Our hands on with the Samsung Galaxy S4

closeThis article could be out of date, as it was published 1 year 3 months ago.

Described as Life’s Companion, with an array of extra new features it might just be that, so let’s find out what exactly makes the Samsung Galaxy S4 the life companion.

Since unveiling the product to the world in New York two months ago, there has been much anticipation of what the S4 will bring to the smartphone market.

The device is born with a strong history to follow, given the S3 took over much of the sales of 2012, placing Samsung on the top of the leaderboard as the brand in the Android handsets.

New features of the S4 includes: air gestures, smart pause and scroll, air hover, voice commands and high screen sensitivity for use with gloves – meaning there are 20 selections available in the notification bar.

New hardware includes: 5” screen with full HD display ~441ppi pixel density, 13MP camera, 2GB RAM, 4G and WiFi with 802.11 ac along with dual-band, a Quadcomm chipset and a Quadcore with 1.9GHz.

Despite its increase in hardware, device dimensions, excluding the length, are less than the S3 with a weight of 130g (3g lighter) due to its reduced bezel size.

There are also new stock applications like: Optical Reader, Navigon by Garmin, S Health, S Translator, Samsung Hub, Samsung Link, Story Album, Trip Advisor and WatchOn, the keyboard has also changed to be like the Galaxy Note so there is the row of numbers above the QWERTY keys.

Pros:

• Impressive Full HD display (1080 x 1280) with a 5” screen it is a great size for watching true HD content, it is almost impossible to see the pixels and colours also pop.

• 13MP camera with HD recording and dual shot. Front facing camera is 2MP and including HD recording and dual video calling.

• The air hover feature for viewing photos, details in messaging or planner and viewing video content allow for scanning without touching the screen.

• Air gestures allow for scrolling by waving your hand above the sensor towards the direction you want it to move – great for reading documents or viewing photos in the gallery. When the phone is locked, waving your hand over the sensor also gives instant information like time/date, missed calls, messages and battery status.

• Voice commands allow you to unlock the phone with the key phrase, control certain stock applications like the camera (saying words like “shoot” to take a photo) or playing music.

• Weight of 130 grams means people who plan on upgrading from an S3 will be surprised by the slight decrease.

• New applications like Optical Reader takes a photo of text and converts it to phone content, great for business cards or labels. Story Album allows you to create scrapbooks which can also be purchased through the phone and made into a hardback book (extra cost).

• Addition of the number row in the stock keyboard removes the need to hold the keys for the numbers like in previous phones.

• Increased sensitivity for use with gloves works well with fabric gloves, but can’t be definite with use of rubber or latex gloves.

Cons:

• Edging of the phone is now metallic finish, undetermined if this is aesthetic or functional and whether it would protect it from a minor drop.

• 4G is only currently available from Vodafone in New Zealand (at an extra cost) and ac-mode for WiFi is only beneficial with the right wireless routers.

• Air gestures only work with stock applications e.g. Facebook mobile works but not the Facebook application and people are more likely to use the application. You also look weird waving your hand in front of your phone.

• Smart Pause worked when viewing a video but couldn’t get Smart Scroll to work.

• Voice commands are impressive but a few attempts may be required when using it to unlock the phone.

• Radio feature has been removed, something I personally used more, but appears to be replaced by the Play Music application.

• New applications are functional but some seem a bit excessive additional navigation software when Google Navigation is already available.

Without a doubt, the S4 does not fail to deliver on new features on top of the Motion features available in the S3.

The new Full HD Screen can challenge the eyes at first, but no doubt there is a certain increase in clarity and crispness along with the pop in colour, which not only rivals but surpasses Apple’s Retina Display.

Air gestures are only really useful for people who aren’t likely to use downloaded applications but the use on a lock screen to review most important information is useful.

The “Smart” features which uses detection of the eyes, aren’t so effective in the dark. Voice commands are great but no sure how useful they’d be.

Some of the new applications also seem pointless and although they can’t be removed, they can be hidden instead.

With all its new features it could be Life’s Companion, whether or not all those features will be used is another question.

I’m impressed by the features, but I’d probably not upgrade from my Galaxy S3.

Score: 4.5/5

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