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Samsung Galaxy S4 Active - Software, Apps and Performance

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active – Software

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active uses Android 4.2 with the same custom UI you’ll find on all of this year’s top-end Samsung Android phones, commonly called TouchWiz. This jams many more features into Android than you get as standard, and not through additional apps.

Some of the most talked-about extras alter the way you interact with the phone. These include Smart Screen, Air View and motion gestures. S4 Active 5

They use different techy bits within the phone to check for your input or presence. Smart Screen uses the front camera to stop the screen from turning off or rotating while you’re there watching or reading, it’ll pause video when you look away and let you scroll through an article by tilting your head, too.

Air View uses the hyper-sensitive touchscreen to detect when your finger is hovering above the screen and gives you previews of images or enlarges areas of a webpage. Additional gestures let you controls bits and pieces of the phone's navigation with either a wave of the hand over the front face sensor or a tilt of the Galaxy S4 Active.

If these sound a little superfluous, it’s because they are for the most part. Some spectacularly so. We ended up turning off the majority of them, although it’s a good thing that Samsung gives you pretty precise control over this, letting you toggle specific bits within each control type, rather than just whole groups.

Other than these supremely gadgety extras, Galaxy S4 Active’s UI also comes with its own look. It’s a cheery UI compared with something like the more spare and stylish HTC Sense 5.0, seen in the HTC One.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active – Apps, Games and Performance

Apps that come pre-installed are also a core part of any custom UI, because these generally can’t be uninstalled. If there are too many things you’ll never use, they become a weight on the interface as well as a device’s internal memory.

There are a whole lot of apps pre-installed in the Galaxy S4 Active, but thankfully some are quite useful.

S Planner is a fairly intensive calendar app that makes good use of the large, high-resolution screen, packing more event info onto the page than most. S Note is a handy note-taking app that lets you add voice recording, typed notes, camera shots and scribbles into one virtual ‘post-it’. Apps like these have developed or formulated over the long life of TouchWiz (which has been about since the early days of Samsung’s Android phones), and it shows.

The more specific apps are likely to be of more limited use, such as S Translator and S Health. S Translator is a language translation app that unfortunately (like several Samsung apps) pushes you into signing up for a Samsung account. S Health is a basic fitness, exercise and diet tracker.

It’s not a great deal of use to real fitness fans, though, as it doesn’t offer accurate tracking of cycling or running using GPS – it primarily uses the accelerometer to count your steps. Most regular runners and cyclists would be better off with something like Endomondo.

S4 pics 1

The perils of being chained to your desk - 0 calories burnt

With every year, Samsung seems more keen to appeal to a wider audience with its TouchWiz apps, but some moves make the Galaxy S4 Active a bit trickier, or more confusing, to use. For example, there are proprietary Samsung app and music/video/books portals, called Samsung Apps and Samsung Hub. These are in direct competition with the Google Play stores also found on the phone.

There’s a civil war going on here, and it’s one in which the less experienced Android user is the biggest victim.

Forget the amount of confusing bloat present here, though, and you can only conclude the Galaxy S4 Active is a very impressive, super-powerful phone. It uses the same quad-core 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor as the Galaxy S4.

At present, nothing can stand in its way, with performance in all of our current benchmarks being excellent. In Real Racing 3, the frame rate is smooth, and in the AnTuTu benchmark it comes out with around 26,000 points in each run. This is a seriously powerful phone. S4 Active 6

Day-to-day performance is great too, and web browsing speed is excellent. This is where the ultra-high resolution of the screen comes in most handy, as small text looks very sharp.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

chaosdefinesorder

June 21, 2013, 4:02 pm

Interesting how most sites I've seen have said "this is the best S4 variant" or, in the case of the Verge, "this is what the S4 should have been"

rroburt

June 24, 2013, 4:24 am

Does it have a removable battery?

Jaded

June 24, 2013, 11:56 am

yes, you can see that in some other reviews. removable battery, identical to the S4s. Makes a lot more sense than the sony xperia z which doesn't give that option, people wanting a rugged phone are probably ones that often find themselves away from a power source for some time

Jaded

June 24, 2013, 11:57 am

I agree with that opinion! and I pre-ordered one :-)

trish

July 21, 2013, 9:50 am

After 4 days the screen cracked in my pocket as i knelt down !!!!

ali manzoor

July 30, 2013, 1:06 pm

which oF s3 in best (MARBLE WHITE) oR ( PURPLE BLUE)......?.?.?

parakis

August 2, 2013, 11:22 pm

Pebble Blue is great! I own one and the lights at the bottom looks very good compared to the White one. :)

Peter

August 8, 2013, 6:14 pm

No pic no prove !

FRUSTRATED!

August 22, 2013, 1:28 am

This phone is great WHEN it works. I have already had 3 replacements due to black screen flashing headphone icons powering on and off .....and at this point i wouldn't recommend this phone to anyone!

Ravin Soerdjbalie

August 22, 2013, 7:48 pm

I am deaply disappointed that S3 and S4 display is worthless, already have been two such as a schreen pressed wil display a screen is brokem and the display is not yet availabe|

Rissa

August 24, 2013, 6:26 pm

Wow... This really makes me reconsider my choice. What's the point of an "active" phone that you can't be active with? Thanks for the comment!

Chris75

August 28, 2013, 7:17 pm

"Make no mistake – the S4 Active won’t appreciate being dropped onto a hard surface, and while its top and bottom edges are rubberised, they are not actual rubber that would soak up an impact".

Rarely have I heard truer words. The quality is very disappointing. See attached photos of the damage to the phone after beeing dropped from the enormous height of 50 cm.

If you want a solid phone, I recommend buying a different brand.

Mike

September 6, 2013, 12:53 pm

I just bought s4 on Sunday so 5 days ago and literally has been in the otterbox sense that day and some how has a crack right down the middle haven't stopped it or anything I've been babying it. My old iPhone 4 that is over 3 years ago is still in meant condition it's fine to Afghan with me oh and the otterbox on it was broken and ive dropped that phone so many times from pretty high areas

MikeD

September 6, 2013, 6:45 pm

I have taken mine to the beach, kids played in the sand with it and it still works great. It's not a ruggedized phone, but is fairly tough. Mine has been dropped off the counter onto tile floor with no signs of wear/damage, been left in my pocket while swimming in the ocean and played with in the sand. Blow out the headphone jack and you're good to go. Not quite as impressed with the USB port. It's annoying to have to keep it our of the way while trying to plug in charger. Would have expected a nicer door to handle this duty.

KarmaGMA

September 8, 2013, 6:33 am

just can't figure out how to put image in my contacts..anybody knows?

gg

September 10, 2013, 4:47 pm

I'm an iphone user and I recently switched to the s4 active and can honestly say that I could not be happier. A lot of people are saying that it cracks and is not as capable of withstanding impact; false. I've put this phone under water, in sand, dropped it and it still works like the first day I got it. Overall great quality and I would recommend it to any body. Like any phone out there, don't expect it to be indestructible

Johnny Hwang

September 13, 2013, 4:47 pm

I'm not sure how long is the average standby time and talk time but my S4 active only managed around 7-8 hours including a small amount of usage time. Can anybody share tgeir experience?

Paul L

September 22, 2013, 8:51 pm

Absolutely any phone will crack in these circumstances. It is a great force, like to put a phone on the edge of the table in such a way that one half is sticking out. Then push down on that and.....you have a cracked screen (same principle but even greater force when the phone in your pocket).

Carmen Leung

September 27, 2013, 3:01 am

i think i'm better off with an s4 active due to all the abuse my s3 goes though

Stan

October 15, 2013, 4:39 pm

you can only add pictures to your contacts when you save them on your phone or your gmail account, you probably have your contacts on your sim and that's why you can only add a name.

beatles

October 22, 2013, 1:22 am

piece of trash

kyle s

November 16, 2013, 4:59 am

S4 active i bought with otter box. Only thing i dont like is typing.. always hittinv keys twice. Used to have a blackberry for email so now its hard. Maybe gotta change a setting or something. Still love the phone though!

not waterproof

November 16, 2013, 3:31 pm

I switched from and iphone 4s to this phone and it was a huge improvement. unluckily though, I actually assumed that a waterproof phone would be waterproof. It was fine in the shower and even under a running sink. But just a week after buying it I assumed I could take it into a pool and take some pictures. Oh was I wrong. I didnt even leave the steps and it took not even ten miniutes for my phone to break. I made sure multipule times that I closed the usb port and tgat thr back was properly closed and still water got inside every part of it. it kept going into safemode afterwards and the screen and front camera both have pretty severe water damage and the charger would not work. but after putting it in rice overnight I had been able to get it to charge and can still use everything as before. I still recomend this phone because I honestly do like it, but do not use it in water. it is not waterproof.

Kelli Cusick

November 18, 2013, 10:44 pm

just go to the contacts and click on update then click on where the picture would go and it will let you upload pics.

Lawrence

November 21, 2013, 8:56 am

30% of them have faulty battery packs in them. Samsung is replacing the batteries free of charge. the phone should last a day at least with 3 hours intermittent use during the day. out the box!!

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