Samsung Galaxy S4 review
| ||Review: April 2013
In a nutshell: The Samsung Galaxy S4 is an Android 4.2 superphone with a 5 inch 1080p display, 4 cores, up to 128GB memory, eye control, touchless interface and more features than we can possibly list. It's the ultimate smartphone.
Best buy: Free Samsung Galaxy S4 Black from Dial-a-Phone (£0.00)
The Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced in New York on 14th March, and is now in the shops.
Whereas the Galaxy S3 was all about the hardware, the S4 is much more about software. That's partly because the S3 already did "enough" with its 4.8 inch HD display and quadcore processor. Ramping up the hardware specs gives diminishing returns, so now it's all about putting extra smart into smartphone.
Samsung's marketing blurb for the S4 describes it as a real life companion designed to simplify our lives and caring enough to monitor your well-being. That might have you reaching for the sick bag, but if not, let's take a look beyond the hype and see what this really means for you.
The Galaxy S4 doesn't look very different to the S3. It's a little wider, but even slimmer at just 7.9mm, which is just negligibly fatter than the iPhone 5. It weighs 130g, which is a few grams less than its predecessor. A textured finish makes it easy to grip despite its size.
The S4 is made of polycarbonate, but don't think that equates to poor build quality. There's nothing wrong with Samsung's build quality. The iPhone 5 and HTC One may boast about premium materials, but the S4 is just as well made.
The AMOLED screen of the S4 measures 5 inches, with a full HD resolution. That gives a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, well ahead of the iPhone's 326 ppi. There's no doubt about it - this is an astonishing screen and one of the device's biggest selling points.
The S4 comes with a bewildering set of 7 automatic display modes and 4 manual ones to optimise the clarity of the display for different purposes. Yikes! Is that really Samsung's idea of simplifying our lives?
Samsung's launch presentation gave everyone the impression that the S4 would be powered by an 8 core processor. But in a truly shocking example of how not to handle public relations, it turns out that the UK version uses a quad core processor.
Well, boo hoo. We were still trying to decide whether to call it 8 core or octo-core, and now we have to say quad-core. Still, it's a very fast 1.9GHz processor and really very fast indeed, so let's try not to get too upset about it.
You also get a huge 2GB of RAM plus a massive 64GB of built-in memory and a microSD card slot for an additional 64GB, which is simply enormous.
So, when we said the S4 wasn't really about hardware, we meant that it wasn't only about hardware. The hardware is, in fact, pretty incredible.
OK, it seems that touchscreens are officially boring. With the S4 you no longer need to actually touch the screen. You just move your finger close to the screen and it works as if you've pressed it. Say goodbye to fingerprints on the screen, because with the S4 you won't need to physically touch the device. Is this a good thing? Well, it certainly works, and if you enjoy feeling like a Roman emperor waving your hand to change music tracks, then owning the S4 is the next best thing to actually dressing like Augustus Caesar, which we would frankly discourage.
Smart Pause / Smart Scroll
One of the headline-grabbing features of the S4 is its eye control. The S3 had Smart Stay, which was able to detect whether you were looking at the screen, but Smart Pause / Smart Scroll takes this to another level. Look away from a video that's playing and the video will pause until you look back again. Tilt the phone gently to scroll up or down emails or websites.
The S4 comes with a built-in translator. The S Translator turns text or voice into another language and can read it out loud for you.
Your TV guide
You can use your S4 to manage your TV scheduling. Connect it to your home entertainment system and it will check out what's on and make suggestions based on your preferences. You can also use your S4 as a TV remote control.
Samsung's claim that the S4 cares about your well-being seems to be something of an exaggeration. In practice, S Health provides a suite of fitness tools so you can track your weight, workouts and so on. There's a handy built-in pedometer too. The phone can also measure temperature and humidity.
Dual camera action
The S4 has an upgraded 13 megapixel main camera and a 2 megapixel front-facing camera. These are impressive numbers, and the reality is that the main camera can take photos that are as detailed and sharp as anything else currently available. It's definitely a step above the HTC One's over-hyped UltraPixel camera, and a match for the impressive camera on the Sony Xperia Z.
Having front and rear cameras on a smartphone is nothing special, but simultaneously shooting with both and combining the results is definitely new. It's a way of including yourself when you take a photo or video of your friends. Gimmicky? Possibly. Fun? Definitely.
Dual Video lets you share what's on your screen with a friend during a video call.
The new Drama Shot feature lets you record a series of images in one shot, for example if you have a moving image that you want to capture. Another new camera feature is the ability to record sound together with a still photo. Samsung is merging the concepts of photo and video.
As well as sharing your photos on Facebook, the S4 will automatically organise your photos into Story Albums based on specific events. You can add text to the album and print or share it.
With a keen eye on monetising content, Samsung has brought together video, games, music, books and other content into a single online store. It's a clear challenge to Google Play, and whether this will benefit S4 owners or simply lead to greater fragmentation remains to be seen.
One of the world's biggest games developers, EA, has announced that it will be launching 16 of its popular titles optimised for the S4, ready for when the phone launches. Titles will include Tetris Blitz, The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Real Racing 3. These games will make use of the S4's fast processor, GPU and 1080p display resolution, and will potentially pose a threat to the console manufacturers.
Gaming could turn out to be one of the S4's killer features. With a 1080p big screen and the ability to mirror the display on a HD television, the S4 feels rather like a Nintendo Wii U controller. The quadcore processor and GPU deliver power that's not very different to an Xbox 360.
There's a powerful 2,600mAh battery, which is sufficient for a hard day's use, although we always want more. The battery is removable too, which is a definite advantage over most competitors. That's one of the advantages of the plastic casing.
The battery can also be charged wirelessly, like the Nokia Lumia 920.
The Galaxy S4 is a nice looking, superslim phone with a drop-dead gorgeous, full HD display. It may lack a metal body, but it feels like a high quality product nevertheless. There are a lot of new features packed into it, including the dual camera functions, voice and text translation, Air Gesture and Smart Scroll. It's clearly a step forward from the Galaxy S3, which was already an amazing phone, but does it have what it takes to make it a must-buy phone?
The competition includes not only the iPhone 5, but also Samsung's own Galaxy Note 2, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z. These are all amazing phones and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise. Choosing between them isn't going to be an easy task, and each offers a unique selling point.
In the case of the Galaxy S4, the combination of full 1080p HD screen, slimline design, large memory and extra usability features such as the eye scroll and touchless screen make it a strong contender.
It seems to us that while Sony and HTC raised their game to match what they thought the S4 was going to give, the S4 simply gives even more. It really does seem to be the ultimate phone.
Cost could also be a decider, and here Samsung has the advantage of sales volume and competitive pressure. At launch, the S4 is already available free for close to £30 per month on contract, and we expect this to fall significantly within a few months, making it a real bargain.
Samsung Galaxy S4 features include:
- 13 megapixel camera with power LED flash, autofocus, face detection, smile shot, digital zoom, full 1080p HD video recording
- 2 megapixel front camera with 1080p HD video recording
- Display: Super AMOLED, 16 million colours, 1920 x 1080 pixels Full HD (5 inches) capacitive touchscreen
- Music player
- Integrated handsfree speaker
- AGPS, GLONASS with Google Maps
- Messaging: SMS, MMS, instant messaging, email
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Gyro, RGB light, Barometer, Proximity, Gesture, Temperature & Humidity
- Processor: 1.9GHz quadcore
- Memory: 16GB plus microSD memory card slot (up to 64GB), 2GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio jack, DLNA, MHL 2.0, NFC
- LTE 4G, HSPA+ (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHz), EDGE / GPRS (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz)
- Size: 137 x 70 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 130g
- Battery: 2600mAh battery
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Samsung Galaxy S4 user reviews
Love this product? Hate it? Please share your experiences to help other people choose the product that's best for them. Please do not review this product if you have not used it. This is a review site, not a forum, so please don't just ask questions. Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!
Average rating from 28 reviews:
Reviewed by Anoniemouse
on 20th Feb 2014
Got this phone after having the HTC One X.
Although i prefer the
sense overlay of HTC i do like the expandable memory of the S4.
Got a 64gb memory card so no problems with space, & contrary to
what some misguided people try to make you believe you can move
programs to the SD Card.
The phone is fast & responsive
& very easy to use.
The camera give you very clear &
I would recommend this phone highly.
for the battery problems being reported make sure you get your phone
from a reputable source, as the battery swelling is caused by chargers
putting out to high a voltage
Reviewed by Craig
on 13th Dec 2013
After having had the HTC One for six months I lost it and had to get
another phone , I thought I would give the Galaxy S4 a go, better
camera and I liked the idea of removable memory. After three weeks I
am missing my HTC , apart from the camera on the Galaxy being better
in my opinion I just think everything about Htc One is a step above
the Galaxy. I seem to have remove battery and restart the Galaxy at
least once a day and just seems so much slower.What I mainly miss
about Htc One is it being faster,smoother to use,better call quality
and reception and just more reliable.I am not saying the Galaxy is a
bad phone just that One is better , I understand now why so many sites
have named the HTC One their mobile phone of the year.If the Htc one
is a five star phone then I believe you would have to rate the Galaxy
S4 a three.
Reviewed by Pete
on 3rd Dec 2013
This phone is not fanatastic. The battery Swells (serial no starting
BD) and the pushes the screen and it bows. Samsung wont do anything
and want you to be without the device for min of 14 days, with no
guarantee it will be resolved.
Samsung hang you heads in shame, I am waiting for the battery to
explode and hopefully burn me severely, and then we will see just how
clever Samsung really are.
Stick Clear, do not buy into Samsung, they charge premium money for
Reviewed by Mark
on 19th Nov 2013
Just got the S4, happy with my mega, but needed a phone as well for
more convenience. Having had a few iPhones , 4s & 5, the display on
the S4 is just a different level. I was a bit of an iPhone snob, but
believe me, this phone does everything the iphone does, and so much
more, only better. Make the change, you won't regret it!
Reviewed by yuri boyka
on 3rd Oct 2013
Decent phone but seems to lag wen swiping thru windows and battery
life is terrible unless new features like AIT gesture and the eye
thing are all turned off. Good for watching films on and games but the
phone does tend to heat up a considerable amount.
Can you add review for note 3??
Reviewed by Thing from UK on 15th Aug 2013
I love the size, clarity and detail of the screen, it really does seem to fill
the front completely with eye searing colours and very deep blacks. Superb viewing
angles too. The whites, however, are not so white! Next to a Nexus 4 with both
on maximum brightness and in the Gmail app, the S4 looks pretty murky with a
green tinge to me. But it is a minor point to be honest, the screen will impress.
The phone feels great in the hand, smooth and slim. I still like a hardware
home button too, good for waking the device from sleep.
Now the software..... Samsung have literally thrown every gimmick, tweak, option,
bell and whistle at Android! The options and menus are quite overwhelming but
great for tweak addicts! Some are genuinely useful but a lot are simply pointless
gimmicks and a "one off to show people" type thing (eye scroll makes you look
like a prat, hover over screen to wake is slower than pressing home and hover
to preview is just pointless)
The built in messaging app looks hideous, really low rate with a bad choice
of conversation bubble colours. The stock keyboard is not great, but plenty
of options on the Play store.
One final observation, I don't think the general operation of the OS (opening
apps, scrolling, menu opening) is that smooth. I've noticed quite a bit of stuttering
and re loading from RAM. Quite unbelievable considering the spec!
To sum up, a slightly flawed beauty. It has been genuinely designed well, but
the sum of the parts doesn't quite add up but still an amazing device!
Reviewed by Les from Sheffield. u/k. on 12th Aug 2013
The galaxy S 4 just does everything so well which unfortunatly the H T C One
Blows all the competion away, by far the best phone/mini computer on the market,
no issues with this phone what so ever, it's the dogs.
Reviewed by Paul from England on 31st Jul 2013
This phone is just plain rubbish, I prefer predictive but with this phone? no
chance it can't spell anything!!!! I want to text say 4pm I get 4so then have
to manually type the p then the m then put them together, if I want to say ok.......I
get mj as a first option!!!!!!!!!!! what's mj??????? To come off predictive
involves coming out of the text page altogether then back in again to type the
word you need,(that the phone don't know)thought it was supposed to be intelligent???
it also freezes and needs turning off and back on most days,the button at the
bottom feels awful to press and the signal is poor though that could be the
network.For something that is supposed to be all singing all dancing,the simplest
tasks appear beyond its reach!! mega disapointed looking to get rid :(
Reply by chris from uk on 10th Aug 2013
totally agree its pure rubbish full of samsung gimmicks
Reviewed by chris from ni on 20th Jul 2013
such a let down this phone is to me, laggy like and old man full of useless
gimmicks lack of space 16 gig aint enough for most, the htc one blows it away
that for sue
Reply by Freddie from UK on 2nd Aug 2013
Get a memory card then!
Reply by chris from uk on 10th Aug 2013
you can only store on mem card you cant install programs so mem card useless
or didnt you know that
Reply by Anoniemouse
on 20th Feb 2014
If you go into settings application manager you can move apps to the SD card, so in a way you can install on the SD card.
Reviewed by Shweta from UK on 8th Jul 2013
The phone is really incredible... I am using it since more than a month. The
only thing I am missing in S4 is the battery issue. When using on 4G the device
battery sucks. An android update may change its battery life. Keep my fingers
crossed for the Key lime in it.
Reviewed by mikey from uk on 7th Jul 2013
let down by gimmicky software 5 star yeah
Reply by Frank T from London on 8th Jul 2013
Mikey, Why can you not offer a decent review! your comment offer nothing what
so ever and it's pointless.
Reviewed by Damian from UK on 23rd Jun 2013
This phone is very good, which is what you expect from a Samsung flagship product.
I upgraded to the S4 from the S2, and to be honest the difference wasn't as
great as I thought it would be.
The battery life is far better than the S2 and the S4 is a speedy, stable platform.
Performance wise it really delivers.
I do have one gripe though. Samsung didn't include an FM radio with this model,
which was something I used all the time in the past. Given that the S2 and S3
(and I believe the Note and Note 2) included a radio I didn't even think to
check this before I bought.
Had I not been working away immediately after the phone was delivered I would
probably have returned it for that reason.
As it is, it seems I am stuck with it.
I do have further gripes, although they should probably be aimed at third party
developers rather than Samsung.
The eye recognition (always on whilst you are looking) feature on the phone
works well using the integrated browser, chrome, text messaging and the phone's
gallery browser. App developers don't seem to have embraced this though, so
what should be a killer feature is let down by the fact that my apps don't support
it and I get a screen blackout as often as I did on my S2, other browsers don't
seem to support the feature either.
Another gripe is aimed at the Android system itself. I am on 4.2.2 and texting
has just become something of a pain.
I have always preferred to use the 4X3 text option with predictive on, rather
than the QWERTY keyboard.
The old system provided a button to turn off predictive with one touch allowing
you to add a word and click 'add to dictionary'.
Under the new system you have to go into a menu to turn off predictive and you
don't get the option to 'add to dictionary', it took me a few months to work
out that you have to upload your data when you turn off predictive texting in
order for it to learn the words you use regularly.
In fact the whole texting experience on Android 4.2.2 has proved to be a big
problem for me. The drop down choices on predictive change very quickly, often
before you have the chance to choose an option. If you, for example, press button
7 once you should be given the option of P,Q,R or S often you will only be given
two of those options.
Not a massive deal but it does change the way you interact with your phone in
quite a big way and I prefer to text the way I always have done.
I believe that iPhone users don't even get the option to use a 4X3 text box,
so many don't even understand this gripe!
To summarize, I think this phone is good but it has been let down by both the
operating system and the majority of app developers.
I would still recommend it.
Reply by Paul from England on 31st Jul 2013
Totally agree with you on all the texting issues what a load of rubbish this
phone really is,never had this problem on my old samsung :(
Reviewed by minibraveheart from uk on 21st Jun 2013
big change for me moving from blackberry for last 5 years and this is only because
the lack of apps even on the new 10 platform, s4 is brilliant but do miss physical
keys at times. the battery is not great but put that down to heavy usage the
first few days, the screen and running are superb, overall feel and build faantastic,
some people say that apps cant be stored to sd card this is untrue i transfered
about 20 0n first day now device memory is back up to over 10gb you do this
by going to options then more then application manager, you will have to open
every app individually but it gives you the option on some to move to sd card.
i think the phone overall is great and no phone is perfect but it suits my needs
so 5 out 5 for me even tho a couple of little niggles
Reviewed by Bob from Scotland on 17th Jun 2013
I don't understand this site. The iPhone 5 was given a 5 star review but when
the problem with apple maps came up it was dropped to a 4. The Samsung has a
few problems such as half the storage advertised and a lag reported by many
users. I used to love this site and was glad that I found it after the unexpected
name change but this is rubbish and inconsistent. The s4 is ok but it's full
of gimmicks and not a patch on the s3 IMO.
Reply by S21 from UK on 18th Jun 2013
Apple Maps isn't the only reason we gave the iPhone 5 4 stars. We were perhaps
being generous - the average user review is 3 stars for the iPhone 5.
Reply by david from uk on 23rd Jun 2013
they also bad mouthed the htc one. so far the one on here has been given 5 stars
by users. they also never mentioned the s4 lag and some gimmicks that dont work
also storage issues also some have been having screen problems did you guys
acually have the s4 in your hands? as no way its 5 star phone the s3 is way
better and the htc one blows it out of the water
Reply by KDM from UK on 23rd Jun 2013
To be fair though S21, Probably a good percentage of the 1 star reviews for
the iphone 5 are from 'Apple hating' people so the average user review stars
point is a bit moot.
Reviewed by nicky. from israel on 14th Jun 2013
not as good as galaxy note 2 or galaxy 2. not in the same class. also movement
Reviewed by richard from hackney..england on 2nd Jun 2013
i used the phone for one day
pros big screen, good bat but i dont play games,
all the silly apps ,all the hoovering rubbish is a waste of time its all a very
expensive gimick and will kill your bat.
its programmed to have apps poping up all the time trying to sell you the kitchen
sink ,,but you can disable all this junk.
for me the phone is a bit to slim and you will need a case to stop it from slipping
out of your hand for sure.
bottom menue button is to close to the other buttons
its gone back to my friend now but was a nice experience
but not worth the money im sticking to my droid razzar maxx
Reviewed by supermoto from uk on 1st Jun 2013
i have had 5 gs4,s and every one has been returned due to to droped network
and the music player ,every time you use the player you get crackling all over
your music not good i am now using my htc one.
Reviewed by anthony from uk on 29th May 2013
very big let down i moved from galaxy S3 this phone lacks storage for apps it
also slutters when opening apps most new features dont work properly. if you
have S3 there is no need to move to S4 very big let down
Reviewed by will from uk on 16th May 2013
My S4 has been returned due to the screen the blacks looked pinky red plus it
was over heating not a happy bunny hopefully replacement will be ok
Reviewed by Mark from UK on 15th May 2013
My observations on the S4 battery life:
Today, as an experiment, I ensured everything was turned on, all the "bells
& whistles" including GPS, location services and wifi. This morning at 7am battery
was at 100%, tonight at 10pm the meter is reading 45%. And I am quite a heavy
data/internet user during the day,Facebook, Twitter, google reader,newspaper
apps, sky news youtube videos etc. So.....not bad!
Reply by Ryan from England on 19th May 2013
Please can you specify how long everything was kept swtich on???For 1hr or 5hrs
or more???Heavy user internet means 3hrs or more???More over you did not mention
about call frequency and call duration???
Reviewed by Hussy from Australia on 15th May 2013
I've had this phone for about two weeks. It's been fantastic.
I would definitely recommend it. Good battery life, excellent camera and screen.
IR blaster seems good.
Reviewed by Tony from UK on 7th May 2013
I bought this phone as an upgrade from a S3. There is not much of a difference
really, it seems to be just software.
Some of the software works great ( Smart pause, Air Gesture etc ) but the smart
scroll i cannot get to grips with.
The screen is a improvement from the s3 and even tho the size is larger is feels
The camera is simply amazing and the features are good to.
My battery seems to last 43hrs on standby on a full charge (thanks to power
The video playback quality is simply amazing and the sound from the device is
also good to.
The device does sometimes get a little warm when your multitasking but so did
my S3 & HTC one no biggi.
Overall it is a slight upgrade from the S3. Bigger screen better camera, But
i'm sure the features will be one the next S3 update when it comes out.
Great phone and a good alternative from the HTC One.
Reviewed by rachel from tel.aviv on 4th May 2013
very nice phone buy with confidence you will love it
Reviewed by jason from uk on 2nd May 2013
this review fails to mention the software flaws eye scroll doesnt always work.
its a half baked phone i got mine 4 days ago and i will be returning it as has
been said by others its laggy. any one who wants a indepth review just google
as this review simply doesnt high lights the flaws sorry guys but your review
isnt detailed you have certainly mentioned flaws with the competition i guess
yas like samsung. my big corcern was lag.
Reviewed by John from Ireland on 1st May 2013
Love this phone. It' has a lovely feel to it despite the plastic casing. The
screen is amazing as are all the new features such as scrolling based on eye
movement. Some may see as a gimmick but I really like it. There are a plethora
of other features that are brilliant. Battery lasts about 1.5 days on medium
usage and despite being bigger battery than my HTC one it does not last as long.
Camera is brilliant and again a host of features to keep you amused.
What really does it for me is the screen and very thin bezel which is close
on edge to edge, its really got to be seen to appreciate it.
I highly reccomended this new samsung device.
Reviewed by david from glasgow on 1st May 2013
My S4 is very laggy gallery is terrible to load sometimes it flys open other
times it can take about 10 seconds to open also some apps suffer lag. screen
is nice and clear the eye scroll doesnt work that well either maybe it dont
like my eyes. this phone feels rushed to the market to be honest samsung will
need to sort these software niggles out if they want the crown no way this phones
is better than the HTC one friend got the one and i now regret getting the S4.
another thing i noticed you only have about 9 gig free space the rest is taken
up with apps etc. its not a bad phone but defo not the best
Reviewed by Ste from UK on 1st May 2013
Ok i was lucky one's to get my S4 last Saturday, but it going back here why.
There are a few problems with my S4 first it seem to overheat, & there is screen
smearing which can be seen in the menu option if you turn the brightness down,I'm
not only one to suffer this problem, also suffers from terrible lag and redraw,
basically it seems the S4 was rushed to market bit to soon in my book, without
sorting the problems out first so the likes of Sony & HTC didn't get a foothold.
It also seems Samsung have made all early adopters Beta testers for the S4 as
i don't ever remember the last 3 Galaxy S smartphones being this buggy on launch
& i've had and still got in case of the S3.
As for now at least I'm gonna stick with my S3, and probably either wait a few
months and buy one sim free when hopefully all the problems are sorted & price
comes down or just skip the S4 all together & wait for the S5 next year.
Reviewed by Mark from UK on 29th Apr 2013
I was lucky enough to be the one of of the first pre-orders on my new device
and my first reactions was one of wow.... the screen really is gorgeous and
its a feet of engineering to squeeze all this goodness into the same frame as
Battery life is reasonable, depending on all the features you have activated.
Point of note here, be careful with al the many setting you have access to....
I got a bit excited and stopped all my data for a day. However tone back all
the gadgets and I think I'll get two days with reasonable use.
A few days on and I've a few gripes.... firstly this phone has everything BUT
I wish samsung would concentrate on perfecting a few features instead of craming
it full of stuff thats either semi functional or not at all. All this smart
pause, hover etc etc is a gimmic at best that drains battery but doesnt really
have that much use. I would of much rather they concentrated on speech recognition
or something more useful.
There is a little lag on pulling the gallery up or SD card data, however I'd
recommend to anyone to that they class 10 CD card... this speeds the process
up no end.
In all the hardware is phenomenal but is let town by poor software development....
think I'll be rooting the device and moving to stock android when possible.
Reply by Mark from UK on 30th Apr 2013
Update.... what idiot in Android decided that you shouldnt be able to install
apps to your SD card. 16GB of data on the device, 6 is eaten up by the operating
system that leaves you about 10, which disappear quickly once you start installing