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    September 18, 2013

    Opinion: Galaxy S4 features you’ll never use

    The latest iteration of Samsung‘s TouchWiz software is packed a bewildering number of features “” so many that there‘s now an extra step in the setup process explaining what everything does. We have never been enormous ambassadors of Samsung‘s proprietary Android skin, but it is certainly here to stay. The Galaxy S range is the theatre Samsung use to display their latest and greatest software features. The major new additions in the Galaxy S4 include Air view, Air gesture, Smart Pause and Group Play, to name but a few.

    While I was doing the long term review of the device over the last three months, I couldn‘t help but notice a trend in the last couple of Galaxy S devices. The plethora of features included in every new iteration doesn‘t seem so useful when using the device from day to day. I just couldn‘t shift the idea that these were features designed to sell me a phone in commercials and carrier stores, rather than helping me out once I‘ve actually parted with my hard earned money.

    Once the novelty wore off, I didn‘t find many of the GS4‘s waving, gesturing, eye-tracking tricks to be particularly useful. Tapping a screen is always going to be more natural than awkwardly holding your finger an inch or so away. The same applies to waving your way through photos. Why not just touch the screen? Is the entire feature there for people with dirty hands?

    The impractical-at-best mess that is Touchwiz can of course be slimmed down. A lot of the features can be ignored or disabled, and if you really want you can launch in Easy mode ““ a stripped down, essentials only version. What does that mean for the Galaxy S range? Are we going to see the same features included in the Galaxy S5 ““ plus some newly designed ones? I certainly hope not.

    Instead, the really useful stuff in TouchWiz lies a little further beneath the surface. There‘s the overhauled, Galaxy Camera-inspired camera app with a wealth of really useful shooting options, including one of the best panorama modes you‘ll see. There‘s also the S Health app to entice you, which ties into the built-in pedometer to measure exercise and other health stats. And I didn‘t use WatchON, the IR-blaster-based TV app, a whole lot, but when I do it works flawlessly.

    In all honesty, I don‘t think there is anyone out there that can admit ““ hand on heart ““ that they use all or even most of the S4‘s features. I wouldn‘t have minded the massive feature set if I could choose to use only the ones I want, and the device still performs brilliantly. But that was not the case. Turning on one or two certain features would open the floodgates on unwanted lag and instability ““ that is not acceptable in my books.

    Enough with the fluff, I say! I‘d rather have the Google Play Galaxy S4 edition, any day of the week.

    Here is the long-term video review:

    Listen in to our latest podcast!

    • MikeN

      Written like a typical Apple knob! You don’t know what you’re talking about. The features are there to select and use as you choose, with minimal effect on the S4 performance. The point, I would think, is the “choices” available from Android and Samsung, for each of us to configure our phones according to our own unique preferences! Idiot.

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        That was my whole point, it didn’t have a “minimal” effect on the performance. Features shouldn’t impact the performance of a device, especially ones that aren’t essential to the everyday use of it. And by the way, I’m an Android user, not an iOS one.

    • CraigR

      A bit harsh branding someone an idiot because you don’t agree with their view. Honestly I think that every smartphone on the market has features that are of no use in your daily use of your phone!

      • Theunis Jansen van Rensburg

        Nowhere did I brand anyone as an idiot. The point I was making that the features shouldn’t impact the performance of a device, especially ones that aren’t essential to the everyday use of it.

        • CraigR

          No Theunis, I was referring to the comment on MikeN – sorry, I should have replied under his comment!

    • Craig K

      I think this article sums up the most of smartphone users. Even though I have an S4, i understand what he says when he refers to certain features not performing as consistently as one would expect. I’ve even considered selling the phone as I’m wasting it’s talent, but then remembered why I actually got the phone in the first place… An no, it’s not an Apple knob type of speak, it’s the plain honest truth that applies to each and every smartphone on the market, iPhones included… It seems manufacturers are installing these apps to win sales, all gimmicks that sweetens the deal, but day-to-day living is another story altogether…

    • c2droid

      Every phone manufacture sells there new phones with a number of new features. It is about differentiation to attract users to upgrade, e.g. Apple is king at this, but I think it is also the implementation of patented features, establishing them in a production product for future protection. Who knows how these features will evolve into something that does become invaluable to users. If all android phones only supported stock android, then wouldn’t it be just like Apple with the exception of the hardware? Manufactures want to differentiate, that is the value with Android. How many Apple manufactures are there? What choices do consumers have with Apple? I prefer choice and customization over one size fits all. I applaud Samsung for including many features, useful daily or not, perhaps inspiring new features that will be more useful. We are experiencing a wonderful point in evolution of mobile computing and should encourage manufactures to push the envelope of new use cases and features, not choke them off with our limited vision.

    • Frikkie Van Biljon

      I agree that a lot of the S4’s functionality is impractical for everyday use.

      Although, the next challenge for the smartphone developers aren’t really set on the hardware specs level but more on how to utilize the hardware through software.

      When you buy a smartphone today, you expect certain basic functionality from it. E.g. It has a camera. A HD screen. High-end processor etc.

      But how you interact with the hardware will be the next challenge.

      I don’t think any smartphone has it right at the moment, since the experience is kind of the same across all platforms. (E.g You can take panoramas with most phones. You can video-chat. You can watch HD movies. Etc,etc….)

      Hardware alone is not enough to define a smartphone.

      One has to give Samsung the recognition for trying to implement the hardware in a new and different way even though it is not yet completely spot-on.

    • Touf

      Thats why i got the S4 mini. Does the job, decent spec, none of the “excess”

      oh… and its not a tank… 🙂