After years of riding the iOS wagon, I’ve jumped off in search of greener pastures: Android. I’ve been quite happy with my iPhone’s for the last few years, but the Galaxy S4 really had me excited for a new phone and my contract was up with Telstra so I decided to upgrade to an S4.

First Impressions

This phone is fast, smoother than butter. You open something and it loads instantly. Candy Crush on my iPhone 4 would sometimes take a good 30 seconds to load, on the Galaxy S4 it loads instantly faster like it already loaded before you even opened it. The build quality isn’t iPhone quality, the back plastic feels flimsy and no doubt will be the first part to degrade. This phone is light, it has more sensors and features than a luxury sports car and if you’re new to Android it might be overwhelming.

It took me about an hour or two to get used to the new interface and where everything is. Forget everything you know about operating systems if you’re coming from iOS, Android doesn’t limit what you can do. You can view the file system, make video calls using Skype as well as audio calls using Skype, you can replace the interface or keyboard and set application handlers.

The S4 if you’re coming from an iPhone 4 or even 5 is big. In-fact it’s so big if you’re used to holding your iPhone comfortably in one hand, you will need to retrain yourself to mostly use two hands as the size of the screen makes it uncomfortable to use one thumb to navigate most of the phone without accidentally dropping it. The number of options you have with this phone as you do with most Android devices is overwhelming.

Performance

The Galaxy S4 is the fastest phone I’ve ever used, period. I’ve used the S3 before and the S3 is impressive in its own right but the S4 is the equivalent of a Ferrari to S3 being a middle-range BMW: still good performance, but the Ferrari wins.

This thing has 2gb of RAM and a 1.9ghz quad-core processor. The Australian version I have does not have the Exynos octa-core CPU (8 cores for those of you playing at home) which is fine because apparently only 4 can be used anyway, so this is a non-issue really.

The TouchWiz interface is smooth and somewhat flawless. The added touches by Samsung on-top of Android are mostly welcomed ones that actually make using the phone easier. Multi-tasking is unlike that of any iOS driven phone, it’s actual multi-tasking which means you can consume all of your RAM if you have too many background processes running.

The S4 also supports 4G networks here in Australia which are somewhat still limited in coverage and who actually has a 4G network. Because I am with Telstra I get good 4G coverage and was able to test the speeds of the network for this review. Optus is another good choice for 4G networking as well and Vodafone have a 4G network coming that will supposedly be the best (we’ll see).

Apps from an iOS User Perspective

The iOS marketplace having being around first of course has a large number of apps and established brands/services who build apps on the iOS platform and have done so since 2007. The Google Play store has all of the usual app suspects: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Candy Crush and whatnot, there are some apps (maybe obscure to some) that aren’t there but a lot of more useful utility apps for developers and power users over iOS’s zero.

I am pretty happy with the Android marketplace, it’s a lot better than I expected to be honest. You can crack apps easily without having to jailbreak your phone which is awesome. The one app I miss is Vine (a service from Twitter) that currently is only available on iOS devices at the moment, but I’m sure Android will get it soon.

Battery Life

If you’re not careful you’ll chew through the battery on this thing like there’s no tomorrow. Because of the true multi-tasking, you can have a lot of background processes quietly chewing through the battery until it’s too late. Holding down the home key will bring up the multi-tasking window and then holding down your finger on a running process to close it. The removable battery is handy if you’re going somewhere like a wedding or concert and know you’re going to be draining your battery.

The super AMOLED screen as the battery statistics show consumes the battery quite a lot. On my phone over a 24 hour timeframe showed the screen was responsible for 69% of my battery usage, so turning down the brightness definitely helps as well as not using it every minute (which is hard for a new phone).

Audio/Image/Video Quality

The sound quality is decent, it’s not as good as the HTC One, but it’s very loud and clear. Watching movies and TV on this thing is easy, as well as playing music and whatever else you find yourself using this device for that requires sound. The quality of the sound from video recording is clear and loud as well, I have yet to test it in a live setting like a concert to see how badly it clips at a metal show, but we’ll see. Once again you don’t buy the S4 if you’re after perfect sound, you should be buying the HTC One if you want great sound.

Photo image quality is amazing in great light, the 13mp camera not only means larger photos but also means more light is captured which is paired with a decent sensor inside that also helps capture fine detail. The Galaxy S4 has the HTC One beat in decent light, but when it comes to low-light the S4 seems to suffer badly. You can bump the ISO all the way up which means grainy photos and even with the flash, it doesn’t seem to help much. Hopefully a software update addresses the low light image quality.

Video quality is very very decent, once again in decent lighting conditions. The video records in full HD at 30 frames per second, and definitely will produce some of the best video you’ve ever seen (if you’re an iPhone user, you’ll be super impressed). You have the option of different recording modes, slow motion recording and you can pause and resume recording without stopping it (a handy feature when you’re recording and don’t want to finalise and stop the video just yet).

Air Gestures

While impressive, they sometimes get in the way. I found when scrolling through my images in the gallery it would sometimes jump to the top of the list because of the air gestures. I have left them on to wow people however and look cool on the train waving my hand over the screen to move between pages and skip music (which works surprisingly well btw).

Conclusion

Easily the best phone I’ve ever owned. While I do consider myself a bit of an audiophile, waiting potentially a month to get the HTC One and not having a removable battery and expandable storage irks me so the S4 is a worthy choice. Coupled with Telstra’s 4G network (which is faster than my cable Internet connection at home) this phone is exciting and impressive.