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Old June 5th, 2013, 09:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default [Twister6] REVIEW: VZW Galaxy S4 (from Note 2 user) w/lots of Pics!!!

Seven months ago I was standing in the Best Buy, with Note 2 in one hand and S3 in the other hand, comparing both phones. After about 5-10 minutes - decision was easy, and I walked away without a single doubt in my mind that I will go with Note 2. Called Verizon the same day and had it shipped to my door right away. Fast forward to today. I was given an opportunity to review newly introduced VZW S4 and wanted to share some of the details of this new flagship model from Samsung. So here I am, with Note 2 in one hand and S4 in the other hand, and let me tell you - the decision is no longer an easy one. Let me go into more details why.

First of all it's a natural evolution of technology where the latest phone model will have better spec of its predecessor (S3) and will match or even surpass other models (Note 2). Since I'm referring to Verizon version of S4, the spec might differ from other versions, but not significantly (with an exception of models with a different processor). S4 stepped up to the latest Android 4.2.2 with a refreshed TouchWiz UI from Samsung. Featuring 5" Super AMOLED display with next gen Gorilla Glass 3 and full HD (1080p) the display is breathtaking. Along with 1.9GHz quad-core processor, 2600 mAh battery, 13MP rear and 2MP front cameras, 2GB of RAM, 16GB internal memory, and expandability with microSD up to 64GB - we are talking about powerhouse hidden inside of a slim 130g (4.6oz) package. I'm sure you all familiar with this dry technical info. For benefit of those who are still deciding or just got your new S4 - let me go into more exciting part of what I found special about this phone as a current user of Note 2.

Unboxing of the new phone is always fun, and with it's new "natural wood" theme the packaging is very eye appealing. Beside the phone, the box also included Samsung wall charger (2A) with a removable usb/micro-usb cord. The charger and the cable are golden. Keep that in mind this is a true 2A charger with a quality thick usb cable designed to carry 2A of current in order to take full advantage of fast charging of your battery. It also comes with headphones, a wired in-ear with in-line remote that will allow you to change the volume up/down and control music/video with multi-function play-pause button that also picks up and hangs up calls. Don't expect any heavy bass from these, but the sound was very clear, no distortion at high volumes. It came with extra ear tips, and also this new version of headphones has noodle shaped wires.







Just for you to get an idea of "visual" when comparing S4 to N2, I think it worth while to take a closer look at these side-by-side. Basically, depending how you look at it, its a scaled up or scaled down version of one versus the other.





Keeping it's layout consistent with other Samsung phones, you can see all around pictures of S4 and location of its buttons and ports. I have to mention that built quality is very solid. Probably not the same premium material as the latest iPhone or HTC One, but it doesn't feel cheap at all. Since I'm on a subject of hardware, I do want to mention a few points. People always bring up visibility of display outside under direct sunlight. Its typical for any phone with a quality glass screen - bring it up to full brightness, and there is no issue. It's definitely better than my Note 2 under the same settings. Also I found 4G LTE speed/signal to be on par with my Note 2, really no difference holding them side-by-side. Call quality was excellent, something to expect from Verizon. And last but not least, I was also happy with a volume level of the built-in speaker. Again, it's not HTC One with it's Beats technology, but it's for sure above average. If you want to turn your phone into boombox, that's what bt speakers are for













Once you remove the battery cover, you are faced with a removable battery (2600 mAh), micro-SD slot for expansion, and removable SIM card slot. NFC is built into the battery, so you will not see any external visible antenna. Now, here is a BIG surprise for Verizon customers: wireless charging connectors are BACK and accessible!!! For those who are familiar with N2, those were not accessible before in Verizon version of N2. That is a great news! Now you have an option of getting an alternative battery cover with a built-in charging coil and metal contacts for the back of the phone. You will also need to get a charging pad for that. I think it's a great option since you can either stay with a slim version of the battery cover or upgrade to wireless charging which does add a little bit of bulk. Here is how it looks under the hood:



And since I'm on a battery subject, here are the stats after my first full charge. I do have to admit, it was a light use with some web browsing, testing various apps, making a few phone calls, and all the services running by default in the background. This 2600 mAh got me through 2 days and 6 hours with 16% still remaining!!!



Also, just FYI, the capture of phone info so you can see model number, Android versions, hw version, etc.

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Old June 5th, 2013, 09:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Of course, the fun really begins when you start using this phone and dive into all the new features introduced with Android 4.2.2 and TouchWiz UI, supported by new hardware. First thing you will notice right away is a partitioning of functions when you go into Settings. This makes it easier to navigate being split into Connections, My Device, Accounts, and More.



In addition to listing all the new features, I wanted to capture it in actual setting menu so you can get a better idea. Here we have Motions and Gestures that include Air Gesture, Motion, Palm Motion, and Motion Calibration with g-scope



Smart screen with it's Smart Stay, Smart Rotation, Smart pause, and Smart Scroll



Air View with Info Preview, Progress Preview, Speed Dial Preview, and Webpage Magnifier



A more detailed Voice Control for Incoming Calls, Alarm, Camera, and Music



Obviously these are just descriptions to wet your appetite. To show how these look in action, I tried to capture it in the following series of shots. Keep in mind, those are all air gestures where I do not touch the screen. I just hover my finger over it to take advantage of the new gesture sensor located at the top to the right of the front speaker.

Webpage Magnifier



Txt message Magnifier (my first junk txt msg addressed to someone I have no idea who)



Picture preview with air-view (remember, I'm not touching the screen)



Video preview/scroll air-view (amazing where you can scroll frame-by-frame to get to the exact position in timeline)



With a new 13MP/2MP rear/front cameras, you get some new cool features as well.
Camera - effects you can preview in real time with different filters



Dual camera photos - back camera and embedded front camera image where you can change the frame of embedded image



Camera - different modes, amazing idea of animated mode with multiple shots in one or erasing an unwanted subject from the background



Camera - voice commands for taking pictures and recording videos



While browsing different new apps, S-Translator really caught my eye. You can type and translate between 9 common worldwide language, and actually have an option of phone saying out loud the translation.



Multi-window view is not new for Note 2 users, but now it can be enjoyed on S4 as well. With 5" screen you have plenty of real estate to have two screens side by side, and a lot of apps already come pre-configured for that use.





Something I found absolutely amazing is when you touch any app/widget icon it shows you a new target screen without a need to drag it across multiple screens. Even better, you can wave your hand above air view sensor and the screen will move from one to the other until you stop at a new target screen where you want to drop your app/widget.



Further, Notification Panel selection was improved where you can use 1-finger to pull it down to reveal a scrolling selection or 2-finger pull down to reveal matrix selection where each icon is visible



Of course, I saved the best for last - IR Blaster to blast you right through the control of your tv and cablebox!!! All I had to do is to tell it a brand of my tv and cable box, and it paired up within seconds. Just amazing, I was using my phone as a remote control



I'm sure there are more new features but I decided to highlight those above as the top worth mentioning. Keep in mind, this is a review of Verizon version of S4. Even so the gap between different providers has been closing, there are still some differences. Like for example, you will get more bloatware with VZW S4 version. Luckily, you can go in App manager and Disable a lot of the unwanted apps. It will not permanently remove it from the phone (you still will have an option to enable it later), but rather will prevent these apps from loading into your memory and checking for updates. There is also a question why WiFi toggle was removed and Blocking Mode toggle is not available. But in my opinion these are very minor details. For me the most important detail is the Network where I know I can get my maximum number of signal bars and clear calls that don't get dropped. Being on East Coast in tri-state area - Verizon is the ONLY reliable choice for me.

In Conclusion, this is one Amazing phone!!! When I got Note 2, beside big screen everybody was carrying on about s-pen. It's nice and makes a great conversation piece, but I personally found not much use for it. Just my personal opinion. With all these new features introduced in S4 - I actually can see myself using a lot of it, and don't consider them as just a gimmick. For the last few days, beside doing my own testing, I have been demoing S4 to a lot of my friends and co-workers, and everyone's reaction is the same - outstanding! I wasn't able to capture this in pictures, but you can actually scroll through the webpage up/down just by using your eye movement. Something that was only seen in si-fi movies, now available in the palm of your hands!!! And again, backed up by VZW 4G LTE you can really enjoy this new technology to full potential!!!
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Old June 5th, 2013, 10:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Solid review man. How long have you had the S4 for use?

I was excited about the S4 just like you are now about 1-2 weeks ago but now that novelty has worn off and my Verizon S4 has many issues:

-TouchWiz lag
-Camera scratching (because it is a hump)
-Mushy power button with lower tactile response
-The eye scrolling and air gestures are hit and miss (turned off)
-Stock keyboard is very small and prone to mistakes when typing
-Stock keyboard does not have autocorrect

I thought the Note 2 felt better because it was a little heavier. The heft made it feel better to type on and hold during use for me.

Screen on the S4 is far better than Note 2 obviously and the build quality of the S4 is better.
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Old June 5th, 2013, 10:35 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It is known as new device pixie dust and some are more sensitive to it than others. Like the effort from the OP though Just wish Verizon sold a 32gb, else no pixie dust for me
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Old June 5th, 2013, 10:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by chris2k5 View Post
Solid review man. How long have you had the S4 for use?

I was excited about the S4 just like you are now about 1-2 weeks ago but now that novelty has worn off and my Verizon S4 has many issues:

-TouchWiz lag
-Camera scratching (because it is a hump)
-Mushy power button with lower tactile response
-The eye scrolling and air gestures are hit and miss (turned off)
-Stock keyboard is very small and prone to mistakes when typing
-Stock keyboard does not have autocorrect

I thought the Note 2 felt better because it was a little heavier. The heft made it feel better to type on and hold during use for me.

Screen on the S4 is far better than Note 2 obviously and the build quality of the S4 is better.
Solution to a lot of your problems could be easily resolved!!!

- Switch to Nova Launcher Prime - a lot more customization, and it made my Note 2 fly!!!

- Camera scratching - invest into a good case. Case for S4 is a MUST!!! Look into a link in my signature, I have a TON of reviews of different cases, with a separate section for S4 cases. Case will also resolve your button problem. Highly recommend UAG cases - those are bullet proof!

- Eye scrolling and gestures, yes - it could be hit or miss. I'm sure the next firmware upgrade will make it more robust.

- DO NOT use stock keyboard. Get SwiftKey - the ONLY keyboard you will ever need that's fully customizable, has the BEST auto-correct and has the most robust swype.

Follow these steps and you will rediscover your S4 all over again and will not put it down
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Old June 5th, 2013, 10:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Have no idea why my signature sometime doesn't show up with posts

Here is a link where you can get all the S4 case info, just scroll down to S4 section:

http://androidforums.com/samsung-galaxy-note-2/708384-twister-reviews-note-2-accessories.html
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Old June 5th, 2013, 10:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It is known as new device pixie dust and some are more sensitive to it than others. Like the effort from the OP though Just wish Verizon sold a 32gb, else no pixie dust for me
No pixie dust here I got this VZW S4 for 2 weeks from Verizon for test purposes only. Just providing you straight facts in a more user friendly format
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Old June 5th, 2013, 11:24 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks for taking the time to write the review. Overall, it's nicely done. But it does sound like a press release. How about discussing the new Samsung "smart features" and how well they actually work? You don't have to be critical just for the sake of being critical, but the review sounds like it was written by Samsung. No phone is perfect and I can think of many, many ways to improve the phone.
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Old June 5th, 2013, 11:36 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Very nice review!

I'd love to see this as a video review sometime
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Old June 6th, 2013, 06:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Great review bro, I think we will keep this review on it's own for now so others can post and not get lost in the shuffle, well done as always.
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Old June 6th, 2013, 06:58 AM   #11 (permalink)
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For those complaining about the stock keyboard lacking autocorrect, from what I've read around the forum, that is a direct function of the Apple lawsuit.

Solution: install SwiftKey as mentioned above and finetune the long press to ~200 ms. I no longer miss the number keys on top.

Technically, the eye scrolling feature is mis-named. It is face or head scrolling. Keep your eyes fixed on the screen and move your head up or down and see what happens.

I find some of the motion features to be hit or miss... but some of them appear solid too. One I've had trouble with is getting the GS4 to answer a call with a hand motion... a handy feature (if it works) when cooking or changing the oil in the car or whatever.

I use Nova Prime (which negates that nice ability to move an app to a target screen). But that's a very minor nit to pick. I've also disabled much of the bloatware that I won't use and turned off animation in developer mode. Lag? What's that?

And my new favorite case is the Speck CandyShell Grip!

What case are you gonna put on this one twister6?
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Old June 6th, 2013, 07:25 AM   #12 (permalink)
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What case are you gonna put on this one twister6?
The one and only UAG

I can't imagine carrying $700 phone in a pocket or outside without a case. I know it kind of defeats the purpose of showing off those sexy slim curves, but if you search our AF forum for "I dropped my phone, screen is cracked" threads, you will get a reality check about how important it is to have a case around your phone. You are protecting battery cover from scratching and in case of S4 the camera bump. Making back of the phone flat and non slippery when you lay it down on the surface. Adding a protection bumper around edges if you drop it, and taking advantage of bumper's lip to keep the display off the surface when you lay it down. You drop this phone and crack the display - and you are looking at anywhere from $150-$200 to fix it, either if its part of insurance deductible, or the actual insurance monthly premium, or taking it elsewhere for repair.

There are a lot of great cases for S4, and you don't have to spend a fortune to get one
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Old June 6th, 2013, 08:04 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by shmn View Post
Thanks for taking the time to write the review. Overall, it's nicely done. But it does sound like a press release. How about discussing the new Samsung "smart features" and how well they actually work? You don't have to be critical just for the sake of being critical, but the review sounds like it was written by Samsung. No phone is perfect and I can think of many, many ways to improve the phone.
I'm sorry you feel my review sounded like press release. Prior to December 1st of last year I had Droid X for 2.5 years. I was excited about that phone for about a month or two, and then the feeling faded. As soon as I made a decision to go with Note 2, I never looked back and the excitement of using this phablet stayed fresh for 7 months. There is no such thing as a perfect phone, I do agree, and there always could be room for improvement. But I base my review on the experience of Note 2 where I'm already familiar with a phone, already love everything about it, and comparing new S4 features on top of what I already got used to with N2. Press release is just a bunch of dry one liners with spec features. I intentionally didn't include screen captures (btw, for those not familiar - a right-to-left swipe with a palm of your hand across the display), but took pictures to demonstrate all those cool air-view features. I'm truly excited about it, think it's very innovative, and IT WORK!S!! These are not photoshop pictures, but real use pictures where I showed how it actually works.

In my experience of posting in AF and XDA forums, a lot of the dissatisfaction comes from a fact that people either not familiar with their phone (coming off another older Android or iPhone) or don't know how to optimize their phone and download a ton of free apps (you pay for it with a lot of junk that's going to run in the background), cpu hog widgets, live wall papers, and a ton of social media apps and services that will turn your speedy phone into a crawling junk.

That's what this forum/community is for to ask questions, get answers, and to make the best out of your new shiny toy. In my honest opinion - S4 is a fantastic phone. I do not own it, it was give to me for 2 weeks as a review loaner and unfortunately I have to return it back. But I'm looking forward to all these new S4 features being implemented in the next version of Note 3, and then will be making a decision. If N3 is not going to get bigger than a current N2 (which is at my limit now), I will go with N3, otherwise I will switch to S4.
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Old June 6th, 2013, 08:51 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
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snip
There are a lot of great cases for S4, and you don't have to spend a fortune to get one
Hah! I feel like I've already spent a fortune buying cases to try out. Some I've returned. Others I've kept since the return costs would likely cost more than the case itself.

I haven't tried the UAG case since it's just become available on Amazon. Now that I have the Speck CS Grip, my case search is over.
I think.

But it's all good fun.
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Old June 6th, 2013, 11:00 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
Hah! I feel like I've already spent a fortune buying cases to try out. Some I've returned. Others I've kept since the return costs would likely cost more than the case itself.

I haven't tried the UAG case since it's just become available on Amazon. Now that I have the Speck CS Grip, my case search is over.
I think.

But it's all good fun.
Why don't you make and post with a review of your case? That would be great!

Now, since I'm done with S4 review, I have a dozen of new S4 cases for review. Got a few more colors of UAG, will update my official review post with those shots. Got new stuff from Ballistic, Seidio, and a package from one of the HK vendors (case-parts.com) with some cool budget stuff! Everything will be up in the next 2-3 days!!!
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Old June 6th, 2013, 08:29 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Actually did a mini review with some pics (but not up to your standards) in the GS4 case thread. Or I think that's where I put it.
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Old June 6th, 2013, 09:22 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by twister6 View Post
Solution to a lot of your problems could be easily resolved!!!

- Switch to Nova Launcher Prime - a lot more customization, and it made my Note 2 fly!!!

- Camera scratching - invest into a good case. Case for S4 is a MUST!!! Look into a link in my signature, I have a TON of reviews of different cases, with a separate section for S4 cases. Case will also resolve your button problem. Highly recommend UAG cases - those are bullet proof!

- Eye scrolling and gestures, yes - it could be hit or miss. I'm sure the next firmware upgrade will make it more robust.

- DO NOT use stock keyboard. Get SwiftKey - the ONLY keyboard you will ever need that's fully customizable, has the BEST auto-correct and has the most robust swype.

Follow these steps and you will rediscover your S4 all over again and will not put it down
1. I want my phone to work out of the box. I like the look of TouchWiz so why would I switch over to Nova? It makes it look like Gingerbread Android!

2. Swiftkey keyboards look horrible and I've tried every theme. Again, why did I pay $650 and I can't have a keyboard that works properly out of the box?

3. I don't want to use a case. I've used every other phone I've owned without a case without issue. My old iPhone 4/4S/and 5 cameras did not scratch at all when I used them naked. Now the S4, after 3 weeks is already all scratched up around the camera!
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Old June 6th, 2013, 09:51 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris2k5 View Post
1. I want my phone to work out of the box. I like the look of TouchWiz so why would I switch over to Nova? It makes it look like Gingerbread Android!

2. Swiftkey keyboards look horrible and I've tried every theme. Again, why did I pay $650 and I can't have a keyboard that works properly out of the box?

3. I don't want to use a case. I've used every other phone I've owned without a case without issue. My old iPhone 4/4S/and 5 cameras did not scratch at all when I used them naked. Now the S4, after 3 weeks is already all scratched up around the camera!
I think your last comment about coming of iPhone 4/4s/5 explains your frustration. iPhone users are expecting for everything to work right out of the box without any need to customize or optimize. Welcome to Android world - that a beauty (or the curse) of these phones. You can customize it to infinity! I don't know what else to tell you, those suggestions are popular among millions of Android users. If you are so unhappy with S4, maybe it's not the phone for you and you should switch back or wait for iPhone 5s or 6? Perhaps S4 is not your cup of tea.
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Old June 14th, 2013, 12:13 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I was asked an interesting question to give my opinion which one I would pick now as a daily driver, Note 2 or S4?

As I mentioned before, decision of choosing N2 over S3 was an easy one back then where I felt N2 offered a lot more features and was more polished. If I would be faced with a same decision today, comparing N2 to S4 without previous experience with N2, I probably would have settled on S4. The size of Note 2 5.5" display could be intimidating coming off any other sub 5" phone. People are more familiar with a pocket friendly phone sizes. Plus there are a lot of new features and improvements from N2 to S4. N2 would have felt a bit outdated next to S4. Just telling you my honest opinion.

BUT considering that I have been using N2 for the last 7 months, it became an essential piece of my everyday functionality. I don't have it rooted because I have it synced with Exchange work server, and use it as my laptop replacement at work (with all the documents, etc.) and entertainment center at home (enjoy private movie watching better than on tv). So once you integrate this big screen into your daily routine, it will be really hard to go back to anything smaller. I already used to it's size which gets even bigger with any cases, not too mention if you add 9300 mAh Zerolemon battery

This is just my personal opinion and it's based on extensive use of Note2. Without it, I probably would choose S4. Also keep in mind, if they will keep N3 relatively the same size (more and more rumors about 5.9" screen are circulating) by narrowing the bezel with an increased display - I will probably switch to N3 since I'm sure it will have the same features as S4. But if they are going to mess it up and make it much bigger, that will give me an excuse to go to S4.
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Old June 14th, 2013, 12:51 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Thanks. Reason I asked was because I'll be upgrading the other line and an considering the N2 (but lack of HD display might bother me).
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Old June 14th, 2013, 02:58 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Great review. I just switched from the note to the s4. Love the slightly smaller size. Signal strength is pretty similar in my area. I use slide it for my keyboard. There are dozens are skins and it works great.
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Old July 19th, 2013, 10:13 PM   #22 (permalink)
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As much as I enjoyed test driving S4 review sample, now it has to go back to Verizon. I personally think its a great phone, you can't go wrong with it. I have a number of friends with their HTC One, but lack of storage expansion (micro-SD) and not being able to replace or update the battery - turned me away, no matter how great Beat sounds with this phone Moto stuff - will see how it will do under Google umbrella. Nothing else caught my eye, so that pretty much leaves me waiting for what Samsung going to offer under Note 3 next

The only problem is that I'm getting rid off S4 and still have a pile of brand new S4 cases (uag, seidio, and ballistic) I have reviewed and now have no use for anymore...
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Old July 19th, 2013, 10:23 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Heh! I feel your pain. I'm keeping my GS4 and I have 4 cases I have no use for.
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