As I wrote last month, I unexpectedly traded in my trusty jailbroken iPhone 4S for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S4. Reading the sales numbers for Samsung's newest flagship phone, I was not alone. The S4 is certainly an eye catcher, with a big beautiful screen and lots of cool features, the Galaxy has a lot of sizzle. But beyond the glitz, is it a great device? After a month I would say decidedly, meh.
First, let me tell you what I love about the S4:
- The screen is big and beautiful. No doubt about it, bigger is better for the S4. For everything from watching movies, cruising the web, reading documents and everything else, the S4 screen is stunning. It is not just that it is big, though - it is also crystal clear. It just seems, to me at least, a lot sharper then my iPhone was. Some of my friends have asked if the screen is too big. I would say no, it is just right. I have played with the Samsung Note and that seems too big to me. It doesn't fit in my pocket well. The S4 is just the Goldilocks size. Big enough to be big enough, but not too big where it is a phablet. I wouldn't want it any bigger, but I wouldn't want it any smaller, either. In fact, the entire phone is sized just about right. I think the S4 represents the optimum size for a phone screen and size.
- The sound - whether through ear buds, earphones or out the speakers - is really nice. To my unprofessional ear, it sounds better than my iPhone did. However, my son has the HTC One with audio by Beats, and that kicks butt compared to the S4 HOaudio.
- Air View. This is a really nice feature especially when I am perusing my email. I just hold my finger over an email list and as I run down the screen I get the first few lines from each email displayed.
- Phone reception. We all get so jazzed about all of the cool apps and features on today's phones, we often overlook a critical piece. How is it as a phone? The S4 is a great phone. Easy to dial, easy to set up favorites, speed dialing. Great reception so far.
- SMS messaging. I really like the SMS messaging set up. Big screen makes it easier, but I like the organization and options.
- On board microSD. This is great after living on the iPhone. I keep all of my music, videos and pictures in the cloud. But why should I have to use up bandwidth and be subject to a good connection when I can store it all on a microSD card? I installed a 64GB card and keep everything local. It is great.
What do I dislike about the S4?
- Keyboard. While I at first liked the keyboard on the S4, I quickly learned to hate it. The biggest problem is no auto-correction. After being used to the iPhone autocorrect (which is not great), I was downright embarrassed by some of the messages I was sending out with the S4. I have since upgraded to the Swiftkey keyboard. It is a huge improvement.
- The camera. I don't know, maybe I am just a Luddite. I can't get all of these cool features that you see on TV working. Worse yet, the camera takes so long to focus that I am losing all of my Kodak moments. I forgot my regular camera at my son's 5th grade graduation and tried to use my S4 to take a picture of my son being called up to the stage. I got a bunch of blurry shots that were useless. It seems that the camera just takes a long time to focus. I don't know. Maybe it's me.
- The AT&T drive mode app. This one is a double-edged sword. I love that it sends out a message when I get a call or text while driving. Other people think it is cool too. Beyond that, it is certainly important and the right thing to do for safety. But I hate getting cut off in the middle of my calls when I drive over 25 mph. It drives me crazy (no pun intended).
- So many little features that I still haven't figured out what they are for and how to use them. I have given up on even bothering with most of them.
- Wi-Fi goes on when I turn it off. There are times I don't want to connect to a particular Wi-Fi network. I turn off Wi-Fi and a short time later it turns itself back on and connects to a dead-end Wi-Fi connection. When I turn it off, I want it to stay off until I turn it back on.
I don't know, maybe you think I am nitpicking. Overall, the S4 is a great phone. Is it measurably better than the iPhone? Perhaps, mostly because of the screen size and clarity. All of the other features are nice to have, but not must haves. I do like the freedom of Android over iOS.
On the other hand, my son has the HTC One. Playing with that phone I think that HTC has built a superior product. I like the better sound. It is more solid, just better. They don't get the ink that Samsung does, but I like it better. So would I say don't but an S4? No, it is fine. But given the choice I would take an HTC One.