Samsung Galaxy S4 is will definitely be one of the most popular smartphones in 2013, a terminal that brings some important changes when compared to its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, launched less than a year ago.
The new flagship smartphone of the biggest smartphone vendor in the world aligns to the 2013 trends and proposes a 5-inch display with full HD resolution, but also an impressive chipset.
But are these improvements enough to attract the customers? Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 worth upgrading from Samsung Galaxy S3 or Samsung Galaxy Note 2? Should the customers in search for a top-end smartphone should go for the Samsung Galaxy S4, or should they wait for the inevitable Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 price cut off?
These are the some of the questions we will try to answer in the bellow comparative test, based on the official details regarding Samsung Galaxy S4, unveiled at the launch event that took place last week in New York.
Even though some of you might say that the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a phablet and it shouldn’t be included in the comparison, we thought it’s a terminal that is worth mentioning considering that the border between smartphones and phablets became so thin.
Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 2,600 mAh battery, while being 136.5 mm tall, 69.8 mm wide, and only 7.9 mm thin and weighing 130 grams. SGS4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box.Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 5-inch Super AMOLED display with full HD resolution, is powered by Samsung’s proprietary octo-core Exynos 5 Octa chipset with four 1.6 GHz Cortex A15 cores and four Cortex A7 cores at 1.2 GHz, helped by a PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU. The new Galaxy S4 also comes with 2 GB of RAM, it has 16/32/64 GB of internal storage with microSD card slot, and all the connectivity features worthy of a high-end smartphone: all standards of WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G, 4G, NFC chip, and infrared port.
The Galaxy S3 has a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 720 x 1,280 pixels resolution, a quad-core 1.4 GHz Exynos 4 Quad with Cortex A9 architecture, Mali 400 GPU, and 1 GB of RAM. It also offers three internal storage options, 16/32/64 GB, also expandable using microSD cards. The battery is a 2,100 mAh unit and the connectivity includes 3G, WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth.
Samsung Galaxy S3 measures 136.6 × 70.6 × 8.6 mm, has a weight of 133 grams, and comes pre-loaded with Android 4.0 ICS, but it’s upgradeable to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
Least, but not last, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 has an HD Super AMOLED Display sized 5.5 inches, 2 GB of RAM, and the same Exynos 4 Quad chipset overclocked at 1.6 GHz. It also has a Mali 400 GPU, 16, 32, or 64 GB of internal storage with microSD slot, WiFi, 4G, 3G, Bluetooth, and NFC. It is upgradeable to Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, has the biggest battery (3,100 mAh), measures 151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm and has 183 grams.
Although there were quite many who anticipated a design change, Samsung Galaxy S4 looks a lot like its predecessor, being more like a facelift of the Galaxy S3. Despite the fact that it boasts a slightly bigger display, Samsung Galaxy S4 has basically the same size as the Galaxy S3, because the bezel around the display was narrowed. Therefore, if you didn’t have problems holding the Samsung Galaxy S3 in your hand, you wouldn’t have with the SGS4, either. Moreover, the new flagship of the South Korea-based company is almost 1 mm thinner.
Samsung didn’t even get rid of the plastic back lid, probably thinking that it’s not worth changing something that already works. It sounds a bit Apple-ish, isn’t it? Still, it’s worth mentioning that the back has a new texture, which should provide more grip compared to the Galaxy S3. On the back of the new Samsung Galaxy S4 you will find the camera and the LED flash positioned on the top end, and a small speaker in the lower left corner.
The design of the Samsung Galaxy S4 shouldn’t be a surprise, as the Samsung Galaxy S3 marked the beginning of a new era for the South Korean phone maker in terms of design language, and I am positive that many other models will stick to the same lines.
One of the main improvements brought by the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the display, which increased in size from 4.8 inches to 5 inches and received full HD 1,280 x 1,920 resolution, just like the other high-end smartphones that debuted this year.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a pixel density of 441 ppi, almost 50% more ppi than Samsung Galaxy S3, which benefits from a pixel density of “only” 306 ppi. The higher pixel density will provide superior image clarity, not only while viewing multimedia content, but especially while web browsing or reading a document with small fonts.
Both displays are built using the Super AMOLED technology that provides a contrast that is superior the the one provided by the IPS display and darker black, these being the reasons why many users have appreciated the Samsung smartphones. SGS4 comes with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, superior to Galaxy S3′s Gorilla Glass 2.
Like I was mentioning above, the bigger display of the Samsung Galaxy S4 shouldn’t be an impediment as the size of the smartphones are almost identical, while the increase in resolution will be appreciated by the customers.
The second biggest upgrade proposed by the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the hardware platform, an the South Korea-based company didn’t hesitated to promote the chipset based on ARM’s big.LITTLE platform as being an octo-core unit. Even though this is only partially true, we are actually talking about quad-core processing: when you are using it for multimedia apps, SGS4 uses a quad-core CPU with 1.6 GHz Cotex A15 cores, but when it is in stand-by or you are checking the emails, the smartphone will use the 1.2 GHz Cortex A7 CPU. The purpose is to better manage the hardware resources and improve the battery life.
Even so, Samsung Galaxy S4 is superior tot the Galaxy S3, which bets on a quad-core Cortex A9 CPU clocked at 1.4 GHz which is less powerful than the freshly launched Cortex A15, and the user will most likely notice the differences in games and multimedia apps. The 2 GB of RAM will also help, considering that the Galaxy S3 only comes with 1 GB of RAM.
It’s also worth mentioning that on certain regions of the globe, the US included, Samsung Galaxy S4 will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 chipset with quad-core Krait 300 CPU and Adreno 320. Even though the Exynos 5 Octa wasn’t benchmarket so far, it is expected to deliver more power than the Snapdragon 600, even though the latter one has the clock speed clocked at 1.9 GHz.
What are the similarities between the SGS3 and SGS4? Well the internal storage options: 16, 32, 64 GB which can be extended using microSD cards.
For a smartphone launched in 2012, Samsung Galaxy S3 brought everything you wanted from a smartphone: 3G with download speeds of up to 21 Mbps, WiFi, and NFC. The 4G networks are starting to spread on many regions of the globe, therefore the Samsung Galaxy S4 received an upgrade in terms of connectivity, and it now comes with 4G LTE support, besides an increase in 3G download speeds to 43 Mbps. These improvements will be appreciated by the users who are intensively using the mobile data connections, and by those who need higher transfer speeds.
On a smartphone market controlled by Android and iOS, Samsung has tried two come up with its own software enhancements right from the moment the Galaxy S3 saw the light of day. Features like Smart Stay or Pop-up-play have been integrated in TouchWiz, Samsung’s proprietary user interface applied over the stock Android.
Samsung galaxy S4 comes with numerous new features integrated in what Samsung calls Smart Screen, features that will soon be available on the Galaxy S3 via an update to Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. I will mention Smart Pause, a feature that automatically pauses a video when the user moves its eyes away from the display, and Smart Scroll, that automatically scrolls a web page or document when your eyes reach the bottom of the display.
But Samsung also promotes features like S Health, an app that monitors the distance traveled by the user using a pedomenter, but also the burned calories, temperature and humidity from the surrounding area. There’s also an S Translator function that translates emails and text.
Just like everybody anticipated, Samsung Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, but Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2 will also receive the update. Moreover, Samsung promises that most of the new software improvements will be introduced on the S3 and Note 2, as well, therefore the three smartphones will be almost similar in terms of software after the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean update will roll out.
Samsung also upgraded the camera of the Galaxy S4, which now bets on a 13 megapixel sensor, compared to the 8 megapixel unit of its predecessor. Samsung’s decision to use a 13 megapixel camera somehow confirms the trend for 2013, when most of the high-end smartphones will use a 13 MP camera. Well, not the HTC One, as the Taiwan-based phone maker decided to use a 4 megapixel UltraPixel sensor, on its new flagship.
In terms of camera specs, the SGS3 and SGS4 cameras are pretty similar: both record full HD videos at 30 fps and allow simultaneous HD video and photo recording, plus numerous other features.
But the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a series of software novelties for the camera, which will probably arrive on the Galaxy S3, as well: Sound and Shot – captures 9 seconds videos, Drama Shot – combines more photos into a single time lapse photo, and Cinema Photo – allows the user to create a GIF and choose which elements to be dynamic and which not. Moreover, with the Samsung Galaxy S4 you can simultaneously record videos with both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras.
Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 2,600 mAh Li-Ion battery, 500 mAh more powerful than the one of the Galaxy S3. In theory, the new battery should provide better battery life, especially because of the new octo-core chipset that comes with better hardware management. On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget that the slightly bigger full HD display will probably eat more battery than the one of the Galaxy S3, therefore the battery life difference shouldn’t be too big.
Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t announce the price of the Samsung Galaxy S4, but the company’s officials said it will have a “premium” price. If you are reading this from Europe expect the Samsung Galaxy S3 to have a price tag of around €600, but if you are living in the United States be prepared to pay around $650 for the new Samsung flagship.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S3 already received price cut offs, but after the Samsung Galaxy S4 will officially hit the market, expect the price to drop even further.
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 2
We couldn’t have finished the comparison without talking about the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the South Korean phablet with 5.5-inch display and 720 x 1,080 pixels resolution. Because the Galaxy Note 2 comes with HD resolution on a bigger display, it brings a pixel density of 267 ppi, which will be even more visible compared to S4′s 441 ppi. But the Galaxy Note 2 also brings an S Pen stylus that allows you to easily handle certain apps.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 bets on the same Exynos 4 Quad chipset used for the Galaxy S3, but clocked at 1.6 GHz. Just like the Galaxy S4, the Note 2 sports 2 GB of RAM, and it has 4G LTE, but it has a smaller camera sensor: 8 megapixels (the same as the one fitted on the back of the Galaxy S3).
Compared to the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3, Note 2 brings the biggest battery (3,100 mAh), which is logical given the bigger display and case.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2′s ace up the sleeve is the S Pen, but some of its features (like AirView) were also included on the Galaxy S4.
Samsung Galaxy S4 is a welcomed update for the flagship of the South Korean company, mostly because of the full HD display and hardware platform, which, besides being more powerful, promises to better handle the energy consumption.
Even though it includes various software improvements, most of them will most likely arrive on the Samsung Galaxy S3, therefore the differences will be rather minor. So, the full HD display might be main reason why you should want to upgrade from Galaxy S3 to Galaxy S4.
So, if you consider that the 720 x 1,280 pixels resolution of the Galaxy S3 it’s enough for your needs, maybe you would want to keep your Samsung Galaxy S3 until the SGS4 receives a price cut off.