The good: The Samsung Galaxy S4 has Android 4.2.2, a fantastic camera, a powerful quad-core processor, and software solutions for just about every scenario — including working as a TV/DVR remote. It’s also comfortable in hand and has NFC, a user-replaceable battery, and a microSD storage slot.
The bad: Its screen is dimmer than competitors’, its plastic design gives it a cheaper look than its rivals, and we found the Galaxy S4’s power button turned on at undesirable times. Not all camera modes work as promised, and a long list of software features can quickly overwhelm and confuse.
The bottom line: Its laundry list of features require time and effort to truly master, but the Galaxy S4 is the top choice for anyone looking for a big-screen, do-everything smartphone.
With the Galaxy S4, Samsung clinches its goal of global smartphone domination. The supercharged Android 4.2 Jelly Bean device may look like a toy compared with the stunning HTC One and the dapperiPhone 5. But taken together, its blazing quad-core processor, colorful 5-inch HD screen, sharp-shooting 13-megapixel camera, and mile-high stack of software extras make the Galaxy S4 the most powerful superphone anywhere in the world.
What does the Galaxy S4 have? A better question is: what doesn’t it have? There’s the 1080p screen, zippy processing speeds that areideal for gaming, and an IR blaster that can control your TV. Then there’s the parade of camera tricks that cram action shots into one scene, use both front and back cameras, and film a video in slow-mo. The GS4 can harness your eyeballs to pause video, and it can answer a phone call with the wave of your hand. Unlike the HTC One and the iPhone 5, it also piles on expandable storage space and a removable battery.
It’s true: most of the GS4’s featurettes aren’t essential — and some aren’t even very useful, like the camera’s Eraser mode, which I never got to work, a subpar optical reader, and a translation tool that just duplicates what Google Translate already does. While none stands out as a must-have, cannot-possibly-live-without extra, these features do add up to a compelling testament that the Galaxy S4 is more than a step ahead of the pack.
So, if you want a lovingly crafted statement phone that barely strays from Android’s core offering, then buy the HTC One, which also has double the internal storage for about the same price. But if you’re looking for a superphone that surpasses all other handsets on the features front, then you’ll find in this deserving all-around flagship a strong mix of extremely competent hardware and aspirational software with very few major drawbacks.