Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Galaxy Samsung S4 review

My Samsung Galaxy S4

Well Ive been promising you this review since I got this truly amazing phone at the end of March; but I wanted to give it one hell of a try out before telling you all about it. It feels like I have had this phone forever as Im so at home with it. Its the best gadget I have bought this year and Im soo in love with it; its become part of me. It feels like my favorite pair of slippers...and I don't know what Id do without it.

This is the biggest review Ive written this year as I have been writing this review since the very first day I got this phone, so I wouldnt miss anything important and added things I have noticed personal to me.

I apologise now for the amount I have written in this review but I hope its catered for all of you. I have had alot of technical questions emailed to me over the last few months so I hope I have managed to answer all your questions.

I have set this review out in stages...er...as its so long...so if you want to know everything...go...grab a coffee and a cake...sit down comfortably...and Ill begin. 
If you just want to know certain aspects just skip down to the
"Great features at a glance section".
Ive tried to be as basic but thorough as possible; but if Ive missed anything just ask.

I have read literally loads of reviews on this stunning phone before I bought it myself, alot of the info I read I either didn't understand as I didn't have the phone in front of me or I just wasn't interested in. So Im gona try and cater for all of you...yep a hard task I know...and write "briefly" on as much as the interesting bits as possible.

First of all why did I change phones...well...most of you know I have had my little ancient iphone 3G since it was released 5 years ago. Yep I keep my phones I don't change every year...odd for a gadget girl I know, but if I like something I keep it and see no need in changing every year. Plus the fact Im pay as you go not contract.
But after fighting with my iphone 3G for over 6 months with it not updating any of my apps I already had or letting me download any new ones as it was so outdated...enough was enough I had to upgrade and to be honest APPLE I was soooo bored with you!!!!

This is where I was on the other end of reviewing, being such an important change I wanted to get it right and I read every review and watched every utube video I could get my hand on.

To see how I chose my Samsung S4 see my previous post HERE.I wont go into detail about this again as this will already be quite a long post.

So why didn't I choose the Samsung S5 as it has just come out especially after not having a previous Samsung Galaxy...well I decided the S4 had plenty enough on it for me and to be honest I could not justify the extra few hundred pounds when I was going to be more than happy with it. The S4 is a spectacular phone and still one of THE best phones out there.

I dont want to go into heavy detail on what this phone can do as I will add smaller posts later on on certain parts of this clever phone. So Im going to briefly introduce you to the most exciting and newest bits of the S4, its so feature rich I could talk for hours on what this phone can do....yep I really could...my other half has just agreed lol... ;-)

Why have I put this first am I being a bit shallow choosing it by its looks...hell yes...Ive had the boring oh so boring iphone 3G for over 5 years people...so you can see why I absolutely love the sleek beauty of the S4.
Its also a larger phone than many out at the moment at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm (5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches).
I love this whopping 5 inch Super AMOLED full HD display that almost matches the phones whole footprint so you are getting as larger screen as possible. Its still light however at 130g but thats due to my ONLY niggle of its plastic back. At least Apple gave us metal..but thats all I miss from Apple it stops there. It feels amazing in your hand it feels expensive and excellent quality but it does flex a little with its poly back; it creaks when you squeeze it, thats easily rectified with the hundreds of cases on the market, you can even just buy an aluminum backing to give you that extra quality feel. The neatly rounded corners also give a lovely sleek feel to the design.
I have found it a slippery little sucker with such a shiny back; its so light it can easily slip through your fingers so I had to get a case fast as I didnt trust myself not to drop my new baby. You certainly need more grip too if you are taking your phone out with no case...please don't...take your phone out naked, it needs something extra! I really wish it had some more weight behind it for me, even a metal back would feel better. I get what Samsung are doing as its a larger phone and they've tried to keep it really lightweight.

I love that the home button is raised up unlike the flush button on the S3; for me I prefer to feel this button, great in the dark. Some of you have said it ruins the flow of the design; I dont see this I feel it adds to it.
The home button has a lovely solid feel, no wobbling its precise and satisfying and you know when you've pressed it. The menu and back key flanking it either side and are hidden till you touch them when they light up. I love this. Visually they are on the framework of the phone but Samsung have included this as part of the touch screen...genius and great quirky addition.

Both the power button on one side and the volume on the other side are well defined and responsive. BUT I do find that when I turn the phone on or off I have a tendency to accidentally up my volume but maybe that's just me....doh! 

Camera and Flash
You have both front facing and back facing cameras. The S4 has a whopping 13 million pixel camera on the back and a 2 million pixel on the front (as its only being used closely for Selfies).
The rear lens has a lovely f/2.2 aperture, 4.235 focal length and a 69 degree field of view. The 2.2 means its faster and gives a nice crisp main image and works better in low light. It also has a nice wide angle lens to get a good size image in.

 The lens is slightly raised on the back of the phone along with the LED flash directly underneath the lens. 

I do have a problem with this however in the fact when you lay your phone on a table or any surface your lens is likely to get scratched as its laying directly on any surface you lay your phone on. I feel it should be recessed at the very least; although dirt and dust gets caught in recessed parts of devices; but it would be better than getting scratched.
Samsung what were you thinking!

Camera Modes
I will be doing a more detailed post later on just on the camera side of things with images so you can see what it can do. Samsung have included a nice variety of fun settings to play with plus the usual add flash etc. It offers HDR, beauty Face, best photo, panorama, Sports and night modes. I tend to use the Auto as it hasn't let me down yet.
(I have my Canon 7D for more complicated images.)
Panoramic is super cool with its horizontal and vertical aligned images. I will be adding a more detailed post on these with sample images at a later date. It also has a 20 burst shot mode, enabled by just holding the shutter button down.

Dual shot (selfie add-on mode)
I love this option you can now be in the same shot as your friends or family even if your taking the image. The dual camera phone simultaneously shoots with the front facing 13MP camera and the rear camera merging the image. It then gives you a few styles to use to put your selfie into; eg a postage stamp in the image prove you were there; its so cool I love this setting.
Add a selfie to any shot you take, perfect for the selfie-holic! 
Great for those "photo Bomb moments" where it takes a series of images for 5 seconds and allows you to remove any moving objects in the background; super handy and very effective and super uselful.
The main drawback is you have to be in this mode for it to work and how often do you plan a Photobomb moment...doh...Samsung..sigh? It also doesnt pick up every moving object due to light, colour speed I dont know. 
Drama shot
Capture movement sequence in 1 image, it creates a collage in 1 frame of a moving image creating that special dynamic image.
For those of you that have used panoramic software before the Galaxy S4 allows you to stitch together and align images both vertically and horizontally..super cool.
Animated photos
It takes a 5 second video and lets you decide which parts you want to freeze and which to animate. Its certainly a really cool feature I can see some great animated GIFs here with some imagination. Your not going to use this everyday but its certainly fun to have.

For me this camera gives beautiful naturally coloured images in normal light but struggles a bit in lower light but doesnt every camera unless its a pro camera. I do struggle too with seeing my screen in sunlight this for me is a real pain in the *#>!!
You can however get the most amazingly crisp detail, zoom right in and you can see how gorgeous this 13 million piel camera really is. I found the colour natural and the images sharp.
My main niggle is if I want to take snaps simultaneously (not burst mode) of e.g. my dog playing; Im having to go back to my home screen after every image to get my camera screen back as it stays on my gallery screen ....am I missing something, please tell me if I am its driving me crazy?

This video camera has a resolution of 1080 at 30fps with a bit rate of 17mbps. I have found the video is great quality, sound is superb. It filters out some of the wind you can often get and enables you to play with fast motion 2, 4 and 8x speeds and slow motion of 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 settings. I love this option so I can edit all on the phone rather than downloading onto my usual PC desktop movie maker.

back of the phone revealing tiny speaker area.
The mono speaker sits "At the back" of the phone and will lie flat against any surface you lay your phone on muffling the sound.
Samsung what were you thinking...again?
They haven't given the speaker much thought even though they have added some wonderful sound features for great sound within the phone; this is ruined by the badly placed speaker. Luckily I use external bluetooth speakers for my music and video.
Would it really have taken too much to add stereo speakers "On the front" so you can play your music...would it?

Samsung have made the back cover easily removable for access to the 2600mAh battery. So you can buy extras if you need them. This is a great size battery to work this feature rich phone and it lasts me ages as I am careful with my brightness etc and I never need to charge till night-time which is by choice rather than necessity as I haven't actually gone flat yet. I suppose I need to flatten my battery soon to keep the battery healthy.

Samsung have future proofed the phone by adding the 2 copper prongs for wireless charging. Just add your adapter which lays flat over your battery and you can use a Qi wireless charger...I have one coming up for review very soon that Im so excited about using.

Kindly sent from

Super AMOLED technology which has been cranked up to full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels making an incredible 441PPI....yes I did say 441PPI!!! It has Cornings gorilla glass 3 for a durable screen.
It uses the same pentile matrix Samsung have been criticized for over the years by using too many of 1 colour pixel some saying that the screen is too over saturated..well that is something I have noticed that my game I play Hayday is already bright colours but on the S4 is super saturated, its not something I would down the S4 for. You simply change your colour settings. Im not really going to be that picky.

The Pro's of OLED screens is when a pixel is displaying a black image, its completely off and therefore draws less power and looks darker. Compared to LCD screens which has a backlight to light the colours infront, meaning blacks will never be as black as on OLED screens.

But you will struggle to find any complaints about this stunning screen
You can alter the brightness from the notification bar by simply sliding your finger up and down the screen, or if your like me I have just set it to auto to let the phone decide its optimum brightness for different things. It manages the battery power for you too.
Another improved feature from the S3 is the capacitive screen technology; the Galaxy S4 uses advanced capacitive touchscreen powered by Synaptics; also known as clear pad and has been dubbed as "3D touch" which gives the phone the ability to detect your finger from up to 2cm away. So you can use Air View without an S-Pen and you can use it without gloves in the Winter. Just hover your finger above the screen and watch it change, its not a big thing but it is fun to do a few times and vital in winter even though I now have several pairs of capacitive gloves which I was really excited with...still I get to use them on my tablet ho-hum.

Under the bonnet
There are 2 version of the S4 My phone is the i9050 but there is another i9500. To look at the phones they are identical but they have different processors.
Mine has the Qualcomm Snapdragon quad core which is clocked to 1.9Ghz and runs faster however the Exynos 5 Octa-core core has 2 sets of 4 cores, with one for day to day stuff and the other for heavy stuff like photo processing and such.
Which one is best has been debated alot as the quadcore will use so much battery switching from one to the other. I will add a post on this later on as its quite interesting for those that love these technical bits; but today Im concentrating on the S4 main features.

This phone is full of technology and sensors, some being;

Smart pause
Stop looking at the screen for a bit and it will turn off to save power...how cool is that...!  It will pause a film if you've looked away and resume when you return back to the screen. I do like this its a great idea and I found it worked well as long as I was close to the screen.
Smart Scroll
On the front of the phone above the screen a camera tracks your eyes; you can look down and the screen will scroll down, look up and it will scroll up.
Its a fantastic idea but I found I had to be really close and it was a bit haphazzard for me; maybe I haven't got the hang of this yet. I found it also wont work in darker areas of your room or in low light.
To be honest I did get fedup with moving my head up and down its not conjunctive to someone who suffers with headaches like me...sheesh. It may work fab for some however. Let me know what you think about this?

Infra-red seems to be making quite a come-back it was so popular 10 years ago, then it seemed to die a death and now its creeping back. Samsung and the HTC One are among the very first mainstream Android devices to include an Infra-red IR Blaster.

The ultimate TV remote Samsung WatchON Infra red on the top of the phone enables you to control your TV satelite, DVD player, lights even air conditioning. As well as the usual bluetooth.
It supports air gestures, motion control and voice commands, perfect to make life easier or for the disabled too. Every level has multiple options to tweak it to your taste.

The S4 uses Swiftkey technology if you want to use it and is more accurate for word predictions, I used to find this a real pain on my iphone as it would often get it really wrong but not on the S4 its been amazing especially as a writer when I just want to jot ideas down. I usually don't worry about spelling etc but its corrected everything so I can virtually post my reviews as Ive written them.
More keyboard options include a long press on the mic key accesses handwriting and optical recognition and floating keyboards, 1 handed typers will love this floating keyboard as its smaller and can be placed anywhere on the screen. The enhanced clipboard remembers the last 10 things you copied too allowing pasting of multiple items.
The OCR input uses the optical reader app-, point it at text, take a photo, crop it to include the text you need, then edit. This is just brilliant. It can scan and transcribe large blocks of text and translate it to another language. the app recognizes business card data and once transcribes will even add it to your contacts.
The only weakness Ive found it needs the type to be clear and shakey hands like mine have made this hard work you really NEED a steady hand. When you get crisp shots it works perfectly and is always accurate.
For example how many times have you sat in a drs or another waiting room and read an article that you want to remember...without....stealing...er...I...mean...borrowing...the whole magazine lol. This is where the OCR app comes into its own; never be without handy info again.
It also scans barcodes too so no downloading extra apps its all in 1.

Even though it has the already gorgeous 5 inch screen we always want more dont we well you can split it into 2 to use 2 apps at once, for me it seems to only work with some apps, the window is adjustable but it can get fiddly toggling back and forth. It will be great for some however Im sure.

The interface is built on top of jellybean 4.3 meaning it has some larger upgrades from S3 and importantly ahead of the HTC one and soney Experia Z.

The notification bar which you can drag down at anytime allows you to access all the internal settings on the phone.

This dropdown grid appears in 1 swipe from the top and enables you to simply turn elements on and off quickly and instantly, eg wifi, bluetooth, sound, screen rotation; it is also customizable.

Samsung S4 internal software features

The lock screen
Thanks to the new Android 4.3 update enables you to have widgets before you open the phone; meaning you can have music, the camera or messages to preview. I did however find having to swipe to open everytime annoying but Ive now turned this off, some may find it handy as a security feature however, I dont need this at this time, but can certainly see how good this could be for some.

Contacts and calls
Another handy widget is the fact I can drag and drop my most important number to my front screen without having to go into my contact screen, this is brilliant for me in an emergency and of course the people you call regularly.
Another way of escaping your contact list is bring up the number pad and start to type in a name and it comes up like predictive text eg Mum.

Something I'm not keen on as Im more of a private person is that Samsung want to link and share ALL my contacts to facebook...er...no I want to choose the contact numbers I have on my phone. I want to keep my phone and Facebook, completely separate and certainly DONT want to share all my private numbers with the world...jeeze, I do realize that your not all as private as me and for alot of you this would be ideal especially for businesses as you would never miss an important customer. Plus you wouldn't have to write out another contact list its all transferable.
All in all the contacts interface and calling is easy to use and looks gorgeous too. I never used to worry about what the screen pages looked like, but now companies are making each screen interface as easy and esthetically pleasing as possible and I have to say Samsung have nailed their designs the screens are beautifully laid out, they smoothly change or slide with your finger and are completely responsive.

The S4 supports HD voice brilliantly over the 3G /4G networks and the clarity is gorgeous compared to what Ive been used to for 5 years its heaven. You can choose between clear sound and soft sound during your call which gives a slight difference in volume. I couldn't actually tell a marked difference for me. But Adapt sound (Ill explain this in more detail later on) enables the phone to work out the best sound for me.
I use O2 and I havent had any dropped calls, its signal strength has been perfect all the time in our area, something Ive always had problems with my iphone. It has noise reduction built in if your in a noisy area which is great for me with slight hearing problems.

Video calling
I havent had the chance to try video calling yet but will add this later on.

Compared to what I was used to with my iphone this has been heaven and what a wonderful change its clear, quick and presise, I still cant get on with predictive text but that's just me. The keyboard for texting is easy to read and responsive.

Samsung like many other companies enable me to set all my email accounts to come into 1 inbox which has been fantastic without flicking from yahoo, gmail or btinternet its all in one box...just heaven. I can keep up with you all now.

Absolutely no problems at all, its fast again compared to my iphone, technology has moved on so much. I can scroll into any part of the screen by scrunching my fingers together; Ive found this easy others have found this fiddly but its a knack. The gorgeous AMOLED screen makes such a huge difference to surfing and the enjoyment of the internet its razor-sharp with beautiful colours and clicking links is fast and responsive to access new pages. You can even open up 2 screens to view two different pages at once, similar to your PC and tablet.
I have bounced between google chrome and firefox and found chrome works better with the S4 but Firefox with my Nexus...no idea why!! Maybe one of you will know Id love to know why this is!

Music and Sound
Wow what an incredible device for music the music player is gorgeous  its similar to itunes styling. Build playlists, search songs albums etc again Adapt sound comes into its own to suit you. I use Spotify so its a similar set up to that. Adapt sound will take you through a wizard that will ask you to listen to different frequencies and determines what you can hear depending on what you answer. It will then boost certain aspects of the sound to make sure it fits your hearing range which diminishes as we get older. For me this has been fantastic.
The S4 also supports voice control enabling you to say "play", "start", "pause" and "volume up" and down etc ..this is super cool; but...warning...you may look mad talking to yourself outside.

Adapt sound
Hear everything at the right balance and perfect volume for you, Adapt sound enables you to dial up and down balance sound left and right based on your own hearing, this is brilliant as the sound on my S4 is tailored to me only.

Video watching
Gorgeous crisp colours, clean fast interface, it can also detect chapters making navigation easy. The clarity is stunning I cant stress how gorgeous this is!!!! What else is there to say WOW!!! Smart Pause makes this really fun especially when you forget you have it on, you turn away from your screen when watching a video and turn back to find your video has stopped... I havent got bored with this yet and it still makes me smile and you cant help try and catch it out! You do however need to hold it quite close to your face for this to work smoothly.

Voice control
Alot of phones have this now but Samsung S4 has it by the bucket loads. Set up your own voice settings for -
incoming calls with "answer" or "reject"
The Alarm clock uses "stop" or "snooze"
The camera you can set up with "say cheese" "shoot" or even "smile", the same goes for the video settings.
Music you can simply say "play", "pause", "volume up" or "volume down."

When I first got the phone all the technology and so many screens to wade through could be daunting to some; but I love spending hours wading through the different screens and applications that come with the phone already. The technology can be overwhelming for some but Samsung have thought of everything, they have a simple mode until you get the hang of this gorgeous phone.

The S4 already comes with many apps and widgets already loaded;

Some of the great features at a glance

Air gestures
Answer a call quickly simply by waving your hand over the screen is pretty cool, scroll through your images and content at a wave of a hand; Harry Potter eat your heart out . Features include Air jump, Air browse, Air move and Air call accept are other features.

Sound and shot
Your photos can talk...Oh...yes...they can...record a sound track with your images so you can remember what was said on that special moment, relive and share life more vividly.
Nice idea but to be honest I cant see the point of this as I would just use video instead or is this just me?

Dual shot
I love this option you can now be in the same shot as your friends or family even if your taking the image, the dual camera phone simultaneously shoots with the front facing 13MP camera and the rear camera merging the image, it also gives you a few styles too. Be that postage stamp in the image prove you were there its so cool I love this setting.

Drama shot
Capture movement sequence in 1 image, it creates a collage in 1 frame of a moving image create that special dynamic image.

Im sure youve used panoramic software before; but the Galaxy S4 allows you to stitch together and align images both vertically and horizontally.

Story album
Samsung Story album helps you organize photos and create albums for special events, allowing you to customize them how you want to, you can then use the software to print it in a book album. Keep your memories special and at hand. You would normally spend hours online creating online books like this, samsung app makes it easy.

S Translator
No more language barriers say or type what you need and itl read or show the exact translation in seconds. perfect for travelling abroad allowing you to communicate with the locals find that restruarantm hotel or hospital, Dr etc.

Share whats on screen with friends and family even if your in different places, have more than 1 friend at a time on screen.

S Health
This built in free fitness app is more through than Ive seen on google play etc, stay active as it tracks your workouts, daily food intake, weight levels, temp and even humidity, you can watch your health easily now.

Safety Assistance
Not many people know this is on their S4 I found it by accident and no-one has ever mentioned it in their reviews; which Im really shocked. Its a fantastic addition to this phone.

In an emergency it can be set to take a photo using both back and front facing cameras. It then alerts your previously set up emergency contacts to your situation by sending them messages with these photos and your location; they can see exactly where you are.
You can setup the message and images to be sent at regular intervals of once/every 10 minutes/ Every 20 minutes. Of course you dont have to have the photos you can simply have a quick message eg;
"Im in trouble come fast HELP."
This is ideal for those of you with illnesses that sometimes hit if you are on your own. It gives you the freedom to go out and know as long as you can hold the volume up and down keys for 3 seconds your emergency contacts will be contacted that you need help. This is amazing, lifesaving. Im not sure id use the cameras but the messaging section is genius!

The polycarbonate chassis and back reveals a removable battery and a micro SD slot, yes its upgradable something in this day and age with the demand for so many apps, music and videos we quickly fill up our devices.
This was my main complaint on my Nexus 10 I only bought a 16Gb and I have to keep putting it back to default due to filling it up too fast, this S4 hold double my tablet and much more.

So do I like it No I don't like it I love, love, love it, its the best phone Ive ever had to date, its got so much technology itl keep me going for another 5 years I hope especially being so upgradable, I love the fact I can add cards Ill never run out of space. The fact I can keep adding apps makes this phone so personalized, you phone will be completely different to mine. But I can say this is gorgeous to use, it has the best technology if you want it, its there, you can have it on simple mode till you want to use it. and you will I promise.

The camera is beautiful and all the fun options that go with it. I love instantly uploading to my instagram or facebook its fast. Plus I love the "selfie shot mode" that you can add to any image (Dual shot) . Always be part of the action its fab.
The hearing sound is a huge bonus for me as Ive always struggled hearing people with phones, my phone has worked out what frequencies I need that help on and adjusted it to suit me. Wow just brilliant
What can I say if you don't own a Samsung S4 or 5 you need one. Would I upgrade from an S4 to S5 no I dont need a fingerprint reader, but if you don't have a Samsung and can afford it, get one. The technology is updateable and it will last you years.

Its fast quick, the screen is sharp colourful, the videos have clarity, the sound is precise and it looks super sexy. Its a truly outstanding smartphone that in a league of its own.

*All images are either my own or directly from Samsung site.

  • Stunning screen resolution,
  • Fast processor,
  • Great sound,
  • Upgradable memory,
  • Removable battery,
  • Excellent quality camera and images,
  • Dual shot mode (selfie heaven).
  • Brilliant camera modes,
  • Air gestures,
  • OCR app built in.
  • Safety assistance.
  • Pronounced camera lens on the back which will scratch or damage easily when laid on a surface,
  • Mono Speaker would have been nice to have stereo,
  • Speaker placed "on the back" easily muffled.
  • Back plastic case cover feels too flimsy,
  • Could be too complex for some, but there is a simple mode.

I will be adding a post soon "Camera and Video Bootcamp" and really putting it through its paces. I love all the amazing modes this phone offers, but do they live up to expectations? 
I shall be finding out and bringing my results to you all. With images and examples of all my results. 

If you have any questions or you want to know about anything specific about the S4 please ask.

 Here are some reviews I have already posted of accessories for the S4 or that can be used with the S4.

Reviews Coming Soon

Im very honoured to be bringing you a range of charging options from the lovely people at Mobile charger solutions for your devices, all these will be coming very soon.

Im also excited to be bringing you some brand new camera lenses to extend your experience and fun with your phone.

The Zband
Kitsound Chrome Deadmau5

GMYLE Wallet Clutch bag
GMYLE Aluminum stylus

Thanks for popping over and reading this mammoth review and information hope you enjoyed it.
See you soon.


  1. I had one and must say it was very good. Even now after 2+ years it works but I replaced it with the newer S7 because of the better camera and screen.

    1. Hi yes Im still using mine too and still love it as much as i did when I wrote this review 2014.
      But I completely get how much the the new S7 must have improved. I may take a look myself.
      Thanks for popping by. Let me know how you get on with yours.


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