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Samsung Galaxy S4 deep-dive review: A real-world evaluation

JR Raphael | April 30, 2013
Some things in this world need no introduction. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is not one of those things.

For example, on a stock Android device, you can create a folder on the home screen by simply dragging one icon on top of another. You can then remove the folder by dragging all of the icons out of it and back onto the home screen. Samsung has added extra steps into the creation process, requiring you to first drag an icon up to a "Create Folder" command, then name the folder, and then go back and drag a second icon on top of it. And easily removing a folder after you've created it? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Samsung has also tweaked the Android 4.2 lock screen widget feature with negative results. The company has effectively hidden the feature; instead of being able to swipe over on your home screen to add a widget, you first have to find and activate an option buried within the system settings to enable it. Worse yet, Samsung has made the feature completely unavailable if you use a pattern, PIN or any other level of security on your device. This is a shame, because there are plenty of lock screen widgets that enhance the user experience without compromising security -- and Galaxy S4 users who keep their devices protected won't be able to take advantage of them.

The list of changes that unnecessarily complicate things goes on and on. In the main system settings, Samsung has split things up into four categorized tabs: Connections, My Device, Accounts and More. The idea seems sensible enough in theory, but in practice, it ends up making it more difficult to find what you need. Want info about your phone's battery? Don't look under My Device; it's located under More. The same applies for the app manager and security options. Instead of scrolling through a single list to find what you want, you now have to scroll haphazardly through four.

Then there's the company's take on the Android 4.2-level Quick Settings panel: While stock Android software uses that space to provide you with quick access to commonly used commands, Samsung crams in four full rows of tiny, brightly colored buttons for every function you could imagine -- including toggles you likely won't need with any regularity, like screen mirroring, S Beam, NFC and Air Gesture.

Having more options isn't necessarily bad, but for a Quick Settings panel, this sort of "everything under the sun" approach largely defeats the purpose -- and also creates a sense of visual overload that's likely to overwhelm users. What's more, Samsung places those same functions in the regular notifications panel, creating more redundant and unnecessary clutter.

Software features

Samsung's "more is more" mentality extends to the Galaxy S4's software features; in many ways, it feels like the company tried to jam every feature it could think of into the GS4, regardless of whether it'd be practical or useful for users.

 

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