The Galaxy S4 is here: It’s Judgement Day

The Samsung Galaxy S4 (GS4) is in the house and it’s that time when I get to throw my thoughts about this phone and its manufacturer at you, with no remorse. I guess I will also have to apologize in advance to the Samsung fans out there in case I get off to be harsh in this editorial. Starting with the build quality of this phone, design wise I think the galaxy S4 is a turd. The overall take for me is that it’s the best iterative Samsung phone that I have ever played with as it  has a much better screen, better camera,better battery life okay I also have to admit even the design is better that its predecessor the GSIII. I found some GS4 reviews that where a bit lenient and try to be none offensive about the GS4’s design. Please let’s be open and tell it as it is, because when you are reviewing a device you are forming an opinion and its coming from a source which is you the reviewer, so deliver a verdict which is not biasing but gives the readers a definitive response. There is no need to wrap it up in ambiguity as people are afraid to piss off the companies I mean these companies pick advice from us to improve on their products and we should give it to them the way it is.

The Chef and cook analogy

After reading all the various GS4 reviews, it struck me that there was one recurring theme, with all these words written in a gentle way they were screaming ”you should buy the HTC One even if the GS4 is good.” And I was thinking about it more and more and this is the analogy I came up with “Chef versus Cook”. Of course Samsung is the cook, they know how to prepare the food well, they don’t use recipes, and they just sort of throw things in towards their whimsy and how they feel. And you know sometimes if you eat someone’s food who is a cook they put in too much salt or pepper which could be an over kill. But for a chef, there is precision there, there Is restrain, art and elegance and I think that’s what HTC has done with the HTC One. So this means both phones are satisfying and that’s the difference.  The HTC One is a coronary experience; you just wanna eat it up as you use it.

 

A bunch of cheap bustards

Pretty much all the top gadget review sites felt the same way, the verge and engadget are only ones that really called upon the design of the GS4. The verge called it slimy and gross especially with the shinny backing Samsung uses, as you keep sweating on the surface. One thing is for sure the GS4 feels better in the hand as Samsung has drifted away from the pebble design of the GSIII.

What really offends me about the GS4’s build is the “false” metal plastic around the edge of the phone; Samsung needs to know if you are going to use plastic, use plastic. Please don’t fake it. This is one of the conversations that comes up in cars all the time, as they need not use full carbon fiber, nor full aluminum, nor full wood, if you are going to go with those materials, do it right and if you can only afford to put it in higher end cars then why not? Just be honest with us Samsung, if it’s plastic, just give us a plastic rim Samsung, and again please don’t fake it. This is insulting to people, it’s like saying, hey guys look, you could have had aluminum but we are a bunch of cheap bastards, who are gonna give you cheap plastics instead. If only Samsung had given us a nice pretty decently thick (at least 1mm think) aluminum rim that wont bend easily or starch easily and well anodized. trust me the GS4 would look a million times better. Look at the Blackberry 9900 which is well crafted, and at the back you can retain the plastic cover at the back in order to keep the interchangeable battery norm that you have come to stick to Samsung.

You can practically see the mold lines, it’s just low grade which I also
call the lowest common denominator

If you look at the fit and finish of the GS4 and the GSIII side by side, at the power button there is a gap between the power button and the plastic that surrounds it on the GSIII which is not on the GS4. So with such small changes the fit and finish is much better on the GS4 than the GSIII but it’s still not good enough. By the way don’t get me wrong aluminum, is not the holy grail of material to use. Even if Samsung had decided to use plastic all around, there are higher grades of polycarbonate plastics. And it’s true that there are some merits of using plastic and that’s why Samsung sticks to it as its definitely more durable and impact resistant.  But that’s not the point, because every time I bring up metal people think it’s about the material, it’s not about the material but about what you do with the material. Let me give an example of plastics done right HTC One X, Lumia (920, 900, 800), Nokia N9 all of which are uni body machined.

I think another thing that offends me about the Galaxy series phones, Galaxy note 8 and the note 10 is that’s its all molded plastic.You can practically see the mold lines, it’s just low grade which I also call the lowest common denominator. Look at the Asha 210 which has a better molding, feeling plus fit and finish than the GS4, yet the Nokia Asha phone is way cheaper than then the GS4. So don’t tell me Samsung can’t pull this off, you freaking lying. We all know that Samsung could do it, they are a multimillion dollar company that sales gazillion of devices they are pretty much alongside Apple at this point in terms of overall market share and popularity.

The Gimmicky S-features

So let’s talk about the S features, so we know by now that Samsung has incorporated a lot of software enhancements to boast the GS4’s relevance and justify it’s price. I rarely found myself employing the air gestures and what not, so let’s face it most of Samsung’s the new features are impractical,– they are not solving any actual problems, it’s true that they are cool little clever things that were implemented in the phone but they are just gimmicks. Seriously i wish someone could tell me when they will have the chance to use the eye tracking “pause video by looking away” feature. If you do this at a café or coffee shop you will look like a moron. Out of respect am sure there are some people who would find these features useful especially those how have no fingers I think that would be very useful from the accessibility or special needs point of view.

Another issue I have with these gimmicky features is that the sensor that is tracking your eyes is not always going to work in scenarios like when your face is facing away from the light, or in a dark environment it won’t be able to  work. So you have to be under the perfect conditions in order for it to work , it has to be at a certain distance away from your face as it should not be too far or too near the face. So when you tilt your head it may not actually register it so you may find yourself tilting your head even more then it could work. The software futures are cool and fun to use as I have shown it off to my friends at parties and they are stunned by it.

We have to note that there are some use case scenarios for some of these features, for example when you are eating and you have greasy fingers and you want to read from your phone. However this air control features work only in specific applications like the browser and gallery and by the way you will have to tap the screen in order to get into the browser. So at the end of the day you will still have direct contact with the screen of phone and you will smear it with those oily figures . It’s like Samsung is adding extra steps for us to use and you get to wonder why they implemented them in the first place. You can throw in all the technology in the world in a phone but if it’s not useful it will just be a waste of precious phone RAM. I only hope Samsung can use this technology to improve on it in future products and actually make it practicable for real life use case scenarios.

When I played with this phone , to my surprise I noticed a lot of stuttering, especially in the gallery scrolling. It is not until I turned the Air-gesture and the smart features off that the phone became smooth sailing and snappy for normal use. This means that Samsung’s extra features just drag the processor down and that is where I really had issues with the phone. For
crying out loud it’s eight freakin’ cores, what actually went wrong? For the record I won’t go into the whole s-health apps, I will leave it up to the health enthusiast, I won’t talk about that feature so sue me.

Easy mode

Samsung has also introduced easy mode. Their response to this is that they know that not everyone is going to able to digest all these features. It’s simply a blown up version of touch wiz with very few apps on the screen. In other words turn your phone into a dumb phone! Okay seriously why would you buy a phone with 8 cores, 1080p display, with LTE and turn it into an Asha 210. If you can’t take advantage of the raw hardware power and you find these features too much for you don’t bother buying GS4 because it’s clearly not meant for you.

 

Same old Touch Wiz

 

Am sorry Samsung but am sick and tired of seeing Gingerbread like User Interface every time I use your products, its high time they style up their interface and embrace Google’s new Jellybean UI design guidelines. I know that it’s a way you keep your products consistent but we have out grown the old UI. As a recap,the phone runs on Google’s latest version of Android v 4.2.2 with some removed features like  photosphere. It’s not like Samsung has ever waited for new version of Android to implement the features that they want in a phone, however there was a  rumor about Samsung Orb which basically is the same thing as photosphere but my guess is that it was not ready yet and could be put in the Galaxy Note 3.

One thing I noticed is that the touch screen was great to use as they have incorporated and ultra sensitive capacitive screen that is capable of reading your figure when it’s hovering over just like in the Galaxy Note II.  But again it’s not necessarily useful, the only app I found myself using it often with is was Flip-board, of which Samsung had to craft a custom version with the makers of Flip-board. The browser and the gallery have the same cool magnifying feature where Air view can be useful.

 

Great Camera

We all know the specs by now, 13 Megapixels, f2.2 lens,  blaah blaah blaah. Generally it’s a great camera for day light shots and it is actually the best camera I have used. As you have come to expect, of course there were some issues; the zero shutter lag that Samsung claims is bogus, if you are focused on something already that’s not a problem the picture is taken
instantly. But that is never a problem on smartphones now days. I was constantly having issues trying to take pictures of some objects as they could be blurry especially if the objects are in motion. There are some cool camera features like eraser mode, that can erase some of the unwanted objects from the photo. Except that there were a lot of conditions where the easer mode would not actually give you the option of erasing as it also wouldn’t allow you to pick the objects you want to erase. But I have to give it to Samsung that the eraser mode is one of the most useful of the different special camera modes that the GS4 introduced. Next is sound in shots which is a feature that’s allows you to take 6 second sound clips as you take a photo; it won’t be a popular feature but good to try out. Another cool one is drama shot, I recommend you to try it out and again you won’t use all the gazillion features all the time.

Samsung is the Toyota of the phone industry

The is no doubt the GS4 is the best smartphone on the market today, with an incredible amount of features, specs, performance and functionality in hardware and software there is no doubt about that as you will be well served with the phone. From reading this editorial its clear the GS4 is not my choice, but the camera and the battery life are one of the areas of the GS4 where I feel they have done a really impressive job unlike the GSIII. I would recommend all people with the GSIII and also those who want to upgrade to get their hands on this device.

Generally the GS4 was a predicable iteration to the GSIII as nothing really surprised me because there was nothing unique or thinking out of the box features. What rubs me the wrong way the most about Samsung is that there is no passion. Samsung is the Toyota of the phone industry. Totoya makes super boring brand cars that go from point A to point B, however there are some exceptions like the Toyota FR-S, the LEXUS LFA. The point here is that Samsung doesn’t even have a premium feeling version of the Galaxy s4 that is all metal and supper high-end. Mostly it’s just bland, boring, predictable and passionless and that’s whats pisses me off the most given the fact that they have incredible amount of resources and do passionless products.

Galaxy brand forever

Now that the Galaxy is a brand name, we have reached a point where people know two popular high-end phones; it’s either the iPhone or the Galaxy. The Galaxy is now a household name as everybody knows it. This means unlike Samsung that can do anything HTC has to pull out all their stops to make a well designed premium looking phone that people love at first sight
and it has to stand out above the Galaxy S4 and that’s the reason why HTC went with the uni-body aluminum machined phone. So Samsung will spend all that design R&D money into marketing and that’s the hard road that HTC has right now. True, HTC can make a gorgeous device that’s great to use but it still won’t sale a billion of them compared to what Samsung is expected to sale with the GS4.This article is not a matter of hate, but am a geek and all my complaints are things I would love to see Samsung improve on for its future galaxy phones and feel free to agree or disagree with me as well.

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