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The Samsung Galaxy S4 has arrived to America, and if you have been eagerly waiting to know how it feels to use the Galaxy S4 in the real world, the wait is over. Since its predecessor sold more than 50M units worldwide, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has to live up to rather high anticipation and expectations. You may have followed our first hands-on review of the S4, so you may know a fair amount about this smartphone. for this complete review, we have had more time to use the Galaxy S4 as a primary smartphone, and needless to say that on paper, it improves upon all aspects of the Galaxy S3 with which you may have seen or played with. If not, don’t worry, we’ll provide a good picture of what the S4 is. Now, the question is: how does it actually behave in the real world, and is it a smartphone for you?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Specs (powerful)

First of all, let’s go over some critical specifications of this new smartphone (a Sprint unit), just to have a frame of reference:

Galaxy S3 iPhone 5 Galaxy S4 HTC One
Weight 133 112 130 143
Display Size 4.8 4 4.99 4.7
Resolution 1280×720 1136×640 1920×1080 1920×1080
Pixel Density 306 326 441 468
microSD 64GB max No 64GB max No
OS Android 4.1 iOS 6 Android 4.2 Android 4.1
Battery mAh 2100 1440 2600 2300
Battery removable Yes No Yes No
Infrared blaster No No Yes Yes
Camera (F) MP 1.9 1.2 2 2.1
Camera (B) MP 8 8 13 4
Thickness (inches) 0.34 0.3 0.31 0.37

Note that there are a few variants of the Samsung Galaxy S4: this one is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor at 1.9GHz, but the two others feature a Samsung Exynos Octa 5 4+4 cores that I have described at length in my Exynos Octa 5 post. The Samsung chip may embed 8 cores, but it should be considered to be a quad-core chip (in code execution terms) since only 4 can run at any given time. Samsung used the big.LITTLE architecture from ARM, and if you are curious, check what I think of big.LITTLE, it’s pretty neat. Update: experts say that the GS4 is also “easy” to repair.

Many of you have asked “why” Samsung comes up with these hardware variations, and although none of the companies involved would usually comment on this hot topic, my guess is that carrier certifications end up being what’s driving those choices. Since the Qualcomm communications software stack works obviously much better with their own processor/modem combo, and given that US carriers (AT&T in particular) have tested and approved Qualcomm, it’s likely that Samsung has chosen Qualcomm to have a faster time to market (Samsung may not have time to qualify their own chips) in order to hit a worldwide market at launch.

Although you may hear a lot of noise about the hardware differences, the user experience of both platforms is largely comparable. That’s my opinion after playing with an “Exynos version” of the S4 recently.

Context

We all use our phones differently, so it’s important that I tell you what I do with my smartphone(s): I typically check email often with the built-in email app (via Microsoft Exchange), and reply moderately because typing on the virtual keyboard is tedious. I browse the web several times a day to check on news sites, but rarely watch movies or play music. I don’t call much – maybe 10mn a day, if at all.

On the “apps” side, I have a couple of social networks (FB, G+), a receipts manager and random apps (<20), but I rarely play games or do something super-intensive like video editing. This usage pattern will affect battery life and the perception of what features are useful. Now you know where we’re coming from…

Industrial design (very good)

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On the surface, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has mostly kept the same design language as the Galaxy S3, but with further refinements and improvements. If you look at it from the front, the S4 has a slightly more rectangular shape. If I had to condense this review in once sentence, it would be straightforward: “faster, thinner, lighter, bigger battery, sharper screen”. Not a bad list of attributes. Let’s take a look at the details:

When we initially covered the Galaxy S4 launch in New York, I looked at the photos, and thought that the build was similar to the S3. However, after inspecting one from up close, I noticed that despite using the same type of materials, Samsung was able to noticeably improve the build quality. The “metal-looking” side looks more like metal and the paint quality is much better. The back cover also looks a lot better, especially the black version, which has a texture not unlike the Samsung Galaxy Mega that we first reported on. The chrome edge in the front is the only thing that I would suggest replacing  in the design.

Although The S3 and S4 do share some similarities, you may be surprised by the difference in terms of build quality. Sure, both use some “plastic” (polycarbonate), but I recommend checking both of them in a store to feel how different the quality actually is. I got a lot of “wow” during the review as people around asked to touch it.

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At the top of the phone, you will see an array of sensors, including two proximity sensors and a webcam. Those are virtually invisible with the Black version, but obviously, they are quite prominent on the white Galaxy S4.

Samsung has also improved the quality of the two most important buttons of the phone: Home and Power. We use both dozens of times a day, and I always pay close attention to how good they are, and apparently so does Samsung. They are easy to find (“feel”), and they are much more “clicky”, which is great.

Aluminum or not aluminum… that is the question (drama!)

With each Galaxy S release, the “build quality” discussions kick in high gear, this is not new, but worth addressing. It’s completely legitimate when users like the feel of what they call “noble” materials like glass and/or aluminum. Frankly, those often look and feel great, and if you read my past iPhone reviews, you’ll see that I praise the choice of materials.

Recently, our co-founder Eliane Fiolet has praised the HTC One for its great build (she clearly prefers the HTC One design to the S4 design), and if you are talking about Aluminum, I also highly recommend looking at the ASUS Padfone (2013). That said, I also think that it is equally legitimate when other users say that they prefer something that does not feel “cold”, that is lightweight and that is more resistant to scratches.

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This is a matter of personal preference, so I would always advise each of you to head to a store, take a good look, feel it in your hand, and decide for yourself which you like most. Since smartphones are extremely personal devices, you absolutely must have one that you are comfortable with.

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Left to right: Note 2, Optimus G Pro, HTC One, S4, Optimus G, iPhone 5

Maybe it’s also a good opportunity to de-dramatize the situation since many debates in the comments section end up to be (very!) passionate: I’ve been using all kinds of smartphones, and I although I really appreciate the design differences, it’s the user experience and productivity that win me over. I went from an iPhone 5 to the a Lumia 920, to a Galaxy Note II, and for me, “aluminum” is very nice, but hardly a “silver bullet” that settles the choice.

There are also practical design and manufacturing reasons for polycarbonate designs. The S4 is lighter than the HTC One despite having a larger screen. It is also thinner, and the removable polycarbonate back allows it to have a very thin protective cover. The flexible back is also what makes the removable battery and microSD port possible/convenient. The latter can save you a lot of money if you want 64GB additional storage. All in all, everything as pro and cons, so that’s up to you to decide what you want.

S View Cover (smart)

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I usually don’t cover accessories much, but the S View Cover got me interested. I’ve never used the flip cover on the S3 or the Note 2, but the S view Cover has very interesting properties: 1/ you don’t have to open it to check on small things (time, msg notifications…) 2/ it can help save battery life 3/ it keeps the phone’s low-profile, but and protects it 4/ there’s a wireless charging option coming soon.

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I’m not sure that I would trust the Flip Cover for drops and shocks, but it is fairly efficient at protecting the display against keys and other hard “stuff” you may have around. What I find more interesting is that it should help save battery life 1/ by reducing accidental “power-on” since it covers the bigger home button 2/ even when the screen does turn on (notification or accident), less pixels are fired up, which is a big saver with Super-AMOLED

Finally, you can answer a phone call while the S-View Cover is closed, which is the biggest plus when compared to the Flip Cover.

Display (Excellent)

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As expected, Samsung equipped its Galaxy S4 with a 1080p Super-AMOLED screen, which brings the pixel density to 441 point per inch, which means that things do look noticeably sharper when compared to a similarly sized 1280×720 display. Increased sharpness translates into higher visual comfort when using the device.

Image quality: the display looks great, especially if you like when the colors “pop” a little, which is the specialty of AMOLED screens. Of course, I need to address the eternal argument that AMOLED displays tend to be over-saturated when compared to IPS LCDs for example — that’s true — but on the other hand, I’ve never felt the need for absolute color precision on my smartphone (I’m a former computer graphics professional). Ironically, a lot of people actually like AMOLED because of the higher color saturation, it’s called “eye-candy”. If you are really unsure about which you prefer (AMOLED or IPS), go look at some photos on an iPhone 5 and compare with Galaxy S4. This is largely a matter of personal preferences.

If you must have an IPS LCD display, we also recommend looking at the LG Optimus Pro G since we’ve tested it recently, and it has a huge 1080p IPS display. Unfortunately, it’s not yet available in America, but it may be coming soon.

In direct sunlight: much have been said about the luminosity of the Samsung Galaxy S4 display, especially when compared to handsets like the HTC One. In my experience, the single most important reason to have a bright display is when using the device in direct sunlight. When doing this, the brighter display (in lumens) will always a bit more readable.

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The Galaxy S4 is at a slight disadvantage here since other handsets like the iPhone 5 or the HTC One have slightly brighter screens (see photo above). However the S4 was usable at all times in sunny California, so this is an inconvenience at best, even if I think that Samsung is being a little aggressive at dimming the screen in “auto-brightness” mode, most likely to save on power. On the other hand, bright displays usually do not fare as well in terms of contrast, and often feature “black” pixels that end-up being “gray”, especially in dim lighting.

We have not done screen torture tests, but modern smartphones tend to have extremely durable glass. Yes, they can break/shatter, but it’s very hard to scratch them with things like keys etc… that said, I wouldn’t bet that sand wouldn’t do some real damage. Check the video below if you would like to see a demo…

What’s new?

Besides the hardware improvements listed above, Samsung has introduced or improved a number of software features that are worth talking about since some of them are very handy, or unique to the Galaxy S4.

Improved Notification/Options Panel: Samsung has made sure that frequently used options can be accessed faster. To that end, there are now more quick-access options from the notification panel. Users can also reorder the top 5 notifications to meet their specific habits.

Air Gestures: many default apps now support “air” swiping to turn a page for example. The idea is to avoid touching the phone if your hands are wet or dirty. You also don’t have to precisely tap on the phone to perform simple actions like changing a music track while driving.

Air View: lets you “hover” above user-interface elements to reveal additional information. Air view works with emails and calendar items, but also with other elements such as videos and web pages. This feature was introduced with the Galaxy Note II but previously required using the S Pen. Now hovering can be done with the finger. From what I understand, this feature is powered by a Synaptics ClearPad Touch sensor, which features “3D Touch” a Synaptics technology that turns the whole screen into a proximity sensor.

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Watch On: Watch On serves as a smart EPG (Electronic Programming Guide) and as a remote at the same time. Previously, Samsung had several apps (Peel…) to perform this, but it looks like the Samsung has decided to merge those functions into one app to remove some of the friction associated with home TV usage. During the test, the app performed very well with the equipment (Comcast Box and 2011 Samsung LED TV) and since the commands are sent via infra-red, this should work with a lot of home A/V equipment.

Samsung HUB: This is Samsung’s new place to get digital content. Previously, Samsung had a music app, a video app etc… now the Samsung HUB merges all of those in one place where you can buy/rent music or movies. Once acquired, it is possible to replay the content with other Samsung devices that can connect to the Samsung HUB (tablets, Smart TVs?). At the moment, this only works with compatible Samsung devices, but I hope that Samsung will take a page from Amazon and make an app for Windows, Mac and iOS. If they want to get serious about making money on every front they need to open up.

Knox: This is an enterprise feature that I talked about during Mobile World congress. Part of the SAFE initiative, Samsung’s Knox basically partitions your smartphone in two, with a “personal” side that your company cannot see or touch, and a “work” side which is controlled by your employer. Upon separation (or in case of theft), the company can remotely wipe all the data, and it can manage/approve your “work” apps etc. In theory, no amount of malware coming from your personal partition can reach the work one. Your company is happy because your BYOD (bring your own device [to work]) is manageable, and you’re happy because you get to choose and use a single device.

Group Play is a content-sharing feature that works over direct WIFI, so there is no need to setup a local network. One smartphone initiates it, and assigns a simple password. Others Group Play compatible devices can then connect and the “master” phone can then share music (non-DRM), photos or documents (think presentations). I found this to be much simpler to use than AirPlay but you will probably need to have some kind of critical mass of compatible for this to reach its potential. It would be really nice if this was extended to non-Samsung smartphones… (at least for the most basic features).

S Translator can be a very handy utility that provides simple conversation translation with anyone who can type on a smartphone (if the language is supported…). It is a little similar to Google Translate, but S Translator support more languages (Korean and Japanese are not available as voice inputs in Google Translate, just to cite two that I want to use), and the user interface is geared towards conversation out of the box.

The supported source language at publication time are: Portuguese (Brazil), English (US, UK), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese and Spanish. Note that you can’t converse back and from all these languages. For example, if you select Korean, you can converse with someone in English/Japanese/Chinese but not in French. French can only translate to English etc… If you are really interested by a specific combination, ask in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Like any automatic translator, it’s best to stick to very simple phrases (I’ve spotted some minor errors even with simple sentences), but going from “zero” communications to “basic” communication is a huge step, believe me. I’ve been in many places where I could neither read or speak, having something like S Translator is just wonderful. This story about Google Translate illustrates my point perfectly.

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Optical Reader: is an text recognition utility that can be used for a few purposes 1/scan business cards and add the information directly into the contact list 2/ scan and translate (word by word) foreign languages. The business card scanning works pretty well (I only tried in English) and of the business card I’ve tried to scan, most of the data was properly interpreted.

The translation is a little harder to use since it’s not a document-level translation, but rather a word-by-word one. It could be handy to decipher menus and simple text, to a point. I tried it in Japanese, and despite being able to translate some words, most menu items are not in the dictionary.

I know that this concept can be improved with time, but right now it’s not where it needs to be. Because Optical Reader does many things, the interface is more complicated than I would like it to be. This may be something that should be broken up in smaller, simpler, apps (using the same recognition engine). Right now, there is just too much friction.

Killer apps

Virtual keyboard: Ironically, despite having hundreds of thousands of apps at their disposal, most users still refer to text-based communication as being the “critical” application for them. That’s why you must not underestimate the importance of a virtual keyboard. The more productive you want to be, and the more likely this element may get in the way.

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The S4 keyboard is clean and plenty fast to get stuff done. It also supports “swiping” letters to form words. I really like the fact that you can use more than one language dictionary, without changing the keyboard layout — this is great for multi-lingual folks. The biggest difference with the S3 in terms of productivity is presence of a numerical keys row. This was introduced by the Galaxy Note and is most definitely very helpful if you type a lot of numbers.

Email: The email client has had a slight design upgrade. I found the layout and typography to be a bit cleaner, and the new folder access is now much faster. It uses the “slide-in” interface that is similar to what Facebook (and many others) are using to save space on the main screen.

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Easy Mode (great idea!): An interesting fact with Samsung is that a good number of first-time smartphone buyers go for a handset like the Galaxy S or the Galaxy Note. This is rather new since traditionally handset makers expect these customers to start with a free or cheap Android device, then upgrade later when they are more comfortable.

The twist is that a lot of beginners are drawn to the high-end devices because the display is larger (and better) which allows them to read without putting the glasses on. This is a reason that I have heard from end-users over and over in the past 1.5 years.

To make life easier for first-timers, Samsung has created the “easy mode”, which is basically a simplified version of the user interface, which shows only the most frequently used options. This is something that can be gathered from studies or data-mining, and overall, I thought that the options were to the point. I typically don’t seek an “easy mode” when I try phones, but I don’t recall other high-end Android handset manufacturers having those (drop a comment if you’ve seen any), so this may be a significant factor for someone who wants leading hardware, without the seemingly complex options.

Calendar : The calendar works pretty much as expected. The only thing that changes when compared to the S3 and other Android phones is that you can now use the “Month” view and “hover” above days to see more details about what;s going on. This can be a time saver.

Maps: As usual, the out of the box mapping experience with Google Maps is excellent, and this remains the top option when it comes to mobile mapping. While in most big American cities, competitors do fairly well, travelers may want to know that support for countries like Japan can be spotty with Apple Maps or Nokia Maps (No Japanese support?). That’s particularly true if you are looking for something beyond the street maps, like a local business. Since building/home numbers pretty much don’t mean anything in Japan (or at least in Tokyo), the ability to spot a business on a map can be quite important. Have you had similar experiences? Drop a comment to tell me.

Entertainment

Video: we’ve watched our usual suite of videos on the Galaxy S4, and it’s fair to say that visually, this phone provides an awesome video experience. With its deep blacks, bright colors, and 1080p sharpness, full-HD videos look amazing for a screen of that size. At this point, I am really curious to see what a Galaxy Note 3 will look like (5.9” 1080p Super-AMOLED?).

Gaming: with the highest graphics performance that we’ve seen to date during our tests, gaming won’t be a problem with the Galaxy S4. Its Snapdragon 600 processor can run the latest games, so the choice is really yours: what do you want to play? I’ve run the Epic Citadel demo, and it was screaming fast with a near-constant 60FPS. It’s hard to ask for more: we were about to use it as a graphic benchmark, but it seemed that the hardware is already ahead of the game. Tough life.

Speaker-quality (Very good): The Galaxy S4 loudspeaker is pretty good, and the sound quality is nice. However, other smartphones such as the iPhone 5, the Galaxy Note 2 and the HTC One can provide even better sound. The HTC One is currently the best performer when it comes to loudspeaker: the choice of using front speakers did pay off in this section of the test. I can say that the Galaxy S4’s loudspeaker is “very good”, but it’s just a bit shy of “excellent”.

Galaxy S4 Camera (excellent)

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Photo capture

The Samsung Galaxy offers a multitude of options (described later in this paragraph) and provides an overall photo quality that I would rate as “excellent”. It is absolutely comparable to what’s best out there. As usual, Samsung offer plenty of options, and although we typically let people use the default settings, we felt that it was important to explain how the metering works since the camera can produce largely different images depending on your choice.

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both Samsung phones render the brightness of the scene properly, even if that means over-exposing the flower

First, what is “metering”? It’s the image analysis that the camera uses to select how long it will expose the sensor to the light. For dark images, a longer exposure is needed. For very bright images, a short exposure is better. As you can imagine, images that feature both dark and bright are more difficult to handle, and that’s the reason why several metering methods are necessary.

To make it simple, this analysis happens on a specific area in the image. A small area is used to highlight an object, while a large area means that we’re asking the Camera app to try making it look good for everything, possibly at the expense of a specific location. The Galaxy camera has three settings: Spot (center point), Center-weighted (center more spread out) and Matrix (very wide).

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Spot metering is arguably the most intuitive since it focuses on a specific point. This is close to the only option which is available on the iPhone, but not quite the same. The two others expand the analysis to a larger part of the scene. The main difference with the iPhone, and possibly with other cameras apps, is that Samsung seems to always use the center of the screen as the metering point of origin, regardless of how wide the analysis reaches. While you can focus on something that is off-screen, it’s not possible to precisely meter based on something that is not at the center.

Although the camera works very well out of the box, you may want to play with those options since they can improve the photos quite a bit, especially in difficult lighting conditions. In a future software update, it would be nice if Samsung could let folks meter and focus in the same area.

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Drama mode: the drama mode will record a succession of photos and overlays a moving object (usually a person) into a single static background, giving it a “motion trail”. It’s very easy to use, and is really a point and (multi)shot effect.

Eraser mode: this is the opposite of the drama mode in the sense that it removes moving objects/people from your photos. This is very handy if you are trying to pause in a public place (monument, fountain…) where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. Eraser mode will remove moving objects/people from the photo, giving the illusion that you were by yourself.

Dual Camera: Since the Galaxy S4 image processor is about 2X faster than in previous generation, it is now possible to snap two images at once so the photographer can be in the picture —  “add yourself in the photos” as Samsung would pitch it. It’s most fun for group photos, but it’s really up to you to imagine what you would do with it.

Low light photos

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In terms of low-light performance, I think that the Galaxy S4 can do well, but you may need to switch into “Night” mode manually. I’ve shot a couple of photos in very dim lighting conditions, and while the top one is darker than what my eyes could see, the bottom one is brighter than what I can see. It would be very nice if the smartphone could switch into Night mode by itself. The camera app is good, but it doesn’t squeeze all the performance that the hardware has to offer right now.

Video recording

The video-recording performance mostly reflects the photographic performance. After filming with the Galaxy S4, we can say that the video recording capabilities are also excellent and up there with the best mobile cameras on the market. It’s also possible to Pause and Restart a video recording, which is pretty useful if you don’t want to end up with a bunch of small MP4 files.

As usual, we’ve upload samples to our Flickr account in case you want to see the native resolution files. Enjoy.

Performance (excellent)

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Antutu v3.3 is an overall system performance benchmark (CPU, graphics, storage), and what it shows is that overall, most recent phones land in a comparable performance footprint. This means that unless you do something very specific (like “gaming” or “downloads”), those phones should provide a similar overall performance (try it for yourself).

In terms of raw system performance, the chart shows that the Galaxy S4 creates a discontinuity with either the Snapdragon S600 1.9GHz that we’re getting in the USA, but even more so with the Samsung Exynos Octa 5 variant (by 8% or so). It was just a couple of months ago when a new batch of devices were introduced with the first Snapdragon S600, and the numbers have jumped already for this Snapdragon 600 update.

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GLBenchmark 2.5, offscreen 1080p: this test has been designed to “stress” the graphics processor (GPU) by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in many different environments (indoors, outdoors…). Run this benchmark on your device.

The graphics performance story is pretty interesting as well. GLBenchmark 2.5 shows a huge increase in performance and I was a little surprised since the Snapdragon 600 clock has increased only by 200MHz or so. After looking at the benchmark details, I realized that it is the triangle throughput that had increased significantly, and that would make sense, since that particular benchmark was probably held by back the sheer number of triangles in the geometry..

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Basemark X is a new cross-platform benchmark that is more focused about pixel shading performance, where GLBenchmark 2.5 may rely more on “polygon-pushing” power. Per-pixel rendering is often used in more modern games, since bump-mapping is often used as a way to reduce the polygon count. For more information, head to the official basemark x site.

In this graphics benchmark, we’re seeing numbers that are more inline with what end-users may be seeing in modern games. With an increased emphasis on pixel shading, Basemark X exhibits a performance increase that seems more natural with the evolution of the hardware platform.

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GeekBench 2 tends to focus on synthetic floating point calculation performance rather than multi-core scalability. This is a good measure for general computing and generating accurate physics in games.

This benchmark would probably best describe the clock change between the 1.7GHz and 1.9GHz versions of the snapdragon chip. there’s no surprise here — with almost everything else being equal, the higher clock wins.

“Perceived performance”: Synthetic benchmarks can only carry us so far. What they don’t show for example is the user experience is smooth and responsive (responsiveness is not always solved with brute-force processor power). In the end, what good is raw performance if you can’t perceive it?

Overall, I find the Galaxy S4 to be a fast smartphone. However, during normal usage (email, photo gallery…) users won’t be taking advantage of the faster hardware, so for simple tasks, it feels like most high-end Android phones. It’s when you start using fancy photo effects, video editing, or gaming that the true power of the Galaxy S4 can be felt, and where every cycle counts.

As Samsung pushes forward with using more images, thumbnails animation and multi-tasking, I would recommend to the company to keep a close eye on the user interface responsiveness. Competitors like LG or Google have taken upon themselves to make the user-interface even more responsive, and this is something that every single handset makers has to pay attention to.

Battery life (very good)

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With a 5% overnight (8h) battery depletion, the Samsung Galaxy S4 does well by smartphone standards. Stand-by battery depletion is very important because most of the time your smartphone sits around doing nothing other than syncing with emails, and other notifications.This also represents a good baseline.

60mn of Google Play video playback (streaming) will take away 17% or so of the battery life, and that translates to a potential 5 hrs of online video, which is pretty standard for a smartphone. If you play from the local storage (no streaming), only 13% of the battery is required to watch the same 60mn of video: this would extend the video capability beyond 7hrs of HD video – this is tablet territory here.

Once depleted, the battery takes about 2h30 to fully recharge. Typically, the battery charges at a rate of 1% per minute when it’s almost empty. The rate slows down as the battery fills up, but this gives you a good pointer about the charge speed (tested with the factory charger). At the end of the day, I would say that it’s best to charge this handset on a daily basis, or sometime into the second day you may get in trouble — and that’s for my moderate usage (see above).

In case you just skimmed the Industrial design paragraph, keep in mind that the Galaxy S4 has a removable battery and an optional battery charger. I haven’t bought one of those for years, but I understand that for some of you, “charging is not an option”. There is also an optional accessory for wireless charging, and when I carried the Nokia Lumia 920, I found it very handy to have the wireless charger on the bedside table, since I also use the phone as an alarm.

In relative terms, the Galaxy S4 has an excellent battery life for its size (it is lighter than the iPhone 5, but has 70% more battery capacity), weight and thinness. But it is also true that users can get smartphones with huge battery capacities such as the Galaxy Note 2, the Optimus G Pro or the RAZR Maxx HD.

Keep in mind that battery life varies enormously depending on the display brightness, the apps that run in the background, your network reception, your wireless network density and the amount of time that the: display is ON. You can always refer to the Android battery report to see what is consuming more power. Finally, keep in mind that network transactions generated by apps can appear as “Android” as it is ultimately the OS that handles those transactions.

Accessories (Healthy)

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If you are into measuring how healthy your life is, there’s an app called S Health and Samsung has also created an S Band bracelet, along with a Body Scale which talks to the phone via Bluetooth. I really like the idea of the body Scale because it’s so low-maintenance. I’ve tried to use S Health, but since most of the food I eat isn’t in the built-in database, entering the calorie-count was time-consuming (how many calories did I spend on that? haha) and somewhat tedious. I guess that in an ideal world, every food you eat would have a barcode associated to it, but it’s just not how it works right now.

That said, the pedometer app, bracelet and body scale are much lower maintenance, so you can easily track your weight and burned calories without much effort. That’s what I would go for.

There are a ton of accessories, and I’ll only talk about the ones that I really am interested in, but if you are curious, go check the S4′s official site. If there’s a strong demand for a particular accessory, I can always check it out, so please drop a comment at the bottom of the page.

Conclusion (Top notch)

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There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S4 arrived on the market facing huge expectations and anticipation. After using for a week, I like what I am seeing. The Samsung Galaxy S4 improves on nearly every single aspect of its Galaxy S3 predecessor and by timing launch around this time of the year, Samsung has set itself up to keep the performance crown for a while.

In terms of industrial design, things have progressed and the S4 improves noticeably upon the Galaxy S3 design. It’s not obvious in the photos, but it is quite visible in your hand, so don’t hesitate to check one in a store. If you have seen a Galaxy S3 and liked it, then this is a no-brainer.

We really like the Easy Mode for those who are taking their first step with a smartphone, and this is definitely a good move that other manufacturers should copy. Finally, the refinements made to previous apps or activities are paying off: Watch On, the TV EPG+remote is now much more usable thanks to a better integration and the infrared emitter. The translator is very cool for the traveler and Knox may be the difference between using your Galaxy S4 at work or getting some random phone that your company feels comfortable with.

In the end, there is no single silver-bullet to win customers over. It’s a blend of design, performance, productivity, integration, critical-mass and customer appeal. While the Galaxy S4 may not be a winner every single time, it does win most of the time. That’s the definition of a winner.

I hope that this review gave you a good overview of how it is to use the Galaxy S4 in the real world. If you want to know something that wasn’t covered, please leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer. Let us know what you think of the Galaxy S4!

Overall product rating: 9/10

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Galaxy S4, Phone Reviews, Samsung and Samsung Reviews.

Key SpecsGalaxy S4
StatusReleased
Resolution1920x1080
Size (Diagonal, Inches)5"
Processor NameExynos 5 Octa 5410
4-core
1.6 GHz
Max. Total Storage Capacity128 GB
Megapixels13 MP
Battery Capacity (mAh)2600 mAh
Street Price$420
Complete product dataSamsung Galaxy S4 Full specs
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