Tapscape

Samsung Galaxy S4: first impressions

Samsung unveiled their newest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, at Times Square just a few hours ago and while the phone bares a lot of similar features to the Galaxy S3, including the design, it is a major upgrade for people that need a new smartphone, and looks to be a step ahead of the competition.

With all the rumours, leaks and “inside sources”, it has been hard to pinpoint the fact from the fiction with this smartphone. We are glad to finally have Samsung unveil this beast, which is coming to all US carriers in April, the same time as the HTC One.

Design & Display

The Galaxy S4 has a very similar design to the Galaxy S3, from a distance they look like the same smartphone. There are some differences though, including the size of the new smartphone. The Galaxy S4 sports a five-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED PenTile display, which is incredibly vibrant.

Plastic is still on the Galaxy S4, and Samsung did express their desire to keep using the material, as it is readily available and simple to make. The problem is it gives the device a rather cheap look and feel, especially against the HTC One and iPhone 5. These problems with the beauty collapse with the plastics’ durability.

Despite the phone lacking the premium coat we see on many smartphones nowadays, the Galaxy S4 does look like a great device and with five-inches becoming the norm for most users, it probably won’t be uncomfortable for consumers to use.

Performance

One of the standout features, at least for international users, is the Exynos 1.6GHz octo-core processor, that is eight-cores, for anyone that didn’t know. Samsung has said that in some regions the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chip will be added instead of the Exynos, although we are unsure if this is just in the US.

This comes with 2GB of RAM and 16, 32 or 64GB of onboard storage. You can even add an additional 64GB of storage to hit 128GB of storage all together, if you are a real power user. 

Software Features

Samsung has made hardly any alterations to TouchWiz for the Galaxy S4, and even though the skin doesn’t have many fans, it is starting to get better and less cartoon-like. The phone comes with Android 4.2.2, the latest version of the OS.

A report released a few weeks prior to today said that Samsung were focusing on making software for the smartphone, rather than advancing the Galaxy S4 hardware. This seems to be the case, with a few little software features added to the smartphone.

The problem is some of the things Samsung do, no matter how clever or challenging, are ultimately a gimmick that won’t be used by most users. Still, it is nice to add them in for the small percentage of people that will try them out.

An IR blaster comes fitted inside the Galaxy S4, and this can be used to control your TV or select shows from your phone and put them on your TV. It is a pretty nifty piece of hardware, but one that we have already seen demonstrated on the HTC One.

The phone has Air Gestures and Air View, Gestures allows you to move through a set of pictures of documents by floating your hand across the screen (without touching the screen), Air View can be used to hover over files and apps, and the software will respond to show you the file in a hover state. Both of these features feel more gimmicky then useful.

Smart Pause and Smart Scroll are two features for movies, which stop the movie automatically when you look away from the screen. In early testing, these both didn’t work well and seemed almost unnecessary, especially when they hardly work.

There is also a ton of new ‘S’ features, more services trying to combat Google’s normally better services. This includes S health, S band and S translate. On top of S Voice and others already on the device. 

Camera

The Galaxy S4 has a 13MP rear camera and 2MP front camera. Samsung has added a few different ways to take a photo on the camera, and while most of these work very well, not all of them are useful.

DualShot is one of the weird ones, it allows you to take a photo with the front and rear camera, and the only place I can see this being useful is at a concert where you want to get a photo of you in the crowd and the performer. But realistically, sometimes you have to just wonder what Samsung is thinking.

Drama Shot works like burst mode but captures a lot of different pictures and overlaps them. This seems useful for the type of people that want to take those kind of dramatic shots, like jumping off the edge of a cliff into the sea.

Cinema Shot works in the way Cinemagram does, to the point you wonder if it is Cinemagram with a different interface. What you do is animate a clip and all the rest will stay still.

Our First Impression

Our first impression of the Galaxy S4 is really good, it is a solid device, despite being a little plasticy. The software is hit and miss, but for the most part having a lot to do on your smartphone is better than having a barren landscape.