The Galaxy S3 sold over 50 million units for Samsung worldwide which tells you that they did something right. So when it was time to introduce the successor, Samsung made a few tweaks such as the number of cores on the Galaxy S4 has doubled from four to eight. But that is just technology progressing, right? How about I tell you that the number of pixels on the screen has also more than doubled along with an increase in screen size. You’ll say that high-end phones are already moving in that direction. Would increasing the camera megapixel count from 8 to 13 impress you? No? An improved battery with a higher capacity? How about I tell you that Samsung has managed to do all that and yet decrease the size and weight of the device compared the Galaxy S3? Now that is something that might even leave the boys at Cupertino scratching their heads.
Packaged in a compact box, much like Samsung’s older phones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 I received came with a 2 amp charger that will charge the device faster, a USB cable and a headset with some extra earbuds- pretty much the usual set of accessories packed with most new phones.
The Galaxy S4 follows the design philosophy found on other recent Samsung products making it instantly recognizable as a Samsung product and overall the S4 is very much like the S3 in terms of design so if you liked the S3 you’ll love the S4. Measuring 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm and weighing just 130g, the Galaxy S4 is both thinner and lighter than the Galaxy S3. Samsung has used a polycarbonate bar that runs across the edge of the device that not only gives it a more premium look and feel over the Galaxy S3 but will also help protect the corners of the device.
There are some other subtle changes as well such as the slightly recessed screen which could possibly stop the screen from cracking if the S4 slips from your hands. Samsung has also punched a hole on the back cover where the speaker is placed and given it a slight raise to allow better sound output when the unit is laying on a flat surface.
Coming to the specs, the Galaxy S4 will be available in two flavors- one that is powered by the Qualcomm quad-core SnapDragon SoC and the other with a Samsung Exynos octa-core SoC. The model I am reviewing is the eight core version which, in benchmarks, destroys everything else we’ve tested. As you can see from the picture on the right, the Geekbench score for the Galaxy S4 is over 3600. To put things in comparison, the HTC One scored a little over 2800. Besides the processor, the other difference between the two models is that the SnapDragon version supports LTE while the Exynos works under 3G so you need to decide between a faster processor and a slower data connection or the opposite of that. Everything else about the two models is identical such as 2GB of RAM, 16GB of built-in storage and a 5” Full HD 1080P Super AMOLED display. Here is how they compare to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One.
The center of attraction of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the 5” display- it is superb and looks more vibrant than either the Sony Xperia Z or the HTC One both of which also have 1080p panels. From the lock screen to watching movies, the S4 proved to be our favorite display with the Super AMOLED technology providing deeper blacks and great viewing angles. The display is also extremely sensitive and can be used with gloves. Samsung has also added ClearPad technology from Synaptics that can detect your finger from 2 cms above the screen which allows you to hover on the screen for different actions such as previewing through a video’s timeline.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with the latest version of Android Jelly Bean 4.2 pre-installed which adds options like Daydream, expandable notifications and two-finger swipe down of the notification bar. On top of that Samsung adds their Touchwiz UI which is very functional and full of options that can be tweaked to your liking but not necessarily as slick to look at the new HTC Sense 5.
Options specific to the Galaxy S4 are also plenty. Samsung has equipped the S4 with nine sensors some of which have never been introduced in mobile phones such as a temperature/humidity sensor and Geomagnetic sensor. Through applications, these sensors allow the Galaxy S4 to perform a variety of jobs such as measuring temperatures or atmospheric pressure in the S Health. These apps are further enhanced when paired with what Samsung calls Appcessories- accessories that work with its apps such as S Band or the Flip cover.
Other cool apps on the Galaxy S4 are S Translation that translates your voice from one language to another and then reads out the translated language. This can come in quite helpful when you travel, however, languages present right now are either European or ones used in Far East with nothing from the region. Another interesting feature is Smart Pause that pauses the video you’re watching on your S4 when you turn your face away from the phone and resumes when you look back. I could not get this particular feature to work even though it was demonstrated to me by a Samsung rep at the launch event. What did work astonishingly well is smart scroll that can scroll pages by tilting your head up or down.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13 Megapixel camera on the back along with a 2 Megapixel camera on the front- both of which can work together and take pictures/videos simultaneously. This could help you record new places you’ve visited along with a visual commentary of yourself. The camera also supports recording audio clips along with photos but I think HTC has done a better job with Zoe on their HTC One. The quality of pictures taken from the Samsung Galaxy S4 are pretty amazing when there is ample light but in darker environments, the HTC One’s camera captures more light and detail. Also the lack of an Optical Image Stabiliser on the Galaxy S4 could result in shaky videos. Here are some sample shots produced by the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a battery with a capacity of 2600mAh which is a rather hefty battery for a phone of this size. Combine that with the power saving features that Samsung has built into the Super AMOLED screen and you have a battery life that is better than every other Android device I’ve tested in the same category as the S4. Where you’re generally left struggling for battery towards the end of the day with phones like HTC One or the Sony Xperia Z, the Galaxy S4 has no issues cruising along.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 doesn’t stray too far from the S3 in terms of the design. But when you look at all the technology that Samsung has packed into the Galaxy S4 without adding any more bulk, you can’t help but marvel at their engineering capabilities. And though some features like tracking your facial movements don’t always work as expected, they are very much helping in advancing technology forward. That is exactly what the Galaxy S4 is about. It gives us a peek into what the future of mobile computing is going to look like.
Priced at AED 2599, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the fastest phone we’ve tested with one of the best screens and an exceptional battery life packaged in a casing that is lighter than any of the phones it competes with.