Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Great in 2013, less so now

£580
Price when reviewed

The S4 extends the Smart Stay features we first saw on the SIII. Now, as well as keeping the display on while you’re looking at the screen, the S4 will pause video automatically when you look away. This worked, but again, feels gimmicky.

We also gave the new S Translator feature a whirl. Designed to help the linguistically challenged to communicate abroad, it can translate text between ten different languages, including English, German, French and Spanish. Its party trick is the ability to convert the spoken word into another language via the phone’s voice-recognition engine. It’s hit-and-miss, but sufficient for phrasebook-style snippets.

TouchWiz

Gimmicks aside, TouchWiz remains one of the best Android UIs around. The keyboard is excellent in both traditional and gesture-led guises, and it’s been fitted with a row of numbers – an improvement over HTC Sense. We like the notification panel: it benefits from Android 4.2’s expanded notifications, and the top row can be customised with up to 20 settings options.

Samsung Galaxy S4 settings

The Gallery is versatile thanks to numerous viewing modes, and the photo editor has options for artistic effects and common tweaks. Icons can be hidden in the app drawer, and the phonebook supports customisable vibration patterns, and has a huge number of options for contacts list customisation. Multi-View, which debuted on the Note 2, returns here, and works well: a menu on the left-hand side links to applications that can be run in tandem, with different apps occupying the top and bottom halves of the screen.

Almost all of Samsung’s gimmicky touchless features can be turned off in the settings menu, which is more comprehensive than any other Android device. The issue of aesthetics is subjective, but we’re not convinced by TouchWiz’s busy looks and bold colours – we prefer HTC Sense’s pared back, more mature design.

Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Hub is a content store designed to compete with Google Play, but offers few benefits over the default Android store. Renting The Hobbit from Samsung’s store costs £4.49 – a pound more than on Google Play – and Argo was similarly pricey. Taken 2 costs £3.49 on both stores, but Oscar-winning movie Life of Pi wasn’t available on Samsung’s store. Books were similarly expensive, with novels from James Herbert, Gillian Flynn and David Mitchell between 50p and £1 pricier in the Samsung Hub.

Camera

One of the major attractions of the S3 was the quality of its camera, and the S4 moves this on a notch, with a 13-megapixel sensor and a host of new features.

Samsung Galaxy S4

There’s Dual Shot, which uses both rear- and front-facing cameras to shoot simultaneously and combine the two images in a montage. Sound & Shot records nine seconds of audio to accompany photos, while Drama Shot captures a series of images and superimposes them on top of each other, resulting in a collage action shot.

Eraser Shot takes five images, and can remove unwanted people from pictures, and there’s also Best Face and Beauty Face – the former attempts to pick the best faces from a group of shots before superimposing them onto one image, and the latter claims to enhance facial attributes during shooting.

Details

Cheapest price on contractFree
Contract monthly charge£31.00
Contract period24 months
Contract providerwww.mobilephonesdirect.co.uk

Physical

Dimensions70 x 7.9 x 136mm (WDH)
Weight130g
Touchscreenyes
Primary keyboardOn-screen

Core Specifications

RAM capacity2.00GB
Camera megapixel rating13.0mp
Front-facing camera?yes
Video capture?yes

Display

Screen size5.0in
Resolution1080 x 1920
Landscape mode?yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth supportyes
Integrated GPSyes

Software

OS familyAndroid

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