Despite the plastic casing, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is fantastic

The past three years have seen the iPhone and Samsung’s galaxy S series slugging it out in the smartphone market for the title of “best smartphone.” Each device has its adherents, with each side hating the other with a vehemence that is normally seen in an Ashes cricket contest.

Every year like clockwork, Apple and Samsung release devices and renew the battle. We have seen the iPhone 5 come to Indian shores late last year and now it is the turn of Samsung to show its muscle with the latest in the Galaxy S line, the Galaxy S4.

Mind you, it does not quite seem the latest in the Galaxy line when you first clap eyes on it. For the Galaxy S4 looks so similar to its predecessor, the SIII, that we can see Bollywood directors making films of them being twins separated at a Kumbh Mela! The build remains mainly plastic (with a still shockingly thin back panel, which, praise be, is still removable), there is still the slightly longish-oval home button below the display flanked by two touch buttons, the volume rocker and power/display on/off buttons on either side of the display, and the back housing the camera near the top central portion.

Take a closer look, however, and the changes become evident. The display is larger in terms of both size and resolution five inches and full HD. And it looks utterly magnificent, too. Super AMOLED glory at its best, making it wonderful to watch videos and images. It is actually thinner and lighter than the SIII as well, in spite of being larger!

The real changes, however, are in the innards. The model in India packs in a octa core processor (two quad core processors, one of 1.6 GHz, another of 1.2 GHz), 2 GB RAM, a 13.0-megapixel camera, 16 GB onboard storage (expandable using a micro SD card) and every connectivity option you can think of. The software too has been tweaked - in fact, changed to the extent that we think Samsung has pretty much thrown the software kitchen sink at this device.

There are bells and whistles galore, from links opening when you hover your finger over them, to both cameras in the device combining to take a picture to pages that scroll when you move your head to the screen switching off when it senses you are not looking at it to...well, we would really need a full page just to talk of the software tweaks in the S4. Powering them all is Android 4.2.2, the latest version of the OS, no less, something we have not seen from most other Android phone manufacturers in
the country.

And in best Galaxy S tradition, most of it works pretty well. But it has its share of niggles too. We were surprised to see almost half of the onboard 16 GB of storage being already occupied - those software add ons sure gobble up space (and also make the interface very complicated).

Speaking of which, we also found ourselves turning off a number of the “special effects” like smart scroll and air view simply because they were inconsistent. There also seemed to be moments of brief (but clear) lag - most notably while hitting the Home button, browsing the image gallery and sometimes even while using the camera (which otherwise took great shots). The irony, however, is that the phone seems to hesitate only when working on apps put there by its manufacturer - it played high resolution games and videos without any problems at all, and was an absolute master at multi-tasking.

All of which makes one feel that the S4 is just a software update away from attaining greatness. As a hardware beast, we don't care if it is made of plastic, it is still pretty fantastic. The HTC One might have an edge on it in terms of design and overall speed at the moment, but we have a feeling that cometh a software update, the S4 will again be pretty much THE device to have for the Android faithful. And for restarting those iPhone vs Galaxy wars...

Samsung Galaxy S4: 1.6 GHz Octa Core processor, 16 GB storage (expandable), 2 GB RAM, 5.0-inch full HD Super AMOLED display, 13.0-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, NC, Infra-Red, Android 4.2.2
Price: Rs 41,500

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