Samsung has launched its flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, in the Indian market. We were able to experience the phone for a brief period on the sidelines of the Samsung India launch event.
The phone is available in two colours - Black Mist and White Frost. The first thing that you notice when you pick up the phone is that it doesn't feel bulky. For a device that has a 5-inch screen, the Galaxy S4 feels more like a phone and less like a phablet since its dimensions similar are to the Galaxy S III. It's pretty lightweight.
You see a power button on the right side of the phone, volume rocker on the left, a 3.5mm headset jack and Infrared receiver on the top and Micro-USB at the bottom. The SIM card, microSD card slot, and battery are accessible when you remove the back cover.
The front of the phone still features a physical Home button and two capacitive touch buttons for Menu and Back controls. The different sensors, front camera, notification light and earpiece grill sit above the screen.
The back features the 13-megapixel camera, with the LED flash right below it. The back (of the Black coloured model) still has that pseudo matte finish on the glossy plastic surface that attracts fingerprints. The White coloured model doesn't have the pseudo matte finish and instead sports a different dotted pattern which we found a little better. The Indian version doesn't feature the Galaxy S4 branding at the back. There's a small speaker outlet towards the bottom. Overall, the phone looks better than the Galaxy S III as it features a narrow body and thin bezel but doesn't feel alluring when compared to the like of the iPhone 5 and HTC One due to the use of polycarbonate (read plastic) materials.
The Galaxy S4's display is gorgeous with the HD screen rendering sharp images and text, although the colours are still a little saturated and look far from natural. Navigating through phone's menus and home screens is a smooth experience thanks to all the power under the hood.
We also got to experience some of Samsung's motion control and hand gestures. The Smart Pause gesture works well while watching videos and pauses them when you're looking away. We also tried the Air View gesture that lets you explore content on the screen without actually touching it. We found that this worked partially- we were able to hover over a video playback timeline and preview upcoming content through it but the mode didn't work for previewing images in the gallery. The other Air Gesture that lets you browse content when you wave your hand over the screen also works partially. We were able to browse through photos in the gallery in landscape mode with the gesture but it doesn't work as well in the portrait mode. Smart scroll also works intermittently letting you scroll through webpages when you tilt the screen. To be honest, the average user will end up spending more time trying to get these features to work than actually getting the task done.
The WatchOn TV remote software did not have India under the list of supported countries but one can manually configure individual devices to use the phone as a remote control. Samsung also offers content through its Music and Video hubs. The usual TouchWiz bells and whistles including the multi-window and pop up play are also present in the Galaxy S4. At times you really get overwhelmed with the number of settings, menus and controls that are present in this phone which might be a bad thing for new smartphone users. Samsung offers the option to hide advanced settings for newbies though.
Overall, the smart features are gimmicky and a lot of users will perhaps forget about them after the initial honeymoon period with the phone. They're mainly for salesmen to demonstrate in order to pull potential customers. Having said that, it's still one of the most feature rich Android smartphones available today. We'll have more with our review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 very soon.
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Samsung Galaxy S4 India launch and hands on