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Samsung Galaxy S4 Preview
Samsung’s Galaxy S3 was possibly the most successful phone of 2012. Its successor, the aptly named Galaxy S4, had much to live up to on its 26th April release date. So, has the S4 lived up to hype? We’ll find out more below…
Samsung gave us our first glimpse of the S4 on its 14th March launch event in New York’s Times Square. According to Samsung, the phone was built on four pillars: ‘a better camera’, ‘greater connectivity’, ‘to make life easier’ and ‘health and well-being’.
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At first glance, the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks rather similar to its older sibling, the Galaxy S3. The rounded corners, flat profiling and polycarbonate shell remain. As does have the familiar layout of three navigation buttons (home, back and menu) beneath the screen.
So, what’s changed? Well, we now have a metallic style band running around the edges of the S4, giving this phone a real look of quality. This was perhaps something we felt was missing from the S3. In addition, the S4 is ever-so-slightly squarer than the S3 – quite reminiscent of the design of the even older Galaxy S2.
Like its sibling, the Galaxy S4 is a large phone indeed, with a huge 5 inch touchscreen. What’s surprising however is the S4 is actually slightly smaller than the S3. Both phones are as tall as each other at 136.6mm, but the S4 has slightly less width at 69.8mm and is quite a bit thinner at 7.9mm. It’s also 3 grams lighter than the S3, weighing in at a very sprightly at 130g. Samsung has to be commended for squeezing in such powerful innards (more on this later) into a smaller chassis.
One of the most important features on a phone these days is its screen. A high end phone with a dull, low-resolution screen is always a disappointment. Thankfully, the Galaxy S 4’s isn’t. With a huge 5 inch (corner to corner) touchscreen at full HD resolution, this screen pumps out an eye-watering 441 pixels per square inch (ppi). Compare than with the S3’s 306 ppi and even the iPhone 5’s so-called retina display’s 326 ppi, you can see that the S4 is leaps and bounds ahead of its rivals. And Samsung have again stuck with Super AMOLED screen, giving a depth of colour rarely seen outside the Galaxy range.
If you’re worried about scratching your precious S4’s screen don’t be – it’s protected by Coring Gorilla glass 3. Gorilla glass 3 is the latest in screen protection technology, announced earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (yes, they do announce screen protection technology these days!). It is said that Gorilla glass 3 is up to three times more scratch resistant than its predecessor, Gorilla glass 2. Stick it in your pocket with your keys, anyone?
One of the pillars Samsung stated the S4 stood on was an ‘a better camera’. And they haven’t disappointed. The S4 has camera that takes some really impressive shots, thanks to its 13 megapixel sensor with autofocus and a very bright LED flash. Low light conditions aren’t a problem for the S4’s sensor – dark scenes come out very well indeed.
Looking at the video camera, it shoots at the same 13 megapixlels as the stills camera. More specifically, it can record video at 4128 x 3096 pixels, which is around three times the resolution of full HD. It also comes with a handful of new editing modes, such as eraser mode. Eraser mode is a clever little editing tool that allows you to remove an unwanted object from your video – including moving objects. Then we have cinema mode. Cinema mode allows you to keep a part of your video static, so you could for example, have a person remain stationery against a moving background.
There is also a 2 megapixel front mounted camera , great for video talk but can also be used simultaneously with the rear camera for some funky effects.
To avoid any confusion it should be noted that their are two distinct versions of the Galaxy S4 – the I9505 which is the UK and 4G LTE enabled version, and the international version – I9500. This website discusses the UK’s I9505 version.
At its heart, the I9505 version of the S4 uses Qualcomm’s latest chip, the Snapdragon 600. This chip contains a 1.9 GHz quad-core processor along with an Adreno 320 GPU, giving the S4 immense power while running apps – the Samsung Galaxy S4 deals with pretty much anything thrown at it.
The operating system is Google’s latest and greatest version of Android – Android v4.2.2 Jelly Bean no less. It’s refreshing to see a phone released with the latest version; so many are released a version or two behind. As its v4.2.2, some very nice features are included out of the box, such as ‘Photo Sphere’ – the ability to take some beautiful panoramic photos, along with the smoothest Android user experience to date, thanks to Jelly Bean’s project butter.
Let’s not forget that the S IV comes in three flavours of built-in storage memory – 16, 32 and 64 GB. Unfortunately for the consumer, many phones are now released without the ability to expand storage memory, with built-in storage the only option. Samsung however have bucked this trend, deciding to stick with the ability to upgrade the storage memory via microSD card. This enables you to add a potential 64 GB to the phone, giving you a huge amount of portable storage. Although this feature is probably more to do with the fact that Samsung manufacture memory cards, nevertheless we applaud Samsung for retaining it.
Supporting Samsung’s second pillar of ‘greater connectivity’, the Galaxy S4 has more ways then most to get you hooked up. Here in the UK, 4G LTE for super-fast mobile broadband is supported, along with the latest 3G standard, HSDPA 42.2 Mbps, for those networks that have yet to offer 4G. The phone is also Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac ready. The addition of the latest Wi-Fi standard 802.11 ac is a welcome one, given its theoretical maximum throughput of 500 Mbit/s. Bluetooth v4.0, a microUSB port as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) offer ways to get you connected.
The battery of the S4 has also received an upgrade from the s3. This time we have a 2,600 mAh battery, giving you more playing and less charging time.
Overall, we love the S4 spec sheet – it’s a powerful phone indeed thanks to its cutting edge innards. Admittedly, this wasn’t in any way a surprise given the reputation of the galaxy range.
What good is the latest smartphone without spangly new features ‘to make life easier’? Luckily the Samsung galaxy S IV has a whole host you will probably wondered how you lived your life without.
Let’s start with the most talked about feature of the S4 – smart scroll. Smart scroll does away with finger scrolling. No longer do you need to continuously flick up and down a page. Smart scroll uses eye tracking on the front mounted camera, automatically scrolling the page as your eyes reach the bottom of the screen. How’s that for making life easier?
And then we have smart pause. Smart pause is similar to smart scroll in that it makes use of eye tracking, but this time it pauses your video when you look away from the screen. No longer will you miss vital seconds of Nyan Cat on YouTube!
Another great feature is Air gestures. Air gestures allow you to swipe the phone without actually touching it, to answer a call or to navigate though the menus. Very useful if you have mucky paws or are wearing gloves.
Hover mode is also a clever addition, giving you the ability to hover your finger for a preview. As an example, if you hover your finger over an email, up pops a preview. Hover mode first featured on the Galaxy Note 2 and is another welcome addition to the S4.
There will be several official accessories available for the S4 at launch, although we doubt they will be cheap. A wireless charging pad is one. A game pad is also mooted, turning your S4 into a fully-fledged portable gaming system, along with the normal cases, pouches and HDMI cables.
Let’s not forget Samsung’s final pillar the S4 was built on – ‘health and well-being’. Step forward the S Health application. S Health acts as a sort of health diary and pedometer, logging user stats such as weight, calories consumed, distance travelled etc. S Health is currently compatible with two Samsung accessories – HRM (a belt that monitors your heart rate) and Body Scale, a set of scales that allow you to send and log your weight on your S4 via Bluetooth. No longer do you have an excuse not to get out and exercise!
So there we have it ladies and gentlemen – behold the all new Samsung Galaxy S4!
In the looks department, the Galaxy S4 is very similar to our phone of 2012, the Galaxy S3. But don’t let that fool you – the S4 is a very different beast altogether, and is a worthy upgrade to the S3.
It was almost a given that the S4 would come with the latest and most powerful technology under the hood. No surprises then that it has, and as such, is probably the fastest Android phone currently in town. What sets this phone apart however, isn’t its blisteringly fast processor or the crisp full HD screen. No, it’s the flawless implementation and unique set of features that really show off the S4’s true colours.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S4 really is a top-notch smartphone. The S4 for phone of the year 2013? We’d say it’s a distinct possibility!
What’s your opinion on Samsung’s latest smartphone? We’d love to hear it, so feel free to tell the world below!
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This is great phone. Must buy for Samsung fans.
Nearly here! Cant wait to get my hands on an S4.. have on preorder.
Must say, the S4 looks just like the S3. Thanks for a good review.