A week with: The Samsung Galaxy S4
Price: from £549/tariffs vary
Processor: 1.9GHz quad-core OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean Memory: 16GB
Display: 1,080p HD super Amoled
What is it?
The latest attempt by South Korea's biggest company to wrest control of the smartphone market from those pesky folk in Cupertino. It may work.
The Galaxy S4 launched last week in New York City to near-Apple levels of fanfare and – given its almost unbounded number of functions – is being marketed as your "life companion". Which might be hard news for your husband, partner or chocolate Labrador to take.
Does it work?
Thanks to its 5in screen, and solid (but not best-in-class) battery, the S4, with its 1.9GHz quad-core processor, is quicker than a governmental-policy U-turn. Add in its 4G readiness and you'll rarely find yourself standing on the platform waiting for independent.co.uk to load again. It looks stunning, too, with a 1,080p full high-def display. And although – like many of Samsung's better phones – it looks big at first, it's suitably light and slim enough that it fits in a tight jean pocket as easily as my iPhone 4. It's fast, good-looking and has more functions than it's possible to discover in a week.
Possibly the most eye-catching (literally, ho ho) feature of the S4 is its sci-fi Smart Screen and Air View modes. In these, you simply flick a switch in the settings menu and a whole new world of using a phone emerges.
The Smart Screen mode allows the S4 to scan your eye position in relation to the screen and then moves your scrolling text, whether that's a boring email or a web page, up and down as your eyes move. Even though it moves more with your head than your eyes (expect to see commuters nationwide jutting necks awkwardly over the next 12 months) and doesn't always calibrate, it's really, really cool. And it actually works, too. (LG's Optimus G Pro features a similar function.)
Air View and Air Gesture, which could be used with the S Pen on the Galaxy Note II, allow you to control the phone without touching it. Sensors on the front see your hand movements and – for features such as selecting pictures in an album, answering calls and moving icons – you can waft them around. I imagine you'll use this more for showing off the device to your friends than actually using it, but as an indicator of where we're heading. A voice-, gesture- and – I dunno – thought-controlled future. It's a long way from the Nokia 3310, let's put it that way.
Is it worth the money?
Like a mail-order husband or bride, this "life companion" won't come cheap. T-Mobile does a £7/month contract that's offset by a £460 upfront purchase. You can also buy it in full from about £550 (at three.co.uk), which, if you can afford it, is likely the best way to go, rather than commit to a likely £1,000-plus two-year contract. It's a lot, but in the context of smartphones, reasonable. A similar 16GB iPhone 5 would be £20 less. So it might depend if you're an iOS or Android booster. Still, for a phone in 2013, this is probably as good as it gets.
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