- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The more phones that hit the market using Google’s Android operating software, the harder it is for each offering to stand out from the black-and-silver crowd.

Samsung is the latest company trying to turn heads, hoping consumers will snatch up its new Galaxy S smart phones, which are both attractive on the surface and well-appointed under the hood.

AT&T already sells the Samsung Captivate, and T-Mobile offers the Vibrant. Two more are coming: Sprint will start selling the Epic 4G at the end of August, and Verizon plans to roll out the Fascinate this fall.

I tested the Captivate, Vibrant and Epic 4G, which all have plenty of great features in common: bright, crisp screens; 5-megapixel cameras that can also take high-definition videos; speedy 1 Ghz Hummingbird processors and Google Inc.’s easy-to-use Android operating software.

With all this and more, one of these may be the ‘droid you’re looking for.

Probably the most obvious feature on each Galaxy S phone is a sharp AMOLED touch screen that runs 4 inches diagonally and dominates the face. AMOLED screens tend to have higher color saturation than standard LCD screens, and they can be thinner. In plain English, it meant that the videos I watched looked great _ sometimes even better than on Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 4.

I was also jazzed to see that each of the phones includes Swype, a new third-party application that lets you type on virtual keyboards by simply swiping your finger around from one letter to the next. Swype alone is almost a good enough reason to get a Galaxy S phone. It’s only available on a handful of handsets so far, but given how quickly and accurately you can type with it _ much faster than pecking away one letter at a time _ I bet it will be on tons of touch-screen phones within a year.

The phones are packed with version 2.1 of Google’s Android operating software, which means you get features such as voice-recognition capabilities for dictating e-mails and instant messages and the Google Maps Navigation application for obtaining turn-by-turn directions. They’re not starting out with the latest version of Android, though, which has even more voice command options.

The phones have plenty of memory, too: The Epic 4G includes a 16 gigabyte microSD memory card, while the Captivate and Vibrant have the same amount of internal storage.

This could come in handy when Samsung opens up its forthcoming Media Hub, which will let Galaxy S users rent or purchase movies and TV shows on their phones.

Beyond all the similarities, there are plenty of things that make each Galaxy S phone unique:

_ Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile, $200 with a two-year contract and after a rebate).

Though the Vibrant’s black body with silver trim looks like an older iPhone, it distinguishes itself by being a generally solid Android phone that’s good at multitasking.

The phone is the lightest of the bunch, tipping the scales at 4.2 ounces. While its design isn’t revolutionary, it has familiar-looking rounded corners, so it fits really nicely in the palm of your hand.

The biggest issue I had with the Vibrant was its battery life. The phone is rated for up to 6.5 hours of talk time. That should be plenty for voice calls, but if, like me, you’re more interested in checking Facebook, taking photos and surfing the Web, this phone will run out of juice by late afternoon.

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