Follow-on to the Samsung Galaxy S3, the most successful Android handset to date, the Galaxy S4 pits itself against renewed efforts from old rivals as well as the ever-present threat of Apple.
Given the hype surrounding the handset’s launch, however, a period that has seen months of build-up paired with countless rumors that would be the envy of any Apple launch, Samsung’s latest flagship phone looks set to face no issues in once again storming to the top of smartphone sales charts.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Key Features
Off the bat, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a truly impressive powerhouse smartphone. On paper, it’s Samsung’s most impressive handset to date, not least as it jumps from the 4.8-inch S3 to a 5-inch screen without any added bulk. At 7.9mm thick, 136.6mm tall and 69.8mm wide, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is actually 0.8mm narrower and 0.7mm slimmer than the S3. It tips the scales at just 130g – 3g less than the S3 and a genuine featherweight. Unlike past models, however, it doesn’t feel unnervingly light, instead, balancing its weight evenly and reassuringly across the handset’s full length.
What might be an issue, however, is the Samsung Galaxy S4’s less than ideal start to life. Less than a week after it was announced, Samsung backtracked on its promise to deliver the much-touted 1.6GHz Exynos 5 eight-core powered version of the phone originally pegged to hit the UK, instead sending the 1.9GHz quad-core option to British shores.
Although this revised British spec lacks the battery saving prowess promised by its eight-core sibling, it certainly has the grunt – the Samsung Galaxy S4 suffers virtually no lag, even when tackling all the heavy-duty tasks, power-hungry apps, games and multimedia content we could throw at it.
Combined with a second, 2-megapixel snapper upfront – again with 1080p Full HD video recording at 30 frames-per-second – the S4 cameras are excellent and the new Dual Shot feature lets you make use of both cameras simultaneously.
Dual Shot lets you take a photo or shoot a video with both cameras, with the front camera view appearing as a small ‘picture-in-picture’ thumbnail. It’s largely a gimmick that won’t appeal to everyone, but for those interested, Dual Shot gives the option for more personalised tourist snaps and party shots. It’s joined by Panorama, Eraser and Animated photo options that are quick and easy to set up and use, adding a new realm of possibilities.
Other hardware upgrades on the Samsung Galaxy S4 follow recent Android trends. Its 13-megapixel rear-mounted camera is akin to that of the Sony Xperia Z, while 1080p Full HD video recording and an integrated flash ensure it’s equipped for any occasion.
At its core, Samsung has paired Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with the most recent iteration of its TouchWiz UI, creating an experience that is equal measures intuitive and brimmed with high-end features and options. Indeed, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S4’s software where Samsung has innovated over the S3, and how it distinguishes itself from the competition.
See the following pages of the review for a more detailed look the numerous unique software features, such as the S Health fitness app, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll and Air Gesture
There’s a raft of premium add-ons, like NFC, 4G LTE and even IR remote control, too, and unlike the HTC One it has a built-in microSD card slot to expand the standard 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities – although actual available storage is considerably less than advertised, more on which later.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Verdict
There is no getting away from the fact that this phone has more hype surrounding it than any Android device that has preceded it. Fortunately, Samsung has backed up much of this anticipation with action, offering a well-rounded, extremely powerful device that, although lacking something on the aesthetical front, is sure to impress the masses.
Given the Samsung Galaxy S4’s near identical looks to the S3 and the somewhat run of the mill hardware updates, some will argue that the handset is more of a Samsung Galaxy S3S in the vein of Apple’s incremental updates than a true S3 successor. In truth and practice, however, the handset is a whole new beast and one which far outstrips what has been, until now at least, the world’s most successful Android smartphone.