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Samsung Galaxy S4..doesn't do dishes
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Samsung Galaxy S4..doesn’t do dishes

Screen Shot 2013-05-27 at 2.12.16 PM

Samsung’s flagship smartphone is so loaded with features and mini-features that you could be forgiven for expecting it to do the dishes.

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 looks a lot like its predecessor the S3…pretty much the same shape and design but narrower bezels allow a bigger 5″ screen in the same handful. And, if you thought the S3 was loaded with features the new phone has gone overboard with a whole bunch more features, some useful others not so. Some examples:

Dual Camera photos and recording: You can capture stills or videos from both the rear-facing, 13-MP camera and the front-facing 2-MP webcam at the same time.

Smart Scroll/Smart Pause:  Smart Scroll allows you to move up and down the length of your favorite websites just by staring at the screen and tilting the phone back or forward. If you look away from the screen, Smart Pause will pause any videos you’ve been playing until you look at it again.

Air gestures/Smart Call Accept: You can answer the phone and have it turn on the speakerphone with the wave of a hand. You can control your music player with Smart Gestures, allowing you to skip songs for example. You can also step through open tabs in the Web browser with gestures.

WatchOn video: The IR port allows you to replace your TV remote. The Peel-powered app searches for content in Samsung’s Media Hub video store and the current TV schedule at the same time. Sp you can decide to buy or watch TV.

 

As well as an almost endless list of features and enhancements there are also a bunch of additions to the camera app that allow you to add motion to stills, edit pictures and scan business cards. I will leave it up to you to decide how many of these features are useful or just gimmicks.

 

Samsung has stuck to the main design cues of the S3 including the cheap plasticky feel which has always bothered reviewers like me but doesn’t seem to bother buyers..look at the success of the S3 and the early sales of the S4. The new model seems to be slightly better built than the S3 and while  this isn’t a phone for small hands.  Samsung has squeezed in a screen that’s bigger than the S3’s into a handset that’s slightly smaller (the dimensions are 136.6mm (5.38in tall, the same as the S3, while the width and depth, 69.8mm (2.75in) and 7.9mm ( 0.31in), are smaller) The change in thickness is particularly noticeable and means that though the S4 is big it doesn’t feel unmanageable. The display is 5 in this year, against last year’s 4.8in on the S3. Plus, it is 3 grams lighter at 130g (4.59 oz).

P1050304
P1050299The 1080p screen is pretty impressive. It is a 5-inch screen which, at 1920 x 1080 equates to 441 pixels per inch. That’s a higher resolution than Apple’s iPhone, but high ppi 1080p displays are becoming the norm for high-end Android devices. Like most AMOLED displays  the screen looks best at high brightness settings, wahich tends to be a bit rough on battery life. Even at high settings the screen can be overwhelmed by bright sunlight.At 2,600mAh, the GS4’s battery is 20 percent larger than the Galaxy S3. However, its  larger screen and all the features suck up more juice, too. Playing games and video, streaming music, and using S Voice and S Voice Drive will draw power quicker than other activities so depending on usage you can plan to charge the battery at least every dayP1050308

Screenshot_2013-05-27-13-56-47Under the hood the Galaxy S4 features a powerful 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor (APQ8064T processor and MDM9215 modem) driving Android’s latest version 4.2.2 of JellyBean which is covered by Samsung’s overwhelming Touch-Wiz interface. There is a Easy setting which presents a simple calendar, dialer, shortcuts to a few common apps, huge icons for everything, and hides almost everything else. I think you are probably better off figuring out the more powerful default mode but Easy mode does at least do a nice job simplifying everything the GS4 has going on. And there is a lot..my phone also came with a whole bunch of Samsung and Rogers crapware so you will want to spend some time sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Samsung is pitching the S4 as a life companion that can be with you at all times. The Watch On TV Universal remote with its Peel based guide for example is pretty helpful for those who use their smartphone as a second screen while watching TV.

watchon

S Health is probably the best example of an actual Life Companion – it’s a Fitbit style app that tracks your steps, calories, sleep, and diet, offering you a way to get fit. It’s handy to have built right into your phone, and the app’s pretty powerful thanks to the S4’s temperature and humidity sensors — you can actually tell it how you feel, and it’ll figure out how you should adjust your surroundings to feel better. S Health is cool and it will get better  when its companion accessories come out in a few months’ time.

health

Both cameras are also pretty impressive..the 2 MP front camera is good for self portraits and video calls while the 13 MP rear facing camera is like the phone full of features and takes as good and sometimes better pictures that the other high end smartphones. Auto mode is pretty impressive and the other modes offer a huge choice of options. You can leave your point and shoot at home.

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The video camera shoots impressive 1080p video especially under good lighting conditions

This is a well performing phone. The quad-core processor makes sure this phone doesn’t hiccup on anything. Apps open quickly, scrolling is as smooth as silk and multi-tasking doesn’t slow anything down. Voice quality and data performance on the Rogers LTE network were excellent.

While this is not the best smartphone you can buy it comes pretty close. It certainly offers the most features. If you want a phone that is fast and loaded with features including a great camera..some of them gimmicky and aren’t bothered by the plasticky build then you should add the Samsung Galaxy S4 to your shortlist. The GS4 is available just about everywhere, from Bell, Telus, Rogers, Virgin Mobile, Sasktel, Fido, Koodo, Eastling, Mobilicity, Wind and Videotron. The price with a three year contract is $199 but, most carriers have been offering promotions, so it is worth waiting for the right deal for you.

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Bob Benedetti

<p>Former RCAF Fighter Pilot Bob worked for CTV Montreal as a Reporter, Producer and Executive producer for 35 years retiring in 2004. Bob started reporting on personal technology in 1995 at CTV and continues today at Home Technology Montreal</p>

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