The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the Korean brand’s most powerful device yet. It boasts specs that would make most smartphones question the reason for their existence and is successor to Samsung’s best selling smartphone to date, the Galaxy S3.
Granted, the much awaited and hotly anticipated S4 has big shoes to fill, but after spending a week with it, I feel this device has the capability needed, to be able to step up to the challenge. However, this particular phone comes with too many unnecessary whistles and bells of sorts.
It feels as if the gimmickry is in place to compensate for the lack of something else. In reality, this phone can only show its efficiency and capability once you get rid of all the excess baggage that you will never need.
The S4 is a robust device with a beautiful display, but is it worth the price tag?
The S4 is similar to the S3, among other Galaxy products in design, but better. It has the same round-edge rectangular look with a chrome trim wrapped around the edges, housing the power button to the right, 35mm audio jack on top, the volume rocker to the left and micro-USB port at the bottom.
It’s remarkable, that Samsung has managed to make the phone lighter, faster and narrower while increasing the screen size from 4.8 inches to a full 5 inches on the S4. It also deserves to be said that although it’s lighter and narrower, it feels like more of a premium phone, build wise, than its predecessor.
Unlike its nemesis, the S4 has a removable battery, under the detachable plastic cover, a feature applauded by a surprising amount of people. I personally don’t think much of it; I’d rather have a fixed metal finished back cover that represents the feel of the price tag it carries like say, the HTC One.
Micro-SD storage and Micro-SIM ports are placed adjacent to each other, above the battery and beneath the LED Flash. Other manufacturers use a nifty tray that houses the SIM or external storage and slides into the profile of the phone.
The Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen boasts a 1080 x 1920 resolution, coughing up a mind blowing 441 pixels per inch (ppi). There is absolutely no problem under direct sunlight, or any other surrounding.
The display on the S4 has to be without a doubt the best screen Samsung has ever put into production. Adjusting the brightness is as easy as pulling the notification menu down and making your choice; alternatively you could select the auto-mode that adapts according to your surroundings.
The incredible pixel density can really be put to the test while reading long documents. Generally when you view an entire page worth of text on a phone, the words tend to blur, but not here: the text is sharp and very readable even from a distance without having to zoom in.
Samsung has a whole array of features lined up to enhance user experience with the S4.
‘Air view’ allows you to preview before selecting while hovering over different areas of the screen, you can essentially preview information or numbers before you choose to click on them. We saw this feature in the Galaxy Note 2 as well, only difference is that previously it was dependant on the S pen.
‘Air gesture’ enables users to scroll web pages in screen size jumps through air jump. The user can also move between pictures, pages or music tracks via air browse. You could wave your hand over the screen to accept incoming calls. All of these tricks sound great but are not as functional as I would have hoped.
‘Smart stay’ ensures that the screen stays on as long as you are looking at it. Smart rotation adjusts the display direction to the angle of your sight and Smart pause makes sure that the video will pause when it detects that you are facing away from the screen. Again, this sounds great but if more than one person is watching the video or you happen to be a multi-tasking while doing something else this feature falls flat since you do not want your eye movement to interrupt the process.
‘Smart scroll’ is meant to detect your eye movement with the front camera so you can scroll pages by tilting your head or the device. It may not work when the front camera fails to detect your eyes, when the source of light is behind you or in dark situations. It will also not work when the device is shaking, or you are interacting with the device in other ways such as tapping the screen or using palm motions.
S beam can be used to transfer files through Wi-Fi as oppose to Bluetooth on Android beam resulting in quicker transfer speeds. The S4 can also be set up as a Wi-Fi hotspot for others to share internet usage. In Pakistan this would be very expensive since most of us do not have unlimited mobile data plans.
WatchON and S Health
Samsung has developed applications that will integrate your lifestyle with your S4. Through an infra-red blaster located on the top of your phone WatchON can act as your universal remote with separate devices setup in different rooms of the house.
Those of you like me who spend entirely too much time looking for the TV remote will be very satisfied with this setup. For once you can actually call the remote to see where it rings and additionally, you can customize it with as many setups as one may have in their house. The bedroom, TV lounge etcetera can all be saved as presets and with the touch of your fingertip you’re in control.
WatchON takes it up a notch by allowing you to control not just TV but the set-top box, dvd player, AV receiver, Streaming media player and blu-ray player.
Furthermore, you can have programs chosen or recommended for you. This feature again does not work so well in Pakistan because of the lack of digitization with respect to cable operators; most of us do not have access to on demand television.