Review: The Samsung Galaxy S4

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Written by: Riri (@lillyums

Hello g33ks! I went through 2 years of hell with the Samsung Charge and finally got a phone way better than any phone I have ever owned.  And now, with Samsung’s continuous climb in sales and popularity in their Galaxy line, I now have the next big thing: the Samsung Galaxy S4.  This will be a review of all the prime features that were advertised prior to release as well as my experience with its use and performance.

Usability & Features

Maneuvering around within this phone was not difficult for me to do – however, I want to note that I didn’t have a very good phone prior to this – the Samsung Charge. It was bad, and couldn’t last 4 hours with “regular use."  The majority of my experiences discussed will be compared directly to my old shitty phone that I had for 2 years.  So in summary, this phone is fliipping awesome and the best thing that happened to me since my very first phone in highschool. When I was reading about the “next big thing”, one of the main features of this phone, aside from the obvious upgraded processor to quad core, more RAM,  higher resolution/megapixels, is the much talked about Smart Technology. So I’d like to start talking about these features.

+Smart Technology

The Smart Scroll feature – this feature is supposed to detect your eye moment and “scroll” down the page you are reading automatically. At first I couldn’t get it to work AT ALL.  But before I continue, within about 30 minutes of turning on my phone, I had already replaced the stock with 3rd party apps (launcher, keyboard, browser).  So I had a Firefox, Chrome, and Go Browser, and it didn’t work on ANY of those.  I tried it on my Feedly reader, and another reader.  Didn’t work.  So I had to dig a little further and found out it only works in the stock browser.  No big deal of course – most people stick with the stock browser sometimes, and I think this would be a useful feature for if you were in bed reading sometime using the stock browser.  For me, I don’t usually read off any browser because I use reader apps to… read. And well, the Smart Scroll doesn’t work for any of those.

The Smart Stay feature – this feature claims to detect your eye and while you are watching a video, it will pause when you look away, and when you look at the screen it will resume the video. I can’t say this feature is all that needed. Sure it works in YouTube, but it didn’t always work, and I don’t care that much for it to pause all the time.  But yes – this works, I don’t really have anything else to say about this.

+Air View

Another new feature is the Air View feature – just by hovering your finger over your, say, email, you can preview the contents; this can also be done in gallery where you can preview the contents of a gallery folder, and you can sweet through photos in your gallery without touching the screen.  Another thing you can do is take screen shots using this feature by sweeping your side palm across the screen.  Here’s what I think overall about this feature:   it’s neat when something actually started to work after attempting the Smart Technology features. However, sweeping through your gallery without touching the screen didn’t really make it any different than to just touch the screen.  Also, you can only preview email messages via the stock email app. That’s it. Doesn’t work in Gmail (even though the stock email app refers to the Gmail app to download since it can’t create a Gmail account on its own) But I think it’s somewhat useful within the Gallery when you have several photos and you want to  see which album contains your photos quickly. The screen shot option, as oppose to holding down the power and home button, is actually my favorite way to take screen shots. For some reason I’m having more difficulty holding two buttons down right than to slide my palm across.  So with that being said, I like the Air View feature overall, even though some of the options aren’t really necessary.

So what do I think about the Smart Technology? I don't really use it... for all the reasons mentioned above.  I think once Smart Technology is able to be integrated into other email apps and browsers, I may consider using it.

+Camera/Video

I really liked the camera features, and the new additions (compared to the Samsung Charge).  It includes different modes: Auto, Beauty face, Night, Best Photo, Sports, Best Face, Sound&Shot, Drama, Animated Photo, Rich tone (HDR), Eraser, and Panorama.  While I won’t go through all of these, I’ll note the modes that appealed to me most.  The Eraser mode takes several shots in succession and allows you to select the photo that doesn’t have a photo bomber, for example, or if there are people that walk by in the background, you could select a photo at the moment when there weren’t anybody walking by. Best Face and Best Shot works similarly – multiple shots, pick your best one. Now Drama mode was the one I have never seen – basically it’ll take multiple shots of a moving object, let’s say … my cat.  It will then perform overlays of each shot, showing what appears multiple cats. The photos in general come in great quality; resolution is excellent.  Here's an example of multiple Tokidoki Unicornos, and focus centered on the far right.

In general, taking a photo is very quick and it doesn't have to think before it takes a shot, which is a big upgrade for me from the Samsung Charge.   What I really like about using the camera is that you can voice activate the camera to snap a photo by saying one of several words.  Sometimes holding the phone trying to snap a photo of myself is a little difficult, so just by saying “Shoot” or “Cheese” or “Smile” will do it for you. I find this feature very useful if your thumb cannot press the touch screen camera button very well.

Taking videos is as easy as taking photos – one thing I really liked about taking a video was that you can also take a photo at the same time while filming. So that was a cool feature that I haven’t had before with other phones that I’ve owned.

+Other Notable Features I liked
Screen saver - while the phone is charging, you can select an album to use as a screen saver.

Mlti Screen Mode - enabled from the power menu, you can do multi window views to multi task - at most 2 windows, but you can also use the Samsung video player to pop out and remain on screen in a corner while you go do other things at the same time. 

LED Indicator light is customizable - customize the light for email, text, and app notifications. 

 

Performance

Overall I am very impressed with the performance of this phone.  Battery life is by far a huge plus for me. On my old Samsung Charge, I could barely last 5 hours with “regular use” before I have to plug it into the charger.  With the S4,  I can last the whole 8 hours at work under low screen brightness, mobile data on, regular syncing with email/facebook/apps, and occasional internet browsing and still have about 30% battery life.  With brightness set to all the way, I was left with 10% battery by the end of the day. What’s ALSO important to note, I was 5% battery life, which on the Samsung Charge would last about 5 minutes on the lowest power saving setting.  On the S4, if you have it off and switch to power saving mode, and turn off the mobile data, it could last hours! Like 2 hours with limited use, just to check and respond back to texts.

In the Samsung Charge, lagging was a huge problem. It was by far the worst lagging I’ve ever experienced and it took a lot of patience for me to deal with it.   For comparative purposes, opening the messaging app took on average 5 seconds to fully load before I can start typing.  Around 10 seconds to fully load for the browser. On the S4, everything is extremely quick, smooth, and it makes me warm and fuzzy inside. The only lagging that I had encountered was within the camera function.  I encounter this almost every time – after I snap a photo and select the icon to take me directly to view the photo, there is a slight lag where the camera view freezes for a second or two before it opens up the image for viewing. This isn’t a huge deal to me, but it was a red flag because of all apps and functions and features that I have tested, I would not have expected this to occur from viewing an image after taking the photo.  

Overall, it has quick response when scrolling from screen to screen, opening apps, and internet browsing. 

Aesthetics 

This is a wonderful looking piece of phone ass.  It is extremely light weight, thin, and has an amazing AMOLED screen. Most people may dislike the “plastic” feel, but to me this is what makes it so lightweight and I don’t mind it at all.  The touch screen feel smooth and surprisingly doesn’t seem to leave behind any smudges, which is what happens a lot for me with my previous phone. As greasy as my hands get after putting lotion on, this screen is like grease-proof.  As soon as I applied a screen protector on, oils were visibly everywhere.

One thing this phone made changes to physically is just having one button which functions as the home screen button. The ‘back’ and ‘menu’ buttons are now touch, which makes using the phone more smooth to me, less clicking and more light feathery tapping.  It’s … quieter. Personally, I think this phone looks great, and nothing about it bothers me.

 
The Verdict
All in all, I love this phone. A lot.  It is 200% better than my last phone and is capable of everything I need it to do. It's fast, its battery life is excellent, takes excellent photos, and overall a fantastic phone.  Even under a 3rd party launcher, it still runs great. In fact, I usually don't stick to too many stock apps and everything on my phone is customized by 3rd party apps and it still runs great.  

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