A quick hello to everyone at Phones4U who recently challenged me to spend two weeks with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and write about my experience. They sent me out the S4 on Friday and I’ve been testing it…
But let me stop you there. You can’t do a proper test of a phone until you’ve made it your primary device. I have long maintained this. It’s not unusual to get other bloggers doing an exhaustive review of a device after having spent 20 minutes with it before sticking it back in the box and sending it back to the PR.
I have spent about 90 minutes so far (that’s three visits to the Vodafone store in Islington!) trying to get my nano SIM (from the iPhone 5) changed to the micro SIM format for the Galaxy S4. In the end each time I gave up as the store eventually filled with what felt like hundreds of hot, sweaty and seriously frustrated customers.
In the meantime I’ve setup the phone and I’ve been carrying it about.
This is the problem though. Carrying it about doesn’t help you when a) the device doesn’t have a connection and b) it’s not your primary device. Oh, I’ve got WiFi of course. I’m rarely without my EE 4G Hotspot (Huawei E589). Again, this isn’t the same.
I’m no stranger to the S4. I’ve seen it. I’ve handled it. I’ve messed about with it. But I haven’t lived with it.
I am perhaps not best placed to write super positive things about Samsung given I actually handed back the S3 I purchased last year as I just wasn’t happy, at all, with the Android experience. I’ve had a healthy respect for Android ever since I was amongst the first in line at the T-Mobile launch of their G1 device. I was pretty impressed with it. It was the first device that ever insisted you enter your email account details during startup — and that automatically populated your calendar, email and contacts during setup. In the days of bog standard N95, that was revolutionary.
The evolution of the S-series devices from Samsung is impressive and I know many owners who just can’t get enough of them. I’m not sure that many of the fancy features are likely to appeal but I’ll keep an open mind.
Here are some immediate reactions based on the past few days of use:
- It feels simply brilliant in the pocket — I think because it’s so light, slim and has rounded edges — in contrast, the iPhone does feel a bit like a brick
- The screen resolution is glorious
- I’m able to use it — more or less — with one hand, but typing is obviously best with two thumbs
- Some people haven’t reacted to the series of hoops you need to jump through to setup the device — for example, setting up DropBox, then Samsung’s own services and so on, on top of the primary Google account; I didn’t find this a problem, if anything, I thought it was quite exciting to walk through each of the stages (“Ooooh, a 50GB DropBox account…”)
- In past models I’ve often felt that the display experience has been a bit jagged when you flick from screen to screen or feature to feature — the S4 feels exceptionally smooth
- Battery, battery, battery: I really worry about battery performance — there’s plenty of optimisation facilities baked into Android but I can’t get away from the fact that playing a 4 minute video can take percentage points directly off your battery power level — I will be in a better position to discuss this when I’m using the device as a primary phone
- I quite like all the bundled default widgets too — Flipboard, S Travel, Samsung Hub — they’re doing a good job of making the device immediately accessible to consumers
With the noise beginning to build relating to the iPhone 5S coming in September, I wonder if we’ll see the mobile industry reach the iPhone Event Horizon, where the incessant whooping from the keynote crowds can’t disguise the lack of originality? I can’t move these days for commentary from various bloggers and influencers citing that it’s time to migrate from Apple to Android.
I’ve always had an Android device but I’ve rarely used it as my primary device usually because I’ve found the experiences offered by competing platforms a more pleasant or compelling experience. I’m not far away from dumping Apple entirely though, particularly after a few days of (admittedly relaxed) usage of the Galaxy S4.
I’ll keep you updated across the next week or so. To the Galaxy S4 (or Android!) fans out there: If you’ve got any suggestions for apps or services I should be looking at, please let me know.
(And thank you to Phones4U for the loan.)