Thanks to Android and TouchWiz, the core apps are a familiar sight for any previous Samsung phone owner, and they’re simple and straightforward to use.
In typical Android fashion, the Samsung Galaxy S4 contacts app is simplicity itself. Sign in via your Google account during the handset’s setup and all of your contacts are synced and waiting for you once the device has finished its boot up.
With the option to add and sync Facebook and Twitter accounts, the contacts list is quickly brimmed with friends, colleagues and acquaintances all with little effort and the minimal amount of fuss. Although there are added benefits to syncing your social contacts, given the confusing wording of the setup options your contacts list will likely soon be filled with hundreds of random people with little more than a name and Twitter handle attached clogging up your lists.
Favourite contacts can be pinned to the home screen. As well as gaining instant upfront access to those you most frequently talk to, these pinned contacts provide a tiny window into the social lives of those beneath, perfect for a casual bout of Facebook stalking.
With as many bells, whistles, Klaxons and fog horns as those fitted on the Samsung Galaxy S4, it is all too easy to forget a phone's core, intrinsic purpose – to act as a means to make phone calls on the move.
Fortunately, Samsung has not overlooked this, and has ensured that the Samsung Galaxy S4 call quality is perfectly acceptable if far from outstanding.
Although the handset’s speaker is very loud, perfect for those a little harder of hearing, hold it too close and too hard against your ear and callers sound muffled and distant. This is more of a user error than any core design fault, but we are not alone in having experienced such grievances.
During our testing we had no dropped calls or failures to connect. Using the handset in a building with severe signal restrictions, calls felt at times a little distant and sluggish, but never dropped.
Samsung has buried Google’s Chrome browser deep within the application menus, instead promoting its own browser front and centre – another sign of Samsung’s desire to stamp its authority on the Samsung Galaxy S4 and limit Google’s influence through the Android platform.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 browser does what is required of it but not much else, letting you access the web with little fanfare and browse away to your heart’s content. One welcome addition is the drop down option of accessing a site’s desktop page – a true time saver when you want to use the ‘full version’ of any website.
But the S4 browser is not the most adept at text reflow, with attempts to zoom in on text-based content often causing overshoots and a slightly irksome lack of centring. A minor gripe, but one that will probably persuade you to revert to Google’s own browser.
Making use of the Air Gesture feature you can jump between open browser tabs with a simple swipe of the hand, great for when comparing notes or shopping across a number retail channels. What’s more, up/down gestures, again without touching the handset’s display, allow users to jump through content in double-quick fashion.