Product Notes: Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung's Galaxy S4, the successor to their very successful Galaxy S3, was announced in March 2013 and subsequently released to major US cellular carriers in late April/early May 2013. While maintaining similar dimensions to the Galaxy S3, the S4 has a slightly larger 5" Full HD Super AMOLED display, faster CPU (a Snapdragon 600), an increase to 2.0 GB of RAM, an improved 13 MP camera, and a larger battery. Since its debut, over 25 million Galaxy S4s have been sold worldwide, helping to solidify Samsung as the top Android manufacturer. Though not the perfect smartphone for all University constituents, the Galaxy S4 is an excellent Android device, though with heavy software customization.


Samsung continues to produce their flagship line of smartphones using the same formula: with each iteration, improve the internal specifications and enhance the display while keeping the plastic device shell and the layout of the power, volume, and home buttons. Aside from the narrower bezels along the edge of the screen, little differentiates the Galaxy S4 physically from the older S3. The Galaxy S4 is marginally narrower and thinner, while increasing the screen size from 4.8" in the S3 to a 5.0" Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixel) display. This results in a significantly higher pixel density, at 441 ppi (pixels per inch). Additionally, Samsung increased the battery capacity to 2600 mAH, from the S3's 2100 mAH. 

Operating system

Building upon the software customizations found in the Galaxy S3, the S4 introduced TouchWiz 5, a UI overlay that differentiates it from other Android smartphones in a not entirely welcome way. One significant change from prior versions is a completely overhauled Settings menu, including a setup guide that launches when the device is first powered on. This new approach to Settings, and much of TouchWiz 5, can be unintuitive compared to the "pure" Android available on Nexus devices. The S4 also has a number of features unique to the device, including Air View, Air Gesture, Smart Stay, Smart Rotation, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, and S-Beam, all of which can be configured during setup or later modified through the newly redesigned settings menu.

Perhaps the worst byproduct of the heavy software customization is the reduced internal storage found on the device. On the 16 GB model found at all major carriers, only 9.15 GB is available to the user. Any users considering the purchase of the 16 GB model are strongly advised to purchase a microSD card to supplement the internal storage on the device. 

Compatibility at Penn

The Samsung Galaxy S4 functions as expected with AirPennNet, ISC Exchange, and other University services. As of October 2013, the S4 is one of ISC's top recommendations for those looking for an Android smartphone.

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) offers a variety of device evaluation units. Local Support Providers can request to evaluate mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, eReaders, and Chromebooks by contacting ISC Client Care at

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Date Posted: October 7, 2013 Tags: Android, Smartphone, Mobile

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