Just as Samsung is clearing up supply delays and getting the Galaxy S 4 into waiting markets—Sprint announced April 29 that units are “now flowing” into its sales channels—reviews are emerging that might give some buyers pause.
Everyone agrees that the S 4 is feature-packed and unlike anything on the market. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
Walter Mossberg, reviewing the S 4 for the Wall Street Journal, went so far as to recommend a competing device.
“I urge readers looking for a new Android smartphone to carefully consider the more polished-looking, and quite capable, HTC One, rather than defaulting to the latest Samsung,” he wrote.
Mossberg liked improvements to the email apps as well as a feature called Air View, which lets users see additional information by hovering their finger over something but not clicking, and Samsung’s improved Easy Mode, which offers simpler settings options and icons.
But he found the Smart features, which among other things enable the phone to automatically scroll a page based on where a user’s eyes are, to be generally a bust, and pointed out that while there are two email apps, two video and music stores, two browsers and two calendars, one can’t launch the camera from the locked screen.
“It isn’t a game-changer,” wrote Mossberg. “If you’re nuts for lists of new features, love Samsung or crave an even bigger display, the Galaxy S 4 may be for you. It’s a good phone, just not a great one.”
The New York Times’ David Pogue felt similarly, finding the S 4 to be essentially an upgrade of the S III. If Samsung followed Apple’s naming method, it “might have called this phone the Galaxy S3S,” he wrote.
In the same vein, eWEEK last year likened the Galaxy S III to a room with too much furniture; Pogue calls the S 4 a “big, rattling cargo bay crammed with features.”
The overwhelmingness of the S 4’s features list—or a design approach that Pogue describes as “throw everything in and see what sticks”—made Pogue also a fan of Easy Mode.
Samsung Galaxy S 4 Reviews May Boost HTC One Sales
“The Galaxy S 4 is a good choice for people at opposite ends of the technical spectrum: gadget hounds who love to customize at one end, and (thanks to Easy Mode) the easily overwhelmed at the other,” he wrote.
While calling the S 4’s basics “excellent” and describing it as overall a “fast, bright pocket rocket,” Pogue added that those in the middle of the technical spectrum might find the S 4 “buggy in spots and laden with not-quite-there features.”
Speaking volumes for HTC, Pogue also mentioned the One in his S 4 review—writing that the S 4’s plastic is “lightweight and grippy, but not as classy as the iPhone’s glass or the HTC One’s metal”—and so did The Verge’s David Pierce.
Pierce not only wrote that from a design perspective the iPhone 5 and the HTC One “should make Samsung very, very nervous” but went as far as to say: “I don’t like holding this phone, and I can’t overstate how much that informs the experience of using it. It makes an awful first impression, slippery and slimy and simply unpleasant in your hand.”
He went on, “Samsung’s proven repeatedly that people don’t care about build quality, or at least will overlook it in favor of features and performance, but the landscape’s different now. The HTC One is a powerful, feature-rich device that is also beautiful and classy, while Samsung’s handset feels like an overpowered children’s toy.”
Which is not to say there aren’t things to like about the S 4, in particular its display, which is 5 inches on the diagonal and (as Pierce writes) a “ridiculous” 441 pixels per inch. It’s gorgeous, but oversaturates some colors in a way that some people might mind, if they’re able to stop being mesmerized by it.
Pierce also found the camera, and its Santa list of features, to be excellent, and generally acknowledged that the S 4 is a “technological achievement—there’s no question about that.”
Again comparing it to the HTC One, he concluded, “You can have the far better-looking phone or you can have the slightly better-performing phone—and you really can’t choose wrong.”
But Pierce ended his review of the Samsung S 4 by writing, “When my contract is up in June, I’ll probably be casting my lot with HTC instead of Samsung.”