Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Galaxy S4 Update, One Month In

There are some cons. . .
So, after lusting for a new phone for months, (torn between the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4), I've now had it for a month. Am I digging it? Is it just "my phone," rather than "my new phone," now that I'm used to it? Is it a hit or a flop?

Well, so far--mostly--it's a hit. The primary "con" I saw with the Galaxy as opposed to the One before I bought it was the design. The One has a sleek aluminum body, and the S4 has a thin plastic, snap-on back cover. I opted for the S4 anyway, because of its removable battery, and an expandable memory via micro-SD chip. But as it turns out, the design of the S4 didn't bother me. All of my phones have been primarily plastic, and it's never bugged me before. And, I keep it in a soft vinyl protective case anyway, so I rarely see much of the phone's chassis.

The other con was the fact that the One has some amped up front-facing speakers, and the S4 just has a tinny speaker on the back. This is rarely an issue, though I have to say, my protective case can muffle the little speaker when it sits on my desk. The little bump-out on the phone's back doesn't extend past the case, so keep that in mind, or prop your phone on one end to lift it off your desk. Other cons were discovered after purchase. One of them is the actual storage space available for apps. The phone is advertised as 16GB, but half of that is taken by the pre-loaded software. And even though you can pop a 64GB chip in there (maybe even 128?), you can't put apps on the chip (at least not with this version of Android). It's fine for me, since you can put all of your music, pictures and videos on the chip, and I don't have huge apps downloaded.

And there are pros!
Beyond that, I can tell you that the phone gets hot, rather randomly. Not enough to burn you, but enough to be a bit uncomfortable. Most of the time it's fine, and then you'll play a quick Words with Friends game, and wow! Hot! Other times you can mess with it for an hour and it's fine. So, I don't know. Another thing is the built-in pedometer, which only kind of works. I carry my phone at work and on my walks, and errands, and in any given day I might walk seven miles with my phone. And sometimes, it registers that. Other days, I'll go for a four-mile walk, and it registers 1.5 miles. I don't know if I'm walking with more of a stomp some days or what, but there you go. It might be helpful if their app included a GPS tracker that actually clocked miles rather than just steps.

And if it sounds like I'm complaining a lot, I should state that I really do like this phone. The screen is bright, clear and large. In the bright Las Vegas sun, you wouldn't want to watch a movie, but the screen is legible for advancing music tracks or other brief tasks. The sound through headphones is great, and adjustable to your hearing ability (with a one-time setup). Everything about tweaking settings I have found to be more intuitive, and easy. Setting up bluetooth has been a snap on each device I've tried. I've had success with pretty much everything I've tried to do.

My favorite find on the phone is the Google Search Bar, which I know, is not exclusive to the Galaxy S4. I've seen people use Apple's Siri, and I've personally used the Android Siri clone Iris. But I've never seen anything like this. Press the microphone and say just about anything, and up it pops. I haven't had it "mishear" a word yet. I've used voice commands on earlier phones to much more mixed results. I found it to be a seldom-used novelty. On this phone, it's just too cool to forget about. No more picking the app, typing a phrase, poking around. It's just, "show me a picture of Portia de Rossi," and up it pops! It answers direct questions well, like "what is the distance from earth to the moon," but doesn't engage you in conversation like Iris and Siri. I'm cool with that, I have Iris installed if I need to show of parlor tricks. Google Search Bar is much more useful. Needs a cuter name though.

And that's pretty much where we are now. I'll tip you off to something cool I discovered that goes great with smart phones though. We were always having to run through the house to answer our cell phones, and I always thought it was a step back to the days before we could have extensions in every room. I actually said out loud, "Somebody needs to invent a house phone that links up with your cell phone." I thought it would be impractical, because most households have at least two cell phones, plus the house phones. How would that even work?

Panasonic Link2Cell (so cool!)
Then, I remembered having seen phone sets at Sam's Club and Costco. Packages of 3, 4 or 5 identical handsets. So, I looked 'em up. And I'm not sure if all brands of them do this, but the Panasonic Link2Cell series hooks to one of your house phone jacks, and lets you put extensions wherever you want them (just a power cord). It synchs up with up to two cell phones and your land line (if you have one)! I replaced all of our mismatched handsets, set it up in the space of a half hour, and now we can answer any of our phones in any room without the mad phone hunt! The only sacrifices are that your cell phones need to be in range of the base unit (in our 1560 sq. ft. house, they always are), and answering a cell call on an extension takes a couple of extra seconds to connect. Other than that, it's the coolest invention since bluetooth.

Since Panasonic and Samsung don't pay me to review their items, I'm not linking to either of them. But take out your Android or iPhone, press either the Google Search Bar or Siri microphone, and say, "Panasonic Link2Cell," and find out all about them. Thanks for reading, I hope I've been helpful.

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