A first look at Samsung's ruggedized, water-resistant Galaxy S4 Active
Traditionally, if you wanted a toughened, water-resistant, life-proof smartphone, there were compromises you just had to live with. Usually you'd pay over the odds, and be left with a bulky, ugly-looking device running old software, with sub-par internals. But that's starting to change, and we've already seen devices like the Sony Xperia Z that promise top-end hardware alongside the ability to survive a dunk in the bath.
Now Samsung's entering the rugged smartphone market in a big way with the Galaxy S4 Active -- a device that stays true to its Galaxy S4 branding with high-end internals matched against a rugged chassis. It's IP67-rated for water and dust resistance, meaning its internals are protected from harmful particulate matter, and it'll survive in up to 1 meter of water for at least 30 minutes.
On the inside you're dealing with much the same high-end parts you'll find in the regular S4 -- a 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, expandable via micro SD and a 1080p display. A few changes have been made though -- the Active's screen is an LCD, not SuperAMOLED, which may lead to improved daylight visibility (it's difficult to tell inside the darkened demo area). The camera's also taken a slight hit, going from 13 megapixels on the S4 to 8 on the active. Again, it was difficult to judge the camera's performance in the demo area at Earls Court today, but it seemed to work well enough. What's more, the camera app now boasts a dedicated underwater shooting mode.
On the outside, it's clear you're dealing with a more rugged device than the vanilla GS4. Gone is the shiny, flimsy back panel, and in its place lies a sturdier plastic battery door. At the top of the Active you've got a grippier area, fixed in place with plastic studs. The same textured plastic is used on the Active's power, volume, back, home and menu keys, making each of these easy to find and press.
And that leads us to one of the main changes around the front of the device. Samsung's switched to an all-clicky button setup, versus the half-physical, half-capacitive arrangement on most of its phones -- a move that's likely been made to aid ease of use when the phone's wet.
The software experience is almost identical to that of the Galaxy S4 -- you've got the full Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and TouchWiz UI, which gives you access to an overwhelming array of features we've already covered in depth in our Galaxy S4 review.
The Galaxy S4 Active lands on AT&T tomorrow, and will launch in Europe later this summer.