Reviews are coming in across the web for the Samsung Galaxy S4, the most recent in Samsung’s series of best-selling Android smartphones. But they are making it increasingly clear that the reason the Galaxy S series is on top isn’t necessarily because it’s the best, even if it may seem that way in your wireless carrier’s showroom, or on TV ads.
Here’s a look at how the Galaxy S4’s looks are deceiving, and what Samsung does to keep it that way.
First impressions: Big and bright …
The Galaxy S4’s 5-inch, 1080p AMOLED screen “is big, beautiful, and seriously eye-catching,” according to David Pierce’s review on The Verge. However, he goes on to explain that this “is partially a bad thing,” because the colors it shows are exaggeratedly bright and high-contrast. Meaning, the colors you see on the screen aren’t necessarily the same as in the pictures you took on your camera or the sights you saw in person.
It also has a hard time adjusting screen brightness automatically, and can change drastically without warning.
… with lots of bells and whistles
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is loaded with “features,” like the Story Album app for creating photo scrapbooks and the Air Gesture feature that lets you control it “Minority Report”-style. But Pierce notes that a lot of them seems like they’re “just for show,” and that “too many are simply obtrusive” — meaning they get in the way, as you might expect.
ABC News reviewer Joanna Stern said the Galaxy S4’s unusual features “feel more like gimmicks than anything else,” and that while using her demo unit “I’ve never found myself in a situation where I found it more convenient to wave my hand at the phone rather than tap it.”
Another feature called Smart Pause, which pauses videos while you’re looking away from the phone — besides being creepy since it means the Galaxy S 4 is watching you — also seems like it’d make certain horror films or cringe comedies that much more cringe-worthy.
You can turn some features off, but …
There are 18 separate controls in the notification menu, for turning off everything from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to Air Gesture-ing. The phone is still filled with Samsung apps and customizations, however, which aren’t “as tidy” as normal Android according to Stern. Both reviewers found most of the extra apps either superfluous or inferior to third-party alternatives.
While the phone’s Easy Mode might seem like an easy way out, it also hides many of Android’s basic features … as well as showing how complicated and overblown the Galaxy S4 normally is just by being there in the first place.
At least it demos well?
Both reviewers agreed that the Galaxy S4 was a powerful, modern smartphone, and especially praised its camera. Neither were too thrilled with its plasticky chassis, though, and Pierce especially “[couldn’t] overstate how much” its “slippery and slimy and simply unpleasant” feel affected his experience with it.
Both mentioned alternatives from HTC and Apple — the HTC One and iPhone 5 — as being better designed, both on the inside and out. Their phones just might not seem as flashy in the stores … or be able to match Samsung’s marketing spending, which towers over even Coca-Cola’s.