Samsung is back in 2013 with the all new Galaxy S4 smartphone. The S4 is the follow up to the world best selling Android device the Galaxy S III. Let’s remember that the Galaxy S III sold over 50 million units since it arrived back in June last year. As you will see from this Samsung Galaxy S4 review, the new 4th generation model does not stray too far off the path from the success of the S3. Samsung in a similar fashion to Apple, have taken another page from the Cupertino giants by introducing what some originally called an “S” type (3GS, 4S) update. Although the new Galaxy S4 may not look that different from last years Galaxy S3, it does bring many new features as well as vast improvements over every aspect of its predecessor. By the time your are done reading this, you should be able to determine if the Galaxy S4 is indeed the right phone for you. So sit back and enjoy my complete Samsung Galaxy S4 review below.
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; quad-band 3G with HSPA; LTE
- 5″ Super AMOLED 1080p capacitive touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 3 (441 ppi)
- Android OS v4.2.2 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz UI
- Quad-core 1.9 GHz Krait 300 CPU, Adreno 320 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset]
- 2GB of RAM
- 13MP autofocus camera with LED flash, 1080p video recording @ 30fps
- Dual shot and dual video recording, Drama shot, Shot and sound
- 16GB/32/GB/64GB of built-in storage
- microSD card slot
- Bluetooth version 4.0
- IR port for remote control functionality
Galaxy S4 Review – by Gazelle.com
Hardware & Design:
Build- The Galaxy S4 brings a similar S III style to the table but in a new sleeker package. The device feels better in the hand and sports more of a rectangular design. The metal accents around the bezel are a nice addition and make the device feel a bit more premium than the Galaxy S III. The plastic (polycarbonate) body of the Galaxy S4 seems a bit more refined than last years model and the housing sports a bit of texture compared to the smooth GS3. The most impressive thing you notice about the hardware is how the phone literally became smaller than the GS3, but houses a bigger and more beautiful screen. Let’s talk about this big beautiful screen below. Build rating 8/10
Screen- The screen is just stunning on the Galaxy S4. For me personally, nothing beats the rich colors of Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays. The 5-inch screen packs 441 ppi, which is, just a shade behind the HTC One, but blows the iPhone 5 out of the water. Samsung could have opted for a 4.8″ display to cram in more pixels to up HTC, but at the end of the day users want bigger phones (hence the success of the Galaxy Note line-up). The new screen also allows new features like Air View, which essentially turns your finger into an S-Pen (stylus) that is found on the Note series. We will get into this feature later in the review. Screen Rating 9.5/10
Sound- The loudspeaker on the Galaxy S4 is crisp and clear. The GS4 offers a bit better sound than last years GS3, but still cannot compete with the likes of the HTC One with dual speakers and BoomSound. I would rate the sound quality on par with the iPhone 5 and just below the Galaxy Note 2. The GS4 produce clear distorted free audio, but just not at a level good enough for pumping out some good beats. Sound rating 7/10
Camera- Let’s start by saying WOW. Samsung has put a ton of research and development into the new camera on the Galaxy S4. Samsung brings a new 13MP sensor, all new features, new scene modes, and the new cool dual-camera shooting mode. The only real area where the galaxy S4 lacked was low light shooting. By putting the camera into night mode it did seem to help a lot, but it was still not on par with the likes of the Lumia 920 or HTC One. Lets talk about some of these new unique camera features that you will find on the Galaxy S4. Camera rating 10/10
- Mode Button- The mode button in the lower right corner will give these options. Auto, Beauty face, Best photo, Best face, Sound and shot, Drama, Animated photo, Rich Tone (HDR), Eraser, Panorama, Sports, and Night.
- Color Effects- These effects can be accessed by clicking the tiny arrow at the bottom of the screen while in camera mode. The color options range from Sepia and Moody, to Oil Pastel and Fisheye
- Dual Mode- The coolest feature of the S4 puts the photo taker in the capture. The front camera captures the photo taker and superimposes him or her in the shot. Dual camera also has different portraits to put you in the image.
*dual mode shot
Battery- Samsung has improved the battery life on the Galaxy S4 significantly in comparison to the galaxy S3. The new GS4 uses a 2600 mAh battery over the 2100 mAh battery found in the GS3. What does this all mean? The Galaxy S4 will give you 170 additional hours of standby time (370 total), and 7 hours of additional talked time (17 total) compared to the S3. Battery rating 9.5/10
Memory- Unlike the iPhone or the HTC One, Samsung still offers removable storage on their Galaxy line-up of phones. The Galaxy S4 comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB configurations with the option of microSD card expansion. The GS4 also offers 2GB of RAM, which is adequate for a small computer never mind a cell phone. Memory rating 10/10
Extras- The Galaxy S4 is comprised of extras and neat little tricks. Most of these little tricks are brought together by both hardware and software. First up is the WatchON app from Samsung, which gives you access to the IR port to control your TV. I found that the IR setup and use was much better on the HTC One. The GS4 did not recognize my LG soundbar while the HTC picked it up after only 20 seconds. New on the S4 and joining S-Voice is S-Health and S-Translate. S-health brings similar features found in the Nike Fuel Band over to the S4 when combined with the optional accessory bracelet. The S-Translate app is a live personal translator app, which is a bit more advanced than Google translate. This app allows you to actually translate on the fly as the device listens and detects languages automatically. It then can spit the translation back out in another language for you instantly.
Now lets get into some of the cool “Air” stuff that the Galaxy S4 offers up over the competition. Some might think these are gimmicky features, but you have to give credit to Samsung on some great innovation.
- Air Gesture- allows you to use your hands to navigate, control, and answer calls. Think of it as Xbox Kinect on your phone
- Air View- turns your finger into a S-Pen stylus without making contact on the screen. This cool tech allows you to hover over things to view information in most Samsung built in apps.
- Smart Scroll- Available on certain apps, this cool feature will detect your eyes and scroll according to the angle you tilt your head
- Smart Pause- Video will pause when the device detect you are not looking at the screen any longer
Extras rating 10/10
Performance- Hands down the Galaxy S4 is the best performing smartphone on the market. Where it loses in good looks next to the iPhone and HTC One, it makes up for with speed and power. The phone absolutely screams when performing each and every task. The 1.9 GHz Snapdragon chip combined with 2GB RAM and Adreno 320 GPU allow the GS4 to destroy the competition when it comes to benchmarks. The HTC One and Optimus G Pro use the same chipset but the GS4 still beats them when it comes to the benchmarks. Check out all the benchmark charts here at GSMArena. Performance rating 10/10
Software and Features:
User Interface- Samsung has opted with a newer version of Android on the Galaxy S4 as it runs version 4.2.2. The HTC One and Xperia Z both run 4.1.2 out of the box, so it is nice to see that Samsung is on the ball. Samsung have once again opted for their famous TouchWiz interface on top of Android. TouchWiz is getting lighter and lighter each release and hopefully it continues to improve over time. Samsung has also included multi window for running two apps at the same time on the same screen. TouchWiz also brings an easy mode, which is essentially a dumbed down launch for the OS. It makes the experience easier with less menu options and ideal for non-savvy users. User interface rating 8.5/10
Buttons and Controls- The sheer amount of obvious and hidden controls are just mind boggling on the Galaxy S4. Lets start with the home button first. Hit the home key twice and you get S Voice. This is essentially Siri for Samsung. Now if you hold the home key it will take you to open apps. Next we have the menu key. With one tap it is just a menu key, but if you hold it down it will take you to Google Now. Last up is the back key. The back key can be used to hide or bring forward the multiscreen menu on the left bar. Just hold down the back key for 2 seconds and the bar we hide or reappear. Now we can take a look at all the controls that you can’t see, the Air gestures. Air gesture brings five unique controls over to the Galaxy S4. Check them out below.
1. Quick Glance- with the screen off move you hand above the sensor to view notifications
2. Air Jump- while viewing emails or webpages move your hand up or down to scroll
3. Air Browse- move your hand to the left or right to browse while in certain apps
4. Air Move- tap and hold an icon, with the other hand wave it across the screen to move it to that page
5. Air Call accept- this one is great if you have dirty hands. When a call comes in wave your hand across the sensor to answer the call. The call will be answered in speakerphone by default. Cool!
The first competitor when you think of Galaxy S4 has to be the HTC One. These two devices are the best smartphones on the market currently and both offer great features for different taste levels. The HTC offers a refined luxurious unibody metal handset in favor of a plastic one. It also offers up a slightly better screen than the GS4. On the other hand the GS4 will give you slightly better performance, better camera, more features, and expandable storage. Consumer deciding between these may also look at the Sony Xperia Z, which offers a 5-inch display with a water and dustproof finish. Last but not least many consumers will just opt for an even bigger screen and go for the likes of the Galaxy Note 2 or LG Optimus G Pro. At the end of the day it just comes down to which features and style your prefer most. All of these handsets are top tier devices and offer something that the others do not.
Price and Availability:
The Galaxy S4 is available at three out of the 4 four major carriers here in the United States. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are officially selling the phone online and in store starting at the end of April. The GS4 is set to arrive on Verizon at the end of May with now confirmed street date.
AT&T: The Galaxy S4 (SGH-i377) on AT&T is available in both the white and black color options. The device will cost $199 with a 2-year service agreement. The phone may also be purchased sans contract for $640. Rumor of a 32GB version points to a mid May launch.
Sprint: The S4 (SPH-L720) is being offered at Sprint for $149 if you are a new customer and sign a2 year agreement. Upgraders and current customers will need to pay $249 with a 2-year service extension. Like AT&T Sprint will offer the device in both Black and White color options. The S4 can also be purchased off contract (phone only) for $599, which is $40 less than AT&T’s price.
T-Mobile: For those not looking to sign a 2-year deal T-Mobile is your best bet. The Galaxy S4 (SGH-M919) at T-Mo can be purchased with a $150 down payment, and then $20 per month for 24 months. The payment plan is also interest free and is rolled into your monthly bill. Once paid off, you bill will drop the $20 finance charge. T-Mobile sells both the black and white models and also offers them up at full price for $629.
Unlocked: Third party wireless dealers will have a mixed supply of International unlocked models and AT&T/T-Mobile versions that have been unlocked. Just make sure you get the correct model when purchasing through a third party. The unlocked international model (GT-i9500) currently sell for around $700 new and features the 8-core Exynos chip not found in the domestic model.
The Galaxy S4 from Samsung is truly a worthy upgrade from the year old S3 model. If I had to sum up the S4 in one simple word it would be “Refined”. The S4 is basically a Galaxy S3 that has been beefed up internally, cleaned up externally, and taught a tremendous amount of new tricks. The Galaxy S4 to me is the true Swiss army knife of phones in the world of Android. The phone can do everything and anything with both speed and efficiency. For those considering the Galaxy S4 you will not be disappointed. This phone will perform pretty much any task you throw at it better than the phone you currently have now in your pocket, and the benchmarks prove that. Does this mean you should run out to the store to go get it? Maybe and maybe not, it all depends on what you value most in a phone. Many of the features and tricks of the S4 are not essential to me personally, however I still think they are very cool. The bottom line is I would gladly trade all those Air gesture tricks for better hardware and a premium build, but hey, that’s just me. There is no denying that the Galaxy S4 should once again lead the Android pack this year in terms of popularity. This is thanks to innovative features, outstanding performance, and don’t forget the millions of marketing dollars spent by Samsung. Overall I would highly rate and recommend the new Galaxy S4 from Samsung to anyone who seeks a feature packed and solid performing Android handset.
Samsung Galaxy S4 9/10