The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the Galaxy S3 with a bigger display, upgraded hardware, and seemingly endless new features. It's "the phone to get if you don't want to worry about which phone to get," says Sascha Segan of PCMag.com. Yet while the GS4 has a "laundry list of features," according to Jessica Dolcourt of CNET, "in its pursuit of creating the 'everything' device, Samsung has neglected crucial areas, like build quality and software polish."
Convenient features – but lots of them. Stuffed with a dizzying array of setting and controls, the Galaxy S4 could be a user's dream come true or worst nightmare. It's a "tweaker's wonderland," says Segan. You can customize notifications, widgets, touchscreen capabilities, multiple window apps, and a heaping amount of gesture-controlled functions.
Samsung has added "smart movements" to its list. For example, Smart Stay keeps the screen lit when it detects that a user is looking at it. Likewise, Smart Pause pauses a movie when it detects that a user has glanced away from the screen. The GS4 works even when you're wearing gloves, simply by hovering your fingers over the screen. Some useful and some gimmicky, the extra settings can confuse users who will "never be able to remember all of the swipes, swoops, taps, tilts and other gestures the phone supports," says Zack Epstein of BGR.com.
Ups the ante on voice quality and reception. A 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor is more than enough power to handle even the most demanding tasks. Users in 4G-capable areas will see impressive download speeds, while those in 3G-coverage areas should still see results on par with other top smartphones. Battery life is average and lasts reviewers through a full day of moderate to heavy use.
Stronger than it looks. Experts agree that the Galaxy S4's biggest flaw is its build quality. Though durable, the signature plastic backing looks cheap compared to the sturdier HTC One (Est. $100 and up) or iPhone 5 (Est. $200 and up). It's "durable despite its cheap materials," says David Pierce of TheVerge.com, but it still feels "unpleasant" to hold.
Big screen; slim build. Following in the footsteps of its Galaxy predecessors, the S4 iteration is large, yet thin and lightweight, with a candybar design and plastic backing. The vibrant HD screen takes up most of the smartphone's front. Experts say the design is uninspired and may look cheap to some, but fits well in the hand.
The Galaxy S4's major selling point, its 5-inch display, is "big, beautiful, and seriously eye-catching," says Pierce. Saturated with vibrant colors, the 441-pixel-per-inch screen boasts wide viewing angles. Reviewers say it's a toss-up with the HTC One for best screen.
Camera gets an upgrade. The GS4's 13-megapixel camera offers excellent photo quality and nearly limitless settings to customize. Some special modes prove "absolute genius," say Segan, while others are "novelties," and some simply don't work. Notable features include Dual Shot, utilizing both front and back cameras at once, Eraser for eliminating unwanted background portions, and Drama Shot for motion capture.
Awarding the Galaxy S4 a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, Jessica Dolcourt concludes that while its abundant features can overwhelm, it is packed with useful apps and a spacious, colorful screen to view them on.
Review: The Everything Phone for (Almost) Everyone, Jessica Dolcourt, April 23, 2013
Scoring 4.5 out of 5 stars, the Galaxy S4 impresses Sascha Segan with its fast speeds, bright display, and excellent call quality. A smartphone that aims to be everything for everyone, the GS4 earns an Editor's Choice award.
Review: Samsung Galaxy S 4 (T-Mobile), Sascha Segan, April 24, 2013
Comparing the Galaxy S4 with tech giants the HTC One and the Nexus 4, David Pierce finds the GS4 a smartphone worth buying but says it falls short of becoming the "undisputed winner" due to its plastic design.
Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Review, David Pierce, April 24, 2013
After a thorough hands-on evaluation of the Samsung Galaxy S4, Zach Epstein say the latest Galaxy S is a "jack of all trades," but only the display truly impresses.
Review: Samsung Galaxy S4: Jack of All Trades, Still Master of Just One, Zack Epstein, May 8, 2013
Gareth Beavis carefully tests every function, feature, and setting on the Galaxy S4 in comparison with other high-performing smartphones and rates it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Its biggest flaw is its plastic body.
Review: Samsung Galaxy S4 Review: The Galaxy SIV is Here – But Does it Pack Enough of a Punch?, Gareth Beavis, May 8, 2013