Samsung Galaxy S4: Review & Tips

This is definitely overdue but here’s my review for the Samsung Galaxy S4 after owning it for about 3 months. I’m still new at using the S4 so these are just my personal thoughts but if you’re thinking of switching to the S4, have just recently switched, or just want to read more tips on how to use it better, I hope this helps you in your situation!

Pros
  • Camera – 13mp camera is one of the better phone cameras on the market right now. Can’t say no to high quality!
  • So many more features than the iPhone, including a wide variety of camera features.
  • Pattern lock
  • Swype – Being able to swipe letters to create words is sometimes easier when you can only type with one hand.
  • Audio levels – I like being able to adjust the different sound/audio levels based on type (e.g. Ringtone, Notifications, Media, and System volume).
  • More customizable than the iPhone – Yeah, on the iPhone you can move apps around but on the S4, you basically get multiple home pages and can have access to important stuff faster, like flashlight or weather.
  • Widgets – I don’t use many but I think they’re pretty cool to have a couple on my screens. I use the “Assistive Light” which gives me a flashlight at the click of it. I also have “Active Apps” which shows how many apps I have running in the background.
  • Large screen
  • Drop screen menu from the top of the phone and everything included there, like Driving Mode and Multi-window.
  • Blinking notification light – I don’t have to turn on my phone screen to know whether I missed something.
  • Bluetooth – Works well with my new Civic and usually connects automatically.

Cons

  • Auto-focus – If you have the iPhone, you know that when you try to take a picture, you can click on different areas to focus on causing the lighting to potentially change dramatically. This is one feature I miss.
  • Driving mode – Although it’s there for a good purpose, I’ve tried using S voice to draft and send a text message. I was so frustrated that I’m never using it again because it couldn’t understand what I was saying.
  • Not receiving certain text messages, which actually might be an iPhone issue from my switch.
  • Bluetooth (sometimes). Sometimes when I turn it on in the car, text messages have the option to be read in the car to me. It’s cool but the reason it’s a dislike is because it works on it’s own time. I have no idea when it’s going to work and when it doesn’t. Unless this is a car bluetooth issue.
  • Pattern lock and home screen widgets can’t coexist – For some weird reason, the S3 allows you to have widgets on your home screen along with a pattern lock but that’s not an option on the S4 unless you take off security. And even then, it doesn’t look like the S3 does. Instead, you can just customize 4 different lock screen pages which I don’t like as much.
  • Difficult to use emojis – Up until a week ago, I only was able to use emojis in my GO SMS Pro texting app because I downloaded an emoji keyboard. Just found out how to use emojis in other apps like Twitter and Instagram but I have to use a different keyboard. See my Tips below on how to do this.
  • Touch “back” button – I’ll click the back button a lot accidentally when taking photos because I put my thumb there and it’ll close the camera app. Just something I’ll have to get used to.
  • Less user-friendly than iPhone – However, this is the price you pay for joining the Android family. It’s a little less easy to use, but it comes with a bunch of features (and at least those features come with descriptions mostly!) Just once in a great while, you’ll get a pop-up of instructions or a comment about your action and sometimes it won’t sound straight-forward. But just read those messages carefully and you’ll get used to it.

Tips

  • Recommended keyboard – SwiftKey, either on GooglePlay or Amazon Appstore
  • Recommended messaging app – GO SMS Pro
  • Widgets I currently use – 
    • Active Apps Manager
    • Assistive Light
    • Clock (digital) (4×1)
    • Picture Frame
    • S Memo
    • Yahoo Weather (2×2)
  • Ways to maximize battery life – 
  • Place your most used features in your top 5 on the drop screen menu – My top 5 are Wi-Fi, GPS, Sound, Screen Rotation, and Bluetooth. Having these at the swipe of a finger make it easier to turn these features on and off to save battery life. It may seem like a hassle but it’s become second nature to me already and it really helps in saving data usage also. 
  • Swipe down from the top of the screen with 2 fingers to reveal all features.
  • Cancel your apps regularly – Hold the home button for a couple seconds and swipe your apps away to either the right or left. Certain apps (i.e. Waze) won’t actually turn off when you cancel the app so either go straight into the app and turn it off or go to the drop screen menu to cancel/turn it off.
  • Swipe away notifications regularly – Notifications are seen from the drop screen and can build up if you don’t Clear them all or swipe them away individually. I’d do this a couple times a day, depending on how many notifications you receive.
  • How to get emojis – I found out you can use emojis by using a certain keyboard and typing in words that will get substituted with emojis. A little more difficult but definitely easier than rooting your S4 (like jailbreaking is to the iPhone). The only problem is that I don’t like typing with that certain keyboard so what I’ll do is use my favorite keyboard (SwiftKey) as my default keyboard and have the Google Keyboard with the Emoji for English words add-on available. When I really feel like using emojis, I’ll go to the drop screen, change the default keyboard to the Google Keyboard, and type in emojis that I want. It’s quite a hassle, and you have to know the words for the emojis you want to insert, but I’ll see how it goes. It’s the easiest way that I know of (although it’d be much easier if you just use the Google Keyboard of course). For instructions on how to make this work and a list of emoji words, go here.
  • Limit your widgets – The more widgets you use, the more battery you drain. I’m not sure if this is right but it seems like if I’m not on the page/screen a widget is on, then the widget isn’t actually being used? So I spread out about 6 different widgets among 3 different screens and it doesn’t hurt my battery life too much.
  • Get used to taking photos without hitting the back button.

Hope you enjoyed this post! Feel free to post any comments or any of your own suggestions 🙂 
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