If there is one word that sums up the Samsung Galaxy S4, it's fast. The Samsung Galaxy S Smartphones are by far the most popular Android Smartphones. The Galaxy S3 was all about the hardware; the Samsung Galaxy S4, popularly called S4, is much more about software.
That is partly because the S3 already did "enough" with its 4.8 inch HD display and quad core processor. When compared with the extremely successful Galaxy S3 that came before, it's a firm stride forward rather than a giant a leap, but it raises the bar again for Samsung's competitors. And by super-sizing the screen and packing in so much specialised software.
The S4 improves on the S3, of course, with a smaller chassis and a bigger screen. This phone is extremely thin and light. The S4 improves on the S3, of course, with a smaller chassis and a bigger screen. The S4 describes it as a real life companion designed to simplify our lives and caring enough to monitor your well-being say’s Samsung.
At 7.9mm thick, the GS4 is slightly thinner than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III. That's great; The Galaxy S4 doesn't look very different to the S3. It's a little wider, but even slimmer at just 7.9mm, which is just negligibly fatter than the iPhone 5. It weighs 130g, which is a few grammes less than its predecessor. A textured finish makes it easy to grip despite its size.
The S4 is made of polycarbonate, the AMOLED screen of the S4 measures 5 inches, with a full HD resolution. That gives a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, well ahead of the iPhone's 326 pixel. There's no doubt about it - this is an astonishing screen and one of the device's biggest selling points.
The S4 comes with a bewildering set of 7 automatic display modes and 4 manual ones to optimise the clarity of the display for different purposes.
The Galaxy S4 doesn't have a physical QWERTY keyboard. Thankfully the Swype technology is included, so you type quickly and accurately with a minimum of practice. That's especially important since this phone is relatively narrow in portrait mode, so the keyboard keys are rather long and narrow too.
Swype: Swype is a text entry method in which you slide you finger from letter to letter, rather than pecking at each one. It's become quite popular in the last year or so, and Samsung put it on virtually all its phones.
Swype is smart enough that it does a very good job of reading your mind. If it ever isn't sure about a particular word choice, a handy menu pops up with several likely choices, and a single tap is all that is needed to pick the right word and move on.
Quad Core Processor
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is snappy all around, whether you're switching between applications or using the web browser. The combination of a fast processor with a fast network made it a joy to use in all circumstances. Thanks to the quad-core processor, which handles tasks at blazing speed and really very fast indeed.
You also get a huge 2GB of RAM plus a massive 64GB of built-in memory and a microSD card slot for an additional 64GB, which is enormous.
OK, it seems that touchscreens are officially boring. With the S4 you no longer need to actually touch the screen. You just move your finger close to the screen and it works as if you've pressed it. Say goodbye to fingerprints on the screen, because with the S4 you won't need to physically touch the device. Is this a good thing? Well, it certainly works.
Smart Pause / Smart Scroll
One of the headline-grabbing features of the S4 is its eye control. The S3 had Smart Stay, which was able to detect whether you were looking at the screen, but Smart Pause / Smart Scroll takes this to another level. Look away from a video that's playing and the video will pause until you look back again. Tilt the phone gently to scroll up or down emails or websites.
The S4 comes with a built-in translator. The S Translator turns text or voice into another language and can read it out loud for you.
Your TV guide
You can use your S4 to manage your TV scheduling. Connect it to your home entertainment system and it will check out what's on and make suggestions based on your preferences. You can also use your S4 as a TV remote control.
Samsung's claim that the S4 cares about your well-being seems to be something of an exaggeration. In practice, S Health provides a suite of fitness tools so you can track your weight, workouts and so on. There's a handy built-in pedometer too. The phone can also measure temperature and humidity.
The S4 has an upgraded 13-megapixel main camera and a 2 megapixel front-facing camera. These are impressive, and the reality is that the main camera can take photos that are as detailed and sharp as anything else currently available.
Having front and rear cameras on a smartphone is nothing special, but simultaneously shooting with both and combining the results is definitely new. It's a way of including yourself when you take a photo or video of your friends.
Dual Video lets you share what's on your screen with a friend during a video call.
The new Drama Shot feature lets you record a series of images in one shot, for example if you have a moving image that you want to capture. Another new camera feature is the ability to record sound together with a still photo. Samsung is merging the concepts of photo and video.
As well as sharing your photos on Facebook, the S4 will automatically organise your photos into Story Albums based on specific events. You can add text to the album and print or share it.
Buttons & Controls
The menu, home, back, and search "buttons" are touch-sensitive areas located directly under the screen on the front of the Galaxy S4.
The charge/sync port is at the top of the phone, and is covered by a sliding door. I really like that extra touch, because phone ports can get really dusty/linty if your bag is full of junk.
The headphone jack is also up top, the power button is on the right side, and the volume button is on the left side.
As mentioned above, the keys are very small and don't stick out much at all -- until you become more familiar with the device, you will likely have to look each time you want to find and activate a button.
The microSD card slot and the SIM card slot are located on the backside of the phone, underneath the back cover. I was glad to see that neither one of those slots was stuck under the battery. While you do have to take off the back cover to access them, the cover is easy to remove and replace.
With a keen eye on monetising content, Samsung has brought together video, games, music, books and other content into a single online store.
There's a powerful 2,600mAh battery, which is sufficient for a hard day's use. The battery is removable too, which is a definite advantage over most competitors. That's one of the advantages of the plastic casing.
The battery can also be charged wirelessly, like the Nokia Lumia 920.
The Galaxy S4 is a nice looking, super slim phone with a drop-dead gorgeous, full HD display. It may lack a metal body, but it’s a high quality product nevertheless. There are a lot of new features packed into it, including the dual camera functions, voice and text translation, Air Gesture and Smart Scroll. It's clearly a step forward from the Galaxy S3, which was already an amazing phone.
The competition includes not only the iPhone 5, but also Samsung's own Galaxy Note 2, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z. These are all amazing phones and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise. Choosing between them isn't going to be an easy task, and each offers a unique selling point.
In the case of the Galaxy S4, the combination of full 1080p HD screen, slimline design, large memory and extra usability features such as the eye scroll and touchless screen make it a strong contender.
It seems to us that while Sony and HTC raised their game to match what they thought the S4 was going to give, the S4 simply gives even more. It really does seem to be the ultimate phone.
THIS WEEK ON GADGETS
Picture making calls via your wristwatch, not just calls but also twitting, quickly check the stock market, get news updates, see what the day’s weather is and log into your Facebook, all this done via your smart wristwatch.
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So if you are willing to spend a bit more on a wristwatch that tells more than time you might consider I’m SpA Smart Watch.