Very, very impressive: Samsung’s Galaxy S4 reviewed

Another feature with similar flaws is “Air Gesture,” which promises to offer Kinect-like support for waving your hands over the S4 and getting it to do things like scrolling the page up and scrolling the page down.

It’s a neat idea, if not a bit pointless, because who really holds their phone at a distance and waves?

Once again, though, the flaw in Samsung’s idea comes down to app compatibility, with the feature unable to work with many of the apps available on Android.

Even some of the ones Samsung includes weren’t liked, and we found that the stock standard “internet” browser had no problems, but Google’s other browser “Chrome” did and wouldn’t even notice our gestures.

Twitter, likewise, didn’t notice us waving at our handset, and neither did the phone’s homescreen, contacts, Google’s Play Store, or the music programs we had on the device.

AirView is one very cool feature.

The one contact-less feature that we had no problem getting to work takes advantage of a feature of the screen, and this is called “AirView.”

This feature is a little different because it relies on a 3D sensor technology that looks for finger placement above the screen. When found, it allows you to highlight and view preview information before you touch to open.

While the screen on the left shows off S Translator, the two images on the right show you what you'll see when using AirView.

So if we wanted to see a preview of emails, we can hold our finger over the list of files and for each one, a small preview box will appear.

Webpages can be enlarged in this way too, with an accessibility mode activating through this feature, as well as it working with speed dial and video progress.

We're not touching the screen, but we're getting a preview as we point. Cool. Very cool.

What needs work

Outside of the problems with Samsung’s special touch-less features, there are only a few things to speak of that need fixing.

One of these is the bottom shortcut dock, which has been untouchable since the Galaxy S3 had a firmware fix take care of an Android security glitch.

You can't touch the bottom icon bar. Sorry.

What do we mean by “untouchable?” Well, let’s say you don’t want all of the stock standard icons at the bottom – phone, contacts, messaging, internet, and apps – and add Twitter or Facebook.

That’s not unreasonable, but Samsung won’t let you touch this area. It is the way it is, which is odd, given Samsung is the only company that won’t let you change this area.

We’ve already mentioned we like the feel of the S4, but we still wish Samsung would learn from what other manufacturers are doing with regards to design and build materials. With LG going with glass, HTC opting for aluminium, and Apple looking at a combination of both of these, it would be nice to see something more significant than plastic for a flagship Samsung handset.

With fairness to Samsung, the S4’s inspiration from the Galaxy Note 2 design makes for a more comfortable phone than what we saw in the S3, but compared to much of the competition, we’re left wanting.

Likewise Android Jelly Bean’s lockscreen widgets aren’t really acknowledged. Even though they’re here, they don’t feel explained, or even taken advantage of, and most people will likely just keep swiping up to unlock instead of across and checking out standby widgets.

The lockscreen features widgets from Android 4.2, but it feels like Samsung didn't spend a whole lot of time in this section.