Samsung Galaxy S4 Review: Hands-On

Samsung is the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, having broken sales records across the world in recent years. Following on from its huge success, the firm has unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S4, a flagship handset that builds on what ‘s emerged from the Korean manufacturer before.

The device looks a lot like its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, following a similar design aesthetic to the earlier device that makes use of gently curved edges and a removable backplate. However, the Galaxy S4 has a slightly more premium feel to it due its polycarbonate shell and overall is a sturdier offering than the S III.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Front

On the front is the 5-inch super AMOLED display which has a ppi of 441 and is in the same league as recent high-end Androids like the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z. Like each of those two devices, the Galaxy S4’s screen is extremely bright and graphics and images shown onscreen almost leap out of the handset at you.

Our UK version of the device has a quad-core, 1.9 GHz processor that is the fastest currently available on a smartphone. There are few things in the mobile world that will really push a chip of this speed to its limits and the Galaxy S4 is well equipped to handle even heavy duty tasks like 3D gaming.

Samsung has introduced several new ways of interacting with the device. Firstly there is Air View, which allows you to hold your finger over the screen without actually touching it to bring up preview of such things as photos in a gallery.

Smart Pause recognises when you are looking at the display and, should you look away, will pause a video you are watching. Smart Scroll uses the same technology to allow you to scroll up or down a page by tilting the device when you are looking directly at it.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Notifications Bar

There is also Air Gesture, another contactless control method which allows you to perform certain tasks by waving your hand over the screen.

There is the powerful S Translator app which can convert text into nine different languages and can also speak the results back to you. Finally, S Health exists as its own app and offers a full suite of features to aid your well-being; these include dietary monitors which count calories and options to connect to peripheral devices like an arm band which will measure stats as you are exercising. Samsung also claim that the app can recognise what you are eating from a photo of the food and assess its nutritional value automatically.

Where 8 megapixel cameras have for some time been the standard for high end handset it looks like this may be changing. Samsung has introduced a 13 megapixel sensor into the Galaxy S4 which promises a great deal; after all, the firm’s recent history with mobile photography has been impressive and the S III had one of the best smartphone cameras of 2012.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Back Edge

While the camera is also capable of capturing video at 1080p video at 30fps its most interesting feature is Dual Camera. This makes use of both the handset’s front and rear cameras, superimposing the image from the front camera onto a regular image taken with the main, rear sensor.  The resulting image is a an otherwise ordinary shot with a smaller photo of the person taking it pasted over a part of the photo, kind of like they’re popping up in a thought bubble in a cartoon.

While inventive we do get the impression that actual, real life applications of this feature may be limited. However, the function can also be used in video calling through Samsung’s ChatOn app, so that the caller can show their surroundings to other people using the handset’s main camera. It’s this that we think may ultimately emerge as the more useful application of the technology.

We’ll be doing a full review of Samsung’s flagship at a later date, further testing the device functions and features and going into more depth with what Samsung has created.

For now it seems that the Galaxy S4 isn’t so much a whole new device in its own right as it is an upgrade of the Galaxy S III, with several new features packed in along with a slew of improvements to the handset’s hardware. However, this is no bad thing as the S III was a world leader in its time and the Galaxy S4 looks likely to go on and at least equal its predecessor’s sales figures.

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