Late this April, Samsung released its much-anticipated Galaxy S4 smart phone. Considering the success that the phones predecessor, the Galaxy S3, enjoyed as a direct competitor to the iPhone 5, many Android geeks and tech bloggers have been hopeful that this newest iteration of the Galaxy line will finally be enough to push Samsung and Android into the forefront of the mobile market. So far, it looks like they’ve been right. Sales of the new Galaxy topped 10 million in less than a month and are expected to remain strong in the future. But will all of the S4’s new features and enhanced capabilities really be enough to unseat the iPhone as king of the mobile market?
Well, we recently got our hands on one. So let’s break it down and find out.
Build and Design
Visually, the Galaxy S4 looks nearly identical to the S3. It’s still large – 5.4” x 2.75” x .31” to be precise. It’s still made of black or white plastic (until the new colors hit the market this summer) and it still has a chrome trim. What’s noticeably different is that the screen bezels have been thinned out to make room for a larger screen and the corners have been squared off, which creates a chunkier silhouette that’s actually easier to grip. The USB port has been cleaned up and the rear of the phone seems tighter and better-built as well. All in all, it’s an appealing evolution that addresses many of the complaints about the GS3’s design without changing the look in any significant way.
As far as screens go, the new AMOLED screen on the GS4 is a beauty. It measures 5” across and boasts an astounding 441 pixels per-inch, up from the 306 on the GS3 and much more than the 326 on the iPhone 5.
Though the Full HD display is less refined than an equivalent LCD screen, it still provides stunning contrast and a crisp, clean picture. Colors are brighter than they appear on the iPhone and HTC one and a permanent brightness slider on the notifications screen makes it easy to adjust this monster of a monitor down to appropriate levels wherever you happen to go. In short, it’s bigger, it’s better, and it’s awesome.
Is the GS4 Fast? Yes, yes it is. The 1.9 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor handled everything we threw at it with ease, including 3D-heavy games like House of the Dead Overkill. Other reviewers report that the processor torched all of the benchmark tests that they ran, which doesn’t surprise us in the least. Suffice to say, the GS4 is the fastest phone we’ve ever tested.
Networking is equally impressive. With full service, the 4G LTE phone can hit up to 14MBS on a download and 2 MBS on an upload, a solid mark by anyone’s perspective. Connecting to networks is fast, browsing them is faster.
As far as the battery goes – it’s good but not great. According to GSMArena, phone has about 18 hours 3 minutes of talk time and 7 hours 24 minutes of web browsing. The talk time is good, but the browsing life pales in comparison to the nearly 10 hours you’ll get on an iPhone 5 and HTC One.
Ah, yes – the features. The Galaxy S4 has loads of them, and they’re all pretty great. Our favorite feature on the phone is it’s NFC capability, which allows you to use the GS4 as a mobile wallet to pay for transactions at stores that support them.
Samsung has upgraded the GS4’s camera as well. The new phone has a 13 megapixel backside-illuminated camera that captures stunning images in fine detail. It shoots well in sunlight as in darkenss, and features plenty of photo modes, including a neat 20-shot burst mode for those moments when you want to feel like a professional photographer.
In addition to all of Android 4.2.2’s OS features, Samsung has added a few touches of its own to the operating system. Most notably there’s the S Health app, which is a nice spin on the classic health and fitness app – it tracks your food intake, vitals and exercise routines to help you stay fit. There’s also the S Translator, which can translate speech or text into nine different languages.
Following that, there’s a Group Play feature that allows you to share media with other S4 owners and even lets you network multiple handsets to create stereo and surround sound. The suite also includes a built-in IR transmitter which allows you to control your home theater devices from the phone.
Other aspects found in the S3 have been improved. Eye and motion-tracking has been enhanced to function over a wider range and the former will now pause videos when it knows you aren’t watching. You can also scroll up or down on webpages just by looking.
It’s hard to find something not to love on the Galaxy S 4. The iPhone 5 might still have the “hip” factor and the superior battery life, but the GS4 dominates in every other significant category. It’s faster, it’s smarter and it has a ton of cool features that any tech geek or weekend mobile warrior will love.