Samsung Galaxy S4 deep-dive review: A real-world evaluation

By , Computerworld |  

Cons: Plasticky construction looks and feels cheap compared to other high-end phones; display hard to see outdoors; occasional jerkiness and lags in performance; bloated and messy user interface; dated and peculiar button configuration

Samsung's highly touted S Translator app, meanwhile, is a straight copy of Google's long-existing Google Translate service, only it requires you to create and sign into a Samsung account before it'll work.

Samsung has baked its own music player, app store and entertainment-purchasing "hub" into the device, too, each of which exists alongside its native Android equivalent. It's easy to see why the company would want to push those sorts of services, but from a user perspective, the overlapping and similarly named functions do little more than cause confusion -- particularly considering most users would be better served by Google's native options, which are cross-platform and allow for content to be accessed from and synced to any device.

Whew! Like I said -- lots going on with this phone's software. A few final odds and ends to close things out:

By default, the Galaxy S4 uses a Samsung-customized version of the SwiftKey keyboard; it's basically a lesser version of the standalone SwiftKey app. Fortunately, the fix is easy enough: Download the regular SwiftKey app from the Play Store or snag any other keyboard you like (Swype is also preloaded on the device).

Samsung had discussed plans to offer a new enterprise-level security layer called Knox on the Galaxy S4. The function, however, is not currently on the phone; reports indicate the software will become available at some undisclosed later date.

There's bloatware a-plenty on the GS4, ranging from the standard Samsung stuff to preinstalled apps like Dropbox and Flipboard. Most of those can be disabled but not removed. The carriers pile on even more junk, which -- in the case of Sprint, at least -- can be uninstalled if you want.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention upgrades: With any non-Nexus device, it's important to remember that future software upgrades are in the hands of the manufacturers and carriers -- and Samsung, like most phone-makers, has a spotty track record when it comes to ongoing support.

Bottom line

With its established brand and ubiquitous marketing, Samsung's Galaxy S4 is bound to be a commercial success -- but that doesn't mean it's unconditionally the best Android phone you can buy.

To be sure, the Galaxy S4 has a lot of good things going for it: It's thin and light, has a sharp-looking 1080p display and has solid battery life with the option to replace the battery as needed. The phone also has an SD card slot for expandable storage, a commendable camera with oodles of fancy options and some innovative and cool software features like Multi Window and Smart Scroll.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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