Unboxing a new smartphone is the greatest feeling in this world (cars I fancy like the Rolls Royce Phantom don’t come in boxes, do they?). After the unboxing part, any device that lands on my hands endures its hardest 48 hours thereafter. I take it through all the paces with a Chrome tab on the spec sheet and my memory hard at work to remember every little bit of fantasy I wanted fulfilled by the gadget once I laid my hands on it. Plus running my own benchmark tests to see if the scores match those widely reported shortly after any device of note is announced. That is what the Samsung Galaxy S4 has gone through in the last few days and herein you’ll find my first impressions.
Today marks my first week (7 days) with the device and I can say with all confidence that the Galaxy S4 is a beast. Okay, I’m falling short of saying a monster, I’ll reserve that for the upcoming Note III. I know I said the same (beastly characteristics) of the Galaxy Note II when I set my eyes on it late last year and later when I reviewed it early this year but if being beastly is the only way we can describe devices that combine power, good looks and hardware-software integration worth talking about then expect to hear that from me more and more.
I’ve not had much time to play with the Galaxy S4 thanks to my busy schedule but the very few minutes I’ve had to spare, I’ve taken it through the paces and here are my first impressions:
It’s Very Light!
The first comment I made after unboxing the Galaxy S4 was expressing my wonder and amusement at how light the device is. I remember staying up late to watch the S4’s launch livestream from Radio City Music Hall about two months ago and a Samsung executive remarking how thin and light the Galaxy S4 is. I took that to be just another announcement, I was more interested in the then rumoured 8 cores and Smart Scroll. You should’ve seen my face light up with both shock and excitement after lifting the device up from the box. It’s abnormally light. Everyone who has had a chance to hold my Galaxy S4 has had the same remarks to make. Coming from someone who has used bulky phones in the past, this just blew me away. To squeeze such a mammoth battery (2600 mAh) with 5 inches of awesomeness for a display and still maintain the slender figure and almost paperweight is awesome.
You might be reading all the spec sheets of 2013’s flagship devices from various manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, LG and HTC and wondering what the fuss is with everyone talking about their display tech, their pixel density and whether or not it is 1080p, full HD. The conversation ends when you set your eyes on the Galaxy S4. With the display on the Galaxy S4, you just can’t tell the pixels apart. Of course that is expected of such a pixel dense display. Play a 1080p video to take advantage of the display’s full HD capability and you can draw your own conclusions. Add that to what you already know: an AMOLED (Super AMOLED in this case) display’s stunning true blacks. Meh
Strange Bedfellows: Android 4.2.2 and TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0
The core of every smartphone I use and what I use to pass my judgement on it is the operating system. Android has always been my preference as is well known and documented. As far as the Android desserts go, the Galaxy S4 does not disappoint at first sight. Donning a skin in the name of TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0, everything is as fluid as I would expect of a smartphone of the Galaxy S4’s calibre and stature running the latest Android version, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. There’s the occasional 2 to 3 seconds of lag (and it is quite irritating) when you have put the S4 on the extremes. I’m a power user so I expect this of any device that faces my wrath but for ordinary users I doubt you’ll get there. It manages to bounce back and get the job done after around 3-4 seconds of stuttering unlike others that will close whatever task you were doing or simply have the software crash or even just reboot.
I’m not a fan of custom skins as you may already know and when you hear me talk nice little things about the custom UI on the Galaxy S4 then know that it is worth all the attention I’m giving it. The biggest agony to many about Android is that it is hard to use. That is where Nature UX comes in. I found the settings redesigned to give them a new feel while retaining almost the same looks as the first version of Nature UX. You now have more settings toggles right from the notifications dropdown to the menus in the settings app. I’m familiar with Android and would hardly have any difficulty navigating my way through any device but to those who just want to get their work done without having to wade through a maze of settings and counter-settings, the custom UI on the S4 got you covered. After signing in to your Samsung account, Google account and Dropbox upon powering the S4 for the first time, everything is set and good to go; and mind you that is not even the Easy Mode home screen setting.
Talking of TouchWiz, some argue there are many features on the Galaxy S4 that are largely unnecessary and simply gimmicky. Well, I’m still having a field day using AirView to preview articles on Flipboard before I decide whether to read them or not. I have had the S4 for just a few days and these are simply my first impressions. I’m still testing all the so-called “gimmicky features”. Full report in the review later on.
I saw @truthslinger’s demo of the Sound and Shot feature of the S4 during its Kenyan launch early this month and I knew at first sight I wanted that camera on the S4. Not love at first sight but something close. There’s talk about ultrapixels across the road. While that conversation can go on for as long as it wants to, the 13 megapixels that the rear shooter on the Galaxy S4 packs speak for themselves. I’m still testing the camera so expect an incisive look at it later but for the far I’ve gone I think the cows below can attest to how good it is.
8 Cores Baby!
Calm down now, I’m not shouting from the rooftop.
You can’t see them but deep inside they lie ready to unleash their full force and power…
8 cores (not 8 in a linear manner but rather in a 4 X 4 setup to complement each other) = more power. More power = more intensive tasks you the user can accomplish without any hustle. As a power user you know I appreciate that a lot. I’m still putting the 4 X 4 cores through the paces from all angles possible so I won’t dwell on what they can or cannot do, I’m simply elated they are there. I’ll give them a comprehensive look in the review.
I did explain the working of the 8 cores not long ago and despite knowing how the device auto-switches the cores for power management and prioritizing resource demanding tasks, it’s still a pleasure to know that the monster in your back pocket has some 8 cores cooling somewhere deep inside. You know what they say about men and their confidence boosts? This is one of those. I doubt the average smartphone user needs all that power at once on a phone but having them tucked somewhere is a big confidence and ego boost. Furthermore, as @savvykenya aptly puts it,
If you’re wondering whether you need all the features in #GalaxyS4KE, remember we crossed the line from necessity to luxury after the Nokia 3310.
Her words, not mine. After all, number just like size (sic), also matters. Enough said.
I’m still getting to know this girl and haven’t decided on what name to give her. Maybe you can help with that by sending your suggestions through the comments. She’s black and 5 feet tall (inches…diagonal, I know) so will The Black Witch do? After all 8 cores…
Light moments aside, I have a detailed outlook of the Galaxy S4 coming up so be on the lookout for it.