Samsung Galaxy S4 hands-on: Some gimmicks are useful, others are just silly

Samsung Galaxy S4 hands-on: Some gimmicks are useful, others are just silly

Summary: The Galaxy S4 is now available for AT&T and Sprint customers and is an improvement over the popular SIII. However, I still prefer the design and core features of the HTC One compared to software gimmicks of the S4.


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  • (Image: Matthew Miller/ZDNet)

    Quick Start Guide

    The user guide is well designed, and given all the software enhancements, I recommend you actually browse through this guide.

  • (Image: Matthew Miller/ZDNet)

    Galaxy S4 in hand

    I would never buy a 16GB Android device again given that games are pushing 1-2GB in size, and think that no high-end models should launch with less than 32GB, even with a microSD card slot.

  • (Image: Matthew Miller/ZDNet)

    Physical home button

Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Samsung, Smartphones, AT&T

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  • I don't get the infatuation with 'materials'

    I've heard it for years about the iphone. All the 'one piece unibody' does for the HTC One is ensures you can't replace the battery when it dies at 3pm from heavy use or use as a car gps and that you can't ever expand the storage. He points out 'they shouldn't sell a device with 16 gigs' but yet, for like $30 (waaay less than HTC, Samsung or Apple charges for larger memory units).

    That 'cheap plastic' back on the Galaxy lets you put in Micro SD RAM and fully charged batteries when you want. Most drop test shows the plastic is actually much more resilient to scratches and the like while aluminum scratches easily. Even if you did scratch the back of your Galaxy, $15 later you can put a brand new back on it. Try that on an iphone or HTC One.

    But the most important point is no rational person walks around with a 'naked' $700 phone that's one slip out of the pocket away from annihilation. Virtually everybody puts their phone into some kind of case which pretty much obscures everything but the screen which on the GS4 is as nice as anything out there. So what's the big deal? Meanwhile the phone is lighter and thinner than the One thanks to those materials
    • Clarification.

      meant to say 'for $30 you can drop in another 64 gig SD card' and now have a phone with 80 gigs of storage.

      I also meant you can't use the HTC as a GPS for any length of time without finding a power cord since GPS chews up sell phone batteries since the screen and gps is on constantly.
      • You can't compare battery life of iPhone 5 versus SGS4 or, the more so, ...

        ... HTC One.

        Test according to Engadget: loop a video with LTE and WiFi enabled and social accounts pinging at regular intervals: the iPhone 5 managed a hugely impressive 11 hours and 15 minutes. That's just 10 minutes shy of the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx.

        SGS4 (in both versions) can only do that for 8 hours. HTC One for 6.5 hours.

        The difference is HUGE. Only the heavy brick MD RAZR Maxx can work longer than iPhone 5 (though only 10 minutes more).
        • rigged iphone5 tests

          because everyone else is struggling to get thru a whole day without recharging their iphone5.
          I can't find a single iphone5 user who upgraded from iphone4 that doesn't think their iphone5 has a crap battery.
    • Nope

      Not everyone likes ugly clunky bulky cases. I have used iPhones since 1997 and never used a case, except one that I wear on my belt that I take it out of when I use it. The iPhone does not slip out of your hand, its easy to grip.

      As far as managing extra batteries and memory cards that's a huge disadvantage. Some few may like it, but in general almost everyone would benefit from everything being built in. The only argument for replaceable memory that makes any sense is cost. The few saved dollars over the life of a 2 year contract does or adequately make up for having to manage those cards, but worse, all replaceable memory and batteries are less efficient, slower, bulkier and heavier.

      You get less power or slower memory for the same space and weight. It's a huge design trade off. You may think that's fine, that's why you are an Android user. iPhone users are more demanding. You also look at the small amount of up front cost you save but ignore that you will pay thousands over the life of your contract. To me that's an extremely foolish choice.
      • Since 1997

        Are you a time traveler?
        Michael Kelly
      • moron fanboy

        Really? You've been using an iphone since 97 since they came out in 07? And how are iphone users more demanding? You are the opposite of power users. That's why you just got 4g 2 years later and are still sitting on an underpowered mediocre device. How is managing sd cards a disadvantage? You put it in and thats it. At least my phone is also a portable hard drive that can connect to any computer to share music, photos and videos.

        Your argument is laughable. itunes is the biggest piece of shit bloatware that will never come near my pc. Your closed architecture is a joke. I wonder why Apple's stock dropped 40% again..........
        Doug Pfundstein
      • iphone batteries

        have you ever opened up iphone4 or 4s and seen the GAP around the battery?
        That's enough space there for a battery wall and connectors to make the battery removable and still be the same size so the argument about space is invalid.
      • 1997? I must be missing something!

        Wow 1997 iPhone user! Talk about Star Trek!!!!!! I'm amazed by that stupid statement. Oh BTW the replaceable memory can be sooooooo heavy. I wonder exactly how much those tiny micro cards actually weigh? Oh my back oh oh oh.
        Leo Martinez Colon
      • More expensive is not always better

        One thing that is lost here is if you wait for a sale on an Android phone, you pay sometimes almost nothing. Then, when it comes time for a replacement phone you don't LOSE any money either on a lower trade in value because you didn't pay much to begin with. I like saving money so I can spend it on more important things-like my family and my house...
      • iPhone users are more demanding.

        iPhone users are more demanding.
        Really? You have to be kidding.
        Why they don't demand something new and stop buying old technology?
        Oh, wait... iphone sheep now are demanding to copy the following from Galaxy S4: bigger screen on the iphone 6... plus many more things.
        The only thing that iphone sheep find to criticized is the plastic body which by the way is stronger, more resistant to scratches, easier to replace battery, sim card, sd card and if it brakes you can buy it cheap and after you put it in a case nobody will see it any way.
        50% of my friends and family have broken glass screens and heavily scratched iphones and the other half with like brand new Galaxy S3 and S4s.
        Many iphone users are switching to the Galaxy and ver few the other way around.
        • Re: iPhone users are more demanding

          "... iphone sheep..."

          what is an Android fanboy? an AndBotter?

          Never understood why a fanatic of one religion *only* sees fanatacism in another religion - not in themselves.

          Sad to make a hunk of plastic and metal the object of so much inane conversation, and to argue so passionately about the others' choices.

          And I thought this board was for rational, technically minded people....
      • umm

        you do realize that iphones, sell phones, androids, ect all use lithium Ion batteries right? removable batteries are not less efficient because they are all the same. Also, why would you pay $1000 for a 64 gb phone when you can buy the $500 version and put an sd card in it? and "managing extra batteries" I dont even know what that means. You buy a 64 gb sd card and a higher capacity battery, slap them in the phone, and youre done. Theres no managing, no one walks around with 12 batteries in their pocket and 5 sd cards in the other pocket and switches them out (even though they have that option with android phones). Iphone users arent more demanding, they're just ignorant because they dont realize that they're dishing out more money for inferior products. When Iphone was more innovative then the old nokia and sony ericson and motorola razor phones I gladly gave them credit, but no NFC, no 4g for the longest time, No removal parts,no google maps, no notification bar ( for the longest time ) no full hd screen, no AMOLED, ect....... they are always late to the party when it comes to adding features in their phones. Why am I paying more for an IPHONE 5 or 5s when they're still playing catch up with s3?
        Steve Faraj
    • As a Note 2 user myself, I have to agree on him about...

      ...the internal memory. 16GB is too small. You can only use less than half of it. Plus, you can't move apps to the SD card without root and most default applications will only save at the internal memory. Samsung needs to make the 32GB a minimum and 64GB available in all markets.
      • 16 GB not enough

        16 GB is enough for 90% of people and if more memory is needed there is a Galaxy S4 with 32 GB and 64 GB and you can also get a super cheap Micro SD card up to 64 GB to save thousands of pictures, songs, videos, movies, etc...

        You can make the 16 GB plus 64 GB memory card a 80 GB very affordable or 32 GB plus 64 GB will give you 96 GB if needed.

        How much is an iphone with 80 or 96 GB?
    • Agree

      I had the HTC ONE for two weeks and was bored with it after a hour of having it, mind you I'm coming from a iPhone 5, now I have the S4 and I love it, can't put it down. Every cell phone that was ever created has been made of plastic but all of a sudden everybody has a problem with it cause two companies used aluminium. Give me a break!! If Americans wanted top notch products then why do we have dollar stores?
      • You are forgetting

        You are actually paying thousands for your product, not a few hundred. Imagine paying 100 grand for a sports car and getting an 8 track player with cheap speakers. That's essentially what you are doing, and then wondering why anyone would question your purchase decision.

        If you enjoy your cheaply made oversize android by all means enjoy it, it's your money to spend, not mine. I just would not recommend that type of decision to anyone I cared about.
        • What?

          The phones only retail for a few hundred, where do you buy your phone's from? And unless you work for one of these companies you have no idea how much it cost to produce. What matters is the phone works and it works good. The car analogy you tried to use was dumb sorry try again. It's already been noted that the S4 is outselling the ONE. I'm pretty sure you have had a lot of plastic phones in your day, get off the bandwagon. Silly fan boys lol
        • One more thing!!

          And speaking of cars isn't all cars made today made of plastic?
          • yes

            but a whole lot of people would be happy to pay a heavy premium for car made of metal like they used to be. I myself never understood the preference in build material for a phone either until I got the HTC One, now I sure understand, I can't see myself going back to a cheap feeling, looking plastic phone, wife has a Note 2 & she wants the HTC One badly after playing with mine a bit