August 31 2010|05.50 AM UTC

Erik Chang

Samsung Epic 4G vs Fascinate, Vibrant, & Captivate: Total Cost of Ownership

Category: WirelessTags: , , , , , , , ,


The Sprint Epic 4G, a Samsung Galaxy S series phone, is being released today. If you haven’t heard of a Galaxy S phone before, you will soon hear more about them. For the U.S. carriers, there are four different variants of the Galaxy S from each of the carriers: Sprint Epic 4G, Verizon Fascinate, T-Mobile Vibrant, and AT&T Captivate.

Since their initial release 45 days ago, there has been over a million units sold in the U.S., and only for the two previously released smartphones: T-Mobile’s Vibrant and AT&T’s Captivate.

If you’re interested in grabbing one of the current leading Android-powered smartphone, and you’re mulling over which device to get from which carrier, have no fear, BillShrink is here to help you. Check out our total cost of ownership and feature comparison graphic below. It’ll help you figure out which cell phone and which cell phone plan may work best for you!

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Samsung Epic 4G vs Fascinate, Vibrant, & Captivate: Total Cost of Ownership

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Editor’s Note:

Because we couldn’t fit everything in the graphics above, Shrinkage readers will just have to make due with my poorly written commentary below. I’ll update this if any new information emerge for the as-of-yet unreleased Samsung Fascinate.

Carrier Cell Phone Plan Notes & Tidbits:

Each of the carriers will offer different features and options for their cell phone plan, the most distinguish of them being Sprint and Verizon, which allows you to have the option of making your Epic 4G or Fascinate into a WiFi hub that supports up to five additional devices. You should note that this feature is not free and will cost you about an additional $30 a month (though if you feel like fiddling with the phones, rooting the phone will give you the same feature for free).

Sprint’s plan also offers unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes to any wireless carrier, so if you’re going to be using lots of mobile minutes, this is a factor you should consider. Sprint also have earlier weeknight starting time, currently at 7 PM vs. the usual 9 PM.

For this particular comparison, you’ll have to pay an additional $10 a month for 4G data, even if you’re living in an area without 4G coverage. For some people, this may be a deal breaker. You can check for Sprint’s current WiMax coverage rollout here.

For AT&T’s wireless plan, AT&T currently offers a tiered data rate add-on package that you may be familiar with. The tiered data plan is currently 200MB for $15 and 2GB for $25. If you go over your limit, the overage charge is $10 for another 1GB for those in the 2GB plan, and $15 for another 200MB for those in the 200MB plan (yeah real price friendly structure right there).

T-Mobile’s wireless plan may seem no frills and complete, but many new customers will actually be better off if they buy the phone separate from contract at full price, then go with the Even More Plus plan of their choice. As mentioned by Alex in the comments below, the net savings will be a good $180. Of course, the subsidized plan option is for those that may not be able to immediately purchase the Samsung Vibrant at ful cost. We’d like to remind Shrinkage readers that, in the interest of sound financial decisions, saving up the money to buy the Vibrant at full price and going with T-Mobile’s non-contracted plan may be the better choice.

Samsung Galaxy S Variant Notes & Tidbits:

The original Samsung Galaxy S i9000 international version has been selling like hot pancake since its release back in June, 2010 in Singapore, and there’s little surprise that the Galaxy S series of phones have sold over a million units since their recent launch in the U.S.

The Fascinate’s release date is still pending, but word is it’ll be available around October of this year. No doubt Verizon has made arrangement with Motorola in order to avoid the Fascinate cannibalizing Droid X and Droid 2′s sales.

Each of the Galaxy S variants comes equipped with Samsung’s powerful 1Ghz Hummingbird processor, based on the 45nm ARM Cortex A8 architecture (designed jointly with Intrinsity). If this all sounds vaguely familiar, its because the same architecture/core can be found in Apple’s iPad and iPhone 4. Unlike the iPad and iPhone 4, however, the Galaxy S series of phones have a more powerful graphics processing unit with the PowerVR SGX 540.

Variants of the Galaxy S that immediately stands out is the newly released Epic 4G on Sprint. The Epic 4G has a slide-out keyboard, a front-facing camera, and a sightly bigger/thicker footprint than its Galaxy S brothers. Like the Fascinate and as mentioned above, the Epic 4G supports WiFi hub capability of up to five devices. Both these devices have significantly less internal memory than the Vibrant or Captivate, which T-Mobile and AT&T has positioned as a media/entertainment phone, and both these phones offer camera flash while the Vibrant and Captivate does not.

In the entertainment side, T-Mobile’s Vibrant comes included with a 2GB MicroSD card which includes a full-length version of Avatar and The Sims 3 Collector Edition. Other variants are light on extra bonus applications, but that’s not too much of a big deal as you’ll have access to the same Android Market with about 100,000 apps (at time of writing).

All of the phones above are being shipped with Android 2.1 Eclair, with 2.2 Froyo support coming soon. For the variants without a full QWERTY keyboard such as the Epic 4G, you’ll have access to Swype, which is pre-installed on all Galaxy S phones. Swype allows a user to enter a word by sliding a finger from letter to letter on the touchscreen keyboard, lifting only between words. Once you’re used to Swype’s functionality, typing speed on a touchscreen keyboard can increase significantly (though for some people this isn’t a particular strong selling point).

If you’re interested in any of the phones above, we highly recommend you visit any of the retail location just to get a feel for the phone, or bum one from a friend that has already purchased the Vibrant or the Captivate. The Galaxy S series of phones are some of the best Android phones on the market currently, and they are a strong contender to Apple’s iPhone 4.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

James August 31, 2010 at 6:28 am

I’ve been waiting for the Epic 4G for awhile now. On another note, Amazon has the device for $200, though I’m aware that you’re posting the retail price if purchased from Sprint. Awesome comparison!

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@bigkeivan August 31, 2010 at 6:29 am

The t-mobile min plan information is incorrect. There are two additional minimum plan. You can opt out of text messaging for 69.99 or you can have stand alone data for 39.99

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BillShrink Guy August 31, 2010 at 6:49 am

Keivan, we with absolute minimum voice plan that includes a data plan, after all, its a smartphone. Unfortunately you’ll also need the unlimited text bundle if you want unlimited data. Sprint also has a similar data-only plan, but again, we’re looking at voice plans as the average users will in fact want minutes (though of course a data-only plan + Google Voice can work well enough for people in certain region too).

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Brandon August 31, 2010 at 9:55 am

You don’t really NEED the unlimited text with the unlimited data. Any customer care rep should able to move you to a $69.99 plan that does not include text messages.

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Epell August 31, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Brandon is right. Customer can buy voice only plan and add smartphone data service as an additional service.

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Jordan September 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I believe it’s additionally incorrect since it’s quoting the subsidized plan for 2 years. The unsubsidized plan for 2 years should be cheaper after two years.

Andrew August 31, 2010 at 6:42 am

AT&T is not including a 2GB MicroSD – unless this is new. I got mine on day one, the box was sealed, and there is no mention of a 2GB MicroSD.

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BillShrink Guy August 31, 2010 at 6:51 am

Andrew, thanks for the notice. I’ll double check but I think you may be right there… (might have gotten it mixed up with the Vibrant which includes a 2GB MicroSD with Avatar and The Sims 3 on it).

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Alex August 31, 2010 at 7:23 am

I think a better option to decrease the 2 year cost of T-Mobile’s Samsung Vibrant would be to use the Even More Plus plans.

Minimum EM+ Plan
$60 per month (500 mins, unlimited text and web)
$500 phone
$35 activation fee
TOTAL (for 2 years): $1,975

Maximum EM+ Plan
$80 per month (unlimited mins, text, and web)
$500 phone
$35 activation fee
TOTAL (for 2 years): $2,455

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Jeremy August 31, 2010 at 8:36 am

Yup, with just one line and a phone that REQ web, even more plus is always the way to go.

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BillShrink Guy August 31, 2010 at 9:41 am

Funny how its cheaper if you pay upfront for the full cost of the phone, huh? Unfortunately we have to compare plan to plan to make the rates more fair, but I’ll definitely have Erik make a note of it in the editorial comment. Thanks for the comment!

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PumaMan September 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

If you REALLY want to get frugal, then sign up for the two year agreement & save $300 off of the phone, then immediately cancel and pay the $200 cancellation fee. That saves you $100…then just jailbreak it and switch carriers or wait 60 days (who could do that?) and resign up with T-Mobile under the $60 per month. I guess you could do the same with the captivate, jailbreak and go to T-Mobile…not sure about that. God knows I’m not doing any of this!

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Andrew Brodsky August 31, 2010 at 8:23 am

I am biased being an employee of Sprint, but it is hard to really compare the Epic and the Vibrant. The Epic has a front facing camera, LED flash, mobile hotspot, full QWERTY keyboard, and 4G speed for only $50 more!

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Brandon August 31, 2010 at 10:02 am

Oh no! 4g speed that actually performs slower and with much higher pings than hspa+ on T-Mobile’s 3g :scared:. Oh and don’t forget the battery drain and $10mo 4g tax!

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Ryan November 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Sprint 4g is the shizz! In my area anyways.10 dollars is nothing nowadays anyways so why do people complain? You get what you pay for….

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RebDovid August 31, 2010 at 10:40 am

YMMV, but for some, the QWERTY keyboard may be a minus. It also makes the Epic somewhat bulkier than the Vibrant/Captivate.

I like the idea of a front-facing camera. I wonder, however, how much use one will get from it during the life of the phone.

Having an LED flash in reserve is desirable, but, again, I wonder how much use it will get. My experience with even high-quality digital non-slr cameras leads me to suppress flash whenever possible (except outside for fill-in).

As noted in main text, rooting provides other Galaxy versions with mobile hotspot capabilities.

4G speed is desirable, but I’d like to know how much of a difference it will make in practice.

This is not to dis the Epic. Only to say that there are good reasons for and against it, even without considering carriers.

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danielson August 31, 2010 at 8:44 am

The maximum ATT cost is more than that. To say that only 2GB a month is the max is just plain wrong..

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BillShrink Guy August 31, 2010 at 9:20 am

We went with the maximum available data plan for a new AT&T customer. Of course, if you go over your bandwidth limit you can be charged another 2GB of data for the month, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing the addon plan offered specifically by the carrier.

Edit: Actually I just remembered that the additional data per month cost varies depending on which tiered rate you’re on. If you’re on the 2GB plan, an additional 1GB will cost you another $10 a month, and so on.

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Computer Guy September 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Okay guys here is what I did. I got my Captivate for .01 on Amazon they had it for a penny for like 4 or 5 days. On th2 28th day into service I called AT&T to cancel. They asked me why I was cancelling. I said I wanted unlimited $30 plan like the old Iphone plans that were grandfathered. The rep said he could not do it. I told him if you add this to my account I will stay with AT&T. He contacted another rep and within 5 minutes it was added to my account.

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danielson August 31, 2010 at 8:52 am

Also, you should mention that sprint’s 69.99 plan has unlimited mobile minutes, which really drives a whole new level of value at that price point…

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BillShrink Guy August 31, 2010 at 9:16 am

Very true. The unlimited mobile minutes to ANY network is a definitely an advantage those looking for a new plan should consider. Sprint’s plan also has earlier night minutes (starting at 7 PM).

Having said that, people should note that while WiMax (4G) is hot, its availability is still limited and you’re required to pay the extra $10 for 4G even if you don’t have access to 4G speed in your area.

P.S. Erik’s writing out some commentary on each of the phones and carrier plans as we speak, just to add more information to the graphic and give some better context.

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rolandog August 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Do you, by any chance, know how much the phone costs when unlocked?

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Samsung Galaxy S International Owner September 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

You poor poor Americans… I bought this phone for $750 without any blood sucking plans.

If you argue that I would need a plan to use this phone, well.. I pay $25/mnth for unlimited text messages to my family, a 3GB 1Mbps 3G connection, 500 minutes of calls and $0.02 per minute call right after and unlimited receiving of text messages from anyone. No contract! Means i can cancel and hop to other providers anytime without a penalty.

I really don’t understand how you Americans are okay with your telcos being a vampire and no one does anything about it.

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Massimo September 1, 2010 at 7:53 am

Samsung Galaxy S International Owner, which country are you in? I am in the US but of Italian origins, and I can’t get my head around these 2-year plans.

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PumaMan September 1, 2010 at 6:27 pm

$750??? There’s no blood left to suck out of you after paying that much!!

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Anonymous September 13, 2010 at 1:33 am

US$750 is way too much for a Galaxy S-series phone. Even if it’s unlocked, that’s still a bit too much; I got my Vibrant (T-Mo USA variant) here in the US for US$500 and I’m off contract, with the Even More Plus plan (unlimited calls, texts, and data for US$80). Off contract, you have to pay full price for a phone, but you have the option of making payments on it, and your payments will simply be added to your monthly bill until it’s paid off. Plus I can always unlock my Vibrant if I need to (e.g. if I go outside the US). So I don’t have to put up with any “blood sucking plans” (thank God!). I agree, tho; our telcos do tend to be “vampires” and not enough is being done about it.
PEACE

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Anonymous December 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm

The reason American consumers, as a group, seem to prefer the sort of plan wherein the carrier subsidizes their phones is that many Americans don’t have the discipline to save enough money for a quality smartphone. If we were more fiscally responsible, we’d pay cash for cellphones, cars, and our government instead of borrowing to the hilt.
Another reason our cell plans are more expensive is that we are geographically dispersed, which means carriers need to maintain a more expansive network to serve the same number of people vs. other nations. This also affects our wired internet data costs.
For myself, I would prefer a european style plan where I pay for the phone and service separately. Unfortunately the only major provider to operate such a network is T-Mobile, and T-Mobile has poor coverage where I live.

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Pride13 September 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Something for you to check on regarding wifi hot spot capability:

I saw an Android froyo 2.2 review and it noted that a new feature includes the ability for the Vibrant to be a wifi hotspot device without having to root/jailbreak/whatever the phone. Is that something you can confirm?

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Karla September 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I bought the Vibrant on Friday. I have tech shield in my attic, making cell service in my house,near impossible. I was able to get about 90% dependability with my BB 8900 on UMA. When purchasing the Vibrant, I explained my issues with the sales girl, who seemed to understand, and she said the Vibrant would receive cell service over WIFI, but she was wrong. After 2 calls to TMO, I”ve just learned that the BB’s are the only UMA enabled phones that TMO carries. I love this new phone, but I really need a cell phone that will work in my house. Does anyone one have any suggestions? I’ve only had it a few days, so I can take it back, but should I just go with another BB or is there something at one of the other cell companies that will work for me? I’m open for suggestions.

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Jon September 13, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I’m in the same boat. Right now, there are no plans for any of the android phones to be UMA capable. Other carriers (Sprint and AT&T now, Verizon supposedly later) offer what are called “femtocells” that plug into your home broadband internet connection and provide a tiny 3g cell that covers approximately 50-100 feet from the device. In practice, it’s very similar to the UMA “T-Mobile at Home” stuff, except you don’t have to turn on wi-fi for it to work. As much as I love TMOs customer service, their coverage is just a$$ in my area, and I’m getting really sick of dropping calls and only having access to EDGE if I’m lucky for data.
I’m torn between the Sprint and Verizon variants of the Galaxy S. Verizon’s network is better, Sprint has a keyboard and possibility of 4g rollout in the near future, plus lower fees for their plans…
Decisions Decisions…

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big bambino September 1, 2010 at 5:01 pm

so ya INTERNATIONAL which country you in, as much as I hate these lousy cell phone companies here in the states, I do enjoy the phones that somehow they have exclusivity to…

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FJ September 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm

“Sprint’s plan also offers unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes to any wireless carrier”

That is only if your phone is on Sprint’s network. If you are roaming, start the meter. You are allotted 800 minutes for voice while roaming which is plenty for most people for a 30 day billing cycle. Where I have a big problem is the 300 MB limit on data. If you are on the road, particularly in the western U.S., 300 MB is not enough, not to mention if you are able and using the mobile hotspot feature. There is no way to increase your monthly data roaming allowance of 300MB. That is why I will have to pass on the Epic, the EVO, and Sprint.

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ashwolf November 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I am on roaming all the time for Sprint because of.where I live but I don’t have to pay anything extra it says I have unlimited roaming data and talk. With the Evo

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d-bone September 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

You can still mix/match on the even more plan. How are you going to say “minimum features” and not portray actual MINIMUMS. You can surely have 500 minutes for $39.99 + no messaging + $30 web = $69.99. (you may also build this plan for yourself online). SOOOO math is more like $1679.76 + 199.99 (phone cost after MIR) = $1879.75 (act fees are capable of being waived)

Seeing as how tmobile used your service in referral (even in commercials) you should be a little bit more knowledgeable about what they offer, and how they offer it. This article should be corrected or pulled.

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Techman September 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

P.S. Your also wrong about the rom on the Epic.It is only 512mb.Only 512mb of internal storage.Please check true specs.

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BillShrink Guy September 9, 2010 at 9:05 am
Android FTW! September 8, 2010 at 2:01 am

I thought hot spot for Sprint was 8 devices?

Small note to consider IMO:

Roaming on VZW network, while being a Sprint customer is free. When its the other way around, VZW does not give it up for free lol.

GPS on VZW & AT&T is $9.99/mo if i recall correctly – Free on Sprint.

Visual Voice Mail is free on Sprint, but other carrier(s) charge, I think VZW is $7/mo, not sure about the others.

I love how the big poppas have a lot more customers, yet they are more pricey when they nickle and dime you here and there, and one of them is notorious for dropping calls all the time…

/Looks at AT&T.

@FJ – Pretty interesting, never knew roaming data had a limit. The only roaming 300mb limit I was able to find, is when you have hot spot plan or at least that’s all I could find.

http://shop.sprint.com/en/stores/popups/mobile_hotspot_popup.shtml

P.S. Great write up BillShrink!

Android FTW nevertheless-

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Dan Stoner September 10, 2010 at 10:35 am

Great info, but it’s missing one key, key comparison field: Battery life. Thanks.

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BillShrink Guy September 10, 2010 at 11:17 am

Dan, that’s a good point. We’ll try to incorporate battery life into future cell phone compare graphics.

For what its worth, battery life on each of these units are “okay.” Certainly can’t compare to the iPhone 4′s longevity, but battery life on Android powered phones depends on the type of user you are and how you optimize your various power-sapping settings.

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Atish Nischal September 14, 2010 at 3:34 am

Just to put these number in perspective, Apple sells 8M iPhones a quarter. If Samsung really manages to sell 10M Galaxy S by the end of the year, it’ll sell around 30% as many Androids as Apple sells iPhones. Now, apple might increase the iPhone sales rate, but we need to remember that the Galaxy only came out in the second quarter.
Very impressive achievement for Samsung.

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Anonymous September 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I love my samsung fascinate. I’m getting used to the swype technology and it does have minor glitches but they’re fixable

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burt October 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

If I’m reading this correctly I can purchase the Fascinate from Verizon and use t-Mobile as my carrier. Is this correct? Has anyone done this?

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Mindi Serey November 27, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Get a dog or cat that can sing opera. It’s always worked for me.

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