Galaxy S4 Unboxed: First Impressions

Samsung Galaxy S4

For those of you who’ve followed me here on ZAGGblog (or Twitter) for a while now, you’ll remember today as the day that hell froze over. Yes, I put my trusty iPhone 5 back in its box and jumped ship for the new Samsung Galaxy S4. Only time will tell if it’ll be a long-lasting change for me, as I’ve been a devote Apple guy for as long as I can remember.

So, if you’re considering making the switch from iPhone to Android, either to the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, or any of the other new devices that are hitting shelves in your local retailers right now, this post is aimed squarely at you and the questions you’d likely have about making the switch.

I’m a Verizon customer, so my device is the black Verizon 4G LTE model. From a hardware and software perspective, what I write here will apply to all the different variations of the Galaxy S4 here in the U.S. If you’re looking at an international version (or eventually the Google/Nexus version), that experience may be slightly different.

So let’s get started, shall we?

I’ve had the phone for a whopping 5 hours so far, so this isn’t meant to be a full, comprehensive review. That’ll come later. These are my first impressions with only a few hours of use.

1. It feels a lot better in my admittedly small hands than the Galaxy S3, or any other previous Galaxy for that matter.

2. You may have read on any number of tech sites that because the Galaxy S4 is still made of plastic, it feels cheap. Coming from an iPhone 5 machined out of glass and aluminum, I’d have to agree. It just doesn’t have quite the same level of precision and build-quality as an iPhone 5. The battery cover on the back flexes and bends (but doesn’t break). However, if you give a few solid taps with your finger to the front or back of the phone, it doesn’t have the hollow, empty feel. It feels more solid.

3. With regards to build quality and design decisions, I’ll say I’m a big fan of the stainless steel-looking band that runs around the outside edges. It’s still a plastic/composite material, but it looks and feels nice.

4. As for the physical home button: I’m not a fan. I wasn’t a fan of it on the Galaxy S3, the Galaxy Note 2, or now, the Galaxy S4. Physical buttons of any kind are always prone to failure because they’re mechanical. And besides the power button, what button do you likely use the most? The Home button. I’d much rather see Samsung go with capacitive buttons like several other manufacturers are doing (and how Google prefers it with Android). Is it a deal breaker? Absolutely not. At least Verizon didn’t slap their logo on the Home button this time, like they did with the Galaxy Note 2.

5. The stock Samsung keyboard, in my opinion, is junk. The auto-correct feature is severely lacking, especially if you’re a fast-fingered texter like I am. You’ll want to replace that with an alternative keyboard from the Play Store. My personal favorite is SwiftKey.

6. The screen is bright, crisp and sharp, and the colors are strong and vivid. Samsung is known for adding some color saturation to their displays, even to the point of being a little on the unrealistic side. Fortunately, you can tweak the display settings on the Galaxy S4 to scale that back a little. I haven’t gotten in to tinker with that setting yet, but I will be soon. And I’d be remiss to not mention one of the first accessories I ordered was this.

7. I’m a big fan of Samsung’s new Dual Shot mode on the camera. It sounded gimmicky to me at first, but it’s actually pretty cool. It lets you activate both the front and back cameras at the same time, so if you’re out for a night on the town and want to snap a photo of your friends (but have to be the one to take the picture), Dual Shot mode will make it so your face actually ends up in the photo, too. I’ve heard rumors this feature will be added to the Galaxy S3 via a future software update, so if you’re not upgrading to the Galaxy S4, you’ll likely get this functionality as well.

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I’m excited about the Galaxy S4 more than any previous Android phone (I don’t really get excited about Android devices for the most part). I’m a huge photo buff, so it goes without saying I’ll be putting this new 13MP camera through its paces in the coming days. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my experience. If you have specific questions about things you want me to check out and report back on, feel free to connect on Twitter: @mbchp and let me know.

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You should follow Mike on Twitter for more great tech insights and good conversation. Be sure to say hello! You can also keep up with Mike on his personal blog: MikeBeauchamp.me, on Facebook, or on Google+.

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