I have only ever owned two brands of smartphones – Blackberries and iPhones. I’m an Apple fan; I love Apple products and I’ve owned many of them. Currently, I own an iPad 3, an iPhone 4 and a mid-2012 Macbook Pro –I’m deeply entrenched in the Apple ecosystem and it has worked really well for me. I’ve never had anything favorable to say about Android devices, but I’ve never actually used one extensively either.
I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S4 for exactly one week and… wow. Transitioning from a 4 x 5 grid, 640 x 960 pixels, 3.5 inches 1 GHz 2010 iPhone 4 running iOS 6 to a 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches, Quad-core 1.6 GHz, 2013 Samsung S4 running Android’s Jelly Bean, wow, wow, wow. The difference in specs is ridiculous, but even bigger for me is the difference in operating system functionality.
The Galaxy S4, Samsung’s latest flagship phone, is the successor to the S3, a widely popular phone that did really well ( and still does). No doubt one of the best phones to start my Android experience with. My introduction to the S4 and the Android operating system was weird. It went something like ( in this particular order):
1. Yeah! this is a pretty cool phone: The novelty of a new phone, obviously curious and excited to “get into it”.
2, Jesus, I’m overwhelmed; I have no idea where to start: Personalizing the phone was a challenge – you know, the basic things like changing the notification sounds for apps, understanding and utilizing widgets, configuring the home screen etc
3. I hate this damn phone; I’m going back to my iPhone: After not being able to figure things out, I started to become frustrated. I also missed some iOS features, albeit small ones, but sometimes small features are the best ones; features you’ll never miss until you don’t have them anymore. The openness of Android vs Apple’s closed restricted approach is really what sets both platforms apart. Both have their pros and cons. I’ll give examples. Because of Apple’s “closed” approach you’ll find that your experience on the platform is usually consistent, i.e if you’re using a third party or a system application you can be guaranteed that some procedures will always be the same, one such example of this is copying and pasting. The procedure of copying and pasting is the same, no matter what application you use.
Another system-wide feature that I love is tapping the status bar in iOS to “jump to the top” of an application. So, let’s say you’re scrolling through some pictures on instagram and you want to get back to the top of the page, you would simply tap the status bar once and it will instantly bring you back to the top of the page. Those are examples of benefits to Apple’s closed nature; a consistent and predictable experience. Now because of this closed approach, iOS is not without its limitations. A couple of which are: system apps like the native calendar, calculator, email, photos, messages, camera etc cannot be changed from being your default app. So, let’s say you downloaded a third party calendar app. You would not be able to set said app as your default application.
These are some of the many annoyance of iOS, but I forgot about those annoyances briefly while using Android. Unlike iOS, you don’t have a consistent experience across applications. For example, copying/pasting text may vary from app to app. I found this extremely annoying. There’s also no streamlined way to jump to the top of an application.
4. Ok, I’m starting to figure things out. It’s not so bad: I decided to look past this and focus more on the virtues of the phone and realized there were many that I liked. Some of which are Android features while others are specific to the Samsung S4.
5. Wow, I love this phone: I love the LED light on the front of the phone that can flash in any color you want ( a particular color can represent a specific notification), I love the S4’s brilliant 5″ AMOLED screen, the battery life is amazing – with tethering on, screen brightness at 100%, GPS on and other features I still managed to go through a whole day with battery life left ( from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM). I love airview, but found the other features that Samsung is pushing to be gimmicky. I should also note that these features are limited to system apps. Widgets can be really useful on a phone with a screen as big as the Samsung s4’S. See my schedule and my to-do list at a glance is really useful, unlike on iOS where I have to actually open the application to see appointments and to-dos. The ability to add widgets to the lock screen is also a plus.
Another general Android feature that I like is the interconnectivity between apps. This is a really powerful feature that has me hooked. Let’s say you took a picture from your iPhone’s camera and you wanted to edit it. To do this you’d have 1. Take the picture, 2. Open the app you want to edit it in, 3. Browse for the picture in the app 3. Open and edit. The process would be the same for other applications. If you wanted to upload it to Dropbox for example, you would need to actually open dropbox and find the picture to upload it. I should also mention that you’re limited to uploading videos and photos in iOS ( You can however get around this with a little hackery)
On Android the process is much easier. You would simply take the picture and share with any application that supports it. Whether it’s sending it to dropbox, twitter, your picture editing app or wherever.
The S4’s camera is great, but I’ve chosen not to focus on features that have been widely reviewed elsewhere online.
To conclude, The Samsung 4S is a really powerful phone that can be overwhelming at first, but you’ll grow to love it more everyday. If you’re an iPhone user and you’re considering an Android phone to switch to this would be a safe bet. You’ll miss a couple iOS features at first, but you’ll love the openness of Android.
Disclosure: My Samsung Galaxy S4 was a gift from Samsung. This, however, did not influence how I reviewed the phone.