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Galaxy S4: Vivid color, vibrant performance

Published: Saturday, July 6, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
A picture of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4 smartphone is seen on the screen at a showroom of its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea

The fight for mobile supremacy continues as Samsung’s latest entry, the Galaxy S4 from Verizon, steps into the ring. How does it stand up to the competition?

Weighing jsut 4.6 ounces, the Galaxy S4 feels smooth and lightweight in the hand. Its generous 5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen bursts with color, perfect if you’re looking for a smartphone that can handle video and games but still fits in your pocket.

It has a peppy quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM, more than adequate to handle your on-the-go needs. The model I tested comes with 16GB of on-board memory and includes a microSD slot for the storage-hungry.

Duration of battery charge depends on usage. I had no trouble, but if your experience differs you may want to try some battery-saving techniques like reducing the screen brightness and turning off Internet access when not in use.

I found no lag in response time when running apps or using Samsung’s easy-to-learn touch gestures. However, I didn’t have as much success with Samsung’s touted Air Gestures and Air View, which allow you to navigate without touching the screen. These features aren’t supported by every app, and where they are, they’re not as reliable as touch gestures.

Similarly, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause sound helpful in theory but lose much in the practice. Both track your eye movements to determine when you are looking at the screen. Smart Scroll lets you tilt the phone to scroll, while Smart Pause pauses what you’re watching when you look away from the screen. They’re not perfect, but perhaps future versions will be more precise.

The Galaxy S4 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Samsung augments your Android experience with its own S Apps including S Memo, S Translator, S Voice, and S Health, a fitness app. Of course, you have the entire Google Play store at your disposal as well. Samsung Hub promises to be your one-stop shop for music, video, and books, though people may be getting those elsewhere. Samsung Link allows you to view and transfer content between multiple devices and your computer.

The Galaxy S4’s menus are refreshingly intuitive, with default options including email, calendar, apps, Internet, and messaging. This being Android, you can customize any way you wish. The Menu and Back buttons at the bottom of the device only light when active, which can be confusing if you don’t realize they’re there.

Other features of the Galaxy S4 include NFC and LTC, plus two cameras, a 13-megapixel rear camera with flash and another 2-megapixel camera in the front. You can edit photos from the device, or use Story Album to create your own professionally-printed albums. You can also use Erasure Mode to crop out that person who accidentally walked into your photo.

I was pleased to see that Verizon is calling security to the forefront with its VZ Security service. You can opt for the free basic version, which gives you antivirus plus McAfee SiteAdvisor which checks for bad web links. If you opt for the $1.99/month Premium version, you’ll also get the ability to lock or erase the device, locate it with alarm andGPS, and examine apps for privacy.

Samsung wants the Galaxy S4 to be your go-to device for mobile communication and entertainment. Once again they’ve delivered a solid performer that is simple enough for a beginner, yet flexible for the advanced user.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and IT specialist. Her Tech Tips blog (http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips) offers computer help and social media advice. She can be reached at info@guidryconsulting.com or via Twitter @trionaguidry.

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