Blog: UPDATED The Galaxy S4 friend test

Alex Walls
May 2, 2013

Well it’s here – Samsung’s new flagship, the Galaxy S4, has landed.

The hype appears to have worked, too, with reports of supply delays due to “unprecedented demand” although one would have thought with the amount of build up (and time; Samsung were handing out invites at the Mobile World Congress, after all), someone might’ve done a small stock take and thought about bringing in some reserves (you’ve got to cross the desert with supply dumps, people, not all in one go!)

Wargame thinking aside, the reviews are starting to flow and while the S4 boasts some impressive specs, just what does the person on the street think of the S4?

I let some friends, who ranged from not interested in mobiles at all to very interested and owns several devices,  loose on the S4 while catching up at a pub to see whether they were impressed with the new handset at all, or whether it was just another doohickey too expensive to bother with.

The looks

First of all, it’s worth noting that on a recent excursion, when I pulled out the S4, someone said “Woah, look at your massive freaking phone!” But I’m unsure whether that was disgust or awe, so no points lost or gained there.

The S4’s appearance didn’t seem to impress people overly; there were a few “Oohs” but this was probably more due to the fact that high end smartphones do tend to look like, well, high end technology.  Plus, I prefaced its entrance with “This is a fancy new smartphone!” so you know, bias may have played a role.S4 lock screen

However, what did impress my compatriots, and actually seemed to end up being the most impressive thing about the smartphone, was the unlock screen, with its varied location shots and light animation when you trace your finger across the screen – this was pretty fun to play with and the phone ended up being locked and unlocked several times to demonstrate it.

Another comment was that the S4 was remarkably light, and certainly weighing in at 130g as it does is pretty light by smartphone standards.


We gave S Voice a go, and it didn’t perform well, particularly when someone was watching – I was told that it had done well up until the tester had an audience. Eventually the search phrases degenerated into ‘I’m going to murder you phone’, to which the S4 did chirpily reply “I’ll search the web for “I’m going to murder you phone”.  However this is an Android function, not Samsung technology. UPDATED: Double checking this, we were using S Voice, not Google voice search, which is a Samsung offering; so a bit more work needed (or maybe a New Zealand accent translator) on Samsung’s part.

However a good ‘Wow’ moment was the Quick Screen air gesture option, where the screen lights up to show basic information like messages and battery level, when you wave your hand over the S4’s sensor while on lock screen.

Air View, which shows a  preview of information when you hover your finger over certain applications, got a so-so reaction; while it was agreed that it was neat that the phone could do it, there was general agreement that it was difficult to avoid just touching the darn screen in the first place.Gesture to unlock

Smart Pause, alas, didn’t work on the test video we had going and there was much disappointment that this feature couldn’t be viewed.

The offerings that piqued the most interest were the different camera functionalities, with Eraser, which automatically detects “heavy” movement (like photo bombing) and removes it, getting the most appreciation (the imminent death of photo bombing also received approval).  Dual camera was also an idea that my friends seemed interested in.

Sound and Shot was an idea which seemed to appeal in theory, but when actually trying it out was pretty painful in a static situation, since nine seconds is actually a long time to keep a sound going consciously; at the pub, we took a manic photo and then had to fill in sound with various things such as “Nah nah nah nah! Nine seconds is far too long!” I can see this function being neat for things like sporting events or concerts, but for your run of the mill photo, nine seconds feels like an eternity.

In all

In the end, we decided the phone was far too expensive to play around with in a pub and put it away, post haste.  But it’s interesting that the camera functions are something that piqued people’s interest, and that the smart gestures, while neat in theory, can be something people get over fairly quickly.

Stay tuned for What Mobile’s full review of the Galaxy S4.

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