Epic 4G: problems so far -- and a few solutions

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Epic 4G: problems so far -- and a few solutions
Since the Epic 4G launched on Sprint August 31, we've been receiving notes from owners on various issues they've experienced with the phone. We've heard about and experienced problems with the supposedly-fixed GPS, to surprisingly slow 3G uploads (fix on the way), to odd issues with battery drain and glitchy market install problems. Now that we're facing the end of Sprint's 30-day return period, we're wondering if Sprint and Samsung have shown enough of a commitment to resolving any problems to keep owners and potential buyers hanging on. Check after the break for a few of the issues we've found and what can be done about them, and let us know in our poll how optimistic you are about the future of this otherwise well-received device.%Poll-53527%

Problem: GPS
Description: The most commonly complained about GPS issues on the Epic 4G seem to center around three things: It's ability to lock onto satellites, even in favorable conditions, constantly reporting accuracy of 30m by satellite at all times no matter what accuracy it should be indicating, and a complete inability to use satellite GPS or provide accurate location information after being on fora few hours. As a result, even with "use network assistance" checked as recommended by the manufacturer, it either gives inaccurate location information that throws off key apps like navigation or is unable to get report its location at all.

Workaround: A reset of the device clears up the issue for a few hours, varying from 4-8 at times depending on conditions. The problem seems to be caused by caching GPS data, so posters from AndroidForums and elsewhere have come up with a workaround to force it to update that information on each request as indicated below. This seems to provide the desired affect of getting a GPS lock without rebooting constantly, but has the downsides of slowing down initial requests and not being able to pull results when outside network range.

  • Enter "*#1472365#" in the dialer (no quotes)
  • Select Setup>Position Mode>Starting Mode
  • Change the option from "Hot Start" to "Cold Start"
We've contacted Samsung about this issue, so far they have not acknowledged to us that they've been able to recreate it, and stated that turning on network assisted GPS is a sufficient fix to provide accurate information. Unfortunately in our experience that doesn't do much as described above -- we're eagerly waiting to see how this is dealt with on the Epic as well as the other Galaxy S phones exhibiting GPS issues, any Captivate owners want to chime in on how it's going?

Problem: 3G upload speeds
Description: When uploading large files or testing with apps like SpeedTest, upload speeds average a max of about 150 kilobits per second, well below other 3G devices on Sprint's network tested at the same time and location, like the EVO, MiFi or EV-DO modems. Casual browsing does not appear to be consistently affected, however some users have reported unusually inconsistent data speeds even while browsing the web. Speed are unaffected over WiFi, and 4G speeds report higher, although some have indicated those appear to be capped as well. We've tested several units and have been unable to reahc a higher speed on any of them, however an Epic tethered to a MiFi or computer connected to Sprint 3G showed no problem reaching higher speeds. In forum posts, a few users have reported isolated incidents of reaching higher speeds, but the 150kbps limit is prevalent across devices and locations, causing issues with trying to use video chat or sending email attachments.

Workaround: None. After reaching out to Samsung and Sprint on this issue, the company sent us this response:
"We have heard reports of users experiencing less-than-expected 3G upload speeds with their Samsung Epic 4G. After extensive investigation, Sprint and Samsung have identified an enhancement that may improve upload speeds on the Epic. This fix will be made available in the next maintenance release. It's important to note that network speeds are impacted by many factors when using commercially-available speed test applications and test results may or may not be true indicator of the actual network performance."
A post today on the Sprint support forums indicates the firmware update should arrive tomorrow and roll out to users over the next several days, so all that's left is waiting for it to be fixed, although we'll still be waiting to see if performance has improved enough to bring the Epic up to par with other phones in terms of web browsing and hotspot speed.

Problem: "Download unsuccessful" when installing apps from the Android Market
Description: Upon activating an existing Gmail account on the phone, trying to initiate app downloads eventually begins to fail, and the user is unable to download any apps at all. This problem does not appear to be exclusive to the Epic, or even the Galaxy S family of phones, but it is prevalent among certain users. We've experienced it on more than one device and account, including two Epics and the Verizon Fascinate. Requests on Google's support forums and elsewhere have not appeared to reveal any concrete reason why this happens or what can be done to fix it.

Workaround: Following the cache clear steps listed below (originally found here) consistently resolved the issue on our Galaxy S devices, however we have had the problem recur later. One permanent fix appears to be to create an entirely new Gmail account on the device, however for various reasons that is hardly a satisfactory solution for all, but being unable to install apps makes the phone practically useless.

  • Go to Settings>Applications>Manage Applications
  • Press the Menu button, select Filter, then "All"
  • Go to "CheckIn Service" and select "Clear Data"
  • Go to "Download Manager" and select "Clear Data"
  • Go to "Google Apps" and select "Clear Data" (this may not be an option, if so, skip)
  • Go to Google Talk Service" and select "Clear Data"
  • Go to "Market" and select "Clear cache"
  • Turn the phone off, then back on again

Problem: Battery drain
Description: One particular source of battery drain on the Epic appears to be the cell modem on standby. After a fresh boot, when it's on battery it consistently draws power and reports up to 50% of time spent off network, even in areas with good signal coverage. It appears to be searching for signal unnecessarily and drianing the battery while left on standby.

Workaround: Flipping the phone into airplane mode and then back to normal at any point after turning it on clears up the reported time off of network and appears to lower the drain on the battery enabling it ot last longer on standby, but this has to be done every time the phone is turned on.

We've been in contact with Samsung and Sprint regarding these issues but so far have only received direct confiration regarding upload speeds. These aren't the only things to nitpick either, there's a more complete list on the Sprint forums here. The positives we've noted about the Epic 4G in our review are still present but many users look at these, plus a history of unresolved issues with the Moment and worry about the phone's future. We'll let you know what information we get from the carrier and manufacturer about any more fixes on the way, but for now let us know, will you keep holding on or look for bluer skies elsewhere?
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