Sunday, May 5, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Update

I said I'd update my experience with my brand new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone (on Sprint), as a help to anyone who is trying to decide to buy one. Here are just a few quick notes on my experience so far:

- Integration with my car stereo (via blue tooth) is much more successful and useful than my old HTC Evo was. Synching was easy, and I figured it out without a manual. Pandora worked like a dream, with full functionality, album art, song description, thumbs up and down, etc., the radio recording service is a little more glitchy, but them's the breaks.
- A phone call through blue tooth in my car was clearer. I've only tried one, but it was a better experience than my Evo.
- Useability of the actual phone functions are clearer and easier. HTC's phone and contacts programming was just awful, so even though Samsung's TouchWiz is a bit cartoony, it is very functional.
- Still digging the sharpness of the screen. It's gorgeous.
- One of my favorite app games, 3D Bowling, offers much more precise control. I was able to pick up spares I never had a chance at before. But it takes a game or three to get your bearings.
- I like the lock screen, the default splash sound and ripple effects are fun.
- I was worried about sound quality, since that was the strongest selling point of the HTC One (a phone I'd also considered). But the S4's sound is a notch up from my Evo or The Other Half's Epic. Not disappointing at all.
- I'm getting used to the size and weight of this phone. Even with the rubber cover that Costco supplied, the phone feels slimmer and lighter than my Evo. It is of course larger in its other dimensions, but I think it manages to come in just under "too big." And it dwarfs my friends' iPhone 4S and 5! Hee-hee!
- There's an intangible glee that I get from simply having a brand new, newly-released major phone. That may sound silly, but I've been behind the curve on these things for so long, and you're basically trapped with your choice for two years. I will read the news of the Galaxy S5 and S6 in the coming years, and who knows, the HTC Two? Three? And you know that iPhone 5S, 6 and 6S will be on the horizon while my 2 years play out. But I can rest easy for at least the remainder of 2013 before feeling phone lust again!
- Everything zips along at a faster clip than my old phone could manage. Internet is actually approaching real computer-level functionality on phones like this, though it isn't a substitute if you have a computer or tablet nearby. That may change, however, when the 4G service finally hits Las Vegas (or your area).


- The included pedometer is not useful. I took it on my standard 4-mile walk, and it only registered a 1.6 mile walk. Unless there is some sort of calibration. I will check that out.
- Voice activation--a feature that is unnecessary, but cool--isn't reliable. It works when no one is watching, but when I try to demonstrate by saying "Kirk to Enterprise!" it makes me look stupid by not doing anything!
- The "bloatware" on every home screen is kind of over-the-top. It's nice that Samsung includes so much cool stuff, but I doubt I'll use much of it, and it doesn't need to be taking up so much real estate. Sure, you can take it off the screen but if my previous experience holds true, you won't be able to actually delete any of it.
- Touted features like touchless scrolling and the like haven't worked very well for me yet. The "wave your hand to answer" feature does work, but it's a "look how cool I am" feature more than anything else.
- The default clock/weather app is very nice, pretty and informative. But it is opaque and takes up almost half of that big screen, obscuring any wallpaper you might have. So, though you'll want it front-and-center, you're stuck with it unless you find a third-party solution. Also? It insists that I live in "Arden, NV." Before this, I'd never heard of Arden, apparently an unincorporated region of southern Nevada about 8 miles from me. In reality, I live in unincorporated Clark County, in Paradise Township (the same township as the Las Vegas Strip). This could be the fault of the towers around me, I suppose.
- The biggest con is one recently publicized: Samsung's software takes up a huge chunk of the 16GB internal memory. How big  of a con that is, I won't know until I get deeper into my contract. Right now, I have lots of room. The phone also has a mini-SD expansion slot, but some smarty-pants at Samsung decided to disable the ability to move apps to your external chip! WHY? That said, the HTC One doesn't even allow an external chip at all, so that choice may limit a person even more.

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