Release Date: 4/16/2013
OS: Android Jellybean 4.2.2.
Colors: White, Black
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
The Good: Gorgeous 5″ screen, tons of customization features and options, Air Gestures and Smart Screen are neat, sleek form factor, super powerful CPU and GPU, tons of fast RAM, expandable media options, packed-in headphones are great, amazing 13MP camera
The Bad: Air Gestures and Smart Screen are just gimmicks and drain the battery fast, battery doesn’t last very long unless all features are off, back cover is flimsy and cheap feeling, comes with a lot of bloatware
Apple finally met it’s match, the Samsung Galaxy S III has sold more units than the iPhone 4 and 4S combined, that’s a serious feat. Why you ask? Because Android OS gives you complete freedom to do what you want, not what Samsung wants. There is no iTunes that you are tethered to, you can put what you want on your phone, you can buy expandable media, the choice is yours. People loved that, and the S3 took off due to the form factor and Samsung’s smart marketing ideas. With the S4 Samsung has created the most powerful smartphone on the planet, honestly I won’t even compare the S4 to the iPhone 5 much because it is more powerful than that phone and the iPad 3.
Out of the Box
The box itself is actually pretty nice. It has a wood texture on it letting you know you bought something classy, something with character, not a robot clone like the iPhone 5. Like wood, you can shape it and do what you want with it, make furniture, do some wood burning, or break it into pieces. Also like wood, the S4 has endless customization options. The S4 comes with earbuds that are better than the iPhone earbuds, as well as three different ear pieces for different size preferences. You will also have to put the battery in yourself, the back cover, and for some carriers, the 4G SIM card. Assembling your phone also lets you know that it’s yours, it’s not assembled in the box like an iPhone, it gives you a bit more attachment to your phone. This sounds weird to some people, but it’s true, there’s a reason for all this.
Welcome to Android
For people who have used Android for a while (like myself since 2.2), you will love the 4.2.2 Jellybean OS. Samsung’s personal touch is amazing with many power saving options, a great shutter menu, and the speed and precision of a high-end PC. Think I’m kidding? There is virtually zero lag even with multiple apps open, but that’s not the first thing you will notice.
The phone itself is the thinnest and sleekest phone around. Especially for the power under the hood. The 5″ Super AMOLED display is gorgeous and rivals that of high-end HDTVs. It has a 1920×1080 resolution, that’s a full 1080p resolution folks, same quality has a TV. The screen is also 441 ppi which is twice that of most other high-end phones. You are looking at pure eye-catching crisp visuals for movies, games, and photos. Nothing out there beats it. It also feels great, it’s a perfect rectangle with rounded edges. It has aluminum sides to make it look modern, and it also comes in black and white. I prefer the black because it looks sleeker and the white makes it look like a stretched out iPhone 4S. The volume rocker is very thin and blends in with the phone and same goes with the power button. The S4 has a home button like the iPhone, and unlike most other Android phones. It has a menu and back soft key, but no search soft key like other phones. I found this simple and honestly looks like a better iPhone.
Under the Hood
For people who care, or don’t care, the S4 is one of the most powerful phones on the market. It has a 1.9Ghz (there are 1.6 and 1.4 Ghz models available) quad-core Krait 300 CPU. That is damn fast, even faster than most high-end tablets. It sports a SGX PowerVR 544 GPU which will let you play the best games out there, but is also extremely fast and current games don’t quite push it to its limits, it’s a tri-core GPU to boot. In fact, it’s just one up from the PlayStation Vita GPU, and everyone knows it can produce near PS3 quality graphics. The S4 has 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM which means tons of room for app switching and you won’t have any slow down. You also get a 13 MP camera, yeah 13. It’s the same quality as a high-end point and shoot, and the quality is amazing. There is also a 2 MP front facing camera which is better than most phone’s 1.3 or 0.3 MP FFC. This allows extra precision when using the Smart Gestures (more later). The battery also has a Near Field Communications chip which allows for NFC beaming to other devices. You can also mirror your screen on another device to show them something. The S4 also features DLNA file sharing for computers and other devices.
With the combination of the gyroscope, front facing camera, and the smart screen you can do things on your phone without even touching it. One feature lets you wave your hand in front of the screen to answer a call, hold the screen with two thumbs and use the gyroscope to look around your pictures, wave your hand in front of the screen to scroll pictures, and various other features. One other feature lets you hover your finger above and image to preview it before pressing it. Honestly, these features are gimmicks and nothing more than something to show off with in public. The biggest issue is they are a serious battery drain. Keeping the FFC and smart screen features on just sucks your battery dry in a few short hours.
A few features here like scrolling pages with the tilt of your head or tilting your screen. It doesn’t respond as well as you think and sucks your battery down. You can also use Smart Stay which will turn the screen off when you look away, and smart pause which will pause video when you look away. This all keeps your FFC on and will drain your battery in no time as well.
The Little Things That Matter
In the end there are little things that are there for customization. Multi-Window allows you to quickly switch apps with a drawer at the side of your screen, there’s a great power-saving mode that underclocks the CPU and can turn off haptic feedback as well as dial back the color resolution on the screen. You will need these because the battery does not last long in the S4 with everything turned on. There’s also a little feature that lets you make your own vibration patterns which is really interesting. You can have widgets and shortcuts on your lock screen which most phones need third-party apps for, you can control the phone with your voice, and unlock the screen with your voice. This may seem pointless to some people, but the fact that Samsung put it in here means they care about the consumer. They give you all these tools and you can decide if you want them or not, they are not forced onto you. One thing that I do need to mention is that there is a lot of bloatware on the phone that needs to be disabled. I disabled nearly 30 apps that I would never use and just used up space and resources.
In the end the Galaxy S4 is one of the most customizable and powerful smartphones on the market, I would go as far as to say THE most. I have never had a phone that gave me so much freedom before, so much power, and such great picture quality. The biggest problems are with the battery and gimmicky features that help drain that battery. The Air Gestures and Smart Screen are for lazy people or people who like to show off, it actually takes more effort to use these than to just use the screen. Despite this, the S4 gives you endless possibilities with the most powerful and efficient mobile OS on the market. You are a fool not to own this phone.