Smartphone or Life Companion? Overview of the Samsung Galaxy S4

Smartphone or Life Companion? Overview of the Samsung Galaxy S4On the home screen of its glossy advertising image that’s now touring the tech world after Samsung’s recent release, the new S4 calls itself a “life companion”. High claims for any phone that is not one of the incredibly hyped iPhone 5 series at the moment.

But can the Korean Samsung live up to its tagline, and become the ultimate pocket accessory, capable of being the new generation of powerful portable computers masking themselves as smartphones? Maybe. For a fee ranging from free with 12-month contract at Vodaphone, to £399 unsubsidized, you and your wallet together will have to decide if it’s worth it.

Let’s give a nod to why this phone does deserve to be a good companion, first of all. The screen is out of this world. A massive 5-inch display does full justice to the HD pixelated screen that is worthy of playing all your favorite videos, plus capable of taking brilliantly lit photos with a whopping 13 MP camera, LED flash, and a bonus front-facing 2 MP camera for video chat with a built-in eye sensor to monitor your steady gaze.

The Android 4.2.2 platform and Samsung’s TouchWiz operating system make for a fairly smooth, fun and well-organized browsing experience. Storage is ample and wireless is strong.

More than that, though, are the little icing surprises that Samsung throws on top of the solid cake experience we were expecting – features like Air Gesture, which allows users to remotely control their phone by, well, gesturing in the air. Tired fingertips? Try using your eyes to scroll instead, as the S4 captures your gaze and obeys the commands of your vision.

Photographers will be thrilled about the loads of new picture modes to capture action, enhance subjects, and add multimedia, like Drama Shot, Sound and Shot, and Dual Shot, which actually blends picture-takers in with their subjects Photoshop-style.

On the down side, the physical encasement of the phone is not as impressive, as, say the iPhone 5s. It is cheap plastic in a metal disguise, and it doesn’t take a genius to notice. And sure, the fun extras are nice baubles to have, but they can’t make up for a slight lack of speed, innovation, and new features that we’re seeing in competitor phones like the HTC One, which comes equipped with dual front stereo speakers.

Faithful Samsung users will want to know if the S4 is really worth the effort and cash if they’ve already got an S3 in hand. Essentially, the frame and exterior of the device are extremely similar, and users will notice only a few subtle distinctions in the metal-esque plastic shell of the phone. But the real kicker that would make for excellent motivation to upgrade is the camera specs. The S4 has a full 5 megapixels over its sister S3, which makes a real difference if you use your phone as your primary camera.

If you’re on Team Android, it makes sense to consider the S4 as serious competition in the new wave of speedy, small, HD smartphones that are brilliant at their job. As far as life companion, it will respond to your gestures, translate foreign languages for you, sing to you and record your life in pictures and video…but its limitations begin there.

If you’re an outdoorsman, though, it might just be the perfect swimming mate: As a plus for hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts, the S4 comes in an “active” version, aka one that is rugged, rubberized waterproof for up to half an hour, and tough and heavy enough to make an excellent camping companion. You will sacrifice 5 megapixels when it comes to the camera (going from 13 on the regular S4 to 8 on the Active), but you will also gain the ability to take underwater photos through the Aqua setting, a pretty unique perk for those who find themselves in the water wishing for a camera.

Editorial Team
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