Samsung released their latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, last month, and with it comes the promise of added features and new innovations from the company. While the new additions come in pretty handy, how does the rest of the phone stack up?
What we like about it
Even with the battery not inserted, the first thing users will notice that the device is considerably lighter than the S3 – and thinner – but body-to-body, the two phones are identical in size. But the screen is .2-inches bigger, and of much better quality, while the front end now houses two extra sensors for air gestures and better recognition.
In terms User Interface, the Android 4.2.2 operating system affords the phone with slight design changes that will make things a bit easier for users. The bulk of the new changes are primarily focused on new Air Gestures, Motion and Palm motion such as viewing missed calls and messages by simply swiping a hand over the sensor on the front (Quick Glance), and Air call-accept, where users can wave their hand over the screen to accept incoming calls.
To make things a bit easier to find, the OS has also moved Options into four separate tabs – Connections, My device, Accounts and More. Connections is where users would go to access the setting for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mobile Networks and NFC. My Device houses the options that deal with the Lock Screen and Display, while the Accounts tab will give users access to all the external accounts. By having it divided, it’s quick and easy to find the right option, instead of having to search the entire Options tabs.
In general terms, the phone operates a lot smoother and quicker than the S3, and it feels more comfortable in the user’s hands. Naturally it’s also faster, which is ultimately what the end consumer is looking for.
The 13 megapixel 1080p Full HD camera is also one of the highest quality that we have seen in a long time. It’s capable of recording video in Full HD at 30 fps, and features a number of new modes to produce the best quality of images.
What we don’t like about it
While the Air Gestures are great (under certain conditions), they are actually just cosmetic changes, and shouldn’t entirely change the way users operate their phones. While hovering over the phone to see missed calls and messages, for the same amount of time users can just quickly press the power button to see the same information.
The phone also didn’t do too well in recently conducted drop-test – in fact, it was actually awarded the prize for being the most breakable phone, so it’s strongly advised to keep the S4 away from younger children and hard surfaces.
While playing a video and, if enabled, the device makes use of Smart Pause, where the video will pause during playback when the users is no longer focused on the screen. This can be a bit problematic, as it’s rather sensitive and the slightest away glance from the user’s eyes will pause the video, even if they are looking at the screen.
With that said, most of the Air Gestures and Motion controls will only function properly under the right lighting conditions, as it struggles somewhat in dim light.
Being lighter, faster, smarter and bigger, it’s without a doubt the best smartphone that Samsung has produces so far. The screen quality is of exceptional standard, and with the new processors and RAM, it’s performs stunningly under strenuous conditions. While the added features are great in terms of the evolution of Samsung’s innovation, it pretty much just shows off what the phone is capable – but users wouldn’t actually use many of the Air Gestures.
If users are looking for the latest in smartphone technology, the S4 is definitely the way to go. It will be interesting to see what Apple can come up with when they announce their iPhone 6 later this year. But at the moment, the S4 blows all the competition out if the water.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor