Galaxy S4

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 and their flagship HTC One, 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.

Conclusion

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.


Inside this review


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Galaxy S4 hardware and build quality

For all its newness, the experience of picking up and using a Galaxy S4 is steeped in familiarity. Up close, subtle differences come into focus. But if you’ve used any of Samsung’s 2012 line-up, you should already know exactly what to expect when it comes to build quality and external hardware -- specifically, shiny plastic and rounded corners. The front is a covered with a sheet of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, sandwiched between the speaker grille up top and a large central home button down below. Beside the home key sit capacitive menu and back keys. (That’s right, Samsung’s still playing fast and loose with the Android design guidelines.)

The similarities continue around the sides and back. There’s a silvery faux-metal trim circling the edge of the device, punctuated by metal power and volume keys on the right and left sides respectively. The keys have much more of a premium feel to them than earlier Samsung phones, with reflective chamfers on their sides and a firmer click than those of the Galaxy S3. If you look closely, you’ll see similar design cues around the side of the speaker grille and camera assembly.

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4 Galaxy S4

The battery door is furnished in shiny plastic with a fine reflective diamond pattern. On the “mist black” Galaxy S4 we’re reviewing, it contrasts sharply against the dark grey on the front; on the white version, it’s less noticeable. It’s inoffensive enough, but it does tend to pick up fingerprints and smudges more easily than we’d like. From the front there’s a similar, but less pronounced diamond pattern surrounding the screen, which breaks things up visually, contrasting with the pitch black of the display.

What the Galaxy S4 lacks in looks it makes up for in ergonomics. Its curved chassis makes it easy to palm, and its 5-inch display is packed into a footprint almost identical to that of its predecessor, meaning you get more screen and less bezel in a device of the same size. It’s also incredibly light, weighing a little less than the S3 at 130 grams. Other 5-inchers like the Sony Xperia Z and HTC Droid DNA have struggled to pack such a large display into a hand-friendly package, so it’s a remarkable achievement for Samsung to have crammed so much screen into an S3-sized body.

Galaxy S4

Galaxy S4 Galaxy S4

The overall profile of the phone is a little more squared-off than earlier Samsung handsets, and the flatter trim fits more firmly in the hand, making slippage less likely. Consequently, the Galaxy S4 is staggeringly comfortable to use, proving that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort in the name of screen size. It’s a quintessentially Samsung design, and it’s become clear over the past year Samsung wants to create an iconic look of its own across all its mobile devices.  So for better or worse, the S4 is clearly identifiable as a Galaxy smartphone.

Galaxy S4 display

Galaxy S4 screen

iPhone 5 screen Galaxy S3 screen Nexus 4 screen HTC One screen

Main: Galaxy S4 screen close-up; Below: iPhone 5, Galaxy S3, Nexus 4, HTC One (click to enlarge)

The Galaxy S4’s 5-inch display is a full HD (1920x1080) SuperAMOLED panel. That means you’ve got a ridiculously high pixel density of 440ppi, and so the irregular PenTile matrix -- the arrangement of little colored dots that make up each of the 2 million pixels -- doesn’t result in any noticeable jagged edges. Color accuracy too is improved compared to early SuperAMOLEDs. In fact, the screen’s overall brightness and color quality is as good as we’ve seen on any AMOLED display, including the Galaxy Note 2, with no yellow or greenish discoloration in white areas.

Galaxy S4
Galaxy S4

Despite its bright colors and pitch blacks, the Galaxy S4’s SuperAMOLED panel struggles somewhat in bright daylight compared to modern LCD and IPS screens. Those issues are aggravated by the phone’s poor auto-brightness mode, which doesn’t ramp up anywhere near aggressively enough. The Galaxy S3 suffered from similar issues at launch, and they were later fixed in a software update, so it’s disappointing to see auto-brightness problems surfacing once again. Daylight visibility is an inherent weakness of AMOLED panels, and although the Galaxy S4 outperforms other SuperAMOLEDs in this area, it doesn’t quite match up to the performance of modern LCDs.

Beyond display quality, the Galaxy S4’s screen also incorporates a high-sensitivity touch mode designed for use with gloves. It’s hidden behind a few layers of menu, but it’s there, and it’s a capability you won’t find on the vast majority of smartphones.

More: Galaxy S4 display comparison

Galaxy S4 internal hardware and performance

When it comes to internal hardware, things become a little more complex. The U.S. Galaxy S4 we’re reviewing (and many other international 4G versions, including models sold in the UK) pack a Snapdragon 600 CPU running at 1.9GHz, compared to the 1.7GHz version found in the HTC One and Optimus G Pro. In some markets, including Samsung’s native South Korea, an Exynos 5 Octa (4+4 core) version will be offered, though we’re not expecting the different CPU to make that much of a difference to overall performance. Both flavors of Galaxy S4 include an ample 2 gigabytes of RAM.

There’s 16 GB of storage onboard as standard -- although in some territories 32 GB and 64 GB models will be offered. Furthermore, Samsung includes a microSD slot to expand the available storage, a rarity among high-end Androids. On our 16 GB model there’s 9.62GB available for your own stuff out of the box -- not an abundance of space, but that’s easily expanded with a microSD card purchase. Similarly, the built-in 2600 mAh bundled battery is removable, allowing a second one to be swapped in during days of heavy use. That also opens up a world of possibilities for higher-capacity aftermarket batteries.

Galaxy S4

The concoction of high-end silicon bubbling inside the Galaxy S4 produces fairly speedy performance in most tasks. We should note, however, that the HTC One seems just a little more responsive across the board, likely due to software tweaks on HTC’s part (or possibly some of the patents it licensed from Apple in late 2012.) A few examples of what we mean -- the home screen launcher on the S4 seemed more sensitive to background tasks, whereas the HTC One animated its home screen transitions flawlessly every time. Similarly, certain apps like the Samsung gallery app would take a second or so to load up, whereas just about every app loaded instantly on the HTC One. The S4’s suffered from infrequent jitteriness in some of its animations from time to time. Given the similarities in hardware between the two phones, it’s curious to see that HTC’s pulled ahead slightly in terms of perceived performance.

The Galaxy S4 continues the megapixel race with a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and BSI (backside illumination) tech. On the software side, Samsung’s rearranged its camera app with a number of special scene modes, inspired by its Galaxy Camera device. The combination of the higher pixel count and re-vamped software makes the Galaxy S4 one of the most versatile mobile cameras we’ve used, though as you’ll see in our comparison articles, it loses out to the HTC One’s “Ultrapixel” camera in low light conditions. On the front is a 2-megapixel front-facer, and both front and rear cameras can shoot video at up to 1080p resolution. Though it lacks the optical image stabilization tech found on some competitors, the Galaxy S4 is nonetheless a great video performer.

Galaxy S4 Galaxy S4Galaxy S4 Galaxy S4

Being a modern smartphone, it should come as no surprise to see the Galaxy S4 packing 4G LTE support in most markets in addition to various flavors of 3G -- HSPA or EVDO depending on the carrier. We used the Sprint Galaxy S4 in New York City, switching between 3G and 4G as we moved around Manhattan. As anyone who’s used Sprint outside of its few pockets of great coverage will know, network performance is highly variable. (That's a polite way of saying Sprint’s network is a joke in many locations.) In NYC -- admittedly not yet an official Sprint 4G market -- our speeds averaged at around 3 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up on LTE, which is far from what we’d consider acceptable over 4G. That’s not the phone’s fault, though, and your mileage will no doubt vary depending on your location and carrier of choice.

Galaxy S4
Galaxy S4 speed test

Call quality too will be network-dependent, but even with Sprint’s variable network quality we didn’t notice any issues in this area. In speakerphone calls and general audio playback, the Galaxy S4’s rear-facing speaker is reasonably loud and clear, though it doesn’t match the insane volume and quality of the HTC One’s BoomSound speaker.

More: Using the Galaxy S4 on Sprint

The Galaxy S4 is also one of a small number of phones to support the newer 802.11ac Wifi standard, meaning you’ll get higher data speeds over newer wireless networks based on this standard.

In summary, the Galaxy S4’s hardware is familiar and comfortable, if not particularly exciting. The focus is clearly on an incremental upgrade over previous Samsung products, and the S4’s hardware does exactly what needs to in order to bring this design language forward into 2013. No more, no less. As such, it does little to win over buyers who may have been underwhelmed by the industrial design of phones like the S3 and Note 2. With the Galaxy S4, Samsung takes baby steps forward, as opposed to the quantum leap some may have been hoping for.

Galaxy S4 specs

Samsung Galaxy S4 specifications

Accessories

Samsung is bringing to market a wide range of accessories for the Galaxy S4, including regular plastic cases, flip cases and a new “S View case.” The S View case replaces the back cover of the phone and has a protective front cover attached to protect the screen. Unlike earlier Samsung flip cases, a magnet in the cover can switch the screen on and off, and windowed area up top allows you to view the pertinent data, and answer calls using touch input.

Galaxy S4 case

Galaxy S4 case Galaxy S4 case

A wireless charging back should be available for the Galaxy S4 in the months ahead, but Samsung isn’t committing to any release date at the moment. An official game pad accessory will be hitting the market too, although there’s no date for that either.

Hit up the ShopAndroid.com newsletter to learn when the first Galaxy S4 accessory stock arrives.

More: Galaxy S4 S View case accessory review

Galaxy S4 software and features

The Samsung Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, topped off with Samsung’s latest TouchWiz Nature UX. It’s one of the first non-Nexus devices to ship with Android 4.2, showing Samsung appreciates the value of keeping on top of the latest code from Google. With the latest version of Jelly Bean, the S4 stands in good stead for the rest of 2013, having features like lock screen widgets and “Daydreams” right out of the box, not to mention the latest security and performance updates.

TouchWiz retains all of the features found in the latest Galaxy S3 software, and as such it’s already bursting at the seams with software capabilities. That means everything from Smart Stay (the eye-tracking screen-off controller), multi-window (the ability to split the screen between two full-screen apps) and S Beam (the NFC and Wifi Direct-based photo and video sharing deal) is included out of the box. For more on all of these features, check our review of the Galaxy S3 and Note 2.

Samsung revamped its Android UI extensively on the Galaxy S3, introducing a new nature-themed interface. This time around the visual changes are less pronounced, and you can clearly see that this year’s Samsung UI has its roots in the designs of the S3 and Note 2. It’s big, bright, colorful, more than a little chaotic, and you’ll be tripping over features and settings left and right. Compared to the simplicity of vanilla Android and HTC Sense 5, you’re confronted with a lot more noise as you use Samsung’s interpretation of Android.

That, in part, is down to the sheer volume of features that now make up Samsung’s Android-based firmware. And to the manufacturer’s credit, it’s taken a few steps to make things a little easier to understand. The quick settings area in the notification shade provides an easy way to control all of Samsung’s features as well as Wifi, Bluetooth and other toggles. And after the initial setup process you’re invited to enable or disable these on a menu page that also briefly explains what they do.

Home screens

Outside of quick settings, the main Settings app has been rearranged into a tabbed menu split between “Connections,” “Device,” “Accounts,” and “More.” It’s supposed to make the S4’s labyrinthine assortment of menus easier to navigate, but in reality we found the tabs only served to obscure things further. Instead of quickly swiping down one list, we had to tap and swipe down all four, and it wasn’t always obvious whether settings should be under the three main tabs or the overflow “More” tab.

This kind of thinking is evident throughout Samsung’s UI -- an emphasis on complexity and ticking feature boxes over simplicity and ease of use. Samsung has tried to address this for first-time users with its redesigned “Easy Mode,” which is intended to serve as a set of training wheels for new users. On this S4, this presents users with a simpler home screen launcher and larger text, and ties into the stock Samsung apps too. For example, UI elements are larger in the Calendar app, and there’s less information displayed in the main month and week views. But this is a clumsy workaround rather than a solution to Samsung’s software design woes. If your design is up to scratch, there should be no need for an easy mode. Furthermore, there’s little to prompt users to leave Easy Mode once they’ve enabled it, and a less advanced user is less likely to go poking around in the settings for such a toggle switch.

So while the Galaxy S4’s internal hardware and feature list has evolved, its software design has not. TouchWiz remains a mixing pot of design languages -- some of it Android-inspired, some of it iOS-inspired. TouchWiz isn’t necessarily ugly, it’s just messy, and there’s too much stuff.

Quick settings

But there are advantages to being messy -- for one, it lets you introduce new features and customizations left and right, and that’s exactly what Samsung’s done with the Galaxy S4.

Samsung’s lock screen, for instance, can be customized with different unlock effects and a variety of proprietary Samsung stuff, in addition to standard Android lock screen widgets. Lock screen widgets can also be disabled entirely if they’re not your cup of tea.

Air View and Air Gesture

A heavily promoted feature, Air View allows you to interact with the screen without touching it -- think of it the same way as hovering your mouse over something. A few apps have been enabled for use with Air View right away, and all but one them are stock Samsung apps. The gallery app lets you preview folders and images by hovering over. In the email client, messages can be previewed. In the browser you can open up a magnification window to view small text. The sole third-party app to support Air View is Flipboard, which allows you to open a small preview of items in each category by hovering over its square.

The usefulness of Air View varies from app to app, and although we dismissed it as a gimmick at first -- it’s especially fiddly and useless in the Samsung browser, for instance -- we did find it useful in navigating a large selection of photos in the gallery app. It’s also worth enabling the haptic feedback for Air View, as it gives it some much-needed physical feedback to this hover-based feature. (The little laser pointer effect while hovering over the lock screen is a neat trick, too.)

Quick glance Air view

Air Gesture works a little differently -- instead of relying on the touchscreen, the proximity sensor is employed to support a variety of gestures in front of the phone. In the gallery and music apps you can scroll through images, photos and tracks. In the stock browser, you can scroll pages one screen at a time. Directional gestures can be used to accept or reject calls. And possibly most useful of all, you can hover your hand over the device when it’s asleep to see an overview of notifications, messages and battery levels alongside the time. We noticed this feature was prone to turning on all by itself when the device was laid flat on a desk, however, leading to some confusion as we attempted to work out exactly what it was doing.

Smart Scroll

Smart scrollIn certain apps like the stock web browser, it’s possible to scroll down the page by tilting your head or the device. The latter is fairly useless and the former is the dictionary definition of a gimmick, but given a reasonable amount of ambient light, the feature works pretty well. As it uses the front-facing camera to track your eyes, you can control the scrolling motion with a fair degree of accuracy, and you soon get a feel for where you need to tilt to to keep things steady.

Yet again, you need to be living in the Samsung app ecosystem to get the most out of Smart Scroll, so we suspect it’ll go unnoticed for the vast majority of users.

S Translator

Samsung’s first attempt at a translation app of its own is a mixed bag, and in our testing we found its speech recognition component was easily tripped up. Much like Google’s own translator app, you can juggle phrases between the few dozen supported languages, and there are options for voice input too. While the translator component worked well enough, the speech recognition part often wasn’t accurate enough. S Translator has the advantage of being completely offline-based, though, making it a more attractive choice for travelers without reliable (or affordable) data connections.

Keyboard

Samsung’s SwiftKey-based keyboard (it uses SwiftKey prediction through the company's SDK but has its own skin) is good, but not quite as capable as the stand-alone SwiftKey app when it comes to straight-up text input. Samsung’s version is unique in a few other ways, though. It’s possible to detach it from the bottom of the screen and use it as a floating keyboard like the Galaxy Note 2’s. What’s more, there’s an camera typing mode, which allows you to pick out text from real-world documents using optical character recognition and bring them into any text field.

Galaxy S4 keyboard

Smart Pause

The much-touted smart video playback feature, Smart Pause uses the front-facing camera to work out whether you’re watching a video and pause or unpause accordingly. As with Smart Scroll, this feature is lighting-dependent and a little gimmicky, but a neat technical showcase.

Smart Pause seems to work in all apps that use native Android video playback, including the YouTube app.

Optical Reader

Samsung’s bundled an Optical Reader app, which uses optical character recognition to import barcodes and business cards, and translate documents. All three function well enough -- though the app has a little difficulty distinguishing between multiple phone numbers on the same card, and translation is limited to one word at a time.

S Health

Many third parties offer diet, exercise and weight-tracking apps, but Samsung’s built this functionality into the firmware itself. S Health incorporates a pedometer, exercise tracker, food monitor and weight management capabilities within a single app. The idea here is that by tracking your calorie intake and activities throughout the day, the phone can help you control your weight. To make this easier, S Health supports some AND and Omron smart scales

If you’re walking, S Health is able to track your movement automatically and calculate how much energy you’ve expended. For other kinds of exercise, you’re prompted to select a type of exercise and a duration, each of which has associated calorie values. The same goes for food, which can be searched from an in-app database. You can even attach a photo for each meal for posterity.

Galaxy S4 and a bagel

S Health is the kind of feature that’ll prove its worth over time, so we’ll revisit it in the future in more detail, however if you’re willing to put in the time (and data) to use it properly, it could be a valuable asset. Samsung also tells us the app will be updated in the future with the ability to track additional stats like blood pressure and blood sugar. These features, we’re told, are currently awaiting FDA approval.

WatchOn and TV features

TV apps are becoming more and more common on mobile devices, and after Peel-based smart remote and listings apps appeared on the HTC One and Galaxy Note 8.0, it’s only natural to find similar functionality included on the Galaxy S4.

WatchOn is mostly identical to the Peel-based apps we’re already familiar with. The setup process consists of a little trial and error as the app tunes itself to your TV, cable box and sound system, but once that’s out of the way it’s smooth sailing. The viewing experience is driven by shows, not channels -- you can set favorites, and these are displayed front and center when the app starts. You can then tap a show’s icon to view it immediately if it’s on now, or set a reminder if it’s showing in the near future.

Galaxy S4 TV controls Galaxy S4 TV remote

A universal remote section is included, and there’s a handy lock screen widget for the remote control part of WatchOn too, which eliminates the hassle of unlocking the phone and loading an app.

If you’ve got a 2013 Samsung Smart TV, Samsung says you’ll also be able to wirelessly mirror from the TV to the phone over a wireless network. We weren’t able to test this feature on our own equipment, but we got to see it in action at a Samsung demo presentation.

Samsung Hub

Samsung has rolled all its individual content hubs -- Music Hub, Books Hub, Games Hub, etc. -- into one central application with a sleek, image-centric interface (though admittedly one that bears little resemblance to the rest of the phone’s UI.) The layout of the main hub pages lists some fairly old stuff under “new releases,” but a quick search of the Hub app revealed a fairly concise library across the world of music, TV and movies. Unfortunately the games section, which links into Samsung’s own app store, is a sparsely populated, with few titles of note.

For most users, we suspect the Samsung Hub will continue to play second fiddle to Google Play, but unifying everything under one app is a big step forward for Samsung, and we imagine the manufacturer will continue to expand its content offerings in the months ahead.

A note for international readers -- as is often the case with movies, TV and music content, availability will likely vary depending on where you live. In the U.S. at least, the Samsung Hub offers a reasonably wide selection.

Samsung Hub

Other bits

  • S Voice -- Samsung’s not-Siri voice assistant -- has improved significantly in terms of speed and accuracy. It still occasionally falls victim to the dreaded “server error” message, but it’s at least worth keeping its double-tap home key shortcut enabled this time around.
  • AllShare media streaming capabilities have been bundled into a new app called Samsung Link, which functions in much the same way.
  • Samsung’s music app sports some minor visual tweaks -- and of course the Air Gesture support we’ve already mentioned -- but it’s mostly unchanged from its Galaxy S3 incarnation.
  • The Samsung video editor isn’t included out of the box, but you can download it from Samsung Apps, and it works really well on the Galaxy S4.
  • Polaris Office is bundled on the Galaxy S4 for those wanting to edit Microsoft Office documents on the go. There’s also a special “Samsung version” of the TripAdvisor travel app, complete with its own “S Travel” home screen widget.

In summary, the Galaxy S4’s extensive feature list straddles the line between genuinely useful functionality and blatant gimmickry. Features like Air View and Air Gesture are fun to play around with, but we have to wonder whether they were designed to look cool in ads and showroom demos rather than being really beneficial to end users. Ultimately, it comes down to this -- Samsung compensates for its lack of design prowess with an exhaustive feature list.

Galaxy S4 c​amera review

Camera

Samsung has never made a big deal about its camera hardware, but it’s always managed to bring to market some of the best Android-based smartphone shooters on devices like the Galaxy S2 and S3. And it’s a similar story on the Galaxy S4, which packs a 13-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front-facer. In keeping with Samsung's track record, the S4's camera performs admirably in almost all conditions.

In daylight, the camera manages to capture plenty of fine detail while keeping visible noise to a minimum. Colors are generally accurate, if slightly more saturated than they appear in real life, and although the on-screen capture effect and shutter sounds give the impression of a slight lag, shots are captured almost instantly. Dynamic range in still images isn’t drastically better than the Galaxy S3, though it is superior to the HTC One in this area. What’s more, Samsung’s made some improvements to its HDR mode (now called “Rich Tone HDR”) resulting in dramatically improved HDR performance. There are still a few instances were HDR will result in shots taking on a slightly ethereal quality, but if you use this scene mode where it’s intended to be used you’ll come away with some stunning images.

Camera app

In addition, panorama mode has been the subject of some serious enhancements. Depending on how smoothly you’re able to pan from left to right, the Galaxy S4 can produce panoramas of 50 megapixels or more, and it does so without sacrificing too much in the way of image quality compared to regular still shots.

Unlike the Galaxy S3 and many other devices, there’s no dedicated macro shooting mode on the Galaxy S4, but it excels at macro shots regardless, in part thanks to its sheer megapixel count. The phone has no difficulty picking out close-up objects in Auto mode, and there’s an abundance of fine detail to be found in the resulting JPEGs.

Predictably, the Galaxy S4, like most smartphone cameras, shows its limits in low light, though it is partly compensated for by its high megapixel count. Night-time shots exhibit increased noise and reduced fine detail, which is evident even when the images are reduced down to one or two megapixels. We tested the Galaxy S4 side-by-side with the HTC One in low light, and the HTC device has it conclusively beaten in low-light -- that’s simply the result of Samsung choosing more megapixels and HTC opting for larger pixels on its sensor. That said, if you’ve got a steady hand the Galaxy S4’s night mode compensates for some of its weaknesses in this area.

More: Galaxy S4 sample shot gallery

The Galaxy S4 also makes for a competent video camera, shooting at up to 1080p resolution with 30 frames per second. Though it lacks optical image stabilization, the camera didn’t seem particularly sensitive to motion, and coped well in our daylight and low-light test shots. Samsung’s previous-generation Galaxy S3 was already pretty good video performer, and the S4 builds on these capabilities with slightly sharper 1080p video with somewhat improved dynamic range -- particularly noticeable in daylight footage.

A wealth of new photo-related software features can be found on the Galaxy S4. The most hyped of these is the dual-shot mode, which allows you to capture your own image on the front-facing camera at the same time as shooting a larger image with the rear camera. You can then include your face anywhere in the shot -- in a floating postage stamp, a Polaroid-style miniature shot or a big floating heart. Line things up just right and you can overlay your own head with someone else’s body with hilarious (or terrifying) results. It’s a neat little trick that’s easy to use, but we’re not sure if the mass market is ready for dual-shot photography just yet.

Equally impressive is the “animated photo” mode, designed to assist with the creation of looping animated GIFs. In this mode, the S4 first records a short section of video, then lets you “paint” moving areas, trim the animation or change the direction before exporting.

GIF

Click image above to view GIF animation

On the more practical side there’s Eraser Shot, which is designed to help you take photos in crowded areas by automatically removing passers-by or photobombers. Eraser Shot takes five successive photos, then isolates moving objects (or people) that it thinks shouldn’t be in the shot. It’s a niche feature, but in our experience it works really well.

At a more functional level, a Galaxy Camera-style scroll wheel can now be used to select shooting modes, which is a nice touch.

Photos can also be arranged into “Story Albums,” special on-device galleries that can be created based on location, people or date and time, and the phone will prompt you to create one of these when you take your first few pictures. Unfortunately, the implementation of this feature is decidedly sub-par -- the setup process is clunky and the resulting albums look like JPEGs awkwardly pasted into a PDF document. Images are often stretched, and panoramas appear horribly pixelated. It’s just not a great way of sharing photos. The HTC One achieves the same end goal far more elegantly with its video-centric Zoe Share feature.

Camera app

On top of the new stuff, the Galaxy S4 includes all the various photo sharing and tagging features that debuted in the S3, for example the ability to automatically tag friends in pictures, and instantly share photos with the people in them.

If the HTC One’s camera was an example of what can be achieved by taking a step back from the conventional smartphone camera logic, then the Galaxy S4’s shows that there’s a right way to put a 13-megapixel camera on a phone. Low light performance doesn’t measure up to the high standard set by HTC’s ‘Ultrapixel” sensor, but the S4’s sensor sucks in much more detail in daylight shots and is a more competent video performer. You’ll want to bear in mind, however, that 13-megapixel images are big, not just in pixel count but file size. It isn’t unusual for full-size stills to take up 5 megabytes or more a pop, meaning your internal storage might fill up sooner than you’d imagine, and any automatic photo upload apps you have set up (for example, the bundled Dropbox app) could quickly chew through your monthly data allowance.

It’s a tough call, but we have to say the Galaxy S4 emerges as the best all-round Android cameraphone. The HTC One has it beaten in low-light performance, but the superior dynamic range and detailed daylight shots push the S4 ahead. For the third year running, Samsung’s shipping a best-in-class camera with its flagship smartphone.

Galaxy S4 battery life

Battery

A massive 2,600 mAh battery lies at the heart of the Galaxy S4. It’s removable, allowing you to swap it out or replace it with an aftermarket juicer when these become available. Smartphone batteries are getting bigger all the time, but it’s nonetheless surprising to see more than two and a half amp-hours packed into something that’s not a Galaxy Note-class half-phone, half-tablet device. On the other hand, Samsung has never skimped on battery capacity, and the S4 continues this tradition.

Battery stats Battery stats

Using the Sprint Galaxy S4 in New York City on 3G and 4G, we typically got 14 hours of normal use. This consisted of just under three hours of screen-on time, browsing and social networking over 3G, 4G and Wifi, and extensive use of the camera app. For approximately half of that time we had the S4 set to automatic brightness; the rest of the time we manually adjusted the screen to between 50 and 75 percent brightness for improved visibility. That’s in line with what we’ve been getting from the HTC One on GSM networks, so it’s particularly impressive to see this kind of battery life given the variable network conditions we were up against on our CDMA/LTE Galaxy S4.

With more intensive use at higher brightness levels, we were able to kill off our Galaxy S4 in a little over seven hours. Again, that’s comparable to other high-end handsets like the HTC One and LG Nexus 4. Unsurprisingly, that gigantic 1080p SuperAMOLED display took the greatest toll on the Galaxy S4’s battery life, but besides that we didn’t notice any severe battery drain in any of the bundled apps. Even the S4’s advanced camera capabilities didn’t suck down too much juice, even when taking more than 100 shots and several minutes of video in a single day. As such, users have a single, easy way to cut down on the main source of battery consumption, as display brightness can be controlled directly from the notification shade.

The Galaxy S4 also allows more drastic steps to be taken to improve longevity; as on earlier Samsung devices, power-saving mode lets you limit processor speed, screen power and haptic feedback to preserve battery life. Obviously, to get the most out of the phone you’ll want to leave these options disabled.

Galaxy S4 and HTC One

The bottom line

It’s been a while since we used a Galaxy S3 as our daily driver, and in many ways our Galaxy S4 review process has been a nostalgic experience. The S3 was a device that we greatly enjoyed using, and getting to know this year’s version has reminded us why. It might look derivative and feel plasticky, but it’s also fast, thin, light, ergonomic and incredibly capable. The Galaxy S4 is clearly not the best at everything it does, but it’s a solid performer with more bells and whistles than most users will know what to do with. There’s plenty CPU power under the hood, and the S4 includes the best-looking AMOLED screen we’ve seen.

But it feels like Samsung’s still firing features at a wall and seeing what sticks rather than refining the plethora of options it already offers. As such, the vast array of new tricks on the S4 vary in their usefulness. The new Peel-powered TV app and IR blaster add functionality with real-world uses, but the likes of air view and air gesture smack of gimmickry. On the other hand all the extra stuff -- and the S4 is a phone with stuff in abundance -- is easily ignored if you don’t want it.

But the GS4’s software gimmicks shouldn’t eclipse its technical prowess. The camera in particular stands out as a slam-dunk for Samsung, with excellent photographic and video capabilities as well as some neat software tricks, including vastly improved HDR and panorama modes.

So it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is about the Galaxy S4 that leaves us a little underwhelmed. Maybe the excessive pre-release hype left us expecting more than the incremental upgrade that we got. That in itself shouldn’t really matter, but what does matter is the fact that just about all the niggling issues we encountered with the S3 remain unaddressed. TouchWiz is still a confusing Technicolor explosion of a UI, with little visual cohesion. And despite the significantly upgraded hardware, the S4 is only negligibly faster than the S3 outside of synthetic benchmarks.

Ultimately, 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 improvements -- 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.

Galaxy S4

 
There are 252 comments

Bballsoulja says:

Hmm htc one or the s4?

Sniper1087 says:

I heard there are sole performance issues on the S4, buggy and sometimes clunky and the HTC One doesn't have those issues

snookasnoo says:

Call it what it is...lag. Lots of lag in many areas.

scy121a says:

I have been having some sluggish issues and its frustrating. So far the S4 has been Slow and unresponsive. Camera and messaging app locks repeatedly. In 24hrs the phone has shut off multiple times with no explanation. Repeated background data uploads even after being turned off. Messaging fails to send messages

When various apps are clicked on there is no response. Is anyone else experiencing this?

Mark Long says:

You should exchange your s4 for another one. I have an s4 also and have none of the issues that you mentioned.

Kirin Kim says:

you really should chage it to another phone.
if I were you, I would change it to a new one right away after I see the problems.
do you really think that is normal phone you have it now?

ScottJ says:

Neither...Note 3.

cenkaetaya says:

True that!

cj100570 says:

Amen! I've owned the Note II since release day and can't fathom going back to a phone that doesn't offer the same or better experience. In other words; no S Pen no sale!

scy121a says:

That's why they make so many different models of smartphone.. I used a stylus during the palm and early smartphone era and I was glad to chuck the pen during the touchscreen era...I'm not going back.

ScottJ says:

Night and day.

grundyman says:

I have the Note II, I used the S pen the first week and haven't touched it again since.

DGetz says:

I don't think there is a definitive one size fits all answer to this question. It's a matter of taste.

The HTC One has better build quality, better speakers, smoother UI, and show stopping aesthetics.

The S4 has more features, a more robust experience and most notably removable battery and expandable memory.

It should be noted that many people who owned S3's and were drawn in by the HTC One's siren song took them back after a day or two due to lackluster experience. There is little depth in the OS. They found themselves "flipping side to side through home-screens and that's pretty much all there is". It has been toted as more of a beginners phones which is great if you come from Blackberry or Apple but bland if you come from Samsung.

I'm an S3 owner and I went to the store 3 times to buy the One, played with it and chickened out. It's the most beautiful device I've ever held but the drawbacks just proved too strong this time around. Maybe the HTC Two is for me. If not then it will be the S5. But right now I'm happy with my S3.

Hope that helps!

joeyhalls says:

I am one of these people. Gave up my S3 on HTC One launch day (purchased at Best Buy). I like it, but I'm bored with it already. My biggest missing features are not the removable battery or the sd card slot, in fact I miss the Menu button more than anything. In a couple apps/games the screen is shrunk down and has a black bar across the bottom with a menu button in the middle. Or, if there is no menu bar, I am forced to pull down the notification window and hit the settings button on the top. The blink feed was neat for the first day but having to manually refresh it when not on wifi is a pain and I ultimately end up pulling up the web pages anyway. Lastly I miss the quick toggles on the top of the notification tray. Not having a quick and dirty way to increase brightness while watching Netflix, turn on or off wifi/bluetooth or quickly toggle sound profiles is darn near inexcusable at this point. And my last niggle is the Power Save Mode On/Off Button that takes up one eighth of my Notification shade and can't be removed even if you never use it! Love the audio and loved showing it off to people but at the end of the day the only time I use the speakers is to occasionally watch a netflix in bed or something, but that's maybe 2 times a year tops. Love the design, screen, speakers and the camera but not enough to keep from getting bored. To sum up, luckily I am a silver premiere best buy reward zone card holder - so with the 60 day return window I will be making the switch to the S4 as soon as it becomes available. HTC however will always hold a special place however; being my first android device back in the day (HTC G1) and my first 4G phone (HTC Evo) I wish them the best.

That's my biggest issue with HTC right now: I get bored with their devices in about 48 hours.

rbess1965 says:

Everything you describe as missing can be resolved with the vast array of apps available in the Play Store. That is why we all gravitate to Android. You should never get bored with any high end Android device, ever. If you don't like the UI experience on any given device, find a different launcher and go to town. I use Apex. If you need quick toggles, go get 'Power Toggles', like I did. It has an option to be in the notification window, and it's way more customizable that Samsung will ever be. Being able to do these things is what separates us from Apple users. Why do people insist on purchasing these fantastic devices and taking them back based on the Stock UI experience? Find the best hardware for you and mold it to what you want it to be. If your thing is battery life like me, go RazrMaxxHD, if your thing is the screen then maybe a 1080p LCD2 does it for you. Prefer a lighter phone with NFC, GS4 may be the way to go. People stop buying phones because of their advertised stock UI and returning them for it. It's not an iPhone, it's an Android. Get the best hardware you can and add the stuff that makes it the best phone for you. Geesh!

bitt3rswe3t says:

Couldnt have said this better myself, people need to understand that if you get bored of your Android phone then you arent using it right. There is so much customization that can be done, and the phone doesnt even need to be rooted. People should go take a look at mycolorscreen.com just to see what some people can do with their phones.

The HTC One has the most beautiful and unique hardware out there, and with the amazing specs under the hood you can turn that phone into anything you want it to be.

snookasnoo says:

Exactly. You can anything you want with apps skins roms etc. I'll taketh at over in your face touchwiz any day. Samsung has gone too far with useless or poorly performing features. No wonder the phone lags so much. Ugh.

WarEagleDoc says:

Hey Joey,

I'm a Best Buy silver member also and I asked about that return policy. They informed me that it does not relate to cell phones. You may want to check into this. FYI

husky8 says:

I checked with Best Buy today. The Silver member 60 day return policy does indeed apply to cell phones. I asked particularly about the gs4 no contract for verizon. I'm all clear to buy and return after 60 days.

mhmmdy123 says:

I own GS3 and I decide to try out the HTC One, I had the HTC One since April 19 beside my GS3. Now, the One it's my daily handest and, the GS3 just for back up.

awesome contribution and 100% agree.

HTC One will be an outstanding phone for those coming from another phone but if you are coming FROM a SGS III (or even II) there is no way you will not find yourself longing for all of (or most) of Touchwiz features.

I also looked at it for about an hour in the store but found the exact same thing you did. For me, Sense was lacking and i was like, "ok, so i get this phone, and just stare at it all day because its beautiful but not really fun to use"... i'm all about the "options"...

I think its much more for a power user but for a geek in love with her phone, you gotta have nerdy features and touchwiz to really be complete!

BTC

bigrey81 says:

So most are longing for that 1.2gb of bloatware from samsungs touchwiz HTC sense use to get criticized For it now they have skimmed it and people complain....Most reports are saying that the gs4 is very laggy which I wouldn't know its not out and I don't have one but I will be looking for it to try out myself.

gatorboi352 says:

Is it just me or is this article currently *PINNED* to the top of AndroidCentral front page today?

Pathetic, AC...

They do this with every major release, it sticks to the top for a day or so, why is this pathetic?

eahinrichsen says:

This will be the biggest-selling Android phone of the year by a huge margin. This review is *the reason* that a lot of readers will come to the site today. You lead with the big story, not the newest little one.

its just YOU...lol i don't find it pathetic at all, i need all the SGS4 articles i can get my hands on UNTIL i'm actually holding the lil sucka! : ) BTC

lan2cp says:

It's kind of annoying that Android Central is pushing so hard for the HTC One, although I understand that they are trying to prevent Samsung from becoming another "Apple". In my opinion the only thing that the One has over the S4 is on the looks department, but having aluminum doesn't make it better. Specially if most people are going to have to protect it with a plastic cover.

Also, how can the S4 be an incremental upgrade from S3? Everything was improved while while maintaining the same footprint: It has a bigger screen with full hd resolution, bigger battery, more software features, better camera, better speaker and running the latest version of Android. How is that any different from the changes made in the HTC One?

HTC one has a better camera. Go to Technobuffalo and check it out. More accurate and sharper than the s4. And it just received an update to improve the performance so it's probably gotten even better now.Front speakers are also a plus for the htc one. I guess screen is a personal preference but SLCD is superior to AMOLED. Touchwix has more functions, but looks like garbage. So S4 has better battery,sd card HTC one has better design, screen, camera, and front speakers. The s4 is like Seth Rogan cool guy every guy likes his stuff. The HTC one is like Justin Timberlake great potential and great looks and every girl wants him.

lan2cp says:

I have read that the HTC One's ultrapixel camera is very good (and it's a step in the right direction' I'm tired of the megapixel pissing match), I just won't say it is better than the S4's just because these websites say so. I rather try both phones myself before giving in to these website's hidden agenda/fanboyism regarding the One.

Also I was comparing S3 to S4 not to the One. Your last comment made me laugh though. xD

Edit: I totally forgot about the dual front speakers, I wonder why nobody has done that before on a smartphone.

Mark Long says:

I have both phones and the htc one most certainly does NOT have the better camera except in low light situations, and not even all of those situations. Other than those few instances the s4 camera is better by a noticeable margin.

snookasnoo says:

Oh please. They are obviously calling it as they see it not trying to control the android market. As if they could anyway. How ridiculous just because you don't like what they say. If anything they are soft pedaling how bad the lag is.

kubskouts says:

Quality Issues With Samsung S4

my Samsung S4 phone gap issue
Does anyone else have this issues???
http://i.imgur.com/PiJ0mR4.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/Nxpj2dZ.jpg

JClark1015 says:

Just bought the Samsung Galaxy S4 an hour ago. Before I could find a case for it, I dropped it out of my lap. It was only two feet to the ground but it caused a crack all the way across the front of the phone. I've dropped many a phones in my day but never had one crack! What a cheaply made piece of crap!

Belshazer4 says:

My HTC Evo did that. You can crack the screen on ANY phone if you drop it just right.

Matias1982 says:

So far I have used and abused my S4 and it has performed quite well. The only thing is that there has to be a way to limit how many app are running in the back. If someone know how to accomplish this, please let me know. Matias

Mark Long says:

It is under the my device section in the settings, then under the developer options.

Floss82 says:

HTC One this time around! Sorry Sammy!

jonathan3579 says:

I see what you did there.

emg75189 says:

Yeah I think I'm going for the HTC ONE.

jimbo says:

Underwhelming

Same ole useless gimmicks with inferior touchwiz UI.

Cheap

Camera improvement from horrible.

Based on past performance, expect laggy updates of OS.

Keep trollin' ...

seoulbrova says:

This is a joke right?

I'm getting neither because I'm sticking with the Note 2, but multi window is one of the most useful features as is the "swipe screen shot."

Expect laggy updates? Samsung released jellybean for the Epic Touch (galaxy s2) on Sprint, a phone that is "basic" by today's standards...

Samsung is actually one of the better companies in keeping their devices updated.

Complain about hardware and maybe touchwiz if you don't like it, but at least they're trying to incorporate innovative features.

hemihauler20 says:

I have an Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch that has the updated Jellybean OS. Coming from a Samsung Transform Ultra stuck on Gingerbread, it's a major improvement. In a way I'm starting to catch up with the times of more modern smartphones. When I upgrade I'm getting the S3 and not the S4.

akdj says:

I'm still waitin on my JB update for my 'OG' Galaxy Note...not that I agree with his comments, but indeed, waiting for Samsung to ready it, send it to the carriers so they can junk it up...and take their sweet time getting it out to the masses....this part of owning Android, other than a Nexus series, is a serious drawback. So I do understand his frustration with that point.

Belshazer4 says:

+1

Podunks says:

Haha you said gimmicks... You are funny.

If the software works as intended, it is not a gimmick. Those features had millions poured into them for R&D because people expressed interest in them, so they are not gimmicks.

Branding your heavy, dent happy phone with beats audio logos... Gimmicky and stupid.

Beenyweenies says:

1. Whether or not software works as intended has no bearing on whether it is a gimmick or not. Go look up the definition of Gimmick, thanks.

2. The amount spent on a feature does not prevent it from being a gimmick, either.

3. It's very hard to imagine they were getting thousands of requests from people who wanted to use their phone as one speaker when playing a song, while their friend's phone was the other speaker. Give me a break LOL. Maybe teenage girls in Japan are into those sorts of "features..."

4. If you read the many reviews across the internet, people are saying the audio quality on the HTC One is the best they've ever heard from a smartphone. That beats logo may be ugly, but it belies something very appealing.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Beats is overrated.

Posted via Android Central App

cenkaetaya says:

Have fun with the non-replaceable battery
Tiny storage with no expansion

and...

god forbid your phone hits the pavement you'l have a nice permanent dent in your metal case.

DGetz says:

Or if your battery no longer holds a charge. Or your screen cracks. Or your Boom speakers fizzle out. Or you mess up your aux jack. The HTC One is unreparable.

J240 says:

Pretty sure this is why they sell insurance with the phone... If your battery goes out, they'll replace it for free. I've been rocking my HOX for a year and haven't had a single 'battery issue' for comparison. Or any issues for that matter and I usually go through a couple of each phone I get. This thing is a TANK. I even dropped it fully submerged in water - everything is still perfect. Unibody does the body good! ;)

Batteries last 2 to 3 years. Does your insurance still cover battery repair then?

i wants it

Love Divine says:

Nice review. Will consider it strongly in making my upcoming phone decision. Oh, and prepare to get thrown to the dogs for calling these features gimmicky.

"But but but SOMEBODY will find a use for them!!1!"

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Personally I still think I like the S4 more than the One.

dmb219 says:

Dev support should be good for the S4, that's important to me.

A lot of devs have said they won't work with the S4 because of the proprietary kernals it uses. EX. No Cyanogenmod.

Jonna09 says:

Please get your sources right. CM has not issued any such statements. Couple of devs did, CM as whole didn't. Regardless, this will be a very popular device and hence, dev support will follow.

Diskoman says:

The developers who did happened to be the ones who worked on the GS2 & GS3. Their opinions definitely hold weight. Samsung has also confirmed this time around that the bootloader will be locked. This is in contrast to all current models of the One that I have heard of (not sure about Sprint's version yet) being unlockable at HTC's developer site or coming unlocked straight from HTC.

All HTC One bootloaders are unlockable, even Sprints.

Steve Kondik himself has said he'll probably get one, and given that it has a Snapdragon 600 in most models that CM would probably run well on it. They'll for sure work on it.

tommydaniel says:

They were referring to the Exynos model S4

randyw says:

+1000

Dr0me says:

exactly. Even if they do make CM builds for it (which I am not sure they will), the camera software and gimmicky new features will all be gone or severely gimped since samsung doesnt release their binaries. If you plan on flashing a vanilla android rom, why the hell would you chose the S4 over the ONE? The hardware is vastly superior on the One in almost every way possible. (cue the "I REALLY need removable batteries and SD card expansion" tired excuse).

HTC One FTW! Best phone I have ever owned.

Diskoman says:

THIS^^^!!! If you are getting a GS4 based on the hardware alone you are making a mistake. Samsung is now in the business of adding so many proprietary gimmicks to Touchwiz that there is no point of running a custom ROM on their high-end handsets. You lose most of what you are buying the phone for. If that's what you want to do with your phone, why not pay less and buy a HTC One or even a Sony Xperia ZL? Sony's ZL LTE model is pentaband for LTE AND HSPA+, and costs under $650 in the US unlocked.

gunnz04 says:

the one does not have better internals than the s4...thats just madness

RoachForLife says:

I dont understand your argument. The fact of the matter is if we compare JUST the hardware, the S4 still wins

Where S4 wins
------------
Camera - 13mp vs 4up
CPU - same cpu, but clocked higher at 1.9 vs 1.7
Micro SD vs no micro sd
Removable battery vs no removable battery
Bigger battery
Bigger screen
Wireless charging supposedly in a few months
Dozens of accessories coming

Where HTC One wins
-----------
Body - aluminum and more solid feeling
Better screen type

What am I missing here? It sure seems like software aside, the S4 handily beats the One. Throw in the software, even if gimmicky, and its a no brainer. Also regarding the aluminum body of the One. I dont know about you but who doesnt put a case on their phone? I dont see why people put so much weight on this. The beauty of the plastic, (while ugly) is its lightweight and now you can take off the back cover which allows for removable battery, microsd, and wireless charging, etc. I think its worth the tradeoff

troyboytn says:

It's not like the CM devs do any of the kernel work anyway.... They wait til other kernel devs do the footwork then they take (steal) that work, apply it, and claim it as their own. Common practice for many CM devs (not all). It's a shame, but it is true. If you know where to look, much evidence can be found to completely prove this.

roltzje says:

Didnt really enjoy the tone of this article, needs to be less biased-sounding.

EPM449#AC says:

I Totally Agree....
You Should Have Read His Article on The Sprint Version of The GS4....
Incredibly, Dull, Flat & Listless in His Voice Pattern...
It Reminds Me of Movie Reviewers...
Knowing it All.....
Without The Actual Skill Sets To Build & Develop it Themselves...
But Then Again...We're Asking a lot From a Brit.......

What exactly do you mean by "We're Asking a lot From a Brit", he's intelligent, insightful and clearly does know his subject.

And quite frankly at least he's not some dumb as **** American, shouting what he believes at you in some over the top MTV way.

jscarano says:

Yea because we all shout in over the top MTV way

I realise of course that not all Americans are over the top shouty types (though there is a fair amount of it in much of the US media) and to be fair I didn't actually state that, though my comment was a little defensive and unnecessary for which I apologise.

The original guys still a xenophobic idiot though ;)

I was enjoying the way you were tearing that idiot apart for his stupid comment blanket sweeping "Brits". Then you finished by doing the same idiotic thing about Americans. That puts you in the same moronic category of the guy you were trying to educate. Fail.

I refer you to my comment above as to why I most definitely am not in the same category as the guy I was trying to educate.

Wow. It's a phone review. Nationality has no bearing and should have none.

MERCDROID says:

Edit: Responded without reading the rest of the replies.

Dick response...
What else would you expect from someone who capitalizes the first letter of every single word.

rlbrooks says:

Wow! Have you ever known a Brit? I've worked with them during two wars, I've been to London three times, and I spent three weeks on manuevers with the TA back in 2003. Short changing their character is ridiculious. If you are an American, you do understand that the Brits are the ONLY people in the world that would have our back even if they knew it was our own fault that we were in trouble. They are the only big brother we have in this world. Them and the Aussie's were the only nationalities I ever completely trusted in combat. No offense to other nations. Not saying there aren't great people there, because there are. I've met incredible people from all over the world. But, there are friends, and then there is family.

heathroi says:

well the former British PM was not known as bush's poodle for nothing.

rlbrooks says:

I'm not basing this off politics. I'm soley basing this of my personal one-on-one relationships. The Bush-Blair timeline is a small chapter in the history between the US and UK.

heathroi says:

to be fair though, I suspect you wouldn't have a problem mixing with any other military dudes either, all things being equal.

rlbrooks says:

Totally agree. I have worked with many other soldiers from different countries and they were all amazing people. The trust level was just always a little higher with the Brits and Aussies. It is a common thread throughout the US military. It is why with US communications the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have a higher secret classification clearance than the other NATO countries.

Nreeldeep says:

Your last statement should get you banned from posting on this site. There should be zero tolerance for comments like that.

+1
It probably will.

cozzy123 says:

Its "dull, flat and listless" because the s4 is basically an iphone 4s. Just a mini updated iteration of the previous model.

Alex gets it right, don't bag on him because your fanboi dreams were dashed.

Ryandroid86 says:

Exactly what I was thinking. All the sammy fans are upset because the phone is barely improved from the S3 while the HTC One actually made leaps and bounds.

Thanks Alex for an honest review. Im glad you compared the two phones saying the plain truth on user experience.

Enough with the asinine blanket sweeping comments. You're no better than the idiot you're bashing.

lulwat?
Did we read the same article?
You can tell Alex worked diligently to write a very unbiased article. And a very well written and thorough article at that.
Just because you don't agree with what he says doesn't make it biased, maybe it is you that is biased.

jscarano says:

+1

swarlos says:

Awesome review Alex!! Very informative and objective.

+1

hadwilmon says:

Went with the HTC One due to the screen visibility in bright sunlight. Had a nexus S before and the amoled displays are too dark outside on bright days. I am really enjoying the ONE.

Eclectech says:

...me too. The screen looks great in direct sunlight. I love my HTC One!

Don't forget, folks -- loads of conversation going on in our Samsung Galaxy S4 forums as well.

+1

wewewi says:

Alex Dobie in Special S4 Podcast;

"The S4 is a 8, while HTC's One would be a 9"

'nuff said.

Number scores are great, but what it really comes down to is you cannot go wrong with either of those phones, buy the one that suits your needs, that's what is important.

jscarano says:

Agreed

MERCDROID says:

This.

Nreeldeep says:

Yep, cuz Alex Dobie is the Mobile God who created the cell phone world in 6 days and rested on the 7th.
'nuff said.

SpiralBorg says:

Does the S4 really have "performance hiccups"?

Yep its called Touchwiz AKA Nature UI. Boggs down the phone and makes it a laggy piece of crap.

"Laggy piece of crap" is subjective, I am not a huge fan of touch wiz, lucky for launchers I suppose.

Dr0me says:

launchers cant cover up the fugliness of the neon green laden notification shade and the UCLA Bruins color themed messaging app. The two most used UI elements on a phone have two of the worst visual design fails in recent memory.

The notification shade doesn't bother me, and you can get replacement messaging apps in the Play Store, this is Android remember. You can change the colors in the stock messaging app too. Design is subjective, you hate it so you say it "fails" as if that is fact, but clearly it isn't effecting sales.

ScottJ says:

I've recently gone from a GS2 to a Nexus 4. TouchWiz is ugly and incoherent from a design standpoint. However, it's also very feature rich and efficient in its own way. If only Samsung could get UI designers who knew how to design an interface that's attractive and consistent, they'd sell even more handsets and HTC would be even more screwed.

gunnz04 says:

to call touchwiz laggy is fine...what do you call the memory hogging sense??

riceatusc says:

That is old sense. Sense 5 reduced the resource hogging by a ton. I have yet to come across a single instance where I have noticed lag on my One.

Hung Luc says:

This is from Gizmodo:

"But the software's worst offense? It makes the phone slow. Well, not slow, exactly, but much slower than it should be. The Galaxy S4 has a 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor. The HTC One has the exact same processor, but it's only clocked to 1.7GHz. So the S4 should be faster, right? Wrong. Despite that fact that the S4 benchmarks better, the HTC One leaves the S4 in the dust in every practical way possible. The One boots up three times faster, navigates the UI quicker, scrolls smoother, opens apps speedier, and most importantly, takes photos with no shutter lag, whereas the Galaxy S4 generally takes about a second to fire off a shot".

valkyrie says:

The specs overview shows the camera as 16MP?

patelkedar91 says:

S4 for me!

This Evo 3D is too much of a brick!!

japclev says:

I know there is a black and white version but to use a term like niggling sets us back fifty years.

GeekGie says:

I'm not sure what you mean, if you are offended because the word niggling looks like a certain racial epithet then you are quite mistaken.

Niggling:
1. Petty, especially in a nagging or annoying way; trifling: a pointless dispute over niggling details.
2. Overly concerned with details; exacting and fussy.

Not only do I highly doubt that Alex would try to slip something like that into an article but I even more highly doubt that it would get passed over when edited.

Nreeldeep says:

Precisely. People sometimes set out to sound cute but end up looking ignorant.

ScottColbert says:

Glad he didn't use the word niggardly, you might have had a stroke.

yankeesusa says:

I hear that. I was on my 7th or 8th evo3d before switching to the note 2. The gs4 looks nice but if sammy keeps the size the same but makes screen bigger then my next phone is the note 3. HTC has a great phone in the htc one but sammy always manages to have better features that I actually use all the time.

sel1965 says:

I was leaning towards the One until I got to play with the GS4 at BB today. The Samsung rep was there and spoke to me about the phone for about 45 minutes. We took pics with the GS4 and the One, both looked nice but the GS4 was clearly better even in low light. I like the looks of the One but I can't stand blinkfeed or what ever it's called. I know I can root a phone but that just takes away from the beauty of the OS. So I'm still up in the air on which one to get.

faceless says:

you took low light pics in Best Buy?

nah, you're thinking of bad light, the One wins in near darkness, like in a seedy bar, that's what people are talking about when they say low light.

ScottJ says:

..and everyone knows the best thing to do in a seedy bar is to whip out your $600+ milled aluminum technical marvel and start taking pictures.

Kiamat says:

You can get rid of Blinkfeed by simply installing another launcher from the Play store with no rooting required. For example, I installed Nova launcher.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/23/4132926/nexus-look-on-any-android-phone

bigrey81 says:

Honestly,Blink feed is cool and I pretty much chalk it down to having 2 home screens blink feed on one and my custom on the other,whatever screen I leave it on it opens up on it, also I don't need to go into my little social media apps or the other apps that I get info from just do a quick skim if I want to read it I hit it and keep moving so I like blink feed.

New York..... over-populated dump....... as for yhe Gs4 the more I read about it the more I want it and the less I lust for the Htc one. but then.I have to remind myself that the note 3 will stomp on the Gs4. Nice device still.

ScottJ says:

Based on a one-person survey, the GS4 looks to be a hit with people with bad taste in cities and a penchant for exaggeration.

antw081 says:

Nice review Alex, great work!

asd216 says:

When you review something, you really review it!

Nice work. Still not getting it though lol.

chuckh0308 says:

OK, I'm finally going to ask. I certainly understand and agree with many that Android is best in its natural state. What I don't understand is how people have preferences between TouchWhiz and Sense, especially to the point where they like one and outright despise the other. I have iOS devices, HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWhiz, and stock Android devices. When it comes down to the skins, Sense and TouchWhiz look and feel basically the same to me. Likewise, they both seem pretty much the same as iOS to me, though iOS certainly has its own special set of severe frustrations. Anyway, could someone tell me what the big difference is that I'm missing? LOL!

ScottJ says:

I have the same problem with coffee...good coffee...bad coffee...it all tastes the same to me.

graze81 says:

I think it's just personal preference. I can't upgrade my phone this year, but based on what I've what I read, if I had to choose The One or the GS4, I'd choose the GS4. GS4 has more features that interest me.

Kiamat says:

Re: Samsung Hub
Clearly not content to just be locked in endless international legal battles with Apple, Sammy has decided to pick a fight with Microsoft as well.

jaymars says:

Right? You'd swear you were looking at WP8. It's pretty blatant.

yankeesusa says:

I guess I could see what you mean, but it doesn't look anything like the hub on wp8, its just a name. I don't think that the word hub is patented.

BldyIdt says:

I don't think he meant that the WP8 and Android versions looked the same, but only that it looked a lot like a WP8/W8 app.

jaymars says:

Not talking about the word Hub. I didn't even know WP8 had something called a Hub. I'mtalking about the UI. It looks like a random WP8 screenshot.

BldyIdt says:

+100111111010101

Nreeldeep says:

Samsung is the frail kid who got constantly picked on as a kid. As a teen, he discovered weight lifting, built some muscle, got into a fight and actually won it and now he goes around and picks on everyone cuz he's bigger than everybody now.

ScottJ says:

When was Samsung ever frail?

Ratane says:

Despite minimal improvements over its predecessor, would prefer S4 for the fact that it is light, has an amazing display and stunning camera.

Jonna09 says:

No mention of hands free driving mode.....S Drive

clevin says:

Last round I went with One X instead of GS3, because GS3 display is grainy. If GS4 has smooth, sharp display as One or One X, removable battery definitely wins for me.

It looks like Samsung have a touch of Apple-itis in terms of incremental hardware upgrades on this one, it seems to me like the HTC would be the one to go for this gen though of course it won't make anywhere near the sales of the S4 simply because people tend to go with what they know more often than not.

Why is it 'Apple-itis' when Samsung has went with the best hardware currently available, significantly added software features and backed all of this up with a large range of accessories?

The entire comparison with HTC is futile. Yes, the design might look better to some people but when you break everything down Samsung has HTC beaten at every turn.

This is simply a matter of opinion, one I disagree with 100%.

hadwilmon says:

+1.

It is a matter of fact irrespective of if you choose to accept it or not. Look at the components, look at the software features, look at the accessory range...

Hung Luc says:

Take a look at this from Gizmodo:

But the software's worst offense? It makes the phone slow. Well, not slow, exactly, but much slower than it should be. The Galaxy S4 has a 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor. The HTC One has the exact same processor, but it's only clocked to 1.7GHz. So the S4 should be faster, right? Wrong. Despite that fact that the S4 benchmarks better, the HTC One leaves the S4 in the dust in every practical way possible. The One boots up three times faster, navigates the UI quicker, scrolls smoother, opens apps speedier, and most importantly, takes photos with no shutter lag, whereas the Galaxy S4 generally takes about a second to fire off a shot.

MERCDROID says:

I, usually, disagree with your opinions 100% as well.

yankeesusa says:

What are you talking about? They added some awesome new features. Plus how is this apple-itis when overall this phone has dozens more features that the iphone 6 still won't have. Let me see, infrared port for tv remote, airview, even better nfc, wireless charging, bigger battery, smart pause... the list goes on. My note 2 supposedly is older than the iphone 5 and my friend is always asking me to borrow it just to see what stuff his iphone can't do. Don't get me wrong, I love all technology and reason samsung is good is to compete with others which makes it better for the consumer but I hate all this comparison crap. If you don't like it then don't buy it. Buy the one you do like. Or at least try both and then you can do some comparisons, sort of what androidcentral does all the time!

jscarano says:

+1

jccruz76 says:

hmm I am not from the U.S. but I have no second thoughts about getting the S4 once it is launched here in Middle East. I have waited for so long for this device to come..I love my S3, but I am more in love with the S4...

jedi105 says:

Come on Android Central. Seriously, of the the first 9 stories, 8 are about the S4. WTF. Is nothing else worthy of print today. I am a big fan of this site but lately it seems like it is just the same old stuff rehashed over and over. And then you go to any other Android blog site and they have the same stories. Is there really nothing else worthy of talking about in the Android world?

yankeesusa says:

The reason is because they either just got their s4's or its about to launch in a lot of different places. Don't like it then go somewhere else. couple days ago they had a bunch of articles on the htc one. Are you going to complain about that also?

Thanks AC for all the information you bring to us.

Nreeldeep says:

Thanks Central, for spending time on important products like HTC One and S4. Products a large majority of the buying public cares about, hence cannot get enough news about. This in depth coverage is entertaining and aids in the purchase process.

jedi105 says:

And the day before that there were 7 articles about how the Razr HD and the Razr M have been rooted. Hey, I said I'm a fan. Just seems like every day there is one item on a list and thats all they talk about. And seriously, do we need 8 articles saying the same thing? And then more articles saying that a case is now released for it. How about 1 article with all of it combined. Say, more than 1 or 2 paragraphs. And oh is it so fun to read the bulk of the article only to click on the "after the break" link and then you find out there is only one or two more sentences.

And yes, Thanks AC for all of the information you do provide. You are my first website checked every morning and I come back 2 or 3 times a day. You are my first source for all things Android. But the warning is, I used to get literally dozens of computer magazines at home. I had subscriptions to everything and I read them ravenously. Problem is, they all started to talk about the sames things over and over so it got stale and now I no longer subscribe to them. Occasionally, I will pick up a new copy of one of my old favorites like PC World but I usually end up dropping it in the bin because there is nothing new. I would hate to see AC relegated to the recycle bin

cozzy123 says:

Is that a serious comment? lol

Darth Spock says:

This is easily one of the top 5 devices available this month; it's silly to think it's junk, but also silly to think that it's the best there has ever been or the best there will ever be.

My big beefs with the S3 was the display and the camera, more the display. Samsung stepped up their game in those 2 departments so I think this thing is going to sell like hot cakes, just like the S3 did, maybe sell even better.

yankeesusa says:

Although the gs4 doesn't have a unique metal casing like the htc one I still think I would take the gs4 over the one just because of features alone. I know to some people all these features and add on can seem like a lot but I use a lot of them on my note 2 and a lot of the new ones that were added to the gs4 I would use too.

JHK1984 says:

I don't understand the knock on plastic as chassis and how it feels 'cheap'.
Well, do you prefer a shiny aluminum or glass chassis that weighs 5 times heavier?
If you want harder surface or shinier surface, I think you can go buy a case for less than 20 bucks.
I'll take mine with minimum weigh.

kjjb0204 says:

I love my cheap plastic S3 chassis. It's light, thin and absorbs the minor drops, bumps and dings that a metal chassis would normally show for the life of the phone.

jasonaward says:

That's the problem. For a top-of-the-line flagship device that is as expensive as it is, they shouldn't be using "cheap plastic" materials.

ScottJ says:

So you'd rather have a "premium" material that has inferior qualities? Perhaps they should make a diamond-encrusted phone just so people can feel better about their smartphone purchase.

I dropped my GS2 a lot and it took it all in stride. Had its case been glass or aluminum, I doubt it would have fared as well. I now have a Nexus 4 which is awesome but I have to baby it because the entire thing is glass.

Dutchmasta says:

relative to other plastic material i would bet the plastic that makes up ths S3 and S4 isn't cheap at all.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Not cheap. ;)

Posted via Android Central App

jasonaward says:

Actually, the S4 is 4.6 oz while the HTC One is 5 oz. That's hardly "5 times heavier".

Hung Luc says:

100% in agreement. At least among the major cariers, customers will get to see, feel and decide which one they prefer. I personally prefer the One overall, not just in the looks department.

Nreeldeep says:

The champion always has a target on his back and lives under a microscope.
Nobody in HTC land was defending Pepsi Cola aluminum back when the og HTC Evo, Shift, Design and 3D all wore coats of plastic.
All of a sudden in HTC land, plastic is "cheap" now that HTC has discovered aluminum siding.
The hypocrisy of it all.

Actually people have been calling Samsung phones "cheap toys" long before HTC even thought about using aluminum. Go back years and years and HTC has always been regarded as having extremely better build quality than Samsung. Sorry that you are just getting hip to this, but its nothing new. All samsung phones feel cheap and plasticy because they are. Has nothing to do with how the phone performs, its just a fact of life.

MERCDROID says:

"Has nothing to do with how the phone performs, its JUST "MY OPINION."

I fixed it for you =)

Dutchmasta says:

i have to say that i disagree with the whole "htc build quality is better than samsung's". i have replaced my htc 3 times and every single person that i know has had problems with or has had to replace their htc multiple times. anyone i know with newer samsung phones say they never have problems with them. i am sure this trend isn't just isolate to people i know...

KineticMD says:

And with the people I know, the opposite is true. But hey, I'm sure this trend isn't just isolated to people I know...

By the time I can upgrade I'll make the choice between the S5 and the HTC Two.

heathroi says:

it won't be called the two, it will be called the New One.

Taking into account the chav epidemic in the UK, I wager it'll be called the Onesie!

kjjb0204 says:

I love when someone complains about too many features and settings. If that really bothers you, go get an iphone where the manufacturer forces you to do things their way. If that's your preference, stick with it and enjoy. If, however, you want to customize, have choices, tweak and keep it fresh, the S4 offers an unparalleled set of features and settings. Isn't that one of the great things about Android? Choice. The authors' bias against Touchwiz is ridiculous.

jasonaward says:

Why is their opinion about Touchwiz "ridiculous"? It makes the phone look cartoonish, like a high school art project. With as many S3s as they sold, they certainly have the funding to do better.

dextorboot says:

Why would they though? It's that same cartoonish high school art project design that sold better than any other UI last year. To their thinking, people must like it.

I like that cartoonish looks and so do many others and its one of the reason why stick with Samsung. Sales speak for themselves. People Vote with their wallets!

ElJurassic says:

I find it odd the One is considered an amazing leap forward and the S4 is considered an incremental update. Since the specs on both phones are similar (some favor Samsung, some HTC).

I have to ask is it one of 2 things: Was the GS3 that much better than the OneX? Or were expectations so low for HTC that this surprised people?

Simple....The One from the One X is a huge leap in design, specs, performance, features, just everything even camera.

The S3 to S4 is the same design, same software with a few more features/gimmicks depending on preference. Not much changed. Has nothing to do with the specs of the S4 and One being similar. It's the difference from the previous phones that is the point.

ElJurassic says:

So processor, screen(size and resolution), camera battery etc. Is a minor improvement mainly because the body didn't change?

The software argument is funny since blink feed is new but from most comments I've read isn't highly regarded. And Samsung put the latest version of android while HTC didn't.

I guess its easy to get praise when catching up.

Sounds like you are just looking for an argument. But ummm processor isn't a huge jump, screen size, really? it changed how much? camera isn't alot different, its definatly not some huge jump in quality. Battery - well if its not giving 4+ more hours than the S3 then its not a change, and its not giving 4+ more hours. So it all seems relative to me.

BTW, can you tell me the difference between 4.2 and 4.1, because using the phone there aren't any differences you can see. Its a minor upgrade that has to do with something specific, and people quote that all the time and have no idea what the difference is other than the numbers.

ElJurassic says:

CPU: Doubles GS3 in most benchmarks
Screen: slightly larger higher resolution, higher DPI from what most say a big improving over GS3.
camera: 13mp compared to 8. Lot of reviews say best android camera to date.
Battery: Considering it gave slightly better battery life to a more power hungry screen it is a win. Also score 2+ hours better on compared to the One on Engadget's test.
Added IR and WifiAC

difference between 4.1/4.2?
m.androidauthority.com/android-4-1-vs-android-4-2-jelly-bean-149740/

How much of that is in/out on the GS4? Some not all. But what it does show is Samsung's recent ability to push out updates for their phones in a timely manner. Hell a bunch of GS2s have jelly bean.

I guess they should have made the GS3 crappier so they could have a bigger jump ;)

MERCDROID says:

You're wasting your time: he's a hardcore HTC and Sprint fanboy that hates everyone that doesn't agree with him.

BigDinCA says:

Be that as it may, he is correct. The One is a substantial upgrade to anything that anyone put out last year. The S4 is a good update to the S3, that's all. That's not a bad thing. But the jump that the One has made with a completely different camera and the front-facing speakers and the chassis and the UI overhaul is big. It's similar to the enormous jump Sammy made from the S2 to the S3: H U U U U G E! Not every flagship is going to be a quantum leap from the year before. I would expect next year's HTC offering to be a good update to the One.

And the difference between 4.1.2 and 4.2.2 is negligible. The biggest feature in that update (PhotoSphere) isn't even available to most of us not running a Nexus device. This isn't like going from GB to ICS or ICS to JB.

ScottJ says:

In business it's called under-commit and over-deliver. That's what HTC did and people are over-hyping the One as a result. It's like the eighth seed in an 8-team playoff winning in the first couple rounds. Suddenly, people think they are better than they actually are due to the gap between expectation and performance.

MERCDROID says:

This. I agree with you, because you're using logic and not blindly ranting.

turb0wned says:

He's on google right now looking for the difference between 4.1.2 and 4.2.2.

obidos says:

Thank you for the great review. I've only ever used HTC (TBolt) and I love Sense. so the down points for TouchWiz are a bummer. Is it really that confusing? Better or worse than Motorola?

also, WHERE CAN I GET THAT DELICIOUS CRAB SOUP??!

tbonepat11 says:

Since I have a Nexus 4 I won't be getting the One or S4 but it seems that the HTC One has left a greater impression on people. I hope that the One is a massive success. I have always liked HTC and want them to turn around their financial woes. The more competition the better.

On the same token I hope the next iPhone is also amazing. Gotta keep pushing these big boys to innovate. Reminds me of the ATI/nVidia and Intel/AMD battles of old.

We all win when there is competition in the marketplace.

GrooveRite says:

Thanks to this review, I am now getting the S4 over the One. Thank you Alex!!

jnn1 says:

Android Central has android's best interest in mind.

In that sense, Android Central is worried that Samsung will dominate the android sphere so pervasively, to the detriment of other android makers. So, for the good of android as a whole, to preserve some competition within the android sphere, it is willing to support other contenders like HTC and LG more, and is willing to be slightly negative about Samsung.

In addition, Android Central readers are not iphone users looking to switch to android, but android users looking for the best android. So a bit of negativity on the SGS4 won't be a loss for android, even if it's a loss for Samsung.

Android Central is doing it's part to ensure a lively, competitive, and interesting Android world.

Or......it could just be that the GS4 is just "meh"

fightcrazy says:

You are exactly right but that is bias and not giving Samsung credit where they deserve it. Ripping a phone for too many features is a joke. If you don't want to use them shut them off. I can remember when AC use to say Android is great because it gives you choices. How quickly they forgot. AC has been trying to ram the HTC phone down the readers throats. Alex always gives great reviews but this is the only time I have heard this negativity out of Alex. If you notice the negative aspect is started by Phil and then Alex runs with it. Didn't see this kind of a review with the HTC One or any other great device. This was only for the SGS4. Yep they are trying like hell to ram the HTC One down your throat. The way they are doing it is bias and silly. THE PHONE JUST HAS TOO MANY FEATURES. YEP ALL OF A SUDDEN FEATURES AND CHOICES ARE JUST NOT A GOOD THING, EVEN IF THEY CAN BE SHUT OFF. BUT WAIT, BLINK FEED CAN'T BE SHUT OFF. INTERESTING. hahahahahahahahahahahah

BigDinCA says:

You need to read the One review again. And others. It's not all Unicorns and rainbows there, either. They don't like the BlinkFeed implementation, the 2-button layout, the new app drawer... on and on. Ripping a phone for having too many features isn't a joke if you feel that it's the quantity of features over the quality of features. And I don't think he was droning on about the software features. He brings them up and comments on them and then tells you that you can disable or avoid them if you like. The same way they talked about BlinkFeed in their review and in the forums. Simple as that. But there are so many of those software features on the GS4 that maybe it sounds like a broken record.

And for the record, being an HTC fan myself, I would really like to see some of those Samsung things incorporated into Sense if they could do it right. Like the video editor and multi-windows or the optical reader. But I don't need HTC to "create" H-voice or H-translator or their own watered-down version of the Play Store.

lan2cp says:

It's kind of annoying that Android Central is trying so hard to push people for the HTC One, although I understand that they are trying to prevent Samsung from becoming another "Apple".

Also, how can the S4 be an incremental upgrade from S3? Everything was improved while while maintaining the same footprint: It has a bigger screen with full hd resolution, bigger battery, more software features, better camera, better speaker and running the latest version of Android. How is that any different from the changes made in the HTC One?

ether813 says:

Is it worth Upgrading if i have Galaxy Note 2 or would i be better off waiting for something better later...

jam4775 says:

I'm still sticking with the Galaxy S phones over the HTC One phones now. I use to love HTC phones in the past but they have made a couple very bad decisions over the years in my opinion.

1st, HTC's flagship phones are not available on most all carriers like the Galaxy S phones are. Instead HTC sometimes makes modified versions of their flagship phones for specific carriers... example, DNA and EVO. The problem with this is it's very difficult to have HTC brand recognition this way... also you never know if your carrier is going to get a version of HTC's flagship phone or not. Whereas it's a pretty good change that most every carrier is going to get the latest Galaxy S phone... and these Galaxy phones are instantly recognized, just like Iphones are instantly recognized (I hate use an Iphone comparison but there are reasons why they've sold so many of them... brand recognition and marketing). It's a very smart move on Samsung's part for not changing their design too much. With the Galaxy S4 phone I know my carrier is going to get it so I will hold out for that, whereas with HTC I have no idea if my carrier will get a version of it so I'm not holding out for the them.

2nd, HTC has chosen to not to include a removable battery or SD card, and this is a deal breaker for me. My guess is their metal design has made it difficult to include a removable battery. HTC's metal design on the back does look great, I'm not going to argue that, but it doesn't matter to me at all what it looks like because I use a case just like a lot of the other smartphone uses out there. I'll gladly take a removable battery (especially one that is bigger) over a phone with a pretty metal (non-removable) back any day!

But in the end the great thing about Android phones you have these choices of all different styles of phones from different Manufactures. Even though I wouldn't buy an HTC One, it would be nice if I had the choice of an HTC One on my carrier... are you listening HTC? Having the "Choice" is King!

turb0wned says:

The One is the same all across.... So pretty much eliminate your 1st statment.

jam4775 says:

Really? So you're saying all major US carriers are going to get the HTC One? This is news to me... if this is true that's great, FINALLY!... and it'll be the first time HTC has ever done this. Not holding my breath tho... which is exactly my point for my 1st statement!

BigDinCA says:

Nearly 200 carriers in 80+ countries. Just because it isn't on Verizon doesn't mean it's a piece of shit. Nor does it mean that it's HTC's doing.

jam4775 says:

.

jam4775 says:

So YOU are saying the HTC One is a piece of shit since it's not coming to Verizon? Cause I never said that! I think the HTC One looks like an awesome phone... I especially like the speakers on it... but like I said above the HTC One is not for me since it doesn't have a removable batter or SD card... that's my personal preference... but then again it doesn't matter what my personal preference is because I don't have the option to get it even if I wanted it. But my guess is HTC will once again make a special "Droid" phone for Verizon.

You and the previous poster are failing to understand the point of my post... HTC makes special phones for some of these carriers, like version, aka Droid DNA... instead of forcing all carriers use their flagship phone. Although, Samsung used to also do this too. By using this business model of making special phones for carriers, I think, has hurt HTC's business... because it's hard for HTC to have brand recondition by doing this. Using this model on Verizon in particular has really hurt them because all of the HTC flagship phones on Verizon are called Droid phones... and so are all the flagship Motorola phones phones. So when people in the US hear the word "Droid" they don't think of HTC... instead they think of an Android phone on Verizon. On the other hand when they hear "Galaxy" they think of Samsung phone.

So my point here is... HTC needs to stick to one design across all carriers with their name and brand on it, and not allow carriers to force them into making special designs for them or to use carrier branded names, like Droid. If Samsung can do this so can HTC... Verizon will eventually follow suite and carry the HTC One when they see how well it sells... but this will never happen if HTC continues to offer carriers the choice of special phone for them. I want to see HTC succeed and have brand recondition with their "One" line of phone just like Samsung has with their "Galaxy' line.

benhmadison says:

I really don't understand all of the hate towards Touchwiz. I've used HTC and Samsung Android devices for years and to me Touchwiz is much better. Samsung has become the first true competitor to Apple from a sales and marketing strategy. The reason the iphone sells so well is due to the familiarity their users have with the operating system. The average consumer does not want to learn a new setup. Samsung is brilliant in keeping Touchwiz virtually unchanged. After the massive sales of the GS3 they know people are familiar with the Touchwiz UI and do not want to learn anything new. Keeping the design and the UI virtually the same as the GS3 means repeat customers. Something Apple has perfected. Manufacturers care about the average consumer and what will sell more handsets. They know that most of us will root and hack our devices to our liking anyway. Just like some others have said. If you like Sammy buy Sammy, if you like HTC buy HTC. Either way we all win!

Eclectech says:

I'm a little surprised to learn that the S4's software is laggy, the screen still doesn't show well in sunlight and the battery does not keep it up any longer the HTC One. These are areas Samsung should've worked on. All things considered, I think this phone is disappointing. On the other hand, the HTC One is overall, far more impressive.

Daedalus says:

This was a nice really nice review but I after playing with the S2, S3 and reading this review I am truly thinking that something is missing. The GS2 was a major jump over over the GS and the same can be said for the GS3 and maybe I was hoping for a lot more but I am looking at GS3 to GS4 a lot like the iPhone 4 to the 4s move or maybe more the iPhone 4s to 5, Ya there is change but is it really worth it?

Ya their are a lot of features on the GS4 but pausing the video when I look away I would find annoying, Gestures would make me look like I am having a seizure and really does anyone think that it is going to pick up the gesture 100%? I would end up giving it the same gesture that I give the Jack munch in traffic that just cut me off.

Features are something I will end up using a lot, if I play with it for a week and then ignore it it was a Gimmick just like the 3D Camera on the 3DO.

Yes HTC has made a lot of wrong steps with their phones in the past few years and I have been a 3DO user for the last 20 months and the one thing that saved that phone from being bounced off a wall was the fact that I could throw a custom ROM on there.

As for build quality having Both a GS3 work phone on my hip right now and for the last two years having 3DO HTC has a better feel to the build quality hands down and after buying the HTC One i am loving this phone. I guess what I am saying is that as a consumer I want to be wowed and the GS4 does not do that for me.

ScottJ says:

Do you mean the Evo 3D? 3DO was a 64-bit gaming console back in the mid 90s.

turb0wned says:

HTC ONE, best phone i've owned.

Sploinkin says:

Samsung has never skimped on battery capacity? Someone forgot about the Galaxy Nexus... 1850mAh isn't big enough, especially for Verizon LTE eating all the batteries.

I'm glad they're putting huge batteries in phones now.

fightcrazy says:

I find it comical that this website is trying desperately to ram the HTC One down your throat. The HTC is not nearly the phone the SGS4 is. SGS4 has the much better camera, and every other spec right down the line. I like touchwiz, just because a few knuckleheads don't like it that doesn't make it bad, the battery in the HTC is pathetic, I got only 5 hours out of mine, the phone would heat up after 30 minutes of playing a video, the white plastic strip between the front and back metal was poorly made and fitted. The feel of the HTC was good in your hand but metal phones are just notorious for radio signal issues. To me the HTC could have been so more but it isn't, quit trying to ram it down everyone's throat. The SGS4 has it all, The polycarbonate construction keeps the phone light and looking new forever. Removable high horsepower battery that gives you almost 2 full days, innovation, innovation and more innovation. They are trying to tell you that there is too much innovation, that is the biggest joke I have ever heard. I can remember when no innovation was a reason not to buy but turning that around as a negative feature is really digging deep. I like the slick features, if you don't want to use them turn them off, can't do that to the HTC and their blink feed feature, it stays on and sucks battery. I'm not going to tell anyone what phone to buy but when I see the best phone currently made being torn for too much innovation and great features then I will throw my 2 cents in. Yep the Samsung Galaxy S4 is without a doubt the best phone to date by any manufacturer. Think about it, the phone has too many features, that really cracks me up.
PS I didn't forget the camera, the SGS4 has the best camera in a Smartphone, how can they complain about that??

Daedalus says:

So wait you only got 5 hours out of your battery odd I am pulling 16 hours+ My intern has the same phone and is on it for 8 hours in a day and has a charge when he goes home.

As for innovation innovation innovation did to mean gimmick gimmick gimmick? Lets get real no one is going to use gestures for more then a month.

As for the battery get real 2days of real world use off a single charge?!?! I think not this is not a BlackBerry Curve.

And for everyone that is yelling about a camera Sit down and compare your SG4 Camera to a simple point and shoot you are going to see a huge difference and if you think you are going to get beautiful shots from a "Phone" you know nothing about photography or you hit your head a little to hard.

s4 features might be gimmick to you but can be very useful to others. I for one love features where I can answer phone/change page/scroll up and down all by a simple wave. In fact I wished for those features in the last few years. When I cook or eat my hands are dirty. Wave feature is perfect for that. Lot of times i find myself holding phone/reading in one hand and hold a drink in other hand. Eye tracking to scroll up and down is great for that situation. One of my favorite features is to be able to use the phone while wearing your gloves. I listen to podcasts while driving home for almost an hour. It became pain in the butt taking gloves off every 10 minutes to fast forwards through the commercials.

sbalchand says:

sorry off topic... but your post made me curious... you wear gloves while driving? the whole hour?

bigrey81 says:

There is these inventions in modern times called napkin,fork and knife they are great for eating should try em sometime...just saying

jimbl says:

I guess, just as funny, is when Sense was heavy, bloated and caused lag...it was all the rage to hate on it. Now that the tables have turned and Sense is more refined and causes less lag, it isn't as feature rich so it's still not as good. I'm not debating one phone is better than another, just stating "facts" totally change to fit ones argument.

hmmm says:

Not a big enough upgrade to pull me away from my GS3. I'll wait for the GS5 along with most GS3 owners I suspect.

I really do hope HTC has nice sales but I don't see it happening. The main issue I can never use a phone with Sense again is their notification light times out after 5 minutes so it is basically worthless and this is a feature by design so it isn't going to change.

robotaholic says:

Thanks Alex Dobie. Your reviews are the best on any website by far. I bought the Note 2 because of your review last year and am so glad I did.

You're the best phone reviewer. The only website that comes close is mobiletechreview -

Deveal2014 says:

The HTC ONE slays

Wintercold74 says:

HTC one is a bit smoother and lag free, and the speakers, screen, built quality and low light camera shot better than Samsung gs4. Plus the new HTC one update will be fixing outside and hdr camera shots.

untcodegeek says:

Really good review! I wish I could take my HTC EVO LTE from Sprint to Verizon. It's such a good phone. Not the best but of the EVO models, it's the best. I just hate the current Sprint network and am not very hopefully LTE will be any better. So, I am done with Sprint. If Verizon at least had the HTC one, I might consider staying with HTC but my only options appear to be to go with the gs4 or wait and see if the next N4 has LTE support.

mmark27 says:

"Panorama mode, too, has been the subject of some serious enhancements. depending on how smoothly you’re able to pan from left to right, the Galaxy S4 can produce panoramas of 50 megapixels or more, and it does so without sacrificing too much in the way of image quality compared to regular still shots."

This, I'm sold. I love panoramas, but on the S3 they are choked out to 1.8 mega pixels. Lame. S4 fixes this, yes!

Maybe we will see it in a software upgrade though!

JohnJSal says:

For the love of god stop bouncing your hands around in the videos! I can't see the phone!

tlo07 says:

LOL! I kept thinking the same thing!

After holding and playing with both I will have to go with the HTC One. Some of the features on the s4 are cool but most will be unused by the everyday user. When thinking about shelling out a lot of money for a phone I don't want one that feels like a toy and the s4 feels like a toy when held next to the HTC one.

astarling10 says:

i went from the S3 to the HTC One and I'm very happy. There's a couple things I miss like blocking mode for calls and notifications and notification toggles but that's about it. Usually on phones I've bought, I stay on the stock rom just long enough to activate it, root and then I install a custom rom. I've had the One for a week and I haven't once felt the need to root and install a custom rom. I didn't like Sense very much in the past but it's really sedated now and totally not in the way. I have Blinkfeed set up but I don't look at it very much. The phone is smooth and super responsive. I thought about getting the S4 before I got the One but once I started seeing all the leaks and then the actual device, I wasn't impressed. Looked just like the S3. I know it's a great phone but I was just ready to use something other than a Samsung phone.

epidenimus says:

Great in depth review and the geek in me appreciates it thoroughly. As an S3 owner who fumbles with this in the dark every morning and many nights, I hate the ridiculous symmetric approach to aesthetics that Samsung takes with this repeated design. I have no idea if my phone is upright or upside down until I go to hit a Menu Home or Back button. I don't know how many times I have tried to plug headphones into the micro USB port because the damned thing is upside down and the offset is not significant. You have to have the senses of a blind person some days to not feel put off by these things. That little black camera on the HTC is like the dots on my keyboard, the dogs bollocks, letting me know I've got it right.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 video reviews and Game testing review for Galaxy S4

http://gatechworld.blogspot.com/2013/04/samsung-galaxy-note-iii-will-hav...

soulquarist says:

My DD for the past couple of months has been the GN II, souped up with either Liquid Smooth, CM10.1, Carbon ROM, Vanilla Rootbox or some other custom ROM. I've come to love the power widgets and quicksettings/toggles, and can't imagine owning a phone without both of those features. All of the ROM's that have those two features, make them highly customizable. So you can have 2 tiles on your quicksettings/toggle or 15.

Every review I've seen of the GS4 has shown and complained about quicksettings/toggles that have 10-15 tiles. So can you not edit/change the number of tiles on the GS4 quick settings/toggles?

offdahglass says:

If you're like me and stuck on the iPhone 4S and will be getting an upgrade- just give Android a chance. I'm sure it has made leaps and bounds since I had the Evo 4g on Sprint years ago. I will be leaving Apple and it's next iteration of the iPhone behind and will give the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S IV a shot. I'm on AT&T now and will get to experience LTE (finally) and have a shot at tweaking and rooting the operating system if I choose. I just don't understand the reason why we pick sides? I just know that I'm tired of being on www.bored.com.

c0ldburn3r says:

To be honest I skimmed that entire review plainly because I was already sold on the S4 over the One.

This is mainly based on a few things. I've used HTC in the past and yes the metal is nice but damn does it get nasty if you drop it and Sense to me is very confusing compared to TouchWiz but that might be because I was on it since the S1.

The other main reason is that I work for a state agency that offers ActivSync and EVERY HTC has failed our security policies where as the Samsung phones pass.

I see the S4 as more of a phone for S2 and Moto users to upgrade to, not the S3. The S3 is still a rock solid phone that's not dated unlike my S2.

Either way BOTH are very solid phones and it is personal taste that will win the day for users.

Jason Mills1 says:

Coming from an iPhone 5 I picked up the HTC ONE last week and it looks and sounds great, but it's heavy and bulky and if you have small hands like me it can be a pain to hold. I played with it for about an hour or so and I was already bored with it. My wife works for US Celluar and she has used the GS4 and my HTC and she said that the S4 has it in the multitasking and features dept but the HTC ONE design is top notch. So if you want quality get the HTC if you want features such as myself get the S4. Or go to the store use both and see which one you like better cause no matter what a new phone will be out in 3 to 6 months anyway right? (Motorola X, Nexus 5, iPhone 6) So buy what you want with your money, people wont judge you cause of the phone you carry and its not a life changing decision.

davidnzs says:

Hey everyone. I don't know much about rooting, flashing roms, etc, so I hope someone can help:

If I buy a carrier-branded galaxy s 4 (snapdragon, gsm version), would there be a way of switching the firmware to the original stock version of the S4 firmware (pure touchwiz, pure samsung)? My concern is getting timely firmware updates, straight from Samsung.

Also, how would I be able to unlock a carrier-branded s 4?

Thanks in advance!

- David

Jakiro201 says:

Well, I've made my choice buying the HTC One and didn't regret it. If the Note 3 is made of aluminum, I'll buy it for sure.

avlon says:

I went to the AT&T store and honestly, the HTC One did not feel any more "premium" than the S4. Both phones felt light and "cheap" to both I and my girlfriend. I personally didn't like the HTC sense interface (especially that app drawer, yuck) though Touchwiz certainly isn't any better. For most people both phones will be covered by a plastic case which makes material choice moot anyway.

At the end of the day it does boil down to features and usefulness. The S4 does have more software features and the hardware features of an SD card and removable battery in a form just as slim. For those that don't like it, you don't have to use them. If the battery door feels flimsy, you'll be able to get an aluminum one from a 3rd party soon enough. It's a non issue.

For the HTC One, it's the opposite. They will again lose sales from the closed nature of the phone since power users who do want to swap can't swap a battery or sd card. They can't ignore that. Also, lately Samsung has been better about updating their phones than HTC has and if someone wants an iphone clone, why not either get an iphone or a Nexus where you know that your phone will be updated and supported?

As of right now the best bet is still the S4. You can easily and cheaply replace parts or add memory to the phone. Charge to 100% in 2 minutes with another battery if you're on the go. Transfer files without the need of any type of connection r computer, no need to be dependent on the cloud or worries about data caps. Plus you're pretty much guaranteed to be updated.

kubskouts says:

Quality Issues With Samsung S4

my Samsung S4 phone gap issue
Does anyone else have this issues???
http://i.imgur.com/PiJ0mR4.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/Nxpj2dZ.jpg

Dflash says:

Sony xperia z or htc one or the s4?

Jon_Doh says:

Its hardware and software look outdated like the iPhone. And with the big fat home button and dock icons on the home screen it does look like a poor ripoff of the iPhone. Just fatter. Samsung may be the sales leader because people fall for its gimmicks, but HTC phones of the past year have been blazing the way for Android.

ArtVandelay says:

I really want to round up all of the iPhone 4, 4s and 5 reviews and see if people are complaining as much about those are they are about the S4.

Yes. It looks similar to the S3, but it has a bigger, better screen in the same profile, the latest 4.2.2 Android, a bunch of more sensors, a ton of more software features, bigger battery, and more accessories.

Am I missing something?

Oh, and I'm so tired of hearing about the plastic being "cheap". Isn't that subjective? I love my Note 2, and loved my S3 and S2 when I had those. You can keep your aluminium frame with no removeable battery and no micro SD.

ctt1wbw says:

I've been using cell phones for about 12 years now. Never had to replace a battery. I also have about 100 gigs of free online cloud storage.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Have fun using that cloud space when you find yourself somewhere you can't go online. Trust me, it'll happen. ;)

Posted via Android Central App

ctt1wbw says:

Finally handled one the other day, a guy here at work got one and let me use for a few minutes. Sorry Samsung, it's still a cheap feeling low quality phone. The innards might be nice, but it's a cheap feeling piece of plastic.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Lol i love people like you who are so ignorant about plastic that they let a simple feeling fool them

Posted via Android Central App

RaiderWill says:

GS3S...

JumperSFO says:

My first android experience with the S4- disappointed! It lagged to the point where I had to removed the battery to reboot. But then I found out by removing a few preloaded apps, it helped- disabling the At&t apps made mine faster but still not as smooth as my iPhone 4s. Any other recommendations/suggestions are welcomed.

Avinash K says:

I used many android devices (Sammy galaxy note being the last one)& was frustrated.

# It gets slow as the time passes, need to reboot the device regularly.
# loads and loads of horseshit carrier & OEM Bloatware
# You feel alienated when it comes to Updates. ( S3 got JB update recently and it was sammy's flagship device 8-10 months back.. WTF Samsung !!)
# my note kept restarting on its own ...

Frustrated enough, i thought of getting S4 or HTCone with BEST hardware and Jellybean. But after reading reviews, i realized Android still has issues ...
In a bold move, i bought a Lumia 920..
I was surprised by the Windows OS. SO smooth, fluid, LAG FREE and NO OEM bloatware.
I have been using it since past 1 month and below are the observations.
+'s :
# Ultra smooth OS, NO LAG.
# No crashes yet ( touchwood) :)
# Battery - Initial 1 week, the battery behaved like SHIT but, after that it has optimized. Now, with wifi, GPS, Cellular data always on, with Moderate usage- i get 3% to 6% discharge/hr.
With very heavy use, i get around 6-7 hours (continuous youtube, browsing etc)
# Awesome Bulid quality- i am NOT using any protective case (check out the drop test videos on youtube)
# charges from 15% to 70% in a little over one hour
# Freaking awesome Camera :)
# Excellent Exchange mail support.
# Nokia Drive is really kool navigational app. ( i am using 'Waze beta' as well since past 2-3 days and it works fine. )
# Microsoft skydrive for cloud backup :)

-ve points :
# market and Apps - MS is a bitch when it comes to apps. All good apps are missing. Although they are coming slowly BUT Windows marketplace has a long way to go before it can dream of touching Android or IOS apps.
However, the apps which are there are very good in quality (UI etc )

If you are really frustrated with android and do not want to become an Isheep, i would suggest you to try Lumia 920.. You might like it

nstark07 says:

First Android experience was the OG Droid back in 2010. Switched to an iPhone 4 in 2011. Now I'm getting ready to hop back on the bandwagon with the GS4 here in a week or two. Can't wait!

nickgalaxys4 says:

This phone is my first Android phone and I am so happy I got it love the phone and OS more then any other phone I had. I don't see me leaving Android for a long time. Android you got your self another fan boy.

snookasnoo says:

Quite a softball review like most of what you see from this site.

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Better than anything you'll ever write troll. Lol

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