The Samung Galaxy S4 is the latest and greatest from Samsung’s super successful Galaxy line of Android-powered smartphones. Samsung has already sold millions in the first few weeks of release and the S4 like its predecessor has won numerous awards and is expected to be one of the top selling phones of the year. For the last three weeks I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S4 and I have prepared an article that details my experience using the device and my thoughts. This follows up on my Samsung Galaxy S4 unboxing and first impressions blogpost 2 weeks ago. Buying a smartphone especially one as expensive as the S4 is an important investment, hopefully this review will be useful for those considering this phone which is available in Jamaica both major cellular networks – Digicel and LIME.
Hardware and Design
The Galaxy S4 is a beautful eye-catching phone, the large bright screen and super slim design will definitely get it noticed. However on closer inspection the it is revealed that though it is an attractive phone on its own the plastic look super light weight (which is intentional) makes for a device that does not “feel” premium when compared with competitors such as the HTC One, iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z, and even the BlackBerry Z10. The almost identical look of the Samsung Galazy S3 and the new Galaxy S4 has been often highlighted as a negative but Samsung is hardly the first cellphone manufacturer to recycle hardware designs and there are enough subtle differences between the S3 and the S4 that can easily be seen.
Inside the S4 is where the magic starts to be revealed:
- Processor – 1.6GHz Quad core plus a 1.2GHz Quad core (Octa Core)
- Connectivity – 2G, 3G and 4G capability, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, infared
- Memory – 16/32/ 64 GB User memory + microSD slot (up to 64GB) 2GB RAM
- Display – 5 inch Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) display, 441 ppi
- Camera – 13 mega pixel rear facing camera with flash + 2 mega pixel front facing camera. Full HD video
- Sensors – Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer, Temperature & Humidity, Gesture
- Battery – 2600 mAh
- Size and Weight – 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130g
- Operating System – Android 184.108.40.206 (Jellybean)
When it comes to specs there is no doubt who is at the top of the smartphone hill. The Galaxy S4 has all the bells and whistles available all package into a remarkable small form-factor The phone connects to just about any cellular network, is lightening fast, has more than enough on-board memory, expandable memory and RAM, has a 13 mp pixel camera capable of 1080p video recording, runs the latest version of Android and has sensors that can sense everything from the amount of steps you take during your day to the temperature and humidity in your environment at any given moment.
One of the most important features for any smartphone buyer is the capabilities of the device’s camera. The Samsung galaxy S4 may boast 13 mega pixels but techies like myself know that megapixels are only a tiny part of the equation that makes a camera awesome. I took the time to put the Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera through its paces. Low light performance on the S4 was average but like most cameras it performs better in well lit areas.
The software options of the S4’s camera is enough to overwhelm the typical smartphone user. There are the usual options for nightime shots, sports and panorama but Samsung has introduced new options such as Beauty Face, Best Photo, Sound and Shot, Drama and much more that I believe that I can only do justice by having a separate article on the camera features of the Samsung Galaxy S4. An HD video recorded with the device is embedded below.
Operating System and User Interface
The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs on the latest version of Android (220.127.116.11) and benefits from various bug fixes and recently added features such as gesture typing and support for wireless displays. Out of the box the S4 is not running stock Android. Expectantly, it runs Samsung’s proprietary Touch Wiz interface that adds additional features, animations and settings to Android while making colors extra radiant to take advantage of the large, bright 5 inch Super AMOLED screen. Whether you love or hate Touch Wiz will largely be a personal experience. For me, at the moment I don’t quite mind it but I am very likely to try out other interface overlays or maybe go sock Android in the future.
Upgrading from another Android device to a S4 should cause any problems as interface should be very familiar. If you are moving from another phone OS such as iOS (like a few of my friends are) will be a tad quirky at first but after the first few days of usage you should be able to find your way around the phone well. The menu, home and back buttons combined with the notifications back and updated Android gestures seems complicated at first but is easily navigated with practice.
Mobile tech devices have always been restrained by their batteries. Bigger screens, multi-core processors, GPS, Bluetooth and super fast internet is all well and good but without reliable from long periods you will be forever tethered to an electric socket. Fortunately the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 2600 mAh battery and wide range of power saving features make for a phone that can easily make it through a day of above average use with juice to spare. I usually charge my S4 in the mornings while getting ready for work and thats more than enough to get me through a 24 hour period, even with my words with friends app addiction. However don’t expect to stream movies for hours, jog 100 miles with GPS on and listen music all day and expect the device to keep up.
Forget the Swiss Army knife camera, the gesturing, voice controls, eye tracking, barometer or any of the other features of the Samsung S4; the screen is easily its most potent asset. The 5 inch, full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixel, Super AMOLED, 441ppi screen present on this device is gorgeous with excellent viewing angles. A quick trip to the display settings allows users to adjust the look of their display to be as brightly colored or subdued as they like.
Stock App and App Potential
Stock Samsing Galaxy S4 specific apps such as such as S Health, S Travel and Group Play will either be hit or miss depending on your needs as a user but they are all worth trying. I find myself using S Voice a lot and it is easily my favorite app on the device although I try to not to use it in public or amongst a less tech savvy crowd. However if S Voice and other voice controlled apps and services should have their way, not talking to your phone or actually touching it to answer calls will be so 2013.
Fragmentation in the Android ecosystem is still a problem although not as bad as it used to be. One of the other benefits of having a top of the line phone that it sure to sell millions is that any and all apps will be sure to run on the device.
Expandable storage, removable battery, large vibrant HD screen, super responsive, voice control, powerful camera and limitless apps makes the Samsung Galaxy S4 a very attractive device. If you can look beyond the underwhelming hardware design, not-so-premium look and feel and similarity to the Samsung Galaxy S3. Gesture control, voice control and Samsung apps such as S Health etc will be very useful or useless fluff depending on the user. In the market for a new smartphone? Looking to upgrade to the latest and greatest Android has to offer? The Samsung Galaxy S4 is worth it.
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