Samsung Galaxy S 4: Forget the Hype, Try Out the Advanced Features

REVIEW: Samsung has burdened its new Galaxy S 4 smartphone with a bevy of claims that appear unsubstantiated, but it's a very nice phone and worth a look.

Samsung Galaxy S 4

Samsung bills its new Galaxy S 4 smartphone as a Life Companion. According to the company's publicity material, this phone will give you a "richer, simpler and fuller life." Samsung also claims that this phone has a camera so good that it yields professional results and touts its effortless experience.

Folks, this is a smartphone, not a lifestyle. If you actually believe the company's claims, you'll be disappointed. However, if you simply approach the Galaxy S 4 as a really good smartphone with some advanced features, then your expectations are more likely to be gratified.

So here's what you should expect from the Samsung Galaxy S 4 smartphone. First of all, it's a really nice Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) phone that works well even in weak-signal areas. It has a large screen, but it's easy to handle. And it's very fast. In fact, the S 4 has a processor that's about twice as fast as what's on the iPhone; it supports Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) up to 42 megabits per second and WiFi up to 802.11ac; and, of course, it supports Long Term Evolution (LTE).

Samsung is, of course, doing everything it can to wrest the title of top phone maker away from Apple and its iPhone. To accomplish this, the company launched its Galaxy S series of phones, each one of which offers an increasingly large feature collection, the last two of which surpass most of what Apple's latest iPhone model offers. The Galaxy S 4 has features that you probably didn't realize you needed until Samsung thought them up.

For example, the Galaxy S 4 can now detect gestures you make in the air near the phone. This means that you can turn pages while reading by moving your hand across the screen. You can also wave your hand over the phone to turn on the status screen. Likewise, if you reach for the phone when it's ringing, the phone will turn on.

The Galaxy S 4 can also detect the proximity of your hand, so you can hover your finger over a Web page, for example, to magnify it. And of course, Samsung phones have had the ability to see if you're watching the screen and act accordingly.

This means that if you're looking at the screen as you would be if you've got a movie running or are reading an ebook, the phone won't turn off the screen. Likewise, the phone can tell if you look away while watching a video, and pause the video until you look back.

Galaxy S 4 Delivers Good Usability

I was a little worried about the potential usability of the Galaxy S 4 when I learned that the phone had a 5-inch display. I'd found the Galaxy Note II with its 5.5-inch display to be too large to use comfortably as a phone and I wondered if the Galaxy S 4 might also be too large.

It turns out that it's not. In fact, the Galaxy S 4 fits nicely into the hand. It's large enough so that the display is easy to read and the keyboard is easy to use. Unlike its larger sibling, the Note II, there's no stylus, but the device does a decent job of speech recognition and had fewer mistakes when I tried it than I found when using Apple's Siri voice software.

Like Siri, the home button summons the voice-control system, so you can give the phone voice commands or use voice for search. The voice control system worked well, but you don't get the verbal feedback you get from Siri.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...