Let’s begin with how I first felt and still feel about the S4. For a phone with a 5 inch screen, it’s one of the easiest to handle. A replaceable battery and expandable memory are obvious pluses. As far as all of the new features were concerned, I thought they were all great new ways of doing tasks we’ve done before.
Were they all practical? Well, even back then I knew some of them were more gimmicks than real game changers. And when it came to TouchWiz, I was never actually a fan of it as a user interface. But on a bigger screen, I thought it actually worked better. So, I had a phone that was both new and very familiar. I’ve played plenty of games on it and haven’t had any problems — speed has never been an issue on the S4 and I’ve only counted two times that it has crashed on me.
Now here is some disclosure — I was never a Galaxy S3 owner. I was familiar with it, though. So a lot of what might have returned in the S4 was still somewhat new to me. Some of the gestures and MultiWindow all worked awesomely and with the new stuff, it was a jam packed device. And for a while, I used all of them. Especially hand gestures.
Website reading was done in a better, lazy fashion when I could wave my hand while it was on the table. Air View helped me zoom into elements on webpages. YouTube viewing was enhanced by the Smart Pause function, especially when I got distracted. But the rest? Yeah, they lost their usefulness within the first few weeks. The Smart Scroll, especially. A simple demonstration of it amazed my friends but otherwise, it was never used.
That S4 commercial that shows people asking about the phone is actually true. Well, half-true. When people realize you are using the Samsung Galaxy S4, they do get excited and ask a lot of questions. Which is great – when they can tell you’re using the S4.
We Android users might be able to differentiate between the S3 and S4 easily but it’s become clear to me that the general user can’t. And without being overtly head turning, the S4 just looks and feels like the old S3. As tried and true as the design of the S4 is, in and out, none of it matters of the phone can’t reel people in from the start. As the exciting features were used less and less, the more the phone felt older. And without anything else that could turn heads, it gradually felt less exciting. And this is only after three months.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the Galaxy S4 is a fine device. A true example of the finest that Android can offer. I am obviously in a special position in that I have access to all of the Galaxy S4’s competitors. There are many — and that is the rub. Look at it this way — there is no doubt how well the Galaxy S4 has been selling and will continue to sell. It will get a refreshing boost when more accessories are released for it, all of which allow for customization. But how has it been able to achieve all that? Simple – with the success of the original S3.
But over a year ago, the smartphone market was different. While there were plenty of other Android phones worthy of praise, the Galaxy S3 basically had one goal — contend with the iPhone. And it did a great job. It skyrocketed Samsung’s status in the smartphone market and made the term Galaxy as ubiquitous as Droid. It paved the way for future Galaxy phones to enjoy the same kind of success.
But then the S4 was released without any real drastic changes to the general formula. It focused on perfecting what was already started by the Galaxy line. At this point in the smartphone market, though, sticking to what worked may not always hold up to what other manufacturers are attempting. It’s no longer just about contending with the iPhone – it’s about keeping up with all of these other players that more easily represent change.
I don’t fear that the Galaxy S4 will fade into obscurity -- that’s quite impossible with how huge Samsung is.
I don’t fear that the Galaxy S4 will fade into obscurity – that’s quite impossible with how huge Samsung is. What I can admit is that even as a big S4 supporter, I soon started to experience phone envy. One year ago, that might not have been as possible with the S3 – but now, it’s not quite so lonely at the top. The HTC One, the Sony Xperia line, and even lesser known phones like the Oppo Find 5 are looming in the shadows.
Do I still love the Galaxy S4? Yes, I do. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is fast, reliable, and it can be a very exciting device. It belongs among the best. I still use it everyday because of its familiarity and it is just as reliable as it was the first day I got it – even if the extras no longer excite me as much. But when you strip all that away, it’s a phone you already know and may have loved since the S3. And that’s when you take a step back – and realize that the Galaxy line no longer stands alone.
I’m not telling you to go out and get multiple phones – the takeaway here is: play the field. If you find everything the Galaxy S4 offers you will keep you engaged and happy, more power to you. Just remember there are plenty of other devices out there – a fact that has gotten truer every year for the past half decade. And that’s what’s awesome.