Consider this for a second – the current most popular Android device and the only device that has a chance of taking the title away from it are both Galaxy S phones. An impressive achievement for Samsung, whose Galaxy S3 already sold in 50 million units, a performance that will probably be outdone by the new Galaxy S4.
Widely regarded as the best Android smartphone of 2012, the Galaxy S3 is still a very good option for many customers. The Galaxy S4, however, brings a specs bump, a larger and crisper display, and a bevy of new software features.
Is the Galaxy S4 worth the upgrade from the S3? The knee jerk reaction is to proclaim the S4 a winner and call it a day. But there are some other factors at play, such as the price tag. For some users, the differences between the two phones might not warrant an upgrade.
Join us for a closer look at what sets the Galaxy S4 apart from the Galaxy S3, in terms of features, user experience, and price. In a hurry? Jump straight to the.
Design and build: don’t call it a revamp
With the Galaxy S4, Samsung had a bit of a dilemma on its hands. On one hand, the 2012 “inspired by nature” design language we’ve seen on the Galaxy S3, Note 2, and other devices has become widely associated with the Samsung brand. People recognize it. But the glazed finish, rounded profile, and especially the plastic build of the S3 have also been criticized. Critics love to point out that HTC and Apple use aluminum for their flagships, and the pressure was on for Samsung to move in the same direction.
That didn’t happen, and Samsung didn’t even see fit to change the design and build of the Galaxy S4 too much. In fact, it’s relatively easy to mistaken one device for the other, especially if you’re not familiar with the telltale differences between the two. The Galaxy S4 has a bigger screen and thinner bezels, and the home button is placed centrally on the bottom bezel. On the back, the camera and the flash have been centered, and the glazed finish of the Galaxy S3 gave way to a more subtle mesh pattern.
The real story in the design department is that Samsung managed to make the Galaxy S4 a bit smaller and lighter than last year’s S3, while giving it a bigger display and a bigger battery. It’s still a plastic phone, but a very well built one.
Display: more than just more pixels
One of the weak points of the Galaxy S3 was its PenTile AMOLED display, with its relative low brightness and bluish whites. For the Galaxy S4, Samsung listened to the critics and made the display not only bigger, but also better in almost every area. The same display experts that panned the S3 have praised the Galaxy S4 for being more color accurate, brighter, crisper, and overall closer to being the best smartphone display on the market, AMOLED or LCD.
By the numbers, the resolution went from 720p to 1080p (full HD), while the pixel density jumped from 306ppi to a searing 441ppi. The Galaxy S3’s display is still very sharp, and, especially if you haven’t used a full HD smartphone before, you likely won’t ever notice the pixels. However, the differences between the two panels are profound, and given that the display is probably the most important part of a smartphone, the 5-inch Galaxy S4 is clearly superior.
Specs: bigger and better, but worth the update?
The Galaxy S3 operates very smoothly in most situations, with the Exynos 4412 processor (on the international version that we compared) having little trouble providing a lag-free user experience. For a vast majority of users, its quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM should remain perfectly adequate well into this year.
The Galaxy S4 is even better, thanks to a beefier Snapdragon 600 CPU (US version) that has four cores clocked at 1.9 GHz, as opposed to 1.4 GHz on the S3. The Adreno 320 GPU is another clear upgrade over the Mali 400 chip on last year’s Galaxy. However, the truth is that, unless you regularly play graphics-intensive games, the difference in performance won’t amaze you.