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Tag / mobile phone review

Like many people, I had my hands on the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4 during the Malaysian launch at the end of April, 2013. The arguably the most sophisticated Android phone to date looked sleek and felt responsive the few minutes I got to play with it, but you can’t really do a phone review without living with it for a while.

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Life Companion
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Life Companion

Couple weeks ago, I had the chance to take home a Galaxy S4 for a week long review, and this is what I think about the gadget.

First, the few highlighted hardware specifications:

  • 5″ Full HD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080)
  • 1.6 Ghz Octo-core
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • 13 MP rear and 2 MP front cameras
  • 2600 mAh battery
  • infrared transmitter

In terms of look, the S4 doesn’t stray far from its predecessor. The dimensions of S4 are almost identical (with S4 being slightly thinner), and with the bigger 5″ screen compared to S3’s 4.8″, the bezel of S4 is much thinner. It is an evolution for the better in terms of look and feel.

Story Album, Walking Mate, Samsung Hub
Story Album, Walking Mate, Samsung Hub

There are several in-house applications and features that are bundled with Samsung Android devices, most of which aren’t available on other phones. I want to talk about a few of them here.

Story Album:

This application is pretty smart. After you capture pictures from certain place/time, the phone will automatically prompt for a creation of a story album. It’s a little bit like auto generated slideshow for your photos where you can add text descriptions and such, all done in minimal time. Pretty nifty.

from a motorcycle shop - back lit
from a motorcycle shop – back lit

S Health:

This is an application that tracks your calorie intake and output via Walking Mate, Exercise Mate, and Food Tracker. The program utilizes the phone’s G sensor as a pedometer, and will also differentiate steps you take going upstairs from those on flat surface. It’s pretty neat and a helpful for those who want to stay active. An armband is useful with this.

Essentially, S Health is a little bit like a cross between Endomondo and Jawbone Up.

Camera on the Galaxy S4 - colors & smoke
Camera on the Galaxy S4 – colors & smoke

S Translator:

The built in translation service on S4 knows 9 different languages so far – Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and English. The speech-to-text-translate-text-to-speech cycle worked better than I anticipated, I believe you can really use this service as a simple translation tool while travelling, but don’t expect to have a philosophical discussion with your Korean friend in Spanish just yet.

typical 1 Malaysia breakfast with toast, half boiled eggs, coffee - food shot
typical 1 Malaysia breakfast with toast, half boiled eggs, coffee – food shot


Noticed that infrared transmitter in the specification sheet? Instead of having just a basic remote control function for your living room entertainment systems and TVs, WatchOn is a full fledge application that’s designed to work with your Astro satellite or fiber TV service.

The app synchronizes with Astro’s program list and allow for notifications and remote control of your TV, Astro receiver/PVR, and even audio system all at the same time. You can also customize and show only the classification of TV programmes you’re interested in, such as Sports or Movies.

It is really very, very neat.

Galaxy S4's airview function is pretty neat
Galaxy S4’s Air View function is pretty neat

Air View and Air Gesture:

Air View and Air Gesture are functions on the phone that allows you certain controls by merely getting close to the phone and without really touching it. For example, hover your finger over the photo album will magnify the picture directly beneath, and doing the same on messages or emails will pop up a summary.

I find that the air view works great on email/messaging & contact list very well, but the feature isn’t taken advantage by every application yet, it should get better as more programs take advantage of this.

both camera at the same time
both camera at the same time – dual shot


For me personally, camera is perhaps the most important feature on a mobile phone. I use it extensively for snapping photos (mostly food, obviously) and upload them to my instagram, facebook, and this blog.

The camera on Samsung Galaxy S4 did not disappoint. I usually leave it on full auto mode and let the software do the rest. Every photo except those that shows the S4 and screenshots are taken with the phone and I’m rather happy with the results, color reproduction is especially awesome.

The photos aren’t edited or altered in any way except for resizing. Operation is fast, and picture quality is better than compact cameras I’ve owned.

panoramic shots made easy
panoramic shots made easy

The panoramic shooting, burst mode, face detection, anti-shake, best photo, best face, and dual shot are among the extra features that comes with the camera application. There’s also an image editing program that’s shipped with the Galaxy S4 for quick in-phone editing as well.

Over the week long testing period, I came to really liking the Galaxy S4. Props to Samsung for always pushing the envelop and came up with this brilliant gadget. Now why didn’t I get to keep it?