Samsung Galaxy S4
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a blockbuster in every sense. It’s a giant phone with a whopping five-inch, full HD AMOLED screen, 4G speeds, 13 megapixel camera and blazing quad-core 1.6GHz processor. It’s also got big boots to fill: its predecessor has sold more than 50 million in less than a year, and side by side, the pair look awfully similar. Can Samsung’s new internals and bonus software help set it apart? Let’s find out.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a tech fiend’s dream phone. While it may lack the metal body and design panache of the HTC One, it makes up for its shortcomings with a removable battery and an external memory card, potentially giving you up to 96GB of storage to play with in total - along with 50GB of free cloud storage on Dropbox. It’s also rock solid, and feels like it can take a tumble or two - though we’ve seen a few shattered Galaxy S3 screens in our time.
It’s also a spec-fan’s friend: it’s a monstrous beast that blazes along on its quad-core chip, chomping through the latest 3D games. And did we mention that this phone screen’s glorious? As ever with Samsung’s Super AMOLED (rather than traditional TFT) panels, the colours are saturated to the point of silliness, but the 1920x1080 full HD display is pin sharp and so vibrant it’s hard to take your eyes off it - accurate it may not be but we love it nonetheless.
The thirteen megapixel snapper too is superb, grabbing crisp images with low noise. It may not be able to compete with Nokia’s upcoming Lumia 925 PureView snapper in this department, but it’s a solid offering nonetheless, and the option to shoot HD video and videos at the same time is a welcome one.
Then there’s the speedy software - it’s hard to go wrong with Android these days, and it flies here. Samsung’s added a few extra useful tweaks too, including an optical text reader for scanning writing, and a dual-view mode that lets you have two (supported) apps open at the same time. Want to watch a film and read an email at the same time? Er, OK, you can!
Thankfully, we’ve found the much beefier 2600mAh battery keeps up with all the extra demands. It’s nothing special, but we managed to get through the best part of day while snacking on video and constantly checking out apps.
You’d be hard pressed to call the Samsung Galaxy S4 original. It looks identical to a Samsung Galaxy S3 - in fact, the only noticeable differences are the chrome trim around the sizes and ever so slightly larger display. That also means it inherits its foibles, including a cheap and flimsy plastic back panel, and control buttons below the screen that don’t always light up, leaving you guessing which side the Back button is on every time.
It’s a tad dull, in other words. Of course, given just how many Galaxy S3s have flown off the shelves in the last twelve months, you could certainly argue that that’s no bad thing. Why fix what ain’t broke? Don’t you want to just concentrate on the screen, anyway? More of an issue is the software: the Samsung Galaxy S4 is running Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean”, the latest edition of Google’s screaming mobile OS.
That’s good, but some of Samsung’s additions are not. Some are superfluous - S Translator does exactly the same job as Google’s Translate Android app, and S Voice isn’t nearly as fast or useful as Google Now. Some are substantially worse than alternatives - like Samsung’s own web browser, which looks cumbersome next to Chrome - and some are nothing more than party tricks. Sure, You can wave your hand over the screen to wake the phone up, but it’s far quicker to press the lock button, and as for eyeball tracking or dual-view photos that put you sort of in the frame but not really? You will never, ever use either.
Of course, the beauty of Android is that you can replace any and all of these features. But not everyone knows that you can, and at the same time, we can’t help but wonder what Samsung could have achieved had it spent less of its budget on gimmicks, and more on services built to last.
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