Nokia Lumia 1020 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Introduction and Design

Windows Phone still has a lot to overcome if it ever wants to get close to what Android is doing in the space, but in the platform’s quest to spread to the masses, it has one new polarizing figure in the arena that’s making some buzz – the Nokia Lumia 1020. Armed with that monstrous 41-megapixel PureView camera, it’s no doubt bringing the heat to the competition. As always, though, the Samsung Galaxy S4 continues to be one of the shining flagships for Android that not only managed to compel us a few months ago, but it continues to do so without much effort. Does the Nokia Lumia 1020 have enough gas in the tank to keep up with Sammy’s flagship?


Frankly, these two are beasts in terms of their sizes, as they can overwhelm anyone with smaller sized hands, but if we have to pick, we find the Galaxy S4 to be the easier device to handle, since it’s lighter and thinner than the Lumia 1020. Regardless of that, we’ll mention that Nokia’s beauty has the more attractive design and sturdier construction, as its curved sides, subtle tapered corners, and unibody polycarbonate frame all come together so seamlessly. Although the Galaxy S4 shares the same choice of materials, polycarbonate, it just seems a bit more brittle than the tough exterior of its rival. 


We’ll flat out say it! The Samsung Galaxy S4 has the more impressive display, mainly due to the fact that its 5-inch Super AMOLED display is sporting the higher resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. In contrast, the Lumia 1020’s 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ display with ClearBlack AMOLED is still an attractive one, but doesn’t quite have the same level of clarity and sharpness with its 768 x 1280 resolution. Indeed, the two displays are AMOLED based, which boasts the same saturated colors and wide viewing angles, but we do notice that the Lumia 1020’s display is slightly brighter with its output – albeit, we still find ourselves shielding the two when we’re outdoors. At the end of the day, there’s no denying the showroom wow factor that they exhibit, but the higher resolution display on the Galaxy S4 is hard not to notice.

Interface and Functionality:

Maturity definitely has its perks, which is so plainly obvious here when we look at Windows Phone 8 on the Lumia 1020 and Sammy’s TouchWiz Nature UX experience on top of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on the S4. We won’t argue that Windows Phone 8 has an appealing style and presentation, as its homescreen is dazzling with its dynamic Live Tiles, and how the Modern UI is employed in many aspects of the platform’s interface. However, it doesn’t quite match the vast personalization of Android as a whole, but more importantly, the expansive features that Sammy has sprinkled into its TouchWiz experience. When you have tertiary features on the Galaxy S4, like Air Gestures, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, Air View, and the host of S-branded apps, it really puts to shame what the Lumia 1020 has to bring to the table with its own mixed bag of goodies.

Microsoft’s own Bing service offers a small fraction of functionality that Google Now delivers with the Android experience, so when it comes to various organizer functions, we’ll stick with the Galaxy S4. Better yet, the various Air View features of the smartphone is a neat touch that provides pertinent information – such as email, appointment, and text message previews.

Certainly the 5-inch display of the S4 is appreciated when it comes to typing messages, but the Lumia 1020’s own keyboard layout is just as spacious, despite its smaller display. Naturally, both are responsive enough to keep up with our hasty pace. Lessening the need to move elsewhere, it’s nice to find a dedicated row for numbers and quick access to certain punctuations from the main layout with the S4’s keyboard. Due to the hump caused by its camera gear, it makes for some awkwardness trying to type with the Lumia 1020.

Processor and Memory:

Now here’s a perfect example of why specs don’t dictate performance. For starters, the Lumia 1020’s dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor with 2GB of RAM equally matches the finesse and execution of its rival's more contemporary quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM. Running the same set of operations, the two exhibit enough smoothness and response with all actions – so whether they’re basic or complex, they handle them with little impact to their performances.

With our review units, the Lumia 1020 boasts 32GB of internal storage, which is double over our S4’s 16GB capacity. Still, it’s very handy to find a microSD card slot with the Galaxy S4 to complement its storage.

Internet and Connectivity:

Donning 4G LTE connectivity and mighty processors, these two hot stuff smartphones pack enough lovable elements to make the web browsing experience so enjoyable – like their hasty page loads, quick page rendering, and fluid navigational controls. Adding some depth to the experience, we like how the S4 utilizes Smart Scrolling and various Air Gestures to give us more control in how we interact with web pages.

As we know all too well at the moment, the Lumia 1020 is available in GSM form through AT&T in the US – whereas the S4 is made available in GSM and CDMA flavors. Supplementing their cellular capacities, they boast all the common connectivity features. Obviously, they consist of aGPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC. However, it’s the S4 that gains video-out functionality with the aid of an optional MHL adapter.


You would think that the Lumia 1020 would have the upper hand when it comes to shooting modes and controls, but surprisingly enough, the Galaxy S4 is also packing an equally compelling set. To be fair, we do prefer the styling with the Lumia 1020’s camera interface, since its on-screen rotating dial menu pays homage to what we find on regular cameras. Conversely, the S4 sticks to a more straightforward menu approach when it comes to changing settings. In order to get those cool shooting modes and effects on the Lumia 1020, it requires the separate Nokia Smart Cam app – whereas it’s all integrated into the S4’s standard camera app.

Frankly speaking, the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel auto-focus camera takes some exceptional shots that we can’t complain about – and it continues to be one of the go-to smartphones for taking photos. Even with its strong results, the Lumia 1020 simply takes better looking snapshots. When we look at the overall package, it’s obvious that the Lumia 1020 has the cutting edge in many areas, like details and low lighting performance, which makes it the ubiquitous choice for serious photographers.

At the same time, Nokia’s latest pride and joy also shows its worth in the 1080p video recording quality department. In fact, it’s a winner in pretty much all categories, but it’s worth mentioning that we’re also treated to a few different shooting modes, like 24 frames per second capture, for that cinematic look. Rounding things out, we also adore how there’s no degradation in quality when using the Lumia 1020’s lossless zoom and the high high quality of the recorded audio. Just as before, the Galaxy S4 is a good phone for video recording too, but it’s not enough to overpower its rival – still, it’s an admirable stab.

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Nokia Lumia 102010
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Samsung Galaxy S43.4


On the surface, we really can’t complain about their respective music players, seeing that we’ve grown fond of their style and features. When it comes to the audio quality emitted by their speakers, it’s evident that the Lumia 1020’s speaker produces the stronger volume output.

Needless to say, you can’t go wrong watching high definition videos with either device, since their AMOLED panels are so darn mesmerizing, but we’ll stick to the Galaxy S4 with this one. Specifically, it’s mainly due to its larger display and secondary features – such as Smart Pause, timeline preview via Air View, and its Pop up Play feature.

Call Quality:

We’re neither totally disappointed or impressed by their call qualities, which makes them average to say the least. On the Lumia 1020, its earpiece is just simply too weak to make out voices, which resorts to us mashing it closer to our ear. Also far from perfect, the Galaxy S4 produces some distortion with voices. So yeah, they’re not without their own flaws.


Between the two, it’s the S4 that’s able to get us through more hours with its fully charged 2600 mAh battery. Expanding more upon that, it pushes us to the 24 hour mark with our normal usage, which is slightly better than the 18 hours that the Lumia 1020 is able to muster with its 2000 mAh battery.


Pricing is one of those things that become deal breakers for some, and if we’re to look at these two flagships, there’s going to be some concern when people look at the $300 on-contract price of the Nokia Lumia 1020. Considering that it’s packing 32GB of storage and that immense 41-megapixel PureView camera, it’s pretty much justified, but some will still find comfort in the $200 on-contract pricing of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Yet again, if photo and video quality is most paramount to you, then there’s no denying that the Lumia 1020 is the choice to go with. It basically adheres to the needs of those who are quite particular in this specific category. Now if we look at the bigger picture, the overall performance and experience, we’ll mention that it’s the Samsung Galaxy S4 that takes the checkered flag. Sure, it might not have an imposing camera and all, but when you factor in the depth of its TouchWiz experience, combined with its high performing qualities in all categories, it’s still one flagship that you'll want to keep in the back of your mind.

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