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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

The messaging experience on Samsung smartphones has never been the strongest, and thankfully it's getting better and better with each iteration. We'd go as far as saying that it's actually GOOD on the Samsung Galaxy S4, and that's coming from a place of wanting to throw the Galaxy S3 out a window once or twice when the email client doesn't connect properly.

Let's start with one of the most important points: the keyboard. The previous Samsung versions have been woeful, with bouncy word prediction, inaccurate typing and cramped conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Thankfully with the S4 Samsung appears to have realised this and made a larger option, and thanks to the larger screen you've even got a row of numbers on the top so you don't constantly have to keep pressing 'Shift' to get them up each time.

There's also a Swype-a-like option on board, and while the jury is still out on whether this is more efficient that tapping away, we found it to be more accurate thanks to the larger amount of space afforded by the 5-inch screen.

We still instantly downloaded another option (SwiftKey might be underpinning a lot of what this keyboard is about, but the native option is still preferable in our eyes, as it takes less customisation at the start.)

Text messaging is still a key part of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and has been slightly upgraded; where there was just a conversation view with bubbles before, you now get little contact pictures next to each person, which adds a touch of personality to an SMS conversation. Yes, again it's not a new experience, but it works well on the phone.

You've also got a larger capacity for text messaging than before - where you could only write a missive that was 480 characters or less before converting to a (costly) MMS in previous versions, now you can have over 5 messages' worth before such a function kicks in.

Email

The email client on the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy S3 was rubbish, and we've mentioned that already. However Samsung has taken something of a mallet to that functionality and interface with the S4 and significantly upgraded it. While the S3 came close to working as it was supposed to after nearly a year on the market, the S4 comes out of the gate swinging, if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor.

Samsung Galaxy S4 review

This means a much cleaner UI that makes it much easier to quickly glance and see who sent each message, a slide-across bar that takes you to your inboxes (should you have multiple accounts on the phone) and even the chance to have priority senders and a combined inbox.

So far, so very similar to the recent iOS update (which was similar to the HTC option before it, it should be noted).

But the key thing is here that the client, which was built to be powerful but ended up flawed, now works as it should.

We can easily set out of office messages, set priority accounts that we need to panic about (although the process there is a little convoluted and won't let you search an Exchange server to get the addresses you need - nobody should have their CEO's email saved as a contact, but if they email you then you would listen).

However, it's still a rubbish email client compared to others - try and do something like select multiple messages to delete, and you'll get frustrated at the inaccuracy.

ChatON

There are other options for messaging of course: for instance, ChatON is present once more (Samsung's attempt to bring a WhatsApp/BBM/iMessage rival) and brings functionality like being able to send walkie-talkie voice messages to one another as well as pictures and messages, but there are so few people using it regularly that it won't be long before you hide it from the menu screen unless you happen to have a lot of chatty Samsung friends.

This is something of a shame actually, as it's a decent platform. You can add a profile pic, send files and the like over a data connection without having to faff with email, and the range of customisation options and UI both work very well for the most part.

Once again, Samsung has shown that it has seen a problem in its older phones and corrected it accordingly - it might not be market leading but there wasn't a point where we felt that communication was harder with the Galaxy S4, and that's all we're looking for in this scenario.

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