Samsung Galaxy S4 review
The long awaited Samsung Galaxy S4 has finally hit our shelves, and so far, the device has been faced with a mixed response. But how does the phone measure up to expectations? And how much better is the S4 compared with its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3?
At first glance at the Samsung Galaxy S4, there’s very little difference compared with the Samsung Galaxy S3. However, look a little deeper and you will notice that the S4 has a slightly larger 5 inch screen, against the S3’s 4.8 inch display. However, because the bezel on the device is so slight, the Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t look bulky, especially when compared with other 5 inch devices like the Sony Xperia Z.
The device is also slimmer than you would expect from a 5 inch smartphone, measuring in at only 7.9mm thick, as well as being pretty light; although the Galaxy S4 only weighs one gram less than the S3, the handset feels remarkably less cumbersome to hold.
One thing that really stands out about the Samsung Galaxy S4, though, is its incredible display. With a pixel density of 441 ppi, the device’s graphics really stood out from the crowd, making its predecessor’s 312ppi look pitiful in comparison. This made watching videos, viewing photos and generally flicking through apps a pleasure, putting the Samsung Galaxy S4 up there in terms of quality build.
The only downside of the Samsung Galaxy S4’s build is Samsung’s decision to continue the plastic casing that adorns all of its other mobile phonesin the Galaxy range. In contrast to its rivals like the iPhone 5 and HTC One, this cheapens the overall feel and look of the Samsung Galaxy S4.
When watching the grand unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 back in March, the main thing that excited me was the device’s array of exciting new Samsung apps. Naturally, the first thing I did when getting my hands on the handset was to try these out, and I found that while some were absolutely amazing, others were a little temperamental and somewhat gimmicky.
Smart Scroll and Smart Pause
Smart Scroll and Smart Pause were two features that were leaked early on into the Samsung Galaxy S4’s life, and to be quite honest, they were features that I didn’t think would work particularly well (see the Samsung Galaxy S3’s Smart Stay for example). However, I was completely shocked to see that Samsung’s patented Smart Pause technology really did work.
The Smart Scroll and Smart Pause functions essentially work by tracking your eye movement; when the phone senses that your eyes have reached the bottom of the page, it will scroll down, and when it suspects you have looked away while watching a movie, it will automatically pause, starting again when your eyes are firmly back on the screen.
I will admit that the Smart Pause function worked better than Smart Scroll, as with the latter I often found myself nodding at the S4’s screen rather than it following my natural gaze down the page. I also found that Smart Scroll as a feature is a little gimmicky- after all, how difficult is it to manually scroll down the screen? On the other hand, Smart Pause is a function that I would really make use of.
Samsung Galaxy S4 S Translator
S Translator is another feature that I was eager to explore on the Samsung Galaxy S4, especially after seeing the app’s cheesy portrayal at the New York launch event in March. You can simply type whatever you want translating in your mother tongue, even speaking it into the app, and, by pressing one button, the app will automatically translate it into your language of choice. What makes this app stand out from other translation apps, however, is the ability to have the text read aloud, which has the potential to help you no end when travelling in unknown territories.
While I thought S Translator was a great app, I did feel that it was one that wouldn’t see much action, unless I was travelling on a regular basis. For holiday makers, travellers or businessmen and women that go abroad frequently, though, S Translator could really come in handy.
Group Play is Samsung’s attempt to make its Galaxy S4 device stand out for its audio as well as visual quality. It essentially works by placing numerous S4 handsets together, with the Group Play function turning your phones into a stereo speaker.
In theory, I really like the concept of Group Play. However, in reality, I would much prefer to have a smartphone which offers superb in-built stereo speakers which I can use without the need for other devices. As a comparison, HTC does this particularly well; the HTC One features dual-frontal stereo speakers with BoomSound technology, which, in my opinion is far more useful than Group Play. After all, how many of your friends or colleagues have exactly the same phone as you?
Last but not least is the Samsung Galaxy S4’s camera test. With a 13MP rear facing camera which matches the likes of the Sony Xperia Z, I was expecting big things. And while I wasn’t necessarily disappointed with the camera quality, I felt that it didn’t particularly blow me away.
What the Samsung’s camera is known for, however, is its various functions aimed at making your photos stand out from the crowd of other smartphone cameras.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Sound & Shot
In addition to the usual modes you would find on a smartphone camera, such as auto, panoramic, best shot, night and sports mode, the Samsung Galaxy S4 also offers a variety of unusual functions that can make your photos more creative than just adding different coloured filters to them!
For example, Shoot & Sound mode allows you to take a still shot which is accompanied by a 9 second audio clip. Although I don’t think I would make use of this app to a great extent, it would be great for sending images that truly capture the moment , not just a still shot. Imagine sending a clip of your own rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ alongside a photo of a birthday cake as a way to make somebody smile?
Other modes included with the Galaxy S4’s camera is the Eraser mode, which as you’d imagine, allows you to simply erase any unwanted moving objects that appear in your photo’s background, which could come in handy when trying to take the perfect picture. Animation mode is another function which enables you to animate any moving objects in your photo. For example, make a passing pedestrian walk backwards, or make a car drive into seemingly mid-air. However, I found this mode particularly gimmicky, and while it is fun to pay around with, it’s not a feature that I would use on a daily basis.
After comprehensively reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4, I found there were some really impressive features and elements of its design which stood out to me. However, I also found that there were features which served purely as gimmicks that, while making the device fun to play around with, weren’t central to the functionality of the phone.
For instance, I was really impressed by the phone’s overall feel, weight and smart-looking 5 inch screen. Although I’m not a fan of the plastic casing, I feel that this is a feature of the Galaxy S4 that I can overlook, especially if it means having a device that is as light as the S4 is.
However, the camera’s many modes proved too gimmicky for me, and I felt as though I would spend more time deciding on which one to use that I would miss the object that I wanted to take a photo of in the first place.
That said, I am expecting big things from the Samsung Galaxy S4. While in my opinion the HTC One has more to offer from an Android handset, but knowing Samsung, the S4 is sure to be a best-seller of 2013.