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printed October 23, 2014
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S 4 for Sprint

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Screen

To call the Galaxy S 4's display impressive is an understatement. The screen measures 5-inches across the diagonal and includes 1920 x 1080 pixels. Though the HTC One (which has a 4.7-inch display and the same resolution) beats the GS4 in terms of pixel density, the GS4 beats the HTC One handily in brightness and viewing angles. There's absolutely no brightness drop-off when the GS4 is tilted to the side, and colors remain accurate no matter what angle from which the GS4 is viewed. These statements do not apply to the HTC One, which sees a big brightness reduction and a slight bluing effect when tilted. Samsung's OLED display is a fantastic screen, no doubt, though colors are a bit oversaturated (which is typical from Samsung displays). Pictures, movies, web sites, and other content look flat-out amazing on the screen.

Signal

I've spent a week testing the Sprint variant of the Galaxy S 4 around the New York City metropolitan region. As far as Sprint devices go, it behaves similar to other phones I've tested in this same area. Sadly, that means I've only experienced Sprint's 3G network and not its LTE 4G network, which is not yet available in this region. In my time with the device, the Sprint Galaxy S 4 remained glued to Sprint's network and never dropped the network or a call. I was able to connect calls even when under the worst coverage conditions. Data sessions were never all that spritely on Sprint's 3G network, but that's to be expected given the limitations of 3G.

Sound

Call quality of the GS4 is among the best I've heard on a Sprint device in recent memory. Calls were free and clear of static and other interference, and the earpiece produced enough volume (set all the way up) so that I was able to easily understand a conversation over the loud gurgling of a Starbucks cappuccino machine. When used in quiet environments, such as at home, you can dial the GS4's volume setting down to about mid-way for comfortably clear calls. The GS4 includes noise cancellation, but it makes no difference to the GS4 owner; instead, it is meant to reduce background noise for those with whom the GS4 owner is speaking. In that respect, it worked well. When holding a conversation next to said cappuccino machine, the person with whom I was speaking heard no background noise of any kind.

Calls routed to the speakerphone were not as clear as those sent to the earpiece. Further, the volume was not that great. I couldn't hear the speakerphone at all next to the same cappuccino machine. It was fine when used in a quieter space, though, such as an office with the door closed. Ringers and alert tones, which are the same nature-inspired, drippy-drops as on the GS3, can be heard in most environments. The GS4 can be set to boost the ringer volume when it senses the device is in a pocket, a feature that works well. I thought the vibrate alert was OK, but could have been better. I missed a few text messages when the phone was in my pocket because I couldn't feel the GS4's vibrations.

Battery

In general, the GS4 met my battery life expectations. It lasted about a full day, but inconsistently so. Some days it died off after about 13 hours, and others it lasted closer to 17 hours (keep in mind, this is without) LTE 4G coverage.) Days that I used the device heavily-- monitoring Twitter and taking pictures and video--are when it chewed through battery life the quickest. For example, I took the GS4 to a concert one evening. I arrived with a full charge, and 4 hours later I left with the battery at about the 50% mark. As with all modern smartphones, mileage will vary and you'll need to take time to settle in with your own usage and charging needs. It will need to be plugged in each night at the very least.

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