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Samsung Galaxy S4: Review, Release Date & Compared to S3, iPhone

grand master

 

 

Yesterday evening, Samsung announced the Galaxy S4 at an event in New York. The new device features a larger and higher-resolution screen, new ways of interacting with the phone through gestures and an upgraded camera. It’ll be available in the UK from April 26th.

 

Galaxy S4: Samsung’s Latest Android for 2013

 

Galaxy S4 Colours.jpgThe Galaxy S III was one of the bestselling handsets of 2012. With 50 million units being sold worldwide, the device quickly became the bestselling Android phone to date and has taken on Apple’s iPhone 5 at the top end of the market.

 

With the Galaxy S4, Samsung are hoping to repeat the success of the Galaxy S III. The Galaxy S4 includes an enlarged 5-inch display (1080p resolution, 441 pixels per inch), new ways of interacting with the phone through gestures and an upgraded 13 megapixel camera. Samsung has also introduced a range of new software features powered by the eight-core processor inside the device.

 

A Larger & Sharper Display: 5-Inches and Full HD

 

The most eye-catching change in the Galaxy S4 is the addition of a larger 5-inch display.

 

In keeping with the trend that was set by Sony’s Xperia Z and HTC’s One, the Galaxy S4 has a full HD display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (1080p). Compared to last year’s 720p displays, the Galaxy S4’s display has more than double the number of pixels. This should mean clearer photos and sharper text on the display. You can also watch full HD movies and TV shows without any reduction in quality.

 

Profile.jpgThe pixel density on the Galaxy S4 is 441 pixels per inch (441ppi). This is far beyond what Apple offers on their Retina displays (326ppi), though it can be argued most people won’t see the difference. Professional photos are usually printed at 300ppi and both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4 go beyond this threshold.

 

In theory, people with good eyesight should see viewing improvements up to 720ppi (when holding their phone at a distance of 30cm). The Galaxy S4 certainly improves on the display in this regard, although the HTC One holds the crown for having the sharpest display on a smartphone (pixel density of 468ppi).

 

Fans of previous Galaxy devices will be glad that Samsung have kept their organic LED technology in the Galaxy S4. Compared to displays built on LCD technology, organic LED displays give richer and more vibrant colours. They also have better contrast ratios and lower power consumption. The Galaxy S4 uses an organic LED display with the PenTile matrix.

 

Form Factor & Size

 

For many people, the size of their phones has become an increasing concern. Whilst there’s been a trend towards growing screen sizes and bigger phones, at a certain point it becomes uncomfortable to carry a phone that’s too big. This has been a particular criticism of the latest wave of 5-inch devices.

 

With the Galaxy S4, Samsung has increased the screen size whilst keeping the same form factor as its predecessor. The Galaxy S4 is virtually identical to the S3 in size: the only difference in the design is that the bezel around the screen has been reduced. This accommodates a bigger display without increasing the size of the phone. The corners of the phone have also been squared off and there’s a reduction in thickness from 8.6mm to 7.9mm.

 

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S4.jpg

To scale: Size comparison of Galaxy S III (left) and Galaxy S4 (right).

 

Comparing the size of the Galaxy S4 to other popular devices such as the iPhone 5 and HTC One:


Size Comparison.jpg

To scale, from left to right: Standard Credit Card, Apple iPhone 5, HTC One (2013), Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy Note II.

 

Like the Galaxy S III, the Galaxy S4 has plastic casing. This means the two devices virtually look and feel the same. Plastic casing has some benefits in terms of better reception and the ability to replace your battery. However, plastic phones can also feel less premium than phones constructed from metal. For style-conscious consumers, this can be a good reason to choose the HTC One or the iPhone 5.

 

The Galaxy S4 is available in two colours: White Frost and Black Mist.

 

Air View, Sensitive Touch & Gestures

 

One of the new and unique features in the Galaxy S4 is the ability to control your phone without touching it. Using a sensor technology that was first developed by Sony, the phone is able to detect your finger hovering above the touchscreen. Based on where your finger is above the screen, the phone displays additional information such as a preview of the e-mail, photo or video. Hover actions are fully supported on webpages (handy for dropdown menus) and have been available to application developers since Android 4.0. This means we should see more apps supporting Air View in the coming months.

 

Air View.jpg

With Air View on the Galaxy S4, the phone can detect your finger hovering over the screen.

 

Air View on the Galaxy S4 works by detecting your finger. This differs from ‘Air View’ on the Galaxy Note II which required the S-Pen. A side effect of the new finger sensing technology is that the touchscreen is now more sensitive. With the more sensitive touchscreen, it’s now possible to use your phone with gloves on. Nokia first introduced this technology as “Super Sensitive Touch” on the Lumia 920.

 

Other gestures on the Galaxy S4 include the ability to change tabs or images by swiping above the screen. The Galaxy S4 also features eye tracking: it can scroll through webpages automatically and will pause videos when you look away from the screen.

 

Camera: 13 Megapixels & New Shooting Modes

 

With the Galaxy S4, Samsung has replaced its old 8 megapixel camera with a brand new camera that uses a 13 megapixel sensor. This is the approach that Sony took on the Xperia Z but is the opposite approach to that taken by HTC. Whereas Samsung have increased the megapixel count, HTC reduced the number of megapixels in their latest device. The rationale for this is that by having larger pixels on the sensor (“UltraPixels”), more light can be collected. This gives better quality photos and less noise, particularly in low-light conditions. It remains to be seen whether Samsung or HTC’s approach is more successful.

 

Along with the new 13 megapixel sensor, there are a variety of new shooting modes:

 

  • Dual Camera.jpgDual Shot: Allows you to take a photo or video recording in both cameras simultaneously (front & back camera). Both images/videos are combined into a single file.

  • Cinema Photo: A new shooting mode to create cinemagraph photos. In a cinemagraph photo, selected regions are animated in a loop whilst other regions of the image are kept stationary. The Nokia Lumia 920 already has functionality to create cinemagraph pictures.

  • Drama Shot: Drama Shot takes a series of images of a moving subject. These images are combined into a single photo showing freeze-frames from the motion. Samsung envisions that this will be useful for sports.

  • Sound & Shot: ‘Sound & Shot’ mode records several seconds of audio to accompany each photo. The audio is intended to provide some context for the image.

Eight-Core Processor & Improved Battery Life

 

ARM BigLittle.jpgThe Galaxy S4 is the world’s first smartphone with an “octa-core” (eight-core) processor. The new processor makes use of ARM’s big.LITTLE technology. Essentially it works by having two quad-core processors inside one phone: there’s a high-performance processor for heavy workloads and an energy-efficient processor for normal workloads. The phone switches between both processors automatically to give an optimum balance between performance and battery life. According to ARM, big.LITTLE technology can improve battery life by up to 70%.

 

The Galaxy S4 has two quad-core processors: a high-performance 1.6GHz quad-core processor (Cortex-A15) and an energy-efficient 1.2GHz quad-core processor (Cortex-A7).

 

Galaxy S4: New Software Features

 

Other software enhancements on the Galaxy S4 include:

 

  • S Health. The Galaxy S4 has a built-in pedometer. Through the ‘S Health’ application, it can track the number of steps that you take and the foods that you consume (calories, etc.) Various health accessories are available for the device.

  • S Translator. A language translation app, similar to Google Translate. It allows you to have a conversation with people in other languages (the app supports speech-to-text translation in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portugese, Chinese and Japanese). On other devices, you can already achieve this using the free Google Translate application. For more information, see our top apps when travelling abroad.

  • Samsung Knox. An enterprise-solution that separates work and personal information on your phone. This is similar to BlackBerry Balance.

  • ChatON. Samsung’s instant messaging service has been upgraded. Like BlackBerry 10 and BBM, ChatON now supports video calling and screen sharing. ChatON is pre-installed with all Samsung devices.

  • S Voice Drive. Samsung have created a driving-optimised version of the ‘S Voice’ virtual assistant.

  • WatchON. Like the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 features an infrared blaster. This allows you to control a TV using the built-in WatchON application.

It is likely that Samsung will make the majority of these features available on older devices.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4: Comparison to iPhone 5 & Galaxy S III

 

The Samsung Galaxy S4 compares to the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III as follows:

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4.jpg 

Apple iPhone 5

 iPhone 5 Front.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S III

 Marble White.jpg

Processor

1.6GHz octa-core

1.3GHz dual-core

1.4GHz quad-core

Display

5.0-inch AMOLED (organic LED) display

4.0-inch TFT display

4.8-inch AMOLED (organic LED) display

Screen Resolution

1920x1080 pixels

1136x640 pixels

1280x720 pixels

Pixel Density

441 pixels per inch (441 ppi)

326 pixels per inch (326 ppi)

306 pixels per inch (306 ppi)

Operating System

Google Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Apple iOS 6

Google Android 4.0. Upgradable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

RAM

2GB

1GB

1GB

Storage

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

MicroSD Expansion

Up to 64GB

No

Up to 64GB

Camera

13 megapixels with LED flash

8 megapixels with LED flash

8 megapixels with LED flash

Video recording

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

Battery

2,600mAh (removable)

1,440mAh (non-removable, 8 hours talk time)

2,100mAh (removable, 11.6 hours talk time)

NFC

Yes

No

Yes

Text Input

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

On-Screen Keyboard

Approx. Price

TBC

£529

Approx. £370

SIM Card Size

Micro SIM

Nano SIM

Micro SIM

 

All three devices are compatible with giffgaff. Some great savings can be had if you buy the devices SIM-free and use one of our giffgaff goodybags. All giffgaff SIM cards feature a pop-out Micro SIM: they’re ready-to-use within the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S III.  For the iPhone 5, you’ll need to cut your SIM card down to Nano SIM dimensions.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4: UK Release Date

 

End of Article.jpgThe Galaxy S4 should be available in the UK from the 26th of April. As usual, you can buy the device SIM-free and unlocked: this will allow you to use it on the network of your choice. Pricing information is to be announced.

 

Your Thoughts…

 

In this article, we’ve taken a look at Samsung’s latest smartphone. The Galaxy S4 features a larger and higher-resolution screen, new ways of interacting with the device through gestures and an improved 13-megapixel camera. It also features a range of new applications, backed by its eight-core processor.

 

What do you think of the Samsung Galaxy S4? Were you impressed by Samsung’s latest offering or were you expecting more? Would you choose the Galaxy S4 over the iPhone 5 and the HTC One? We’d love to hear your thoughts… please drop us a comment below and let us know what you think!

 

Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.

36 Comments
ace of spades
Cheers mate ..i shall have a read through later..
governor
Hmm.,. Seems quite impressive but I didn't see a price. ^o^
heavy hitter

I actually love the samsung devices, I have owned the original note, the s2, the s3 and I now have the note 2, their battery lives are probably the best on the market in my opinion, to see that the s4 has improved that is pretty impressive. Also pre installed with the latest version of jelly bean.

 

I am not sure I would upgrade my note2 for this though, in all honesty, however, it seems that the bigger screens are becoming more and more popular.

 

Smiley Very Happy

enigma

Should be a nice phone but I bet it'll still be a high price. Maybe around £400 but that's a lot to pay.

sensei
Is there any reliable news on the LTE frequencies it supports as it'd be good to know? Thanks. Smiley Happy
cim
phenomenon

Interesting data. Octa core? For when 4 cores just ain't enough s'pose Smiley Wink

id just stick with an S3
rg6
graduate

I would LOVE this phone and would definitely prefer it to an iphone.

The inbuilt translator sounds good but I'm not sure about the eye tracker, that sounds a bit weird!

pupil
Does look good. No price mentioned though.
consultant

Looks impressive and I would love it but I know it is going to be way out of my price range Smiley Sad