Samsung Captivate

Remember the Captivate? It’s AT&T’s slightly modified version of Samsung’s Android-powered superphone, the Galaxy S. We already knew about the 4.0″ Super AMOLED display, the 1Ghz processor, and all the other specs. We even went hands on! What we didn’t have: a launch date or a price……

AT&T revealed on Thursday that it will offer the Captivate in the coming months, but it didn’t provide a specific date or pricing. This announcement follows Samsung’s worldwide launch of the Galaxy S i9000 and shows that the company isn’t limiting the Galaxy S to just one type of design.

As you can see from the photo, the Captivate has more of a hard-edged design than the i9000 has,  but it still rocks a beautiful 4-inch Super AMOLED touch screen. Some of the benefits of Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology are that it allows for thinner displays, improved touch sensitivity, and better visibility in bright environments, which we saw when we checked out the Super AMOLED screen on the Samsung Wave. The Captivate also has a six-axis sensor, built-in accelerometer, a gyroscope, and has  pinch-to-zoom support.

I like the Captivate’s body more than its Galaxy S cousin, the Vibrant on T-Mobile. Like all the Galaxy S phones, the Captivate has a 4-inch, Super AMOLED touch screen, a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor, and a 5-megapixel camera on the back. The Captivate has a slightly textured back and a slanted top and bottom, giving it a look that sets it apart from blander, more evenly rounded slabs.

Like all the Galaxy S phones, the Captivate’s software is a mixture of Android 2.1, Samsung’s TouchWiz add-ons, and AT&T’s picks – and that’s where we have problems. For one thing, AT&T blocked the phone from installing applications from anywhere other than the Android Market. That infuriates geeks who want control over their phones.

AT&T’s built-in software is also more redundant and more irritating than other carrier’s builds. AT&T has an obsession with installing multiple mapping systems. Its Mobile Video streaming client works via a WAP page; it’s one of the ugliest interfaces I’ve ever seen. AT&T Music is clumsy, and Mobile Banking doesn’t work for most people. At least there’s MobiTV, a reliable streaming TV app. But here’s a sound bite for you: AT&T’s apps make Verizon’s apps look like Apple’s apps.

With such a beautiful screen and Samsung’s 1GHz Hummingbird application processor to keep things moving, it’s no surprise that multimedia will play a key role on the Captivate.

In addition to having a 5-megapixel camera with HD video recording,  the phone has 16GB of onboard storage (expandable up to 32GB) and 3D surround sound. Samsung will preload the smartphone with its Media Hub that lets you access video and e-book content from “some of the biggest names in entertainment,” but it hasn’t disclosed details about content providers yet.

The Captivate will provide a strong iPhone competitor on AT&T, but I’m wondering about its success because AT&T is so committed – almost pathologically committed – to the iPhone. Unlike Verizon and Sprint, AT&T has no strong narrative around why you would want an Android phone, and its crippling and bloatware show that AT&T is more than a little uncomfortable with Android’s strengths.

The Captivate will ship running Android 2.1 and features a new and improved version of TouchWiz interface that includes widgets for Samsung’s Social Hub feature where you can see your contacts’ latest updates (very similar to HTC’s Friend Stream) and favorite contacts. The main menu of applications is also spread out across several panels that you can swipe from side-to-side instead of vertically like current Android phones. Its other goodies include 3G support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and a full HTML Web browser.

AT&T’s rendition of Samsung’s global Galaxy S line of high-end Android phones — will be available starting Sunday, July 18 for $199 on contract with no rebate required. That pricing is more or less what we’d expected considering that T-Mobile priced the Vibrant the same way — and if rumors of T-Mobile’s launch date bump are true, the Captivate won’t be the first kid on the block. Still, all four US nationals are getting this thing in July, which is an extremely impressive Android coup for the boys and girls over at Sammy. Stay tuned for a review just as soon as we can make it happen.


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