Samsung retreads some well-worn turf with the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G for T-Mobile, a Galaxy S phone by design, but with much more power under the hood than the original, thanks to its 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread OS.
Similar to other Galaxy S phones, the Blaze 4G packs a strong 5-megapixel camera and a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen. In good news for consumers, smartphones on contract are becoming simultaneously cheaper and more powerful, like this Blaze, which comes in at $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card--the Samsung Vibrant cost $199.99 in 2010. The end result is a satisfying upper-middle-class handset capable of riding T-Mobile's fastest HSPA+ 42 network.
One glance tells you all you need to know about the Blaze 4G's lineage as a Galaxy S series phone. As with other phones in that family, like T-Mobile's original Samsung Vibrant and even the Samsung Focus Windows phone for AT&T, the Blaze 4G is all-black with corners much rounder than the Samsung Galaxy S II's barely rounded rectangle. This Blaze is true to its forebears with a thicker top and more contoured back. The back, incidentally, is fairly smooth and covered with a soft-touch finish. It feels good in the hand, though a little stripped-down, more utilitarian than premium.
Compared with the recent rash of jumbo phones, the Blaze 4G is more toned-down, measuring 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide and 0.44 inch deep. At 4.5 ounces, it feels neither too light nor too heavy for its size. While it comes closer to fitting into my front pocket than, say, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus or a Samsung Galaxy S II, it slides into my purse and back pocket without any problems.
The screen is a comely almost-4-inch touch screen (3.97 inches, to be exact) featuring Samsung's terrific Super AMOLED display and a WVGA 480x800-pixel resolution. The screen is colorful and crisp, and bright at automatic levels. Of course, it isn't quite as sharp as the Galaxy Nexus' HD AMOLED display, but it will give you an eyeful all the same.
Samsung supplied the Blaze 4G with the customary Samsung Touch Wiz interface to ride on top of Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread, though the OS should be upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich at some point. Swype provides the virtual keyboard on this phone; if you don't like it, the Samsung keyboard is your other default alternative. Sadly, Samsung left out the standard Android keyboard.
Above the screen you'll see the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and below it is where the four touch-sensitive navigation buttons sit for calling up the menu, going home, going back, and searching.
Flip the phone over to get a look at the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash. Together, they can shoot 720p HD video. The left spine is where you'll find the volume rocker; the 3.5mm headset jack is up top, and the Micro-USB port is on the bottom. The phone's right spine houses the power button and a miscroSD card slot that comes equipped with a 4GB card for storage right out of the box. If you need more space, you can upgrade up to a 32GB card.
All Android phones come packaged with Wi-Fi, GPS, and some form of Bluetooth (3.0, in this case). You'll also always find support for text and multimedia messaging, multiple e-mail inboxes, and optionally syncing contacts with social networks.
Several Google apps and services are standard, too, like maps, search, voice search, turn-by-turn voice navigation, and YouTube. The phone also has a calculator, a calendar, a clock, a music player, and the browser. There are certain Samsung apps you'll almost always see: AllShare for media-sharing, Kies Air for desktop syncing, and the Samsung Media Hub and Social Hub.
T-Mobile likewise marks its territory with several preinstalled apps. Qik for video chats is one, but you'll also find T-Mobile TV, Netflix, Telenav for turn-by-turn directions, Yelp, and the Polaris Office productivity app. Slacker, Zinio, and Lookout Security also make an appearance.
You'll find even more features if you glance at the settings. T-Mobile provides Wi-Fi calling, which lets you place calls over a Wi-Fi network rather than its voice network, should you choose (it deducts minutes from your plan, unless you add Wi-Fi calling to your plan). There are some mostly great motion options that let you do things like turn over the phone to mute a call. Enabling the hot-spot feature will supply a network connection for up to eight other connected devices. Thanks to the battery, the Blaze 4G is NFC-ready (it's built in).