Samsung Galaxy S: It's All About Choices

Now that the proverbial dust is starting to settle around the Samsung Galaxy S and its six known variants for major US wireless networks, how does the latest smartphone stack up against its many Android rivals–and against Apple’s iPhone 4, for that matter?

It all depends on who you ask. With smartphones getting announced in such rapid-fire succession, it seems to take less time than ever for opinions to start flying. Samsung only officially launched the Galaxy last week, at a press event I attended in New York City. Granted, a lot of details had already leaked out even before the launch. Already, though, the phone is getting analyzed and compared across every conceivable dimension.

In a presentation at the start of the launch on Wednesday, J.K. Shin, president of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business, tried to keep things simple by citing three key differentiators for Samsung’s phone: screen, speed, and content. If onlookers were asked to put together the same list, they’d undoubtedly come up with all kinds of answers.

Personally, I’d keep the three factors Shin mentioned on my list, because the Galaxy S does have merits in all of these areas. But I’d also add two other factors–freedom of choice in wireless networks and smartphone form factors–and I’d place these two way above the other three.

Choice of Networks

Although Apple is widely rumored to be readying a version of the iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless, that hasn’t been confirmed at this point. For now, iPhone users in the U.S. have only one choice–AT&T–and not all of them are exactly thrilled about that.

If you just want to get any sort of Android phone as an alternative, choices are available across all major wireless networks. Even before Wednesday’s launch of the Galaxy S, Verizon offered eleven different models of Android-based phones. Even AT&T had a couple of Android models.

The Galaxy S, however, is unprecedented because it’s already set to come in different flavors for six different networks: the Sprint Epic 4G, Verizon Fascinate, AT&T Captivate, and T-Mobile Vibrant, plus still unnamed models from regional carriers US Cellular and Cellular South.

So if you decide that you do want this phone, you’ll be able to buy it from whichever carrier you prefer (whether for reasons of good coverage where you live, or anything else.)

Choice of Form Factors

Well, admittedly there are fewer options for form factors than for wireless networks with the Galaxy S. In fact, there are only two form factors – but still, that’s one more than you’d get with either the iPhone or any of the other Android phone models.

Although all of the “Big Four” carriers have made customizations to the phone, the changes from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are virtually all in the very minor areas of pre-loaded applications and SD card storage capacity.

In the basic decision adopted by those three carriers, the Galaxy lacks a hardware keyboard. On the camera side, it comes with just a five megapixel rear-facing camera.

Sprint, however, has customized the Galaxy S by adding both a slideout QWERTY keyboard and a front-facing camera for videoconferencing, along with support for 4G Wimax.

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