Galaxy S4 retains SIII crown - review

2013-05-02 10:41
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Samsung Galaxy S4

The Galaxy S4 is the latest device from Samsung.

Cape Town - The Samsung Galaxy S4 will no doubt sell in excess of 100 million units, but it has to answer a critical question: Is it better than its biggest competition, the SIII?

The latest Galaxy smartphone comes equipped with more bells and whistles than a belly dancer at the top of her game as Samsung looks to capitalise on the strength of the brand.

Users can expect top-end specs like a 1.9GHz quad core processor, mated to 2GB of RAM to make this one of the fastest smartphones you can buy.

There's ample onboard memory (the device comes in three flavours: 16GB, 32GB; 64GB) for your pictures, video and documents on the Galaxy, and critically, Samsung has retained the ability to remove the back cover to gain access to the device.

Additionally, there is also a micro-SD slot to expand memory, albeit inside the device.


The latest Galaxy has a 12.7cm display, slightly up from the SIII, though the body of the devices has roughly the same area. The S4 is also thinner than the SIII and at 130g, weight isn't an issue.

Samsung has made much of the device as a "life companion" device that has evolved from the previous version.

Indeed, the S4 has a bunch of charms that may attract users: The Air gesture seen on the Galaxy Note is there, as are the features that rely on motion to control the device.

You can also add notes to your S Planner (Calendar) though you don't have the S Pen from the Note. The gestures like instant screen shot by waving the hand over the display are still cool features unmatched by other manufacturers.

While on the "S-es", the usual Samsung suspects are present on the device: S Memo, S Translator, S Voice, Samsung Apps, Samsung Link and Samsung Hub all make a comeback.

In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking that Samsung is competing with Google for the app ecosystem on the Galaxy which runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean).

One of the more useful apps is the Kid Mode where one can authorise the use of the device for children, without granting access to apps that are not age appropriate.

Photo tools

For quick access to popular or productivity apps, the device sports a multi window tray which is available as a shortcut to the Gallery, internet and e-mail apps.

The Galaxy has a 13 megapixel camera and shoots video in high definition. In this area, there has been definite improvement on the SIII. In particular, the night mode is much-improved and the Samsung's photo tools can be trusted to produce crisp shots with a steady hand.

The device makes photo apps like Instagram redundant because of native support for filters as well as sharing to wide range of social networks.

Overall then, the plastic Galaxy S4 has a bag of tricks, but the device doesn't seem to have the aura of the SIII. Most reactions to the device were along the lines of: "Oh is that the GS4? It looks just like an SIII."

It is difficult to imagine users sitting making weird eye movements, trying to get the device to follow their eyes, or waving their hands in the air over the device to move apps.

Still, the bonus resulting from the S4 is that in SA, the price of the SIII is down to R319 per month on contract, a discount of R50 on the launch price.

The Samsung is available from Vodacom at 419 per month, and from MTN and Cell C at R399 on a two year contract.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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