagful of Google apps, you'll find things like the Swype virtual keyboard that's loaded by default (you can switch keyboards, though.) Between Samsung and MetroPCS, there's a heap of other preinstalled programs, like Samsung's AllShare app for sharing media with DLNA-compatible devices; social-networking apps; a bevy of MetroPCS apps for managing your account; Rhapsody music, and some productivity titles. Unfortunately, you won't be able to uninstall any apps that crowd you, but you can download anything else your heart desires from the Android Market.
Let's just get this out of the way--the worst part of the camera software on the Galaxy Attain 4G is the fact that it's stuck in landscape mode. The orientation won't stop you from taking portrait shots, but the controls don't follow you, and you'll be forced to view your vertical shot in a horizontal mode. It's inconvenient and distracting, to say the least.