Compared to many of today’s handsets—including other Galaxy S phones—the Epic 4G feels somewhat bulky and heavy. But this is a necessary evil to accommodate the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Epic 4G’s footprint is a reasonable 4.9 x 2.5 inches, but it is a chunky 0.6 inches thick. And at 5.47 ounces, it’s certainly not the lightest phone available. As a point of comparison, the Captivate is 0.39 inches thick and weighs 4.5 ounces.
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On the right side of the unit are the power button and camera button. The camera button launches the Camera app, or shoots a picture if the Camera app is already running. The left side of the handset is where you’ll find the volume rocker button. On the top of the unit are the headset jack and the Micro USB plug. When you’re not using the USB port, you can pull out a small door to protect the plug from getting dinged or mucked up with pocket lint. The microphone is located on the bottom edge of the phone.
Around the back of the handset are the camera lens for the 5-megapixel camera, an LED flash, and the external speaker. The back cover comes off to provide access to the removable battery and microSD card slot.
On the front of the phone, above the LCD are the proximity sensor, light sensor, speaker, LED status light, and the lens for the VGA front-facing camera. Below the LCD are the Menu, Home, Back, and Search buttons. These four buttons are touch sensitive and momentarily light up when you touch this area or the LCD. When these buttons are not lit, the section below the LCD is pitch black and sometimes makes it difficult to find the exact button you’re looking for. As a result, we invariably touched the wrong button, until we got into the habit of touching the LCD first to light the buttons up. Unlike some other Android handsets, such as the HTC Incredible, the Epic 4G lacks a trackball, which some applications require.
From left to right: The Epic 4G's back, bottom, top, right, and left sides.
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The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is very comfortable to use and the keys are spaced far enough apart that all but the largest of fingers should have no problem pressing the intended keys. The keyboard is backlit and includes dedicated Menu, Home, Back, and Search keys, as well as an emoticon key and four-directional (arrow) keys. There’s even a set of dedicated number keys on the top row. A Fn key provides access to additional input options, such as math symbols, parentheses, punctuation, the “@” symbol, and “.com”. Typically when you use an Android device in landscape mode, the Android home screen does not auto rotate, no matter what the device’s settings are (many apps will auto rotate, however, depending on the screen’s orientation). But when you slide out the Epic 4G’s keyboard, its home screen conveniently rotates to a landscape orientation; as long as the keyboard it out, even the unlock screen appears in landscape mode.