independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Galaxy S4 hands-on review: Samsung launches ‘complete package’ to take on Apple

THE Samsung Galaxy S4 knows when you’re looking at it and when you’re going up stairs – it’s evolutionary genius.

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is not obviously that different from the S3 – at first sight you might even think they were the same. But using the new device, which will launch in the UK in April, makes it clear that this is the first of a new generation of smartphones.

It’s not just that it’s got 4G, NFC and all the features which are now ‘table stakes’ for phone manufacturers. Or that it packs in a far larger screen into a package that’s actually slightly smaller than its predecessor.

What the S4 offers is a comprehensive package of features, starting with a remarkable screen offering far more pixels than the human eye can perceive. The addition of Air View, which allows users to interact with the touchscreen without actually making contact, offers more information instantly; waving your hand in front of the screen to browse forward or backwards makes the phone suddenly seem like a natural thing to use in the kitchen while cooking or when your hands are full at your desk. It’s not a revolution but it’s certainly an improvement. Hovering a finger above the screen means you can choose articles from each category of the special version of Flipboard, for instance, and never waste time with the ones that don’t interest you.

Add in to that a feeling that the S4 is somehow slightly more solidly built, and fractionally less rounded in its corners, and this seems to be a device that offers the iterative innovation that Samsung needs to capitalise on its increasingly dominant position.

The eye-tracking features, called Smart Scroll, surprised me most because they actually work: look away from the screen while a video is playing and the playback pauses almost instantly. It may not be perfect but it is certainly an improvement. Now I’ve seen it I wouldn’t want to view YouTube without it.

And that’s what makes the S4 so compelling: S Health will encourage me to walk up more stairs thanks to its pedometer, and challenge devices such as the Fuelband and the Fitbug. It might even encourage me to integrate it with Samsung scales. The IR integration means it will be ideal as a TV remote; built-in translation builds on features already offered by Google.

The camera, at 13MP, is impressive but not technically better than several rivals; its gimics such as Eraser, which remove moving objects with ease, and the features to make controls easier, are all neat touches, as is the ability to create GIFs.

But what makes the S4 seem to me, with limited contact, the best Android phone on the market is the feeling of solidity, the fact that a 2,600m Ah battery should be plenty for a day, the integration of most of Swiftkey’s excellent features – and the fact that it’s got everything Samsung could throw at it but formed, for the first time into a largely coherent whole.

The combination is not a revolution after the S3 – but it’s a compelling evolution.

Telegraph.co.uk

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