Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Hero Australian Android

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Summary

Last year’s mega selling Android handset was the Samsung Galaxy S3. It broke new ground with a larger screen than those seen on mainstream handsets, a host of new software features built on top of Android’s Jellybean software and it continued Samsung’s dominance of the Android Smart Phone Market. Together with a muted feeling in Australia that the experience on the iPhone 5 hasn’t moved on enough, it seems more Australians are defecting from IOS to Android.

Now Samsung have rolled another digit on the S list and delivered it’s successor to the S3, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The S4 keeps ( much the ) same looks but crams an even bigger screen to pretty much an identical body shape. Hardware spec improvements are incremental rather than generational. However, with the S4, Samsung have overlayed an improved TouchWiz software interface which speeds and makes more easy use of the core features of the device. In addition, there are a bunch of additional software features, some gimmicky, some useful. With a substantial upgrade to it’s camera capabilities and an improved battery, the Samsung Galaxy S4 should be seriously considered by anyone looking for a high end phone in 2013.

Let’s take a more in depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 Review Specs.

 Samsung Galaxy S4
ProcessorQuad Core
Processor Speed1.6 GHz
Screen Size5.0 inches
Screen Resolution1080 x 1920
Screen TypeSuper AMOLED
Unit Dimensions137 x 69 x 7.9 ( mm )
Weight130 grams
Internal Memory16GB / 32GB / 64GB
Expandable Memory ? Y
Main Camera13 MP
Front Camera2.0 MP
Video Camera1080 30 FPS
Fastest Network Speed4G
Battery StandbyTBC
Battery Talk TimeTBC
Operating SystemAndroid
SIM TypeMicro

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Design Identical To The S3

At 136 mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm, the body of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is almost identical to it’s predecessor. ( It’s actually nearly 1 mm thinner and 3 grams lighter but it seems a stretch to suggest that people will actually notice changes that small, even if they’ve lived with an S3 for a year. ) It seems Samsung have gone with the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to design and who can blame them when the S3 sold 50 million units. Unfortunately, the world has changed in the last 12 months, notably with the release of the HTC One which sports a metallic shell making the Samsung Galaxy S4 look relatively lower class.

Samsung have adapted the plastic casing of the S4 to mimic a metal grilled side component which provides is a slightly more serious and indistrial look. That said, you’re more likely to have to point out to your friends you’ve got an S4 instead of an S3 than you are to wrestle it out of their hands after they rip it from you for a look.

The layout of the buttons has hardly changed at all.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Best In Class Screen

The 4.99 inch ( diagonal ) screen on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is almost indescribably beautiful. Colours are bold and bright, contrast is exceptional. In my view, it’s the best screen on a phone right now. Pixel density is a market leading 441 PPI which, to you and me means that pixilation is a thing of the past. Samsung have told us the improvement is something to do with the location of the green pixels in the screen.

With the shape of the S3 being pretty much the shape of the S3, by now, people know that phones of this size can be accommodated comfortably in pockets and handbags. Better yet, the Galaxy S4 has Gorilla Glass 3 – even more scratch resistant than what was used on the S3.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Software Easier To Use

The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S3 seems like only yesterday. At the time, we reviewed the software in a similar way, trying to break the slew of new features down in to what we thought was genuinely useful and what was gimmicky ( you might also say fun to play with. )

Genuinely Useful Software

  • The whole experience of the Jellybean base and TouchWiz overlay was smooth, slick and responsive. Impressively, Samsung seem to have added more features and, at the same time, made it more simple to use.
  • The home screen can draw in pictures from Trip Advisor ( locations shown ) if you want it to so you can be reminded of the world we can see if we ever raise our heads from looking at the Super AMOLED screen.
  • Samsung have added a ‘Favourite Apps’ widget which is available whichever homescreen you’re on with a swipe. If you’re like most people, you use a few apps a lot and this feature will make it even easier to get to them.
  • Quickglance uses the InfraRed sensor on the front of the S4 to recognise when you’re reaching for your phone and provides you a useful summary of activity since you last looked at it ( 30 seconds ago. ) As soon as you’re near it, you’ll see the number of missed calls and missed messages you’ve had. It also shows the time.
  • TouchWiz on the S3 introduced what we at Whatphone still think was the best video player in market in 2012. 2 columns wide and as long as you want it to be, every video you’d downloaded to watch on the bus was not only shown but shown as a moving clip. Not satisfied with leading the market, Samsung have upgraded the video player on the S4. Most recently played videos are shown at the top of the list. Personal and downloaded videos are interspersed next to each other. This is what living with a QuadCore processor means. All that computing power means you’ve got cycles to invest in impressive graphical representations.
  • If you have complicated security settings like a PIN / password to get in to your device, Samsung have implemented a new software feature to make your life easier. The S4 will recognise when you’re at home ( by connecting to a wireless network you tell it is your home router ) and turn the PIN requirement off.
  • Continuation of eye detection software which, brilliantly, stops the video playing when you look away from it.

Software Which Is ‘Fun To Play With’

From a technical perspective, it’s always worthwhile launching a first version of new features, even when they don’t work perfectly. As Google have shown with their Google Now product, by the time you get to the 5th version of a ‘new’ capability, it starts to get good. With that in mind, here are some of the additional software features Samsung have released on the S4 :

  • Air Gestures.
    Wave your hands about to change tracks, scroll through a web page or answer a call. Useful if your hands are sticky said Samsung. Hmm. You can pause the music player by putting your hand over the screen which seems a bit more useful and you can take a screenshot by swiping your palm across the screen.
  • Air View.
    Hover your finger over an email or text message intro to see more. For those with experience of the S Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, this is an identical capability.
  • SVoice upgrades.
    SVoice has, in my opinion, always been a bit flaky. The voice recognition is not nearly as good as Google Now’s and there’s no good integrating SVoice in to device capabilities ( as Samsung have ) if the tool doesn’t recognise which feature you’re trying to get to.
  • Health monitoring software.
    There’s heaps of it and a long list of complimentary accessories. Strategically, this seems like a strong move from Samsung. Industry experts say Phones will be constantly monitoring our vital signs in the next few years. Right now, if I wanted to measure my heart rate as I ran, I’d be buying a robust Nike GPS watch, not putting my S4 in my short pockets.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Camera – 13 MP

The Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3 both had 8 MP cameras and they both took very good pictures. The S4 has upgraded both the camera and the software used to control it and the results are even better. The S4 takes great pictures with ( obviously ) a lot of detail and there’s enough memory ( or at least memory options ) on the S4 to make sure you don’t have to clean your picture cellars out too often.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Battery Issues Fixed

Finally, the battery on the S4 has been upgraded to 2600 mAH ( from 21 mAH ) on the Samsung Galaxy S3. That’s a 23% improvement. Even with the slightly bigger screen, battery performance was much, much better than the battery on the S3 which was one of it’s only critical question marks. Well done Samsung for getting it in to ( almost the ) the same body dimensions.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Review – Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t the same leap forward as the S3 was over the S2. How could it be. The Samsung Galaxy S3 was just so good, it was difficult to improve upon.

It’s got some gimmicky software and a design which is overly familiar. However, a simply incredible screen, improved battery, broad software upgrade with several very useful components, a better camera and all the usual Galaxy benefits of expandable memory and changeable battery, the Samsung Galaxy S4 should be a serious consideration for anyone looking to get a high end mobile in 2013.


Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.