The S4 Zoom runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI overlaid on top. The combination of Google’s UI with Samsung’s has in the past felt cluttered, but on the S4 Zoom it looks and feels cleaner and more user-friendly.
You have access to the Google Play Store, of course, but Samsung’s software takes pride of place on each of the five homescreens. The widgets now look sleeker and more enticing to use, and if you don’t like them they can all be removed.
Among the new Samsung apps is S Travel. Powered by TripAdvisor, it recommends new places to visit around the world. The majority of suggestions generated are quite obvious, but on occasions it does pick out an interesting destination. It would be nice to have some kind of booking functionality built in as well, though.
Story Album, meanwhile, uses photos to create a collage of your photos that you can print as a hard copy. It's a nice addition, but doesn't do anything out of the ordinary.
Other S4 regulars that require a separate Samsung sign-in include ChatOn messaging and the WatchOn video app. It’s also great to see that the brilliant Flipboard now comes pre-installed.
It’s worth noting that Samsung’s software takes up around 3GB of the 8GB storage built-in. That leaves you with 5GB of space. This makes the inclusion of a microSD card slot and 50GB of free Dropbox storage for the first year important to store images.
The virtual keyboard in portrait looks cramped on the screen, but actually responds really well to typing. Despite the small keys, the accuracy is great and the ability to learn words and even login codes is impressive. There's Swype support, but the keyboard works well without it.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom features a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM. This does have some impact on using the S4 Zoom. Swiping through homescreens and switching between applications have the slightest of lags. It’s more noticeable if you currently own a S4 or a quad-core powered HTC One. It’s not so bad that it affects the user experience, though.
When it comes to gaming, the Zoom S4 holds its own considering the power. Real Racing 3 runs and does it with the smallest of frame rate issues. Visuals are not as polished as they would be on a full HD screen, but the Zoom S4 deals with more graphically demanding games just fine. The Epic Citadel demo powered by the Unreal Engine gave a benchmark score of 55fps, which backs up its more than decent gaming prowess.
Apps boot up nice and fast and the mid-range processor doesn’t have a negative impact on browsing speed. Whether it’s the stock Android browser or Google Chrome, web browsing is quick and easy.
The Zoom’s speaker, located above the camera lens, offers reasonably clear audio, but it lacks the richness in sound and bass to significantly enhance movie watching or listening to music. It's an even tinnier and underwhelming experience when you turn it up to full volume, though.