The Galaxy S4 is simply the Galaxy S III with a few tweaks design-wise. If you observe the device at close range you’ll realize Samsung engineers simply got tired of the pebble looks of the S III and decided to make the rounded corners just stretch a little further. Perhaps that is because the S4 is slightly larger than the S III. The positioning of the camera, the LED indicator and the speaker at the back has also been altered in Samsung’s 2013 flagship. That is a minor design refresh if you ask me. And a welcome one for that matter.
Samsung retains all the standard smartphone controls in place. The volume rocker stays on the left as it has always been while the power button takes the right. The bottom is reserved for the charging port. There’s also a microphone down there as there is at the very top of the device next to the 3.5 mm ear phone jack hole. There’s one nice addition to the top side though. The IR blaster stands out conspicuously at the top. For us TV series watchers, the addition of that little circular spot at the top cannot be understated. Someone found a way of settling living room remote quarrels amicably.
The bezels? Slimmer. In fact I thought I would have issues when reading eBooks or playing Temple Run due to those bezels but no, they don’t get in the way. We all know how ugly big bezels are so let’s not even get there.
When you talk about design and the S4 you’re sure to evoke a lot of emotions over Samsung’s choice of plastic as the material to wrap its flagship device in. In an age where anodized aluminium and those fancy unibody designs are the “in-thing”, the S4 manages to stand out. Actually you’re only justified to make noise about the plastic nature of the S4 after you have used it for at least a week. While it will struggle to stand out when put head to head with the competition doning aluminium unibody designs, in its own right, the S4 is solid. There’s not even an inch of the device that suggests it is not of a premium build (well until you pop out that back cover and try to bend it a little). From a personal point of view, I have nothing against the build. Yes there are smartphones better designed than the S4 but it manages to hold up well and to harshly dismiss it simply because of the plastic build will be a bit too harsh. Once you get over your anti-plastic self you’ll realize there’s more to the S4 than meets the eye. My best analogy so far is the woman you desire. You want beauty with brains right? Not just a beautiful woman but with nothing upstairs right? That’s the S4. While the build may be plastic, the general aesthetics of the device are above board. Light (no MOMOs please) and compact. Actually you even forget it packs a mammoth battery and it is a few millimeters shy of 5 inches (4.99”). When you get to the other internals and the features you understand why I talk of a beauty with brains.
One notable thing about the S4 (as I slightly pointed out above) when you hold it is that it is extremely light. I’m sure the nature of materials used to knit together this device and engineering with a focus on miniaturization has everything to do with this. At 7.9 mm thick and weighing 130 grams, I’m still awed by this device’s lightness.
On any modern-day smartphone, two things are central to the whole device’s setup: the display and the camera. The display on the Galaxy S4 is just the best. Actually in my nostalgic feelings towards the gallant Note II, this is the one part where the S4 beats that phablet hands down. At 4.99 inches (make that 5 inches since we aren’t studying maths in ancient Greece), the full HD Super AMOLED display is just the ONE! (pun unintended). Superior colour saturation is there for all to see. Should you not be satisfied with the default rendering of colours and their saturation, Samsung is generous enough to allow you to alter the same in the settings. As far as I know, the S4 is the ONLY device that allows its users to do so at the moment. Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong. Viewing 1080p clips here is just pure bliss.
The display of the Galaxy S4 is protected by the very capable Corning Gorilla Glass 3. It is the best in the industry right now and as you can see in drop tests all over your YouTube feed, it has made the S4 to be one stubborn device. Even before you get to the point of going for the damages covered by ADH, it would have handled its fair share of troubles for you. It is quite tough.
I’ve talked of the IR blaster when describing the S4’s design. One thing I left out though is that the IR blaster is supported by the Gesture sensor that utilities the S4’s infrared capabilities to detect when you are moving your hand and make features like Air Gestures come alive.
Besides the Gesture sensor, the Galaxy has some more: 8 other sensors! As of now there is no smartphone that is packed with well-capable sensors as the Galaxy S4. You can verify this by just going to the Play Store and seeing the various apps that are coming up to take advantage of the S4’s unique sensors like the one for Temperature / Humidity sensing. This one can be fully exploited with weather apps like Weather Station and Weather Signal. There’s also the sensor for detecting atmospheric pressure (Barometer sensor) and another for detecting the wind speed (Anemometer). It is at this point you just start wondering if the S4 can help you just cook wirelessly. Damn, its a weather station in your pocket! There’s also the app Galaxy S4 All in One thermometer that takes advantage of the Thermometer sensor. These apps help unlock your S4’s potential to unimaginable levels. Yes we know smartphones are already just that “smart” but as that character in the Samsung Mobile USA ad says, some smartphones are smarter than others. ‘Others’ here is relative but obviously you know the S4 is way ahead of the competition when it comes to this. Even Samsung was forced to release an update to its S Health app so that it could take more advantage of the S4’s unique additional sensors.
Oh and I haven’t even taken time to dwell on the RGB Light Sensor that powers Adapt Display (read more about it in the software review). Its awesomeness galore.
For you who love covers, the S4 does not experience a shortage when it comes to the accessories available for it. One accessory I won’t tire recommending is S View Cover. That magic cover also has its own custom built sensor: Hall Sensor. It will detect whether the cover is open or not and respond appropriately. See the video in my post on things you must do after buying the S4 and see the magic I’m talking about.
One tiny addition though: wouldn’t it be awesome if we had a Common Sense Sensor? You know the sort that can warn me when I’m near a troll or would swing in action and alert me when I’m about to say anything that is trashy 🙂
Additional details on the sensors here