"Lives up to the hype"4.5 starson by Scott Gardener
Pros: Bleeding edge features, slick interface, smooth functioning with plenty of processing power for complex tasks
Cons: Minimal: slight learning curve, some promised hardware elements not available (U.S.)
Summary: My review applies to the Verizon model, in black. Verizon bumped their delivery date a week earlier than originally announced, which is welcome for me, since it puts the phone in my hands in time for A-Kon, an Anime convention with some 20,000 fellow geeks and techies in attendance. Choice of carriers admittedly impacts experience, not only in terms of quality of connections but also some bundled features. In my case, Verizon's proprietary backup assistant significantly streamlined the transition process, and I soon found my new phone downloading automatically all my apps and information, thus rendering unnecessary a significant portion of my handwritten transition process checklist--it's nice to be reminded that it's 2013, and Windows 98 is dead and buried.
I was impressed. I expected to be, given all the attention this phone has gotten. But I also had read about some of the gripes: allegations of a cheap outer casing, steep learning curve, and bloatware hogging a significant portion of the internal memory. One gripe was accurate: only a 16GB model was available, and the Octa-core processor was replaced with a less exotic four core CPU--though I learned that this was less a loss than I originally thought, since the eight core CPU was really more a battery-saving feature that only uses four cores at a time, and my own phone's four core unit was actually marginally faster. I found many of the other criticisms reaching and exaggerated. The phone feels sturdy, and the outer casing pretty solid. The patterned black trim and metallic frame does not look or feel cheap to me. I also found the learning curve less steep than expected; granted, I was going from Android 2.3 to 4.2. Some of the preinstalled widgets hogged a lot of screen real estate, but they could all be taken down and replaced with the icons and widgets the phone channeled through the cloud aether from my old phone's backups.
The bundled software including bloatware takes up about half the internal memory, leaving 8GB free. I added a 32GB SD card, though I'll probably swap it out for a 64. I was pleased how accessible the back panel was; my last phone buried the SD card in a way that the battery had to come out first. I'm well aware that other phones including the iPhone aren't upgradable. I do wish phones with 32 or 64 GB were available in the U.S.; the time is right for 128 GB mobile devices, though cloud storage and improving bandwidth may soon render the issue moot.
Camera and camcorder functions were streamlined, and I found it easy to point-and-shoot, with all of the legendary photo modes quietly tucked away when just wanting to grab a moment. I'm still early in trying out camera and video. I did test film a fireworks show last night and found night vision limited, with colors faded, particularly green and red. But, filming fireworks from a phone in default automatic mode (rather than the night mode I found shortly afterwards) is possible.
I'll avoid rehashing the specs or general features, as there's already been plenty of general talk about this phone. But, I felt it important to say that so far, it's living up to the high expectations, and that most of the drawbacks described are a bit reaching. It's not hard to use for someone already familiar with Android phones, once one gets past the first few minutes of learning the changes.