Samsung's new Galaxy S4 has been one of the most hotly anticipated smartphones of all time. You've no doubt seen the TV commercials, read all of the reviews and perhaps bought into the hype. If you're an early adopter, you may have even bought one already.
If you're yet to make up your mind, or you're waiting for your current contract to run out, it's a tough decision. The Galaxy S4 has a great display, an improved camera and a huge amount of software features and functions, but there's a few niggling annoyances that might turn you off.
After using the Samsung Galaxy S4 as our primary smartphone for over a month, here are five reasons you might want to overlook Samsung's latest flagship Android phone.
1. It looks the same as the Galaxy S III
If you don't own a Samsung Galaxy S III, you can skip to the next point. If you do and you're considering an upgrade, you'll probably going to be disappointed. Put the Galaxy S4 next to the Galaxy S III and you'll be hard pressed telling the difference.
Samsung has kept much of the design the same, so only small details have changed. The company obviously feels that the familiar look and feel will immediately resonate with Galaxy S III owners, but we would have appreciated a fresh new look. Sure, the Galaxy S4 is thinner and lighter than the Galaxy S III but was anyone really unhappy with the thickness and weight of the S III in the first place?
More telling is the fact that the Galaxy S4 feels like a toy when compared to its biggest rivals, the Apple iPhone 5 and the HTC One. It's ultimately a personal preference but there's no denying that the Galaxy S4 feels much cheaper than the aluminium body of its competitors. The glossy back of the phone is also slippery and this can make it tough to hold.
2. The user interface is...ugly
Samsung is clearly banking on software innovation to win over consumers. The Galaxy S4 may be an Android phone but it looks absolutely nothing like one thanks to Samsung's TouchWIZ UI overlay. Like the physical design of the phone, the look and feel of the software hasn't changed very much from the Galaxy S III. This is a shame because the look is, well, pretty ugly.
This is again a matter of personal preference, but put the Galaxy S4 next to the Google Nexus 4, for example, and see the difference for yourself. While Google hasn't always produced nice looking interfaces, the latest stock version of Android is clean, attractive and pretty easy to use.
The opposite can be said of the Galaxy S4. From the annoying water droplet sounds everytime you touch the screen, to the oversized, cartoonish looking icons in the app drawer, Samsung really needs some new software designers. In many cases, most of the changes it has made are changes for changes sake. Take the S Calendar app for example: is there any person out there who prefers this hideous brown and beige look over Android's default calendar? Surely not.
As if all this wasn't bad enough, Australian users of the Galaxy S4 can't even edit the four home screen dock shortcuts, which are by default set to phone, contacts, messaging and Internet. This is a ridiculous limitation.
3. It's overloaded with useless features
The Galaxy S4 has arrived with a huge marketing campaign that focuses mostly on Samsung's "exclusive" software features. While we aren't ones to turn our noses up at innovation, most of the Galaxy S4's party tricks are exactly that: useless features with an initial wow factor that wears off very, very quickly.
Take Air View, for example, which allows you to hover over the screen with your finger to display extra information, such as previewing an email, a Flipboard story or a calendar entry. Want to use it in Gmail? No, only works in Samsung's mail app. Want to use it in Google Calendar? No, only works in S Calendar. When we did use it, we often ended up tapping the screen anyway because the margin for hovering your finger over the screen is very close.
Similarly, Air Gesture allows you to swipe your hand over the screen without touching it to swipe through images in the gallery. We found it very sensitive and it often swiped back when we moved our hand back to swipe forward again. There's also Smart Pause, which automatically pauses a video when you lo ok away from the screen and Smart Scroll, which allows you to scroll a Web page by either tilting the phone up or down, or tilting your head. They both work sporadically at best.
4. It's more difficult to use
Learning to use the Galaxy S4 is a longer process than previous models. The quick settings toggle dropdown in the notifications panel is a perfect example. There are no less than 20 toggles. The basics, like turning on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are handy, but the others can be very overwhelming, especially for first time smartphone or Android users.
In addition, the settings menu on the Galaxy S4 is substantially larger, so much so that Samsung has now split the menu into four tabbed sections. The layout makes it more confusing and less obvious which settings are in each tab, unlike the standard Android layout.
Samsung has even included an easy mode targetted at first time smartphone users that enlarges icons, provides some simple shortcuts and hides most other options. It works well but the fact that the company felt it necessary to add this mode in the first place is almost an admittance that the S4's interface will initially be confusing to many users.
5. It's not as zippy as it should be
The Galaxy S4 is generally a fast and responsive smartphone overall. It runs even the most graphically intense games without so much as a stutter and most apps open almost instantly. However, some commonly used apps do exhibit some annoying lag and on a phone with class-leading specifications, this is a real shame.
The gallery can be quite sluggish at times, Samsung's on-screen keyboard takes a second or two to appear in the messaging app and the phone app sometimes experiences some slight lag when switching between tabs. There's also some home button lag but this can thankfully be resolved by deactivating the S Voice shortcut. While these minor delays aren't huge issues, they are disappointing given the Galaxy S4's impressive specifications.
Considering a Samsung Galaxy S4? Disagree with our thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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