Galaxy S4 owners: here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t upgrade to a new phone
It’s still too soon to upgrade from the Samsung Galaxy S4 to a new phone. That’s the truth. There’s one simple reason why the Galaxy S4 was one of the best smartphones Samsung ever produced: it was made while Samsung was at the peak of its game.
I’m a fan of the Galaxy S4, unquestionably, but that’s not to say I’m a fanboy. The Samsung Galaxy S4 may have captured my heart, but I can still see its flaws. TouchWiz wasn’t at its prettiest or most helpful two years ago; it was rife with bloatware and pushed content at me which I never asked for (hello Optical Reader).
It’s also not the best-looking handset ever made, and borders on untrendy — the rear pattern on AndroidPIT's test unit is a confused mix of chrome-effect plastic with a checkered pattern. But the minor flaws only highlight the major strengths: this is two-year old technology which, despite existing in a market which treats 18-month old devices as obsolete, is still going strong. Here’s why it’s too early to call time on the Samsung Galaxy S4.
1. It still works
Why replace something which still works? Our test unit is two years old but doesn’t have a mark on it. The phone may be made of plastic, but combined with Gorilla Glass 3 it's a resilient little devil.
To make a few comparisons, we had the Galaxy S6 in-house for only a couple of months before the back cover began peeling off, while my Sony Xperia Z3 screen has smashed despite it being housed in a hard case.
I once saw a Nexus 5 crack while being placed gently on a desk.
It’s not the built-to-smash glass and metal flapdoodle of the newer flagships, and it was the perfect size for hands at the 5-inch sweet spot, with easily accessible buttons.
And that’s a Full-HD screen on the Galaxy S4. Yes, Sony and HTC just released smartphones wit same resolution displays this year in the form of the One M9 and Xperia Z3+.
Brightness on the Galaxy S4 is admittedly lower than the current generation of flagships, but, looking at raw pixel count, it’s still up there with some of the latest flagships.
2. It performs like a new flagship
Take a look at the Geekbench Android Benchmarks. The Snapdragon Galaxy S4 single-core performance is better than the HTC One M9. As for dual core, the Nvidia Shield Tablet, a tablet built for high-performance, lags behind.
Of course, it’s easy to use these figures to make assumptions, and benchmarks are overrated, but the Galaxy S4 is still performing well in real-world scenarios too. There are a number of phones which have been attacked by the latest version of Android. While we can’t deny that the Galaxy S4 has suffered from its fair share of Lollipop problems, it’s also now happily running it.
Sure, there’s a bit of slowdown in the recent apps menu and the 'wallpapers, widgets and home settings tab', but it’s a minor quibble, not a deal breaker. Moreover, the Galaxy S4 is still taking advantage of modern technologies like the latest update to Android Auto.
Truthfully, it can’t compete with the likes of the Galaxy S6 for raw performance, but does it need to? What are you afforded by saving milliseconds opening menus? The one area it seems to matter is the camera quick-launch, and honestly, that’s fine. I’d recommend an upgrade if that is where your interests lie.
If it’s not, don’t just upgrade because you’ve heard that these new octa-core devices are faster. It’s marketing spin and says little of what it feels like to use the handsets.
It may only have 2 GB of RAM, while OnePlus is delivering 4 GB on its OnePlus 2, but I’m yet to be sold on the advantage of adding more and more RAM. If the Nexus 5 is running the latest version of Android on 2 GB with no issues, maybe 2 GB is still OK for 2015.
3. Its camera is still fantastic
That camera. With 13 MP, autofocus and an LED flash, the main Galaxy S4 camera still holds up in 2015. It has 1080p video recording, and selfies look great - but it’s not all about megapixels. The Galaxy S4 is still taking great snaps both on the front and back.
In addition, apps like Google Photos only support unlimited photo storage for pictures of 2048 x 2048 resolution and most people view images on small smartphone displays or in a small Facebook photo browser window anyway. We miss out on thousands of pixels in photos just because of how we view them.
And what the Galaxy S4 is lacking in pixels it makes up for in processing; that's why its photos look great. The images below are unprocessed, but with some minor tweaking with one of the apps from our best Android photo-editing apps list, you will be looking at some real charmers.
4. Expandable storage, removable battery
Samsung dumped two important features for its Galaxy S6 - non-removable batteries and expandable storage. The lack of a removable battery if also a facet of competing flagships like the HTC one M9 and Xperia Z3+.
Not only does the Galaxy S4 hold this over some modern flagships, when you look at gsmarena's battery benchmarks, things get even more interesting. The Galaxy S4 still beats the likes of the Xperia Z3+, the One M9, the G Flex 2 and the iPhone 6. Though I don’t necessarily agree that those benchmarks reflect real-world performance, it gives an indication of the battery life if nothing else.
Although Samsung has moved away from expandable storage, along with Google, the Galaxy S4 supports MicroSD cards up to 64 GB in capacity. For a smartphone feature which some would argue is essential, you would lose this if you upgrade to the wrong handset - which is almost all of this year’s new flagships.
5. The future is uncertain
And so we reach what may be the the most important factor: the future of Android. With the next major Android software update, currently in preview as Android M, on the horizon, we’re going to see some big changes by the end of the year.
But it might not come to the Galaxy S4.
Typically, Android devices are supported for around 18 months. There are exceptions, of course, but the Galaxy S4 will be more than two years old by the time M rolls around. Even its upgrade to Android 5.1.1 is uncertain.
There’s nothing to say that the device won’t ‘inherently’ be capable of running the new software; it should meet the minimum hardware requirements, particularly as it runs perfectly fine on the only slightly more recent, and basically just as powerful, Nexus 5. But it’s unlikely that Samsung will still want to deliver updates to it, particularly with newer phones to focus on.
Alas it is yet to be ruled out and, with that in mind, I think it’s too soon to call time on the Galaxy S4.
As the old adage goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Galaxy S4 doesn’t feel past its best and, in the end, things haven’t really moved that far on during the past two years. It's not as if the Galaxy S4 is 'missing out' on something more modern smartphones have, besides a QHD display and quick-charging, perhaps.
The Galaxy S4 still houses a quality screen, camera and processor and it’s running (almost) the latest version of Android. Until we know which devices will get the next Android version, the Galaxy S4 shouldn’t be discounted. And if the Galaxy S4 is in line to get the update, then there’s no telling how much life is left in it.
Nice article. I want to add that for most variants of S4 you can get also the latest version of Android 10 in terms of LineageOS 17.1 which is working like a charm on my 5 S4-devices I ordered second hand some weeks ago now with new battery to give them a second live in my family with most recent software.
Do you think camera quality compared to nowadays class still reasonable or was it just in 2015 (I use OpenCamera)?
How I can update a new version? Please advice me. I have my S4 with a version 5.0.1
I love my samsung s4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And still with me!!! Of course, I changed 2 parts by myself and worked still very good! Sad that S4 cant uprage to new version. Still 5.0.1
Please where can i get a new replaceble battery for my s4
you can buy it from Ebay. I did and works very good. I am still have my old Samsung S4.
Hello. You can buy it from EBay. I did and s4 works good.
2019 and my my little trooper S4 is still going strong! It does lose charge quicker but to be expected. I wanted to keep this
phone until I had run it into the ground but it just wont die! Still does everything I need it to from booking flights, accommodation to endless amounts of googling, photos, insta & FB. Will be a sad day when she finally gives up but for now she lives on to play another day.
I changed 2 parts for my S4 and works very good. Try That. FYI, I changed by myself, easy. LOL.
Yes what you said is true. I purchased my S4 in July 2013 and it it still working well. However, I will never ever purchase a SAMSUNG product again. The product is excellent but the company is lousy. When I purchased my S4, its cover was not delivered, the shop assistant said I need to get it on line. But when I logged on and gave details of my purchase, I got a reply that it was not available. I contacted the shop but he was not helpful, so I wrote to the company headquarters in New Delhi. I did not receive a courtesy of a reply. I then wrote to the HQ in Korea - no reply. I then went to court (the consumer's court) and the case went on for five months; I needed to travel 200 km to and fro the court spending more than half the price of the phone! It was the principle that was important for me. The cost of the cover separately available was about Rs.2,900 but then, why should I pay for it when the advertisement said it was supplied 'free'? The long and short of it is - the judge cleverly arranged an 'out-of-court-settlement' - the company delivered the free case and Rs.5000/- towards expense. If I had insisted on Rs.20,000 that I had claimed, I would have had to appear in the court several more times which I did not fancy. I consider the silence on the part of the manufacturer as arrogance - and it is a shame that such a famous company does not care about the problem of a customer. As I said, I shall never ever purchase any product of SAMSUNG.
I got my S4 when it was pretty much brand new and three years later I still have it because if it ain't broke don't fix it. The only thing that ever happened to it is i cracked the screen. I sent it back to T-Mobile for the warranty replacement and they gave me another Samsung. That one started to overheat fairly quickly so they sent me another one and I've had that same one for 1 year. Recently it slipped out of my hand I have a crack on the screen. It's not a big one but does make the phone overheat. My fiance still loves my phone and he wants to get an S4 through either T-Mobile or an unlocked phone through online stores. He's had the Xperia, he's had the LG flex among other name brand phones but I still only have the one S4. It's just that good. I will be getting the screen replaced and hopefully that'll help with the overheating issue but again as I say if it ain't broke don't fix it
Hi... I own an S4 and bought back in 2013... My opinion is that the phone did great enough in delivering it functions for every day use but one thing I regret is that my S4 was an older version with no LTE support.... This has disappointed me as nowadays I still cannot taste the speed of LTE on my phone...
That's why now I think it will be great to get a new phone with LTE connectivity... but at the same time I don't want to get high end phones as I could not afford the cost anymore...
Can you suggest any cheaper phone that is as par as S4 but has LTE connectivity?
Wow this article is 8 months old (at the time I'm reading it) and I'm just now about to purchase a used S4 on ebay. Shows how much this phone has held up. I'm sold and agree with the writer on this phone. Thanks for the info! - I have a newer Phablet Style phone and I just don't like it, too big, too much, too impractical, no replaceable battery, no SD memory and to be honest not impressed with the speeds. They seem no faster in reality than older phones from 2013-2014 in my opinion.
I bought my S4 last March and don't plan on buying a new phone anytime soon. I keep it in an Otterbox Defender which came with a belt case. I have a 128gb Sandisk microsd card in my S4. As far as I know if the device will support 64gb then it will support an unlimited size card. Speaking of unlimited card size the S4 has OTG. I bought an OTG cable and did some testing. A logitech trackball, Seagate and Western Digital external drives all work as well as thumb drives and microsd cards in an adapter.
You had me until you said this.. "It may only have 2 GB of RAM, while OnePlus is delivering 4 GB on its OnePlus 2, but I’m yet to be sold on the advantage of adding more and more RAM. If the Nexus 5 is running the latest version of Android on 2 GB with no issues, maybe 2 GB is still OK for 2015."
This tells me you don't know what you're talking about. It's not about whether it can run the latest OS. Of course it can. So can many other older phones if the manufactures bothered to update them. More RAM, also faster RAM, equals speed. Obviously you get speed increases from faster RAM. You do also get speed increases because apps will stay fully functional in the background so app switching is awesome. Check youtube for videos about phones with 4GB. You'll see that they can switch between 3 games easily without any loading at all. The GS4 can't do that. Once the OS is all loaded there's not enough RAM to really achieve proper app switching.
I understand what you're saying, and appreciate the comment. Of course the Galaxy S4 won't be able to compete on a performance level with most modern flagships and I appreciate that performance runs deeper than "can I run this OS".
But you've highlighted part of my point: who exactly wants to be able to switch between three different games? You can only play one game at one time.
What I mean is, for what most users require, the performance of the Galaxy S4 is still just fine :)
And all that stuff running in the background just sucks the battery dry faster.
Mine is i9505 with CM 12.1 Nightly + root and has 2GB of RAM. I opened all my system apps (17 Apps) and I was still able to switch between the first one and the latest one. I even checked the running apps to see how much memory is left and was suprised by the number; 380MB left. Browser was taking 130MB.
If you're running 3 games at a time you should consider getting out of the house more.
Kinda yes and no. Depends on what the app is written for and what it's doing. It's more complex than that. There are some various ways developers can utilize ram and such. 2gb is a lot make no mistake. In simple terms it depends on the apps optimization and such. To see this in effect and to be clear I am no apple fan but the iPhone iOS is what some consider a very optimized OS for the hardware it runs on and thus even with the lower ram and cpu it screams when compared side by side with most android apps on even faster hardware. There is a lot going on so don't believe that bigger or more is better. It really comes down to how much work was put into these programs and how efficient they will run. That being said older OS and hardware has the advantage here because it's been out longer and more people have learned more about it's abilities and such. There are of course other factors going on, an example is the newer phones with higher resolution and such take up more memory/cpu to push those pixels aside from the clever tricks to use this puts pressure on the hardware thus making real world use not as fast as you would think. It's never a bad idea to have more ram or power of course but there is a balance to maintain by supporting older hardware and software. We push the developers of software and hardware to be even better. So praise and support these older devices because if a 3 year old phone is good enough now then that means these companies have to work even harder to produce something even better and that's in all our best interest.
I've hated my s4 ever since I got it two years ago...still regreting letting the t-mobile guy talk me out of getting an iphone.