Finally, from preview to review the Samsung Galaxy S4 took quite some time to get here and the "Life Companion" is in very high demand! I still remember all the rumors that flew around this smartphone before its announcement - it was quite exciting to read and I myself was hoping for a flexible screen but, in reality some ideas were a little too farfetched. What Samsung did release was a great jump up in the Galaxy series by pulling no punches and rolling out a variety of features and apps to make the Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) significantly different than any of its brethren.
What's in the box:
- 1 Galaxy S4 (5.38" x 2.74" x .31")
- 1 Battery (2600mAh)
- 1 USB charger & Cable
- 1 Headset
- 1 Samsung Smart Switch insert
- 1 Get Started Guide & Important Information Booklet
So what does 5.38" real estate bring to the table? Let's start with a 5" 1080P AMOLED screen with 1920x1080 resolution, which has the clarity to play any graphic intense games but, if you're not into games the S4 easily plays any Hi-def. movies and also showing superb quality images. The remainder of the face of the device there's a 2MP full HD front facing camera and a physical home screen button, along with 2 touch screen controls. Now, what you don't see is 9 Sensors all along the top and bottom which the "Life Companion" uses to give you a unique experience:
- Air Gesture Sensor– Infrared to detect hand movement.
- Air View sensor1 (Face recognition)- used for Smart Unlock, Smart Pause and Smart Scroll, which detect eye movement as you look up or down or pauses a movie the moment you look away.
- Air View Sensor 2 (Finger Hovering)- Detects electric currents on your fingertips when in close range of screen
- Temperature / Humidity Sensor – checks temperature and humidity levels around you.
- Barometer– identifies the atmospheric pressure at the user's location
- Accelerometer – Walking mate detects the phone movement and speed
- RGB Light Sensor (Samsung Adapt Display) – Detects the red, green, blue, & white intensity of the area around you.
- Proximity Sensor – detects via Infrared whether the mobile phone is located near you
- Geomagnetic Sensor (Digital Compass MAP) – detects magnetic field intensity
- Gyro Sensor (Smart Rotation) – detects the mobile phone rotation
Now whatever didn't fit in the front, found its place on the removable back plate and depending on your carrier you'll have the choice of black or white. On the outside, it houses the 13MP Camera (which has its own section) and a standard smart phone speaker. Once inside the removable plate there are 3 slots: a Micro SD, SIM Card, and your battery. The Micro SD can manage up to 64GB of storage, so feel free to be a data hog and in case that isn't enough there is still 10 GB of internal storage to play with (16GB total). The phone provided to TOV is used on the Sprint Network however, once unlocked it can support LTE/WCDMA/CDMA/GSM so you're good to go wherever you are! Rounding out the remainder of the device, on the ride side you have your power/standby button, on the left is volume control, at the bottom is your MicroUSB port for charging/syncing and at the top is the headphone jack.
Now with all these Sensors and apps going on at the same time, what's the muscle behind the constant performance? A 1.9 GHz Quad-core with 2GB LPDDR3 Ram, powered by a 2600 MAh Li-Ion battery which will supply you with a standby time of 300(4G) to 350 (3G) hours and a talk time of 17Hrs. The most important feature for me especially when I'm on a long trip is the 69Hrs. of Music play and 11Hrs Movie play. So realistically what can you expect? You can expect a range of about 10-13 hours of usage between charges.
On to the software!
If you've ever had any of the previous Galaxy phones, you will feel right at home with the S4 and Samsung has done an excellent job with upgrading the UI (User Interface). Normally, I don't read manuals but for this phone, I made the exception and after extensive reading and looking at the Samsung website I'm of the opinion that the UI can go two ways: one route is the simple and easy route, by which everything works and you don't have to bother figuring stuff out. My Best example is my mother; she likes the phone to play games and make calls, she doesn't know much more than that. It handles everything by itself for her like using Facebook, taking a picture, and uploading/downloading, using the apps, everything is already set for use. Easy mode is everything it's supposed to be! The Second route, for us tech savvy/adventurer types are the countless options for us to play with, which will keep us busy for hours; I've found dozens of settings and features, which let me modify to my heart's content. This phone was built to go with you wherever you decide to wander; think about it, there's a Barometer, Humidity/Temperature and a Geomagnetic Sensor it's literally a few sensors short of a Tricorder.
A few key features that are included:
- Group play- connects up to 8 S4 devices and stream music and claims to do the same with Multiplayer games. No Wi-Fi necessary.
- S Translator- Does image/voice/text translation of many languages voices and images such as signs in 9 different languages.
- S Voice- Double click the home button and a voice your command or question.
- Multi-Window- a drag and drop function to put multiple screens on a side bar.
- Watch ON- gives your local TV channel listing and allows you to control your phone via your TV service provider.
- High-touch sensitivity- You can wear regular gloves and it will still function as normal.
As you already know, the rear facing camera is a 13MP Full HD with 4x Digital Optical Zoom and the front facing a 2MP Full HD, but what makes this a fun experience is there are enough modes to make a Hipsters swoon, especially with the Dual photo. The actual camera software comes with a variety of Shot Modes: Animated Photo, Auto, Beauty Face, Best Face, Best Photo, Drama Shot, Eraser Shot, Rich tone (HDR), Night, Panorama, Sound & Shot, Sports; Slow Motion Recording. If that perfect shot didn't come out the way you want it, there is on-the-spot photo editing and extras to enhance your picture. Once you have your perfect photo you might want to share it with the world, via Samsung's S Beam, S Memo, Samsung Link, Share Shot, Wi-Fi Direct, Group Play or Auto-Upload via Photo Share, Flipboard, Google+, and/or Picasa. I enjoyed and tested the 0 lag response, which was put to the test with great success. The camera has a mode for every occasion with the ability to enhance it if you're not happy.
What more could I ask? My favorite 3 features:
Dual Camera (Dual shot): you can make use of the front and rear camera to take a picture or video at the same time, your face is in a customized box on the main camera screen. If you're one of those types that like to take a picture of their food, you can do so WHILE you're eating it, showing off your like/dislike of your cuisine.
Sound and Shot – Adds a 5 second audio clip, to your images. It's great if you truly want to capture someone's personality within the image.
Eraser - Takes multiple frames of a subject, removing unwanted persons from the shot such as someone suddenly walking in front of or behind your subject. This worked great while I was trying to take pictures of the kids running around.
So after taking in all that, how does the Galaxy S4 truly fare?
First up, Samsung has nailed it on the size of the S4; not too big as the Note 2 but bigger than the S3 and also noticeably lighter. The features packed within pretty much blows away the previous Galaxy devices making this phone more a necessity for your day to day needs; Samsung wasn't kidding when they nicknamed the S4 the "Life Companion". The camera is another positive and with features such as "sound and shot", "Dual Shot", and even" Erasure", you wouldn't need anything else to help capture that perfect moment. And the cherry on this amazing sundae is the beautiful, hi-res display; images and vids are crisp, clear. I'm also pretty impressed with its power, how well it performs and the UI, which is "buttery" smooth and very fluid. And the fact that there's literally an "Easy Mode" makes the phone worth it. One thing I'd like to point out about the rear case is that its plastic and has some grip so I feel like it won't slip out of my hands, that easily. Otherwise, Samsung you've created a beast of a smartphone – inside and out, the Galaxy S4 is the one to beat.
On the sides are the power and volume buttons in this version there is no camera button. I am one of the few people that miss the camera button. (Valkor's Note: neither the S3 nor the Note 2 has a dedicated camera button). One thing that makes this phone great is that it's light and very thin, however that's what scares me the most; I'm afraid that this thing will drop and smash beyond epic proportions.
To the Samsung Galaxy S4, I shall name thee Alfred as I feel it was designed to be my butler. It will respond to all my digital beck and calls, bringing me all the information I need and then some from the internet or my surroundings. The only way it falls short is that it doesn't have arms to serve me drinks. And out of TOV 5 stars, I give the Galaxy S4 a 5, because "Life companion" translates to Android butler.