Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

One of the most anticipated phones of 2013 is without any doubt the Samsung Galaxy S4. After months of speculation, leaks and rumors, we finally have full visibility of this amazing new phone.

For those interested in the insides, here are the full device specs.

    • 5-inch 440ppi 1080p Super AMOLED display
    • Android 4.2.2
    • NFC
    • Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer Temperature & Humidity, and gesture sensors
    • 2GB of RAM
    • 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon 600 proc
    • 13MP rear camera (1080p video capture)
    • 2MP front camera
    • 4G LTE
    • 16GB, 32GB, expandable up to 64GB via microSD
    • 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9 mm
    • 4.6oz
    • 2600mAh battery

Specs of this phone are nothing short of amazing, but will this device stand out from the competition? Is it the best out there?

When it comes to looks, the Galaxy line of devices never stood out, mostly because many accuse Samsung of being a design copycat. It’s thin and light, just as it should be, and some say it’s pretty, but I tend to disagree. It’s made almost entirely of plastic and it has a finish that gives the appearance of some texture, but is actually smooth/glossy. Comparing the phone to an iPhone or the latest and most amazing HTC One the S4 certainly takes the 3rd position here. The amazing part is that Samsung somehow, managed to fit a bigger 5-inch display on a phone that actually got thinner and lighter from previous generations.

The buttons for lock, volume, etc are smaller and more compact than before, and they are raised just a tiny bit for easy reach. I wasn’t too comfortable using the bottom physical key during normal operation and 2 hand operation at most times was required to reposition the phone. Other design features include the 13-megapixel camera centered on the top half of the device, along with a microUSB charging port on the bottom edge of the phone.

Now for the software part is where the S4 truly shines. TouchWiz has been thoroughly revamped and includes a lot of new features on top of Android that makes this device a technological wonder and in some cases a bit gimmicky too. Let’s go in more details about the software features.

When you first power up the device you’re shown a quick tutorial of all the new things the Galaxy S4 has to offer.

Let’s start with the “Air” features. Air View, which lets you hover over content to get a preview of extended information, is the latest iteration of technology originally developed for the Galaxy Note II with its S-Pen stylus. This time, however, all you need is a finger.

At first mention it seems confusing, but Air View might end up being one of the must-have features for phones moving forward. It gives you a window into more detailed information without forcing you to click in and back out again. Air Gesture, on the other hand, lets you control your phone without touching it. Wave to answer a call, swipe to scroll up and down on a web page or through a gallery of pictures, and you can even set a locked phone to recognize when you gesture toward it to pick it up.

This stuff will come in handy when driving, eating, and cooking, though it’s important to notice that for now Air Gesture is only limited to certain apps like the photo gallery, music app, and browser.

Though Samsung’s new Smart Pause and Smart Scroll features seem equally innovative, but I’m far less impressed and often cause more frustration than they do delight.

Along with building interesting technology right into the system, Samsung has also launched a handful of dedicated apps like S Health, which monitors activity levels through the phone’s sensors, S Translator (complete with live voice translation in over 10 languages) and the Optical Reader, which converts analog text into digital text which can be translated or saved.

Of course, the same NFC-based features are still there, giving users access to S Beam and TecTiles. There’s also a new feature called AllPlay which lets you play a song from multiple Galaxy S4s at the same time, to take best advantage of all the speakers. This is one of those features that will rarely, if ever, get used, but on the off-chance that you actually want it, you’ll be grateful to have it.

The Galaxy S4 sports a 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display with it’s amazing pixel density of 440ppi. Text is crisp and clear, app icons are sharp, and it’s hard to find a reason to complain. I will say that the Galaxy S4 display isn’t quite as bright as the iPhone 5, but color accuracy seems to be pretty dead on.

When it comes to camera (one of the top, most important features of me) the S4 excels once again. There’s very little shutter lag, and images are considerably better than the S2 and S3. The camera UI has been adjusted to match that of the Galaxy Camera line, offering a carousel of easy-to-understand modes and a quick toggle for AF, ISO and white-balance settings. The camera has all kinds of fun modes like Drama Shot, Eraser and the slightly awkward DualCam mode.

The Galaxy S4 runs on the Snapdragon 600, which is the latest generation and most powerful quad-core chip out there right now. Plus, the GS4 touts 2GB of RAM, which becomes lethal combined with the Snapdragon 600. And you can tell. the Galaxy S4 is quick like lightning, in almost all respects.

Samsung beefed up the battery on the Galaxy S4, opting to use a 2600mAh battery. It has a removable cover, so you can choose to carry along an extra battery for days when you’ll be over connected. The GS4 is certainly just as power-efficient as it is powerful, along with having the added bonus of a swappable battery.

Where specs, performance and software innovation are concerned, the company is clearly making huge strides and leaving competitors (I’m looking at you iPhone) far behind. The Galaxy S4 specs and features are impressive — there’s no denying it. But I wouldn’t base my buying decision on the extra gimmicky features, as very few of them work perfectly enough for it to feel natural. The camera improvement, bigger and better screen, increased ram and processor and the much improved TouchWiz make it a worthy upgrade.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 was provided to us for review from Vodafone Malta. Thank you for your support!

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One comment

  • Good review Jes. Personally, I’ve always loved Samsung devices, but maybe because I’m the proud owner of a Galaxy Nexus. Which leads me to ask; I wonder how far this review would change once the vanilla Android version of the S4 is out!

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