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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The Galaxy S4 represents a refinement of Samsung's earlier efforts, but is that enough to guarantee its success in the smartphone market of 2013?

Enter, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Despite the abundance of unique hardware from a wide variety of manufacturers, the smartphone space remains a two-horse race, dominated by Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series. Arguably a triumph of marketing as much as technology, the Galaxy S3 emerged as the Android king in 2012, selling some 30 million units worldwide. Longtime foes HTC and Motorola struggled to compete with Samsung, and the Korean behemoth cemented its position as the alpha Android later in the year with the pen-toting Galaxy Note 2.
Now, as tick follows tock, it’s time for a successor to the Galaxy S3 -- and the Galaxy S4 is as incremental and familiar as its name might suggest. Rounded edges. TouchWiz. SuperAMOLED. A big clicky home button. At first inspection it seems it’s business as usual for Samsung owners.
On the other hand, the Galaxy S4’s feature list is staggering, bringing new tricks to the table beyond faster hardware and a larger screen. “Air view” can detect your hands at a distance. A front-mounted IR blaster and TV app allow the phone to serve as a viewing companion. The video player tracks your eyes. The web browser scrolls with a tilt of your head. Add to that more new software features than you can shake a very large stick at -- including everything from the Galaxy S3 -- and you’ll see why the S4 could be the most feature-laden smartphone out there. Conversely, the S4’s design -- in both hardware and software -- is essentially unchanged. Of course, not every smartphone upgrade needs to be revolutionary, and those manufacturers who’ve reinvented themselves lately -- HTC, for example -- have arguably been strong-armed into doing so by Samsung’s dominance.
Like arch-rival Apple, Samsung’s new product is all but guaranteed widespread success. The company’s colossal marketing budget and newfound consumer mindshare will take care of that. Expect a relentless advertising campaign and news of tens of millions of sales in the months ahead.
So plenty of other humans will buy the Samsung Galaxy S4 this year, but should you? Does it deserve its inevitable success, or is it all parlor tricks and gimmickry? The one place you’ll find out for sure is after the break, in our extensive Galaxy S4 review.
The Good
The Galaxy S4 is a speedy all-rounder which manages to deliver great performance and a big, bright screen in an ergonomic package. Widespread availability, tons of features and the latest version of Android work in the S4’s favor, as does its impressive 13-megapixel camera.

The Bad
The TouchWiz UI remains a clumsy construction, and still lacks any kind of overarching design language. The bewildering array of settings and features and poor UX design will confuse some users. The occasional performance hiccups are disappointing to see, and the plastic chassis feels cheap.

If you’re looking for an Android phone that performs well across the board, ticks every feature box you could possibly imagine and is available on just about every carrier on the planet, the Galaxy S4 is an easy recommendation. But this time around it’s clear Samsung has merely stacked incremental updates -- mostly features and internal hardware -- upon its earlier flagship, rather than addressing that device’s issues and rethinking what a smartphone should be in 2013. For some folks, that’s fine. For others, more exciting products await elsewhere.


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