Tried & Tested

Tried and Tested: Samsung Galaxy S4

24 Jul 2013 by Tom Otley

Samsung now sells half of all smartphones in the major European markets according to Kantor Worldpanel Tech. Launched with great fanfare earlier this year, the S4 is the current flagship smartphone from Samsung, and comes with lots of new and innovative features.

For fans of this series, there is much that is initially familiar – it’s the same size as the S3 (136.6mm x 69.8mm), for instance, though the screen is larger, and has a better resolution.

I had been home for about five minutes before my children had downloaded the (free) version of Temple Run 2, and they were immediately waxing lyrical about the “graphics”, by which they mean that the phone is better than our Sony TV in terms of clarity and resolution – and they are right. It’s a Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080 @ 441 ppi) screen. And no, I don’t know what that means.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Although it is thin (7.9mm), it doesn’t feel flimsy, and it’s not heavy either (130g). After testing it for three weeks I hadn’t dropped it once, which can sometimes happen with a heavier phone than the one I am used to, or one with an unfamiliar feel to it.

What’s clear immediately is how fast it is – the Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 operating system is allied to a great CPU (presumably) and an internal memory of 16 GB on the device I had - you can add a memory card (microSD) up to 64 GB.

It’s good for reading media (I have subscriptions to the Financial Times and The Times) and for watching videos. The speakers are good enough to listen to the audio without headphones if necessary, and work well when using the device with the Beta version of Navigation as a sat nav.

The camera can be changed to forward facing, backward facing, or can do a strange thing where you get a postage stamp version of your own face on, or whatever it is you are trying to take a picture of.

Disadvantages? Well, for a phone that has the tagline “Life Companion”, it is heavy on the battery – when using Twitter and wifi I found by lunchtime I was facing a battery giving me warnings, and this was without making any calls.

The software on the phone is tricky, with a side bar coming out when you touch the screen and getting in the way when all you are trying to do is edit a text message, for instance.

There is also software that supposedly can track when you are looking at the screen, allowing you to scroll with your eyes – though I found this uncontrollable and trying to keep up with the screen just made it move more quickly until I felt dizzy.

Verdict: Not bad. The screen is great, but for those of us who want a phone that doesn’t run out of battery life at the later stages of the day, you might need a second, charged battery in your pocket.

Price: Available on Vodafone Red Business XL price plans

Tom Otley

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