The Galaxy S4 showcases the best and worst of Samsung, featuring a great display, speedy processor and number of useful productivity apps that are let down by poor build quality, battery life and a bloatware-infested Touchwiz user interface.
Great display, fast, some useful software additions
Poor build quality, Touchwiz is full of bloatware, battery could be better
Samsung was undeniably the top dog in the Android community for 2012, with pretty much every analyst house under the sun listing its Galaxy range of handsets as the most desired and best selling in the world during the period.
This was largely thanks to massive demand for its Galaxy S3 smartphone, which came close to matching the Apple iPhone 5 in sales. In fact, the S3 sold so well that many industry commentators speculated that the Korean Firm's follow-up, the Galaxy S4, may become the first ever Android smartphone to outsell Apple's latest iPhone. Clearly aware of this, Samsung has loaded the S4 with a host of software innovations and upgraded its hardware.
Design and build At first glance the Samsung Galaxy S4 is all but identical to its predecessor. The device features the same slightly round, pebble-like, ergonomic design and measures in at an equivalent 137x70x7.9mm. The Galaxy S3, by comparison, measured in at a slightly fatter 137x71x8.6mm.
This means that the S4 feels pretty much the same as the S3 – and this is also helped by the fact that it's only 3g lighter than the S3, weighing a modest 130g. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it means that the S4 is very comfortable in-hand, with its reasonable weight and curved chassis doing a decent job of hiding the device's large size. Overall this means that the S4 feels usable even when being used by smaller hands.
Visually the only real difference between the S3 and the S4 is that the newer phone has a slightly smaller bezel around its screen and textured pattern on its removable polycarbonate backplate.
For us, the plastic backplate is a concern. Not only does the use of plastic, not metal, make the S4 feel cheap, the plate also feels flimsy. We found that the plate is even more prone to picking up marks and blemishes than the plate found on the S3 – so much so that we winced every time we removed it to get access to the phone's sim and microSD card slots.
Worse still, we found that with prolonged use the metal that lines the S4's sides is also fairly delicate, picking up blemishes and marks with inexplicable ease. So while the S4 looks nice when it comes out of the box, it very quickly begins to look a bit tatty and those who want to keep it looking good will have to invest in a case.
Considering the stellar design of competing devices like the HTC One and Apple iPhone 5, this means that we are slightly disappointed with the S4's build quality.