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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Review Roundup

Samsung’s new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, will arrive in stores over the next week in the United States. Analysts expect this phone to be a potent challenger to the iPhone, but several technology writers who got the device early agree that the Galaxy S4 is good, but not great. Many felt the new software features were gimmicky and cumbersome.

Here are samples of what a few prominent technology writers had to say.

Michael Calore of Wired magazine said the many features of the Galaxy S4 were impressive. But he noted that the software is “a big bag of ‘why?’” and the features were limited to working with a few apps.

But all that business of waving your hand or moving your eyes to scroll while reading â€" it only works in the crummy Android browser. It does not work in Chrome, where I do all of my browsing. It doesn’t work in Google Reader or Flipboard or Instapaper or the Kindle app, where so much reading happens. Looking away from the screen doesn’t pause a video in YouTube, only in the Samsung video player.

Walt Mossberg of All Things D said the S4 is “a good, but not a great, step up.”

It’s an evolution of the prior model and despite some improvements, it still is especially weak in the software Samsung adds to basic Android. I found Samsung’s software often gimmicky, duplicative of standard Android apps, or, in some cases, only intermittently functional.

Brad Molen of Engadget said the Galaxy S4’s design didn’t feel fresh, but the device was an improvement over its predecessor. But he echoed the complaints about the software.

Software-wise, Samsung’s brand-new features are innovative and clever, yet most of them don’t solve any actual UX problems; they seem impractical and are (in some cases) less convenient than tried-and-true methods we’ve used in the past.

David Pogue of The New York Times said the smartphone was good for both gadget nerds who love to tinker and people who are new to smartphones because of “Easy Mode,” which simplifies the home screen.

For everyone else, the S4 may be buggy in spots and laden with not-quite-there features. But the basics are excellent; this phone is still a fast, bright, handsome pocket rocket. It easily earns its place as a successor to the Galaxy S3 and a rival to the iPhone.