Here’s a look at some of the most important features and how the Samsung Galaxy S4 stacks up:
Screen: The S4’s five-inch touchscreen is slightly larger than the Galaxy S3’s 4.8 inches. But it is substantially larger than the iPhone 5’s four inches.
The screen size alone will be a key benefit over the iPhone 5 for many business users. When you’re working with documents, databases, or taking notes, a larger screen is often easier to use – especially for touchscreen typing.
The resolution of the S4 display is comparable that of the iPhone 5’s Retina display. The S4 features a high-definition Super AMOLED screen, with a resolution 441 pixels per inch (ppi). Apple’s iPhone 5 Retina display has a resolution of 326 ppi.
Memory: If you need access to large files or lots of video, the S4 should give you more memory than the iPhone 5. Like the iPhone 5, the S4 comes with built-in memory options of 16, 32 and 64 GB. But the S4 also has a microSD slot that accommodates memory cards up to 64 GB. And you can carry as many of those around as you like.
Size: The S4 is thicker and heavier than the iPhone 5. The S4 weighs 130 grams and is 7.9mm thick while the iPhone 5 weighs only 112 grams and is 7.6mm thick. (But by contrast, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 phablet weighs a whopping 182.5g and is 9.4mm thick.)
Operating system: The S4 comes with the latest version of the Android mobile operating system, 4.2.2 “Jellybean.” I’ve been using Jellybean for most of the last year, on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I’ve used both Apple’s iOS mobile operating system and prior versions of Android and I believe, with Jellybean, Android is finally as easy to learn and use as iOS.
But there’s a crucial difference between the version of Android I use on my Galaxy Nexus and the version that comes on any of Samsung’s Galaxy S series phones (including the S4). All “Nexus” model devices run the unmodified (“stock”) version of Android – which means that as soon as Google releases a new version of Android, stock Android devices get that update immediately and directly from Google.
This is comparable to the iPhone – all iOS devices get immediate OS updates direct from Apple. And this is important if you can’t wait to take advantage of new OS capabilities, support for newer apps and bug fixes.
In contrast, the Galaxy S series of phones all run “Touchwiz,” Samsung’s own modified version of Android. And once the S4 gets rolled out in versions for different wireless carriers, each carrier will add their own modifications to that OS.
Touchwiz appears to be slick and probably offers some performance benefits over stock Jellybean, since it’s optimised for Samsung hardware. For now. But updates to Touchwiz must come from Samsung, channelled through the wireless carrier.
And both Samsung and US wireless carriers are notorious for long delays in releasing OS updates. The longer this lag, the worse a phone is likely to perform over time.
Battery: It’s generally hard to get through an entire workday on a single battery charge on any smartphone, which means you’re probably charging your phone when and wherever you can – a practice that will eventually kill a battery.
And Samsung failed to mention tonight how long the S4 will run on a single full battery charge.
The iPhone 5 battery — generally lasting 8 to 10 hours on a full charge for moderate use – is sealed into the device and cannot be replaced on the spot by the user. In contrast, Samsung Galaxy S phones feature a removable battery, so you can carry one or more charged spare batteries with you.
The phone back comes off, so you can swap it out at will once a battery fully depletes its charge.
Carriers: Samsung also neglected to mention when the S4 will become available via US carriers – and, most importantly, how much it will cost. Most carriers are selling last year’s Galaxy S3 at prices comparable to the iPhone 5. It’s likely that the S4 will be in a similar price range to stay competitive, but that remains to be seen. Samsung did note that the S4 will be LTE-capable.
Bottom line: It’s likely that the Galaxy S4 will give business users more for their money – as long as the price is comparable to the iPhone 5, which is likely. However, the lack of prompt OS updates could prove to be a serious disadvantage by degrading the phone’s performance.