Galaxy S4 Android cellphone by SamsungI am a longtime Apple / Max / iPhone user. In fact, I’ve been drinking the Steve Jobs made kool-aid for about ten years now. And I am okay with that because I love me some Apple products. After growing tired of replacing my PC laptops and desktops every few years, I signed away my first born child and bought an iMac. It was so incredibly fabulous that I bought a Macbook too. And I am still using BOTH – nearly ten years later. No crashes. No viruses. No problems. Add to that a slew of other Apple devices: iphones, ipads, ipods, and even the AppleTV, and I would say I am a happy Machead.

So, what the hell am I doing with the new Samsung Galaxy S4?

Call it a moment of weakness. I’ve been listening to the Google-devotees sing the praises of the Galaxy S4 for months. Supposedly, it is everything the iPhone is and more. Bigger, better, stronger, faster and all that. So, with my old iPhone 4 on its last legs, an eligible upgrade and the long wait for the the release of the iPhone 6, I decided to go Droid.

You’ve probably read the same stuff as I have – the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13MP camera (only the rear camera of course, the front is 2mp), an easily accessible and removable battery and expandable storage. When I held that bigger screen in my hand, I was sold. Plus, no more having to depend on some pimply kid in an Apple store to install an $80 battery. I am free at last.

But, deep down, I don’t want to be free! The Apple Store is only like the coolest place on the planet. Visiting a Starbucks and then the Apple Store is the secret wormhole to Yuppie-dom. And those geeky, pimply kids are so nice and comforting in a crisis. Now, looking down at my new phone, I get a sinking feeling every time I see that dumb Samsung swoopy S4 logo instead of the shiny little half-eaten apple. I think I might’ve made a mistake. Someone make me a Genius Bar reservation pronto.

 

The Galaxy S4 Doesn’t Suck

To be fair, the Jelly Bean powered S4 doesn’t suck. The fact that it comes in FSU Seminole red is pretty cool for us alumni, even though I am sure Samsung doesn’t realize its Seminole red.  It’s fast and has great battery life. It has a great looking display – rich colors and clear text. The  screen is definitely bigger and better at 5 inches (as compared to the iphone 5′s 4.8 inches). Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend where they stop making everything so damn small. And, just as advertised, the back cover easily pops off giving you full access to your battery and SD card allowing you to expand your battery options and storage capabilities. Nice!

I haven’t made up my mind about the 13MP camera yet. It takes great photos in certain settings, less than great in others. It is better than the 5MP in my old iPhone, but not 8MP-better. Perhaps I was expecting too much.

The weird little physical buttons are a bit hard to get use to. As far as I can figure out, one acts as a “back” button, the big one in the middle is the “home” button and the one on the left is a menu button that I haven’t  figured out why I would ever use. Seems like wasted space, especially since they are invisible until you accidentally touch one of them because you forgot they were there.  These buttons are a metaphor for the whole phone: invisible features that you didn’t know you had and don’t really need.

In other words – overkill.

 

Feeling Bloated

Herein lies my biggest gripe about the Galaxy S4 – the bloat. It is so loaded down with bloatware that the advertised 16GB of storage is actually only a little over 8GB. I guess its a good thing they allow you to expand the storage because once you add your music and apps and pictures of the kids and stuff you are going to need it.

Sure, it does lots of cute and fluffy party tricks – for instance, you can wave your arms around to scroll through your picture gallery, or air-slap your fingers near the screen to display a preview of your email. I believe Samsung calls it Air Gestures.  Meh. Not only do you look like an idiot, you quickly realize it doesn’t work half the time.

The Smart Stay eye thing is particularly annoying because of the little eyeball cartoon that keeps flashing on the screen when it can’t detect your eyes, which is most of the time. Enough already. I can scroll with my finger like a normal person, thank-you-very-much.

I had my new S4 exactly 24 hours before I disabled Smart Stay and Smart Pause and Air Gestures and Air View and Air-Slap or whatever. Smart Scroll my ass.

Apple does a great job of keeping Verizon or AT&T crap off their phones. Samsung does not. There are upsells around every corner on the S4. And the Google apps… my God the Google apps! They are everywhere. Play Books. Play Magazines. Play Movies. It took me an hour to delete them all. Unfortunately, the S4 includes lots of Crapware that you are not allowed to delete. Bogus!

There is so much junk on the Galaxy S4 that you quickly feel overwhelmed. It’s like a Trader Joe’s shopper being forced to find organic hummus in a Walmart Super Center. Good luck with that.

 

The Goog

I definitely do not like having to sign my life away to Google in order to make the transition from Apple easier. People in my line of work already know that The Goog controls way too much of the Internet so I am not particularly thrilled with letting them control my stuff too. How do you get your music from iTunes to your S4, for instance? You download Google Drive and Google Play and Google Wallet and Google Mail and Google This and Google That. Sure, storage is free… for now…  so I will drink The Goog Kool-aid and get on their damn grid but I am not happy about it.

 

Security Breaches

Beware of all the password stealing Trojans, botnet infections and pesky malware programs when you go Android. The fact remains – Apple devices have far fewer breaches so you will give up this peace of mind when you switch to the Galaxy S4. Take a look at the most recent ISTR (Symantec Corp.’s Internet Security Threat Report) on mobile vulnerabilities and malware. More than 95% of malicious programs in the mobile environment have been targeted to Android devices. You can thank all that open source code for that.

Better delete all that bloat on your S4 so you can make room for some security apps.

 

Worthy Of A Switch From iPhone?

With all this said, the Samsung S4 is still a great device, mostly thanks to the battery life, bigger screen and accessible hardware. The rest is just hype and WAY too much bloatware. Turn off the cheesy sound notifications, clean up the clutter, ignore the silly hand waving and eye following stuff, and you will have yourself a device worthy of a switch from the iPhone.

At least until the iPhone 6 comes out…