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Samsung Galaxy S4 review

The Galaxy SIV is here - but does it pack enough of a punch?

Our Verdict

The Galaxy S4 is a stunning smartphone that won't let you down for a variety of tasks. It's not as good overall as the HTC One, especially when you factor in the design, but we love the S4 and would be proud to have it in our pocket.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 16 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 13 Megapixel
  • Screen Resolution : 1920 x 1080
  • Processor Core : Quad-core (4 Core)

View full specification

For

  • Stunning screen
  • Superfast processor
  • Great camera

Against

  • Feels cheaper than similar-priced phones
  • 'Innovation' makes things too complex
  • Slight UI issues

Contacts are very similar to before on the Samsung Galaxy S4, but this is no bad thing. Laid out in an easy to read format and manageable ways of connecting the right people together, this is a perfectly passable way of looking for the people that matter to you.

The main thing that we like is the ability to smart dial. This means that when you open the number pad you can enter the name as you would have done on predictive text all those years ago - so 3-2-3 would be the command to bring up 'Dad', for instance.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

It's a slick way of getting around the contact list. It's hardly new - most phones pack it as an option now, and those that don't (iPhone) sorely miss it - but it saves you monkeying around in the main contacts list.

That said, the experience there is very good. If you've got the likes of Exchange, Facebook and Google accounts set up on your phone then chances are you'll be able to see a host of names here to play with. We're sad that Twitter was taken out of the experience, as it was helpful to have on the Galaxy S2 by enabling you to see friends' Tweets in their contact profile.

However, if you're not savvy enough to work out how to stop every person you're following on Twitter displaying in your contacts' list, then you would have hundreds floating around there.

(By the way, it's a simple tap of the menu button and selecting 'Contacts to display' where you can choose which service will supply the people to chat to. You can customise this too, meaning you only have certain services coming through, which means you can choose to just have the likes of Facebook and Google, where most people will store contacts.

Pro tip: hit 'Settings' and then tag 'Only contacts with phone numbers', which will clean up your phone book no end).

Beyond that, there's not a lot more to the Samsung Galaxy S4 contacts interface that really makes it stand out - it doesn't have the ability to parse through albums on social networks or update you with people's musings through statuses, but to many that's more of a hindrance. And to those where it's not, you can head on over to the HTC One to see how all that works.

The interface is simple, it's damned easy to navigate to the people you want (using the alphabetised list on the right-hand side and then using the slider to get more exact) and the result is instant when opening a contact.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

You can link contacts together easily by going into the name and hitting joined contacts, then selecting other profiles from social networks to bring everything into one place. Samsung still hasn't mastered the art of suggesting these links in one big batch, so expect a lengthy time spend doing so when you turn the phone on.

One big change we're not sure we're in love with: every contact that doesn't have a picture drawn in (from the likes of Facebook or Google+) will have a stock smiling male cartoon face - it's meant to be cutesy, but it can come across a little creepy when it flashes up onscreen from an unknown number.

Another oddity with the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the inability to use high res pictures to populate contact images - other handsets enable you to define that any social network, Facebook in particular, will always display HD pictures when you connect a person in your phone book to the social network profile.

It might sound like a minor thing, but when high-res pictures flash up during a phone call, it makes the phone feel a lot more premium, which is rarely the case with the Galaxy S4, which will only do so if you've linked Google+ or tagged them in your own photo.

Calling

Calling on the Samsung Galaxy S4 carries on from its predecessor - namely in being excellent. It's got a slightly narrow earpiece range, which means that you have to be careful where you position it in relation to your ear, but that's a really minor quibble as the overall effect is impressive and works well thanks to some clever volume management.

The S4 has noise reduction built in, and many people commented how clear the the sound was over the airwaves. The S4 supports HD voice as well, which is carried over the 3G/4G networks (depending on your provider) so you'll always get the best clarity on offer.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

In short, this phone worked well no matter where we were. Dropped calls should be a thing of the past on all handsets, but that's not always the case; however, with high end handsets there's no reason to think it should happen, and the power of the S4 to keep hold of signal is impressive.

In fact, the signal strength was regularly impressive, making very few trips down to the dreaded 'no bar' icon that means you might have a connection but, hey, you might not. Nobody enjoys that smartphone lottery, right?

There are a number of extra bells and whistles to play with here too which offer varying success. You can set something called 'Adapt Sound' which asks you to pop in a pair of headphones and listen to a range of sounds at different frequencies, thus tailoring the output to your ears.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

You can also choose to have 'Clear Sound' or 'Soft Sound' during the calls, but when we tried these modes all we got was a slight variation in volume. There are other tricks that are more useful in call, like being able to turn noise reduction on and off and being able to boost the volume when needed.

Otherwise, it's the same great calling experience we've come to expect from the Samsung Galaxy range, even down to the three options that come up when you end a call (Message, Call or Video Call) so you can get in touch with the person if you've forgotten pertinent information. Although video call never works, let's be honest. Even Apple is starting to wonder...

In short, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is one of the best phones for actually, you know, phoning, out there. It's size isn't horrendous next to the ear and people can hear you - and vice versa. Job done.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported64 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
SAR Value0.28 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy S4
Cellular Generation4G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100, LTE 800, LTE 850, LTE 1800, LTE 2100, LTE 2600
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution13 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Product ModelGT-I9505
Screen Size12.7 cm (5")
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)130 g
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density441 ppi
Height136.6 mm
Width69.8 mm
Depth7.9 mm
Radio TunerNo
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S4 GT-I9505 Smartphone
Processor Speed1.90 kHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Product LineGalaxy S4
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeGyro Sensor, Barometer, Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Temperature Sensor, Humidity Sensor, Health Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberGT-19505ZWABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing Information

captures all the fun

The Samsung GALAXY S4 captures all the action wherever you are. Don't just look at your photos, hear what they have to say and relive those exciting memories. Take multiple exposure pictures and edit them together to add a special dramatic touch. Once done, spread the fun and instantly share your albums with friends and family.

brings everyone closer together

The Samsung GALAXY S4 is all about 'togetherness'. It brings people together when they're apart. You and your friends can share screens as well as explore each other's favorite music, files and games. The Samsung GALAXY S4 not only overcomes barriers of distance but also breaks down language barriers.

Limited Warranty2 Year