The strategy has worked out well – Samsung is currently the leading maker of Android smartphones, and is on equal footing with Apple’s iPhones, which is really impressive. One of the best sellers Samsung has is the Galaxy S line, which is now in its 4th iteration – the Galaxy S4 is currently the most desired smartphone after the iPhone 5S, and that says a lot about its popularity (the awesome TV adverts poking fun at the iPhone have helped that, as well).
The Galaxy S4 has started rolling out this spring, and only now has it reached a true worldwide seller status. As it continues to sell hundreds of thousands of units per month, let’s take a closer look at the device and see what makes it so attractive.
The Galaxy S4 looks a lot like its predecessor, although it’s quite a bit more refined and has a smaller footprint despite housing a larger display – quite an achievement I must say. As is tradition with Samsung devices, the S4 is made out of plastic, which is strong but not as premium feeling as many would like. It will hold up to any kind of use, no doubt, but it will never achieve the same impression from people as when they get to hold an iPhone 5 (or a HTC One for that matter) for the first time – the cold metal really makes a difference.
Nevertheless, the glossy plastic isn’t that much of an issue when you consider that the front is almost wholly taken up by the display. The Galaxy S4 also comes in several color variations, all of which look really nice, so you get some choice in how your phone looks on the outside. The glossy paint is scratch resistant, as is the Gorilla glass sheet covering the whole front. And at its dimensions of 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, the S4 is the most compact smartphone on the market that has a large 5.0 inch display.
Hardware features and performance
The hardware of the Galaxy S4 is top of the line and I bet it will still be considered very good even after half a decade. The 5.0 inch display in particular is a marvel – it has a Full HD 1920×1080 pixels resolution (which gives it an effective pixel density of 441 DPI, better than the iPhone’s Retina Display) and uses Samsung’s flagship Super AMOLED panel technology, which provides excellent color reproduction (although some might say it’s oversaturated), contrast, brightness and viewing angles, while at the same time consuming less power than competing LCD technologies – all thanks to the self-lit pixels.
The processing power for the 4G LTE equipped models of the S4 is provided by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset, which is now technically not the flagship anymore with the Snapdragon 800 out, but the only difference between the two is in the GPU and processor frequency – otherwise the two are equal clock-for-clock in benchmarks. The four processor cores run at 1.9 GHz, which provide more than enough performance for any applications, while the Adreno 320 GPU is still fast enough to run the latest games without a hitch (it’s future proof, as well).
A more interesting choice is the Exynos 5 Octa chipset used in the 3G-only versions of the phone – this chip packs four 1.7 GHz Cortex A15 cores, as well as four 1.2 GHz Cortex A7 cores – the idea is to use the latter for low intensity applications and the former for apps and games requiring a lot of processing power. It doesn’t work quite well, with the chip being laggy and using more power than the above Snapdragon 600 (although it could probably be fixed by software optimizations), but it’s an interesting concept nonetheless.
All models of the Galaxy S4 come with 2048 MB of RAM and 16, 32 or 64 GB of built in storage space, as well as a micro SD card slot for expansion – you’ll never run out of memory with this phone, that’s for sure. The device has two cameras – a 13 Megapixels unit on the back and a 2 Megapixels unit on the front, both of which support 1080p video recording.
The other features include Wifi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS/GLONASS, HDMI out through USB-MHL, NFC, HSPA+ with speeds up to 42/5.76 Mbps and of course 4G LTE 100/50 Mbps – notable is the lack of an infrared transmitter, which was quickly popularized by the HTC One that was announced over a month later and is now present in most of the newly announced Samsung phones, as well.
The Galaxy S4 has a 2600 mAh battery, which is removable and is supposed to last up to 12 hours of continuous use – the average for a modern smartphone, and quite a good battery life for everyday use, I’d say. The fact that you can carry a small backup battery in your pocket (instead of a portable charger, for example) is a bonus, as well.
|Specifications||Samsung Galaxy S4|
|Display||5.0 inches, 1920×1080 pixels, Super AMOLED, 441 PPI pixel density|
|Processor||4G LTE model: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600, 1.9 GHz, quad core (3G only model – Exynos 5 Octa, with four 1.7 GHz Cortex A15 cores and four 1.2 GHz Cortex A7 cores)|
|Graphics adapter||Adreno 320 (PowerVR SGX544MP3 in the Exynos 5 Octa version)|
|Storage Space||16/32/64 GB onboard storage space, micro SD card slot|
|Camera(s)||Back – 13 Megapixels with LED flash and support for 1080p video recording; Front – 2 Megapixels camera with support for 1080p video recording|
|Connectivity Options||Wifi AC, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, GLONASS, micro USB and HDMI out, NFC, HSPA+, 4G LTE (market dependent), Wifi Direct, DLNA|
|Sensors||Light, proximity, magnetometer, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer sensors|
|Battery||Li-Ion, 2600 mAh, up to 12 hours of continuous use|
|Dimensions and weight||136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm, 130 grams|
|Operating System and Software||Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, Touch Wiz UI|
The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with Android 4.2.2 pre-installed, and it’s pretty much the latest and the best version of the OS to date. All the default features are there, plus Samsung used their own Touch Wiz UI customizations and apps set, which adds a lot of functionality without making things too complicated. On the contrary, the nature inspired themes and sounds make for a very nice experience for new and experienced users alike.
Of the more interesting features, worth mentioning are Smart Pause and Scroll, which uses the webcam to see when you look away in order to pause or unpause a video or when you look at the bottom of the display to scroll the webpage further. The phone also has advanced gestures that use the sensors and from camera, so you can set the screen to turn on when you look at it, answer phone calls with a finger swipe, and more.
There’s also the multitasking capability first seen on the Galaxy Note – you can open two apps side by side, which works quite well on the large screen and lets you do a few things that are not possible on other phones, like copying an URL from a website and sending it by email or SMS while on a phone call.
And just like its predecessor, the Galaxy S4 is a very developer friendly device, with an unlocked boot loader and the ability to be rooted easily. Flashing new ROMs is a breeze, and you can also overclock or undervolt the phone for better performance or longer battery life, which is extremely useful.
Price and Availability
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is already available in pretty much every country in the world, and it resells for around $650 unlocked without a contract or $200 with a contract – that’s for the 16 GB version however, the 32 and 64GB models are not available everywhere and if they are, they usually cost around $50-150 more. The price is fairly standard, and comparable with other devices – if you want a top of the line smartphone, the S4 is undoubtedly a great choice – there’s a reason why it’s the number one Android smartphone in the world!