Samsung Galaxy S4 review: Supernova
Hubs get a makeover
Hubs are not just for Windows Phone - Samsung, at least, seems to think so. And while before there used to be several different applications for the various Samsung Hubs, in the latest TouchWiz they're all accessible from one centralized Samsung Hub location.
One thing you can see right off the bat when accessing the Hub is absence of any social networking features. Samsung has dropped Social Hub features found in TouchWiz versions of old, leaving you to traditional dedicated apps for your social networking fix.
Otherwise, the new Samsung Hub gives you access to stores for books, games, and music in a markedly Windows Phone-esque style. The Music Hub lets you browse music online (with search tools, charts, lists of new releases and so on). You can preview songs (30 seconds each) and buy tracks or whole albums.
Each of the sections take you to the respective stores. You can either buy digital magazines, books and online newspapers from the Book Store, browse and sample music from the Music Store (although not in all areas), and play either Social or Premium games in the Game Store. The latter features a try-before-you-buy option, as well as titles by Gameloft and EA, which are otherwise not available on the Google Play Store.
Office Editor a no-go
Unlike previous Galaxy flagships, the Galaxy S4 gives you only the Polaris Office viewer functionality, rather than the full-fledged editor. The viewer does not show up in your app drawer, but instead only opens when you select the relevant document from the My Files app.
Nevertheless, you can view most document types, including PowerPoint, Word, Excel as well as PDF. We suspect Samsung will make sure a full-fledged editor is available for download from the Samsung Apps (now known as Centro apps0 by the time the smartphone goes on sale, but even if it doesn't there's plenty of alternatives in the Play Store.
Organizer is as robust as ever
The S Planner fills the role of your calendar app, and can be viewed by Day, Week, Month or Year, or by a list of all your upcoming tasks or events. The small squares for each date give only limited info on the events for the day, but thanks to Air View you can point to a day to read the full description of events.
Adding a new event is quick and easy, and you can also set an alarm to act as a reminder.
There is also a calculator aboard. It is nicely touch optimized - the buttons are big enough and easy to hit.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 features a decent alarm clock application which allows a huge number of alarms to be set, each with its own start time and repeat pattern. There's also a World clock, stopwatch, and timer. They are easy to work with and can come in handy.
We've been familiar with the S Memo app ever since its debut on the Galaxy Note, and its functionality remains more or less the same. It allows you to create notes either via a virtual keyboard or simply by doodling with your finger. Samsung even sell a special display-friendly ball pen for enthusiasts.
Google Maps Navigation gives you the most out of GPS
The Samsung I9500 Galaxy S4 comes with a GPS receiver, which got a satellite lock in couple of minutes with A-GPS turned off. A-GPS can speed this up quite a bit, but requires Internet access. The barometer, however, can speed up GPS locks even without a data connection. We gotta say, we didn't experience any issues with the GPS performance.
With a screen as large (or larger) than most dedicated SatNav units, with excellent sunlight legibility and plenty of storage, money spent towards satellite navigation should go to buying a good app rather than a separate SatNav unit.
The Galaxy S4 comes with Google Maps and Navigation. Voice-guided navigation has become a viable solution since the v5.0 update. Vector maps are smaller and easier on the data traffic and reroute is an option if you go off course without the need to connect to the Internet. In fact, the only time you need a data connection is when you initially plan the course - Navigation will cache the needed maps.
Quite naturally, the app also supports the Street View mode. If it's available in the area you're interested in, you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the surroundings. When the digital compass is turned on it feels like making a virtual tour of the location.
If Google Maps Navigation doesn't do it for you, you can grab an alternative app from the Android Market - there are both free and paid ones.
Google Play now accompanied by the Cento Apps store
The Google Play Store features several scrollable tabs - categories, featured, top paid, top free, top grossing, top new paid, top new free and trending. Apps usually have several screenshots (some even offer a demo video) so you can get an idea of what the app looks like before installing it.
You can also check out comments and ratings, as well as the number of downloads and so on, to help you decide if the app is worth it.
The Google Play Store is full of all sorts of apps. From music / video players, to file managers and various tools, you'll always see something worth a try.
Samsung has renamed its own app store to Cento Apps. It features largely the same type of interface as Google Play, except here you'll find a far lower number of apps. The good news is Samsung uses this repository to distribute some exclusive titles and some promotional offers, available only to its customers.