Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy S3 head-to-head review

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Korean technology giant Samsung is the current top dog Android smartphone maker, with pretty much every analyst house under the sun listing the firm as owning at least half, if not more of the market. Last year this was showcased by the unwavering success of Samsung's top-end Galaxy S3 smartphone, which stormed past the 40 million sales mark in January this year, making it the best-selling Android smartphone of all time.
Since then, Samsung has attempted to repeat this success with its new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone. However, clearly not wanting to rock the boat too much, Samsung has been less brave with the S4, choosing not to radically change its design or features, meaning for some it's a little too similar to its predecessor. This has led many to list the S4 as being more like an upgraded Galaxy S3.5 update than a truly new handset, thus making many existing S3 users question whether it's worth shelling out £600 for the new phone.

Design and build

From a distance you'd be forgiven for thinking the S4 and S3 are the same phone. Both have the same slightly curved, pebble-like design, feature detachable polycarbonate rear plates and metal outer edges and pleasantly retro physical front-facing home buttons. These similarities aren't helped by the fact that the two devices are close to identical in size and weight, with the S4 measuring 137x70x7.9mm and weighing 130g and the S3 a slightly fatter 137x71x8.6mm and 133g.
Samsung Galaxy S3 back

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It's only when you get closer that you notice there are a couple of design touches separating the S4 from S3. Chief of these is the S4's smaller bezel, with it packing a slightly larger 5in display than the S3, which features a still sizable 4.8in screen. Outside of this, the S4's backplate has a patterned, not matte backplate – though this is only painted on and the backplate itself is smooth not textured, meaning that the change is superfluous.

This isn't too much of a problem as a year on the design is still aesthetically very nice. Additionally the lightweight, ergonomic pebble design means that both phones are very comfortable to hold – far more so than harder-edged devices like the iPhone 5 and Sony Xperia Z.
Sadly, though, the choice not to radically change the S4's design means that, like the S3, it suffers from some build quality issues. Samsung has a track record for creating phones that look great, but don't stand up to physical punishment all too well. This is a problem for both the S4 and S3, with both phones being prone to picking up marks and dents when met with even the slightest force – in short if you drop either on a pavement, they won't survive the encounter unscathed. This is a bit sad considering the fact other similarly priced phones, like the Sony Xperia Z, HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920 are very robust and make the S4 feel a little weedy and cheap.


Since the arrival of Apple's Retina Display all those years ago, screen technology has become an essential weapon in any smartphone's arsenal. Clearly aware of this, Samsung has worked hard to improve its screen technology over the last year, packing the S4 with a 5in full HD super Amoled 1920x1080 441ppi display that puts the S3's 4.8in 1280x720 HD Super Amoled display to shame.Samsung Galaxy S3 apps
This isn't to say the S3's display is bad. Even a year on it remains wonderfully crisp, boasts decent viewing angles and colour balance. But next to the S4 it's clear the newer phone's display is just outright better in every way, featuring more vibrant colours and sharper icons.

The Galaxy S4

Operating system and software
The Galaxy S4 comes preloaded with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean overlaid with Samsung's custom Touchwiz user interface. The older Galaxy S3 was released, running the then up to date 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Android version, though an update has since been rolled out for the older 4.1.2 version of Jelly Bean. The chief consequence of this is it means the S3 runs a slightly different version of Touchwiz to the S4 and doesn't feature any of the new software features debuted on the newer phone.

Next: Operating system and software V3
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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