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Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on

Posted: , by John V.

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Interface and Functionality

Sure, the design of the smartphone is rather underwhelming, and you’re probably thinking that there is little new with the experience, but that’s far from the truth. On the surface, the handset is running its bread and butter TouchWiz Nature UX interface on top of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Grazing over the homescreen, it’s undeniably TouchWiz that we’re dealing with here, which sadly still appears too cartoonish for our tastes. Just like before, the UI is inspired by nature, which is evidenced by the new droplet tone that’s played as we touch something on the screen, but beyond that, some people are going to be hard pressed to believe that this is an updated experience. So what’s new? Honestly, there’s a lot of surprises that ultimately tells us that it’s the experience that takes the most prominence with this device. Essentially, Sammy breaks it all down to four categories – fun, relationship, life task, and life share.

Let’s talk about the “fun” aspect of the Galaxy S IV, which is mainly directed at its insane, yet engaging new camera features.

  • Dual shot – This new camera feature makes for some interesting stories, mainly because it compiles videos by recording content with the front and rear cameras. It’s neat because you can tell a story about what you’re trying to shoot in the video. In another scenario, just like how we perform hands-on videos at tradeshows, the dual shot feature comes in hand for allowing us to shoot video on a device – while keeping our face in the frame of the recording as we speak.
  • Sound & Shot – This is simple, it just allows us to record up to 9 seconds of audio when we snap a photo. Therefore, when we preview it in the gallery, it’ll play the recording when we look at it.
  • Drama Shot – Always wondered how professional photographers snap those cool photos of someone diving into a pool? You know, the ones where it shows in the photo the step-by-step moment? Well, the drama shot feature relies on multi burst to take various photos of something in motion, and then complies them together in a single shot.
  • Cinema Photo – Now this one is really cool, it’s like having a photo that you can honestly say you’re “feeling the moment.” Basically, it’s like making a gif image on the smartphone. As the handset is capturing images, we can select what elements to animate and what others we want to keep stationary.
  • Story Album – The name says it all! It’s a feature that lets us stitch together a story album using pictures, time, place, weather, and more.

Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on
Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on
Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on

Secondly, there’s the relationship aspect of the interface. In this category, it’s all about social interaction with the Galaxy S IV, so here’s the quick list of what’s new.

  • S Translator – You guessed it folks, the Galaxy S IV makes it super convenient to translate stuff on the fly. Incorporated into a variety of apps, like ChatON, messaging, S Translator app, and email, language barriers will be a thing of the past with this new S Translator feature.
  • Group Play – There are to aspects of Group Play. First, there’s the ability to allow the smartphone to pair with other Galaxy S IVs so they can conjure up a powerful sound system with its new Share Music feature. Come to think about it, the entire thing kind of reminds us of daisy chaining. Lastly, the Galaxy S IV allow for more social engagement when it comes to playing games. Specifically, optimized versions of Asphalt 7 and Gun Bros 2 allow multiple Samsung Galaxy S IV smartphone to play collaboratively.

Third on the list is life task, which is without question where we see the greatest improvement in the experience. Thinking back to the Galaxy S III last year, it wowed us with cool features like S-Voice, Air View, Smart Stay, Pop up Play, and many others. This time around, however, they’ve splashed a little bit of Note to it. Let’s take a look shall we?

  • Air View – Yup, the Note’s Air View feature has somehow magically arrived on the Galaxy S IV – and boy does it impress on many levels. We’ve already talked about its usefulness and the display’s accuracy, but Sammy has an optimized version of Flipboard that allows us to hover our finger over its tiles to get a preview. Of course, the feature works in many other places – like previewing email and calendar appointments.
  • Air Gesture – Holy smokes! So what’s Air Gesture? Simply, it’s a basic version of Kinect for the Microsoft XBOX 360, but for smartphones (SGSIV in this case obviously). At its core, Air Gesture is touchless commands for the Galaxy S IV and breaks down to three commands – Air Browse, Air Jump, and Air Call Accept. In the browser and email apps, we can wave our hand in a downward/upward motion to tell the phone to scroll up/down. Likewise, we can “swipe” through photos in the gallery by waving our hand over the display in the appropriate direction. Yeah, it’s super neat, but not all apps support it. Instead, most of Sammy’s set offer it, but not others like Chrome or Gmail. Unfortunately though, there’s no air gesture for “pinch zooming.”
  • Smart Pause – It’s hard enough remembering a storyline when watching a movie on a phone, especially when we decide to do something else aside from watching it. Well, with Smart Pause, the handset knows when we’re not looking. Therefore, it’ll automatically pause the moment our eyes are no longer affixed to the display, but it’ll resume once we look back at it.
  • Smart Scroll – Using a combination of looking with our eyes and some tilting action, we can scroll through various content in the web browser and email app.
  • Samsung Optical Reader – No one likes having to manually input business card information into their phones, so that’s why we’re given the Samsung Optical Reader. Snap a business card, it’ll automatically retrieve the pertinent content and convert it digitally for us. Also, it works to decipher QR codes.
  • WatchON – Seeing that the handset is now sporting an IR blaster, WatchON is the one stop hub for all our television program needs. Not only can we control, select, and viewing programming, it also has a cool video on demand feature.

Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on
Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on
Samsung Galaxy S 4 hands-on

And finally, we come to the fourth aspect with the new experience – life care. Apparently, Samsung wants to keep its users healthy by providing them with tangible health oriented information. Some of you are probably aware about the various fitness accessories out there, like the Fitbit, Nike Fuel band, or the Jawbone Up band, but Samsung has integrated many of the features in those specialized accessories into the Galaxy S IV.

  • S Health – Fitness junkies will surely appreciate S Health the most, since it tracks and measures various physical activities – eventually giving us detailed statistics about our fitness regimen. From counting the steps we’ve take to the amount of calories we’ve consumed for the day, S Health is the central spot where we can monitor our healthy lifestyle. Heck, it can even tell us if the temperature and weather conditions are conducive to our health. Oh yeah, did we mention it can also monitor sleeping patterns?
  • Samsung Adapt Sound – In its attempt to be self-aware, the Samsung Adapt Sound will automatically adjust some of the handset’s settings based on what we’re doing. For example, if we’re reading a book in the dark, it’ll adjust the contrast and brightness to make it easier on our eyes. Another scenario pumps up the two so that it provides for an enticing video watching experience. Rather than doing it ourselves manually, it’s nice to see the handset doing it automatically for us.

On one hand, we had such an immense amount of expectations for the Samsung Galaxy S IV, especially knowing that its predecessor seemingly set the bar high for many Android smartphones after it. What’s clear though, is that the design isn’t captivating enough to make it more prized than say, the HTC One. Regardless of that, Samsung has chosen instead to play its hot cards in the experience portion of the smartphone. As we’ve clearly seen, they’ve brought forth some considerable new features to the UI to widen the gap between its rivals.

Sensing some hesitation, there’s one piece of the puzzle that was left largely as a mystery to us. When asking about what’s powering this beauty under the hood, the Samsung folks weren’t as forthright in mentioning the details. Rather, they mention that depending on the market where it’s released, it’ll be running either its own home grown Exynos Octa 5 processor or a quad-core processor. Lacking some substance, it’s a safe presumption to say that the international version of the smartphone will be packing the Octa 5 chip – whereas the US versions will unceremoniously feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 600 SoC, which will undoubtedly give the handset LTE connectivity. With the units we checked out, it’s unclear what exact chips they were packing, and for the most part, their performances were swift with most tasks. However, they weren’t without some faults, as some meddling instances of choppiness intruded some processes – though, we’re reminded these are pre-production units

And finally, its pricing is still relatively unknown at the moment, but in this day and age, it’s pretty much a safe bet to assume that it’s going to land at $200 with a 2-year contract. Now that the cat is out of the bag, it makes for some interesting choices for many people who are fighting an internal struggle on which device to pick up next. Spending some decent alone time with this handset, the miniscule design changes don’t necessarily give it enough of an appeal to make it more attractive over the HTC One, but then again, the considerable improvements in the software experience merit enough recognition on its own. Also, some people will appreciate the fact that it has a removable battery and microSD card slot – two things that are increasingly becoming rare amongst top-tiered devices for some reason. At the end of the day, is this really the next big thing? To tell you the truth, we’re a bit skeptical about it. Knowing that we’re still in the early portion of 2013, we can foresee Sammy with another ace up its sleeve down.


  • Options

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:32 76

1. Daftama (Posts: 619; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)

Seriously?????? Disappointed

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:38 63

9. AnTuTu (Posts: 1580; Member since: 14 Oct 2012)

Sorry Sammy I am so not getting this phone :( HTC One welcome :(

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:16 12

36. juanyunis (Posts: 73; Member since: 31 Aug 2012)

well, to be honest you are so right with your comment. I wanted to get this phone, i mean it's not bad, good specs, but seems like an Galaxy SIIIS, also much of these features are already in my Note II, i guess i will stay with the Note II, and wait for the Note III.

Also i'm curious about the HTC One, i think that maybe i'll get one too. By the way nice apps.

posted on 18 Mar 2013, 14:06 2

186. Airforce (Posts: 69; Member since: 24 Jul 2012)

wow..i can't imagine Xperia Z FLAWED samsung gs4

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:26 19

41. chistoefurpuffer (Posts: 140; Member since: 11 Mar 2013)

I would get the HTC One, but it's terrible UI is keeping me away.

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:42 15

61. JulianGT (Posts: 89; Member since: 15 Oct 2012)

BlinkFeed and 4MP cammera

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 22:25 8

104. lambchops (Posts: 4; Member since: 14 Mar 2013)

How about doing your research bud, blinkfeed is just a social networking news feed (in which you can turn off in settings) and by the way, its not a "megapixel" camera, its an ultra-pixel camera. So 4, being a fairly low number for a camera, in ultra-pixels, it makes a damn sharp camera.

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 01:12 9

114. Lifengineer (Posts: 44; Member since: 15 Dec 2011)

Hahahaha it's the best!

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 04:36 4

127. chistoefurpuffer (Posts: 140; Member since: 11 Mar 2013)

Yes, terrible. Even if all the features that would likely start to irritate people can be turned off, I still just don't like the look of sense 5.0. The icons, (the dock especially), is just very unappealing for me.

And believe me, You'll notice the 4 mp camera when you plan to blow up the picture a bit. Lower mp, less pixels. It wont be nearly as sharp as the s4 or Xperia Z.

posted on 16 Mar 2013, 06:22 1

165. phonemirer (Posts: 111; Member since: 07 Dec 2012)

gotta wait for nokia s flagship, s4 is just too s3 ish, hope nokia eos trounces s4

posted on 18 Mar 2013, 06:23

184. sgodsell (Posts: 4897; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)

If Nokia only puts a lumia 920 with a pure view camera then they have still lost, because the world in general hates windows phone 8. Its a limited, closed, walled garden, non multitasking OS. And the majority of people don't trust Microsoft. If Nokia starts making phones with Linux or android, I would be there, but since they don't, bye bye Nokia.

posted on 17 Mar 2013, 05:44 1

179. amiroo (Posts: 269; Member since: 03 Sep 2012)

i think sooo..i waiting for one..
s4 is big deal but i expect more than saftware of suepr phone..i feel a defect about s4 ..not good body quality..not good design..
in ui s4 keep the way same old Version i dont like repeatation..
sense 5 come to ring by great Revolution in that case of design and functinally..
about screen im not sure which one is better btw one and S4..
about sound and speaker i ithink any phone cant beat one.
about harware both of great..dont different in use.
about camera i think one is better Such we can see in same different site..but still im not sure for this so.
about design its clear which ones flag up.
about battary one`s test is tooo great when phonearena test it..s4 seems to be better but one is perfect and maybe it enough for many users.
(this idea is Personal)

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:42 7

12. wp8forever (unregistered)

Samcrap lol u let down your fanboys lol what crap phone with unfinished features lol that won't work right .

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:46 34

14. BadAssAbe (Posts: 465; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)

Disappointed, How?
Smaller, thinner, lighter than the SGS3
IR blaster, Bigger higher Res Screen, Bigger Battery, better camera, and a Faster processor
Plus all the great features the SGS3 Has like
Removable battery, Sd Slot, Super AMOLED

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:48 22

16. LonghornTech (Posts: 50; Member since: 14 Mar 2013)

So it's basically like an Apple upgrade but with better starting and ending specs. Right?

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:41 26

60. BadAssAbe (Posts: 465; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)

The iPhone didn't Get
Higher ppi
IR blaster
Bigger battery,
IR blaster
Sd slot
Removable battery
But they did get rid of Google maps for a while LOL

posted on 16 Mar 2013, 06:20 1

164. phonemirer (Posts: 111; Member since: 07 Dec 2012)

it isnt even 720p

posted on 17 Mar 2013, 14:56 2

180. LonghornTech (Posts: 50; Member since: 14 Mar 2013)


The GSIV did not GET a removable battery or SD Slot.
The iPhone 5 DID get a bigger battery
and you wrote IR blaster twice
and writing higher ppi and HD to FHD separately is pretty pointless AND the Iphone did get an increased screen resolution.

So the only points you made that hold up are the inclusion of an IR Blaster and Higher ppi....i'm not impressed.

posted on 17 Mar 2013, 17:08 1

183. BadAssAbe (Posts: 465; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)

Here you go, All hardWare updates

HD to FHD, (306ppi to 441ppi)
Bigger Battery (2100 mAh to 2600 mAH) iP4s 1432mAh To iP5 1440mAH
IR Blaster
Touch and Use with Gloves
Floating Touch Technology (No Touch TouchScreen)
Better Camera (8MP to 13MP)
Gorilla Glass 3
New Processors (Samsung Exynos 4 to Exynos 5 Octa)
New, More Ram (1GB DDR2 to 2GB DDR3)

Hook'em Horns ;)

More Info


posted on 17 Mar 2013, 16:48

182. mrfamous1 (Posts: 27; Member since: 25 Apr 2012)


posted on 14 Mar 2013, 23:08 2

108. Daftama (Posts: 619; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)

Long horn that would be correct...if your going to change the size change the looks...what happend to the green screen...

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 18:50 22

17. Dr.Phil (Posts: 1642; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)

I think what he means is that the SIV is to the SIII as the iPhone 5 is to the 4S. Yes, there are improvements but they are probably not going to be ones that make you want to immediately upgrade from the SIII. Especially considering the US version probably won't feature the Exynos 5 Octa processor that would make it really worthwhile.

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 20:00 3

72. zrated (Posts: 14; Member since: 30 Jan 2013)

you hit the nail on the head for me. the only thing i was waiting to see is if it would have the octa or not. since it doesn't, i'll wait for the note 3.

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 23:09 1

109. Daftama (Posts: 619; Member since: 03 Nov 2012)

Yes dr phil...at least when icrap changes the number they change the looks this more S3s

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:11 4

32. Reverence (Posts: 224; Member since: 16 Jul 2012)

firstly even 9mm looks good! second you can't differentiate between HD and full HD and S4 has terrible display(compared with htc one)! battery doesn't matter, battery life does and its not about MP, its about quality and they haven't even gone too wild in camera department like pureview 808! faster processor, htc one is better and you will still see lag. only google can move that lag out that why there is lag on s3 which is quad core and no no lag on 4s which is dual! all features introduced are stupid useless and copied! and i think 32GB is enough, i won't want a SD card and if you want go to 64GB! and super amoled is ugly infront of retina display and especially super LCD 3!!

the keynote was utter disappointment. i was missing steve jobs a lot! and one thing is sure they wont sell huge numbers of s4 like they did of s3!

posted on 14 Mar 2013, 19:49 8

67. BadAssAbe (Posts: 465; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)

You have no idea what you are talking about
PA compare battery life SGS3 WON

LCD VS OLED is Old vs New FYI totally up to personal opinion

SGS3 suffers no lag FYI iPhone FC more often than android
Here look it up

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 04:36 5

128. sunjain65 (Posts: 16; Member since: 21 May 2012)

I agree, people just hating the galaxy s4 because they didn't change the design that's all. and there is nothing new in the htc one except the aluminium design.

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 14:59 1

147. jcarrigan (unregistered)

exactly! i may not be entriely thrilled with the design since i already have the gs3 and i was really wanting the octa processor but it doesnt mean that the gs4 is a bad phone. In my opinion it still beats the HTC One and the iCrap. But I think I will wate for the note 3 since, like i said, i already have the gs3 and I cant really justify spending $200 on this when i just got my phone in october. I love samsung but I am alil bummed out here :(

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 08:34

137. gmracer1 (Posts: 646; Member since: 28 Dec 2012)

Thinner and lighter, yes...but not smaller.

posted on 15 Mar 2013, 23:12 3

154. doejon (Posts: 406; Member since: 31 Jul 2012)

people are stupid the expected to fly with the s4 to the moon or even mars xD

htc one looks good but look is not every thing! oh ok and it
has good speakers but thats it..

the s4 offers more for ur money belive me and ofers more
than the htc one
and dont forget they mod community of the galaxy series
is very big and.. samsung has done a better update job than others! and the dont loked the bootloader
so people wake up...-.-

sorry 4 my english

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