On Tuesday night, a flash flood of Galaxy S4 reviews was released upon the internet, as Samsung granted permission to tech writers to publish their thoughts on the new smartphone. These reviews can be difficult to sift through -- and honestly, who has time to read dozens of smartphone reviews? -- so we're bringing together the final, summarizing paragraphs from several different reviews in one place, for your convenience.
We call it THE LAST WORD.
At the end of the day, the Galaxy S 4 is an evolution of the Galaxy S 3 in pretty much all of the areas you'd expect it to be. Whether or not that's what you wanted in a new Android smartphone is going to vary from one person to the next. The good news is that you at least have a choice.
I don't need more cores, more gigahertz, or more software features that ostensibly help me use my phone more easily. I need a phone that feels good in my hand, looks good on my desk, does everything I expect it to, and gives me no reason to think it won't last the life of my two-year contract. I bought an iPhone 5 because last fall it was the only phone that fit that bill — now there are several Android options as well, and they’re good enough to make me want to switch back to Google’s OS.
For now, it's a choice every buyer will have to make. You can have the far better-looking phone or you can have the slightly better-performing phone — and you really can't choose wrong. If the GS III is any indication, millions upon millions will choose the GS4. Me? I think design matters. Polish matters. The Galaxy S4 is fast and impressive, but it's also noisy and complex. The One is refined, quiet, comfortable, beautiful, and above all simply pleasant. I love using that phone, in a way I haven't experienced with anything since the iPhone 5. That's why, when my contract is up in June, I'll probably be casting my lot with HTC instead of Samsung.
While many will compare the Galaxy S 4 with the iPhone 5, I also compared it with the $200 HTC One, which came out April 19. The HTC has a handsome, sturdier, aluminum body, dual stereo speakers, an excellent camera, better screen resolution than the new Samsung and twice the base memory for the same price.
If you’re a nut 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 smartphone is thinner and faster than its predecessor, and it has innovative new ways to control and interact with the software. It also includes a myriad of sensors, more memory, the latest version of Android and software enhancements that generally do make using a smartphone better. What Samsung is doing is creating an ecosystem on the phone itself, one in which you don’t have to venture out into the Google Play badlands to find a single-purpose, gimmicky app, and it’s working.
Packing all of these features into a phone does make for a complicated device, and there are various functions that very few people will even use, or discover. But the concept is a good one and since Samsung can’t rely on third-party software the way that Apple can, it’s smart to try to make the Galaxy S4 a phone you can just pick up and be happy to use right out of the box — and it’s easily the best Android phone I have ever used.
If you're considering a move from an older Samsung device, the GS 4 is absolutely the handset you want. Your learning curve will be minimal thanks to TouchWiz's consistent UI, and besides, it's generally a great smartphone -- heck, the phone itself is the best Samsung handset we've used to date, and it'll definitely give the One a run for its money. All told, both phones have different strengths and weaknesses, so one handset unfortunately won't fit all. But when we compare it to the eye-catching look and feel of the One, we can't help but think of one word to describe Samsung's particular flagship entry: predictable.
In the end, the Galaxy S4 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.
For everyone else, the S4 may be buggy in spots and laden with not-quite-there features. But the basics are excellent; this phone is still a fast, bright, handsome pocket rocket. It easily earns its place as a successor to the Galaxy S3 and a rival to the iPhone.
Next time, it may be Apple’s turn to try harder.
Even though the Galaxy S 4 looks much like the model it replaces, this phone is a big step up thanks to the innovative software features and functions that Samsung has integrated. No phone is perfect for everyone, of course. I think most people, however, would be happy to have this device in their pocket.
Last year, I called the Galaxy S 3 “Android’s defining phone.” This year, I’m calling the Galaxy S 4 “Samsung’s defining phone” due to the Samsung-specific software features that differentiate this model.
None of this takes away from the performance of the Galaxy S 4, though. It's an extremely solid phone, and it's going to be hard to go back to the S III after a week with this one. It feels great to hold, it's comfortable to use throughout the day, and it takes much better photos than its predecessor. The aluminum ring on its chassis makes the handset look more modern than its predecessors. The display doesn't hurt either—it's really something to look at. Samsung definitely has another hit on its hands.
So where does that leave the S 4 compared with its major competitors? If you want the most polished phone with the best selection of apps, the iPhone 5 still has no peer. If you crave Apple-like panache but love Android, HTC’s One is a fine choice. And if what you want is the mainstream phone with the biggest screen and the most built-in stuff, the Galaxy S 4 is your most logical option.
Make no mistake about it, the Galaxy S4 is a great phone, and easily one of the best you can buy right now. You get an amazing Android experience on a big, beautiful display.
As long as you don't mind a bunch of plastic, you'll be perfectly happy with the Galaxy S4.
But is it the best phone? No. You're still much better off with the iPhone 5 or the HTC One if you like Android.
If you are looking for an Android smartphone, the Galaxy S4 is a great choice. It's jam-packed with new camera features, it's fast, and it has all-day battery life. Beyond all that, its software enhancements – not those gimmicky waving and tilting ones, but the other ones -- make it standout amongst all other Android phones and even the iPhone.
I just wish Samsung had put that same attention into the design of the physical phone. The HTC One and the iPhone 5 are simply better-designed and crafted pieces of hardware. But there's no two ways around it: the Galaxy S4 is a phone that you will enjoy having by your side or in your pocket. Yes, it's a life companion you won't regret commiting to.