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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

Last updated on: May 7, 2013 06:06 IST

Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Abhik Sen


"Parting is such sweet sorrow," William Shakespeare had said. Indeed, some of us tasked with reviewing the latest smartphones agree.

But for us, the "sorrow" of letting go of one piece of hardware is "sweetened" by the fact that we'll get a new toy soon.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 had been my companion for a week and after giving it up, I'm missing it already. Let's take a closer look at it:

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Looks can deceive

Generally, when we pull out a device in office, our colleagues stop and ask what we're using. But for the Galaxy S4, no one gave it a second look from afar.

After getting over my initial surprise, I held up the device and asked those around me to identify it. Answers ranged from Galaxy S to the S3, while some also thought it to be the Grand.

"It's the S4," I cried out in exasperation and then was nearly mobbed. The slim polycarbonate body and the handy form factor, despite its five-inch screen, won't guarantee a second look from your peers.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung
Tags: Galaxy

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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But let it slip you have an S4, and people will turn green with envy. S4 features minimal physical buttons - an on-off switch and volume rocker on each side and a home button on the front.

Getting started

The S4's spring-loaded microSIM slot is a pleasure to use. It also features a microSD slot to expand its memory up to an extra 64 GB.

On turning it on, we were met with Samsung's highly customised Android Jelly Bean interface. If you're used to the stock Android interface, you'll waste some time in figuring out the options.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Good for Samsung veterans, not so for the rest. Shortcuts for all commonly used settings were available on a single screen with just one tap.

The regular stuff

My network was detected in a jiffy, as were the 3G settings (the 4G model hasn't been launched in India). While S4's keyboard might not be as intuitive as the BlackBerry Z10's, its predictive text is good.

The screen space is good for browsing and opening multiple tabs in a single browser window didn't slow the phone, nor did it heat up. Multi-tasking and gaming were a breeze.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung
Tags: Z10 , Samsung , India

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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The not-so-regular

When we were children, we saw magicians do extraordinary things with a flick of the hand. Possibly taking inspiration from such things, the S4 features the Air Gesture.

One can direct the phone to do certain things with a flick of the palm; for example, answering a call or scrolling up or down a website.

The feature needs to be "trained". It did "train", only, unlike a pet, it seems to have several masters.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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I had some embarrassing moments at one of my edit meetings when a simple gesture of keeping down his pen by my colleague resulted in the webpage I was reading out from scrolling up.

Another "airy" feature is Air View that previews content, say from an album.

The S4 features Smart Pause, where a video pauses when you look away from the screen and starts playing again when you look back.

Again, this feature worked, but not always. One feature we found useful was the S4 tracking our eye movement as we looked up or down the screen and scrolling the web page.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Samsung gives you personal cloud storage of 1 TB with HomeSync, where you can store photos and the like.

It can also be accessed on the bigger screen with a simple URL, with the S4 doubling up as a mouse.

The WatchON feature can download electronic programme guides and act as a remote for TVs or set-top boxes. A feature which impressed us was the S Translator. The S4 also bundles in S Health.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung
Tags: URL , HomeSync , Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Smart shooter

It features a 13MP rear camera. For outdoor shots, this camera is second to none but in low light, the Nokia Lumia 920, seemed to have an edge.

The 2MP front camera works well for video chats but when we turn on the dual shot mode (when the rear and front cam work together), the quality of the picture snapped by the rear one falls short.

One can also record sound with a picture. The Drama Shot mode shoots a sequence of photos in a single frame.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Seeing and hearing

With a five-inch Super AMOLED Full HD display at our disposal, we were anxious to watch high definition videos. Once we started, we just couldn't stop.

The viewing angles were good. Outdoors in the sun, the rich blacks we were going gaga about indoors seemed to fade.

While watching videos in sunlight was still possible, the experience took a hit. The onboard speaker is okay for group chats and videos but isn't loud enough.

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Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung
Tags: AMOLED

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Why Galaxy S4 is the best smartphone despite the quirks

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Battery life

If you're planning to use the S4 as your primary media device, do keep a charger handy. With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC turned off and heavy calling, texting, email and moderate browsing, the phone got us through 10 hours on a single charge.

Verdict

The S4 is packed with enough features to make most geeks happy. While other flagships may be flamboyant and have a better build, the S4 quietly gets the job done.

Among Androids, it is one of the best handsets money can buy, if one is okay with its quirks.


Photographs: Courtesy, Samsung
Tags: NFC , Bluetooth

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