1. techgeek32#WN's Avatar
    I just purchased an S4 to try it out. I have a Note 2, Lumia 928, Razr Maxx HD and have experience with Blackberry and IOS as well. The main reason I decided to look at the S4 was because I drive a lot and wanted to see if the hands free improvements made to S Voice, 1080p display and hopefully improvements in Bluetooth would be worth the upgrade.

    I am a lover of all OS's but my main device is usually Android. There are going to be a lot of cons in this mini review and for those of you new to Samsung devices and the S line you might not agree. Coming from the Galaxy S3 and Note 2 I have extensive experience with the Samsung environment. I am critical of every device I use and my goal is to use the device which provides maximum efficiency. I am a power business user and ask a lot from my smartphones and am always brutally honest when a manufacturer feature or software decision doesn't make sense. I have been using the S4 for almost 2 weeks and have a mostly negative opinion of the device after using both the S3 and Note 2. Here are some of the issues I have found to be troublesome so far. If any of you have fixes or know of ways to correct these problems, please let me know and I will revise my post.

    1. S Voice and S Drive: After testing the S Voice and S Drive features extensively I can say that I am not a big fan. I will admit that S Voice has been approved when it comes to accuracy and speed, however, it is still not hands free unless you open the app first. The only way to turn S Voice on without touching the phone is to setup a wakeup command for the lock screen in S Voice settings. It will indeed wake up S Voice by saying "Hi Galaxy" from the lock screen. The problem is that if you are already on your home screen this feature does not help. My entire focus with S Voice was to be able to always use it hands free and this is not the case. It defeats the purpose if you have to hit an icon or double press the home button every time you want to use it. The reason I am disappointed with this feature is because there are several third party apps available that allow for 100% hands free use. The app I have tested with great success is Dragon Assistant. It is just as accurate as S Voice and can be used 100% hands free without having the app open 100% of the time. This problem is magnified when trying to use S Drive which is supposed to be the hands free version of S Voice that customers can use while driving. S Drive is indeed hands free once it is turned on and works as advertised. The biggest problem with it is if you stream music with apps like Slacker, Spotify, Pandora or Rhapsody you can't use them and S Drive at the same time. With Dragon Assistant you can. It just runs in the background. With S Drive, you have to exit the app and open it back up when you want to use it again which defeats the purpose of being safe and hands free while driving. Dragon Assistant also allows for replying to test messages hands free while driving. My final opinion is that S Drive is a step in the right direction but not a reason to get the S4 unless you don't stream music while driving. I would rather use my Note 2 with Dragon Assistant and save the $649 that I spent on the S4.

    2. 1080p Display: the display on the S4 is definitely an improvement over the S3 and Note 2. It is crisper, brighter and the touch response is great. The negative is that it is still not bright enough to use outside and still does not compete with displays on the Lumia 928, HTC One, Droid DNA, iPhone 5 and LG IPS 1080p displays. Colors are beautiful and saturated but Samsung needs to pump up the brightness at least 150 nits more to compete.

    3. Call Quality/Speaker/Signal/Bluetooth: the call quality of the S4 is adequate but not exemplary compared to other models I have tested. The Note 2 and Lumia 928 are both much better. The speaker of the S4 is barely loud enough but the volume boost on calls helps. Signal strength is ok, but not quite as good as the Note 2 or Lumia 928. I have not experienced any dropped calls but have had some issues with clarity during a call. The speakerphone is only average and does not match the Note 2. I was really hoping that Samsung would beef up their Bluetooth codecs to allow for automatic pairing to more than one Bluetooth device but they did not. I have a factory Bluetooth car kit in a new Nissan Maxima and use an HTC Bluetooth Stereo stick to stream music. When I turn on my car my smartphone needs to connect to my car kit and then the Stereo stick and every Samsung device I have owned will never connect to both automatically. It always connects to the car kit automatically but never the stick. I have to manually connect it every time I get in the car even if I leave the Bluetooth turned on. The Lumia 928, Droid DNA and Razr Maxx HD all connect automatically with no issues. Once connected the S4 works fine and keeps a solid connection. The music sound and frequency response is average and not on par with other smartphones including the Note 2 which is excellent. This is a fail to me from a Bluetooth standpoint as version 4 Bluetooth devices should connect automatically.

    4. Polaris 5/Office Apps: the other major fail on the S4 is the underperforming Polaris 5. Samsung doesn't make this software but they should have tested it before building it into their OS. I am constantly needing to review spreadsheets and word documents and had no problem on the Note 2 and Droid DNA. I use Office 2013 documents and they all worked fine with Polaris 4 on the Note 2. On the S4, word documents are greyed out in portions of the document and some spreadsheets don't show all of the data in the proper format. I was really looking forward to reading my Office documents on the 1080p screen but that is not a factor when they don't work. It is very difficult to get any response from the developers of Polaris because they only develop for manufacturers and not for the app store. I have tried Office Suite Pro, Quick Office and Docs To Go and none of them work as well with my particular documents as Polaris 4. In my opinion the S4 is a huge fail when it comes to Office Document handling. For most of you that are still using Office 2007 or 2010 documents you should be fine.

    5. Wireless Charging: the S4 does not come with wireless charging built in which many have complained about but there are some aftermarket solutions. The first option is the OEM Samsung Wireless charging back cover for the S4. It makes the phone quite a bit thicker and will prevent most cases from fitting the S4. It charges well but one issue I found is that while charging it immediately puts the display into a sleep mode with the time. This creates a problem when you want to use another function of your phone while charging. For example, I recently purchased a TDK portable Bluetooth speaker that has a Qi charger built into the top so you can stream music while charging your S4 or any other Qi device. The problem with the Samsung Cover is that you have to remove the device from the charger and open your streaming music app to change a song. With all of the other Qi phones I have tested you are able to charge them and leave your streaming app open so that you can quickly change music. This is another fail by Samsung, assuming that customers will not want to use their phone for anything else while charging. This shows how disconnected Samsung is when it comes to some of the modern technologies available. The only workaround I can find is that I had to purchase one of the inexpensive charging adapters that you place on pins inside the back cover and lay it on the battery. This option does work and allows for the original cover to be used. The advantage is that you can use all of the available cases for the S4 and still be able to wirelessly charge. The other advantage is that when charging on my TDK speaker I can leave Slacker open and change songs quickly. Sometimes it is more finicky with how you lay the S4 to charge it than with the Samsung cover but it is a compromise I would gladly make.

    6. Samsung Custom Features: I won't discuss these features in detail as there are numerous reviews about them. In my opinion, most of these features are gimmicks and really don't make anyone more efficient but they are certainly fun to play with. They suck the battery life and can be a huge contributing factor to the lag that many users are complaining about. Airview and SmartStay can be useful but I just don't use them enough so I leave them turned off. As a result of turning off most of the features that Samsung sold customers on I don't have any lag and the experience is much better. I don't use TouchWiz but Nova instead and that seems to help too. I will never bash a manufacturer for offering customers more features, as long as they don't affect the performance and user experience. These features are a view into the future but not very practical in my opinion. Use the ones that benefit you and turn off the ones you don't need.

    7. Camera: the camera is excellent and Samsung makes some of the best camera software for smartphones. Even the low light pictures are pretty darn good. It still doesn't match the Nokia Lumia 920 or 928 for low light photos but for everything else matches and exceeds them. Nothing bad to say about the camera other than the annoying shutter sound that Samsung insists on having without the option to turn off.

    8. Battery Life: I have found the battery life to be acceptable based on the 1080p display and the size of the battery. It certainly doesn't touch the Note 2 but that battery is larger with a lower resolution display to power. Having the ability to replace the battery is a plus and an advantage for the way I work.

    9. Storage: as many have complained about the 16GB S4 is really a joke when it comes to available storage on the phone. Gamers will be disappointed and even though there is a fix to allow apps to be loaded on to a microSD card there are still issues with multitasking and usage scenarios with this option. This was a huge fail by Samsung. With storage being so inexpensive they should have started all of their S4's at 32GB and then provided a 64GB option for those that want it. I know that carriers are pushing for smaller storage to encourage streaming which increases data usage and in turn their revenues, but offering about 8GB available out of the box is rather short sided on Samsung's part. This is what I love about my Razr Maxx HD with 32GB onboard and a 64GB microSD card on top of that. That is what manufacturers should offer customers.

    These are the main issues I have tested and compared with my other devices. I know there are many more to consider and compare, but these are the most important to me and how I use my smartphone. In my opinion, there really is not a viable reason for someone to upgrade from the SG3 or Note 2 to the S4 simply because most of the improved software will get to these devices shortly and other than the thinness and 1080p display I don't see many other advantages. Even with the faster processor, the S4 does not run any faster than my Note 2 and actually slower in some cases. It is not as smooth as the Lumia 928 and I believe that the Droid DNA still bests it in some areas. I find the S4 to be directed squarely at media centric consumers and not the business market. The UI reflects a younger audience and is not very professional looking compared to the Note 2. I firmly believe that everyone should try a device to see if it fits their needs before just taking the word of a few posters in a forum but based on my experience these are some of the issues I would advise everyone to look at when making a decision.
    06-23-2013 05:56 PM
  2. chris2k5's Avatar
    I agree with:

    Display - too dim and not as vibrant as HTC or iPhone displays
    Call Quality/Sound - I can barely make out what people say over the phone anymore. It sounds small and muffed.
    Gimmicks - yes all of the new features are gimmicks that don't really work that well nor enrich performance/usability.
    Storage - 9GB out of the box is just sad

    I disagree with:

    Camera - The low light performance is horrible in my opinion. Even in "Night Mode" where the ISO is cranked all the way up, you get grainy photos. Outdoor daylight photos are great but sometimes washed out.
    06-24-2013 12:57 AM
  3. techgeek32#WN's Avatar
    I agree about the camera. I should have said it is great compared to previous Samsung devices but doesn't compare in low light situations to the Nokia or HTC One's of the world. I do find it to be better than most of the other smartphones out. Maybe not better than the iPhone 5 in some cases. I don't use the camera much so it is not a big deal to me. Just wanted to give my opinion based on the simple testing I performed.
    06-24-2013 05:54 PM
  4. 804hokie's Avatar
    Currently own the Droid Bionic, but I'm preparing to get an S4 Developer Edition this weekend. http://phandroid.com/2013/06/25/buy-...loper-edition/

    But I'm a little confused with its compatibility with the planned LTE-Advanced network...

    Saw this last month:
    Verizon Debuts First Phones to Work on Next Network - Bloomberg

    But then I saw this today:
    A Samsung Galaxy S4 supporting LTE-Advanced surfaces | Crave - CNET

    What gives?
    06-25-2013 02:53 PM
  5. Zman1001's Avatar
    Currently own the Droid Bionic, but I'm preparing to get an S4 Developer Edition this weekend. http://phandroid.com/2013/06/25/buy-...loper-edition/

    But I'm a little confused with its compatibility with the planned LTE-Advanced network...

    Saw this last month:
    Verizon Debuts First Phones to Work on Next Network - Bloomberg

    But then I saw this today:
    A Samsung Galaxy S4 supporting LTE-Advanced surfaces | Crave - CNET

    What gives?
    The second article is related strictly to use over seas. It will not work in US.

    The Verizon article relates tot he Verizon brand, and is already capable of handling A LTE, once it is available and an update is completed
    06-26-2013 09:50 AM
  6. snookasnoo's Avatar
    I agree with most of what the OP says.
    I don't know why you expected anything of S-voice and drive. Like most of the Samsung apps it sucks. Use the Google equivalents instead which are quite good. The iOS 7 version of Siri by the way is very good. Actually the last version was too.
    Like the screen inside but outside it does suck and it's not bright enough in either circumstance.
    Call quality is indeed average. Not as good as my iPhone 5 thats for sure. The iPhone is much clearer and cleaner sound with better volume and even external speakers. it's almost a year old and it beats the S 4 on call quality and screen and the camera is at least as good.
    Wireless charging is pretty cool except the way Samsung gouges on any and all accessories.
    The Samsung custom features either don't work or don't work very well while causing lag and taking up space. But I bet a lot of people have bought S 4's because of the ads so Samsung doesn't care. They have your money now.
    OK camera with not great software.
    Battery life is good, I travel internationally often and never felt the need for a replaceable battery though.
    Amount of space left in rom is ridiculous and unacceptable and no an sd card is not a solution.
    I do like that big screen on the small body, do like the better buttons although the home button feels kind of soft like it might wear out.
    I really have no idea why people defend this phone unless it's because they own one. Samsung did not put their best effort forth on this one and I don't think anyone can seriously disagree with that.
    Oh and lag...with those kind of hardware specs and still a ton of lag. Pathetic.
    Samsung better be really glad Verizon did not get the HTC One yet because a lot of S 4's would have never been sold.
    No wonder Samsung has had to decrease their factory orders by millions of units.
    Your best bet is to consider the S 4 hardware a platform for an alternate rom like Clean Rom. Then you would probably be happy with the phone.
    06-26-2013 08:20 PM
  7. techgeek32#WN's Avatar
    The Google voice command options don't really help while driving. Nothing is hands free. You must hit a button or icon on the phone to use. It also doesn't offer hands free reply to texts or search for navigation. I disagree that the Samsung has poor camera software. It is really the best available and certainly trumps the iPhone 5 software. I ended up returning this device because it was just an evolutionary upgrade to the S3 and my main purpose for buying it was for the S Drive feature which really isn't that good. I can use the Dragon Assistant app for free which is totally hands free and run it on any Android device. I will patiently wait to see if Samsung really makes some major advances with the Note 3 and consider that in the fall.
    06-27-2013 11:12 AM
  8. MikeLip's Avatar
    I am pretty much in agreement with the OP. I have a 928 and find myself coming back to it after a day with the S4. Aside from a few omissions - mostly screen rotation - it seems a more well thought out phone with no glitches and great performance. I love the screen on the S4 but it's not bright enough.
    06-27-2013 05:46 PM

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