Review: The Samsung Galaxy S 4 shows more is not always better

Samsung's new Android flagship is easy to hold and view, but many new software features are only partially baked gimmicks

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Not all of these apps duplicate the functionality 100 percent. For example, Samsung's S Voice offers Apple Siri-like device-control functions that Google's Voice does not, though both do Siri-like Web searches. The duplication is both confusing and annoying. It's one thing to choose to download something you believe is better than what comes with the device, but the me-too competition among Google, the device makers like Samsung, and the carriers like Sprint is another -- competition via cloning.

Still, the Galaxy S 4 is easy to like
Most of the shortcomings in the Galaxy S 4 are the same as in other Android devices -- such as the issues with its VPN client and its tendency to carry bloatware. Most of its software, UI, and hardware work just like they do in the Galaxy S III. That means, unfortunately, the battery life is still low. I didn't even get 24 hours in mostly standby use on a full charge. Be sure to enable all power-saving modes in the Settings app to stretch the S 4 to run a full workday.

It's too bad that most of the S 4's cool features are limited to a scant handful of apps that don't work all that well anyhow -- but that means you won't get in the habit of using and being frustrated by them.

The larger screen, the better holdability, and the advances to the camera and its image editing are what will attract you to the Galaxy S 4, not the partially implemented software gimmicks. They're good enough attractions on their own for any Android user out of contract and eligible for a carrier subsidy on a new device. In this way, the Galaxy S 4 is much like the iPhone 5 -- a modest but welcome update that makes for a natural replacement model when your contract is up. But a cheaper Galaxy S III will also have strong appeal, just as the cheaper iPhone 4S does today for many iOS users contemplating an iPhone 5.

The Galaxy S 4's internal storage capacity is anemic at 16GB, and there's no 32GB model available as there is for the S III. Although you can add an SD card of up to 64GB in capacity, note that not all apps and content can be stored on the SD card, so the S 4's 16GB of storage could still limit you.

The Galaxy S 4 is available in two colors (white and black). It costs $630 without a contract at carriers such as T-Mobile. At carriers that provide subsidized phones in return for a two-year contract, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular charge $200, and Sprint charges $250. It's available now at all of these carriers except Verizon, which will release its version on May 23.

This article, "Review: The Samsung Galaxy S 4 shows more is not always better," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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