Samsung has changed the world with its’ Galaxy lineup of phones and tablets. The latest edition to their phone lineup is the Galaxy S4. This phone is very similar to last years device (the S3) but with several small upgrades that makes this phone a must have. Since the announcement of the device, Samsung has had so much positive feedback that they have created several different versions of the phone including a water proof version (Active) and a stock Android version (Google Play Store Edition). This review is of the original version of the S4 so that you all call see the base product before considering this phone or one of the many variations of the device.
Dimensions 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches)
Weight 4.59 oz. (130g)
Screen Size 5.0 inches
Screen Resolution 1,920 x 1,080 (441 ppi)
Screen Type Full HD Super AMOLED
Battery 2,600mAh Li-Polymer (Removable)
Internal Storage 16 or 32GB
External Storage MicroSD (up to 64GB)
Rear Camera 13MP
Front Facing Camera 2MP
NFC Enabled Yes
Wireless Charging With the purchase of an additional back cover
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz Quad-Core
Operating System Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz Skin (As of review))
The hardware is amazing on this phone. If you read any of my work, it is very clear that I admire well-made products. Until I had held the Galaxy S4 in my hand, the only Android phone that actually made me impressed was the LG manufactured Nexus 4.
The one thing everyone notices about any Samsung device is that they are all plastic. This is most likely the number one complaint by customers because sometimes plastic devices can feel hollow and weak in design. Before the S4, I had the same complaints about Samsung’s plastic devices. It is obvious that Samsung has heard these complaints and have figured out a way to securely attach the different pieces to each other so that they feel like one piece of hardware.
The Galaxy S4 has a 5″ diagonal display. The last time I reviewed a phone with a screen size larger than 5″ it was the Samsung Galaxy Note 2. In that review I accidentally went on a rant about how the screen was too large and did not fit in the hand well. With the S4’s 5 inch screen though, they made the phone’s width thinner and the height larger. This technique works because it allows the user to easily grasp the phone while still being able to use the functionality of a larger display.
Samsung has kept their standard setup of the layout of the device. On the front of the display, the phone has a 5 inch full HD Super AMOLED display protected by Gorilla Glass. Above the screen there are the proximity sensors and the 2MP front facing camera. Below the display is the physical home button and capacitive back and menu buttons. The power button is located on the right side and the volume rocker is on the left. The top edge is the home of the 3.5mm headphone jack, secondary microphone, and the IR Blaster. Finally, the primary microphone and the micro-USB port are located on the bottom.
The back of the device is the home of the most exciting parts of the phone. Just like any phone, the camera, LED flash, and speaker can all be seen without removing the back cover. The upgrade to the Galaxy S4 camera is that it now packs a 13MP sensor. Once the back plate is taken off, you find the slots of the MicroSD, Micro SIM and the 2,600mAh battery.
Like you can see in the picture above, the Galaxy S4 is running a skinned version of Android 4.2.2 called TouchWiz. Usually these carrier skins clog down the performance of phones but Samsung has done a good job at limiting the amount of change that gets put into TouchWiz. What the skins do is change the look and feel of the software and also add in their own functionality through the use of custom applications and further software enhancement.
Besides the obvious change to the look and feel, Samsung has edited some of the basic Android applications and added features you will find on no other device unless it is made by Samsung. In stock vanilla Android, Google has their own calendar, camera, and other basic applications but Samsung chooses to create their own to replace and enhance the user experience. For example in the camera application, Samsung includes different types of camera shoots like “the Best Shot” and “Eraser.”
The biggest addition in software that has not been seen except in the S4 is the Smart Hover and their other new “Smart” features. Smart hover adds the functionality of the S Pen from the Note devices and adds it to your finger. You know when this feature is active because when your finger is raised slightly above the glass, there is a little dot that follows your finger around. This feature is very useful when previewing information like a photo album or email.
Other “Smart” applications include Air Gestures (allow for moving between pages, answering/rejecting calls, and much more with just the movement of your hand over the screen), Smart Pause (if the phone sees your eyes move away from the screen, the S4 will pause the video that you are watching),and Smart Scroll ( moving up and down something with text by looking at the bottom or top of the device to move it along text).
Earlier in this review I talked about how the Samsung Galaxy S4 was the first phone I fell in love on first touch besides the LG Nexus 4. The two phones are very different in build and software. Instead of the plastic body that encases the S4, the Nexus 4 has glass on the front and the back of the device. Also, instead of the TouchWiz software, the Nexus 4 is running an untouched version of Android.
When comparing the Galaxy S4 to other top of the line phones like the Nexus 4, the S4 can hold its’ ground. Not only does the phone have the best hardware, it has the best software. The combination of the two make the phone run amazingly and be the most attractive phone on the market.
While I swore I would never enjoy using a phone that was not either a Nexus device or running a vanilla Android theme, I found that I could easily use the Samsung Galaxy S4 as my daily personal phone. What makes the phone so perfect is the build quality and the enhanced software. Everyone I know that has ever owned a Galaxy S3 or S4 have loved using them because of their ease of use. Also, if you are a tinkerer, there are hundreds of articles and ways to root, unlock, and install custom ROMs on the devices.
This phone can be picked up on any carrier for $200 along with one of its’ many variants. Make sure to watch my video review of the phone to see everything I wrote about in action.