I recently purchased myself a Samsung Galaxy S4 as a replacement for my iPhone 4S. I could have gone with an iPhone 5 (or waited a while longer for Apple’s next iPhone), but as I’d started doing Android development recently I figured it made sense to jump platforms.

So, is the grass greener?

Unboxing an Apple product is pretty awesome. Everything is shiny and glossy and lovely. From the moment that you get hold of the box to when you finally have your iGadget in your hands, everything screams ‘quality’. I didn’t get quite the same kick from unboxing my S4. The box was a kind of sandy brown, with a printed wooden mahogany pattern on cheap feeling cardboard. As I removed the stickers from along the sides the cardboard peeled away, leaving me with furry stickers and a ripped box.

But whatever, the phone is what we care about. My first impressions were something like “Oooh, look at the lovely screen”, followed by “Ugh, what’s this on the back”. This phone has got probably the best front and the worst back I’ve seen on a smartphone. The screen really is beautiful and large with a crystal clear display that is still readable in strong sunlight. The back is made of cheap looking thin plastic, must have cost 5p to manufacture and feels like it could snap whenever I have to remove it.

After I booted up the phone and played with it for a while I picked up the two small booklets that it came with to check out some of the phones features. There was a lot of stuff about novelty camera features, like allowing you to include a photostamp type picture of yourself superimposed over any image that you shoot, and including audio in your pictures. I really have no need for that stuff and cannot vouch for how well they work, but I can appreciate that some people might get value out of them.

The features I was more intrigued by were the ‘Air Gesture’ features. There’s a bunch of them with names like ‘Air jump’, ‘Air browse’ and ‘Air move’. They allow you to perform actions quickly on the phone using simple gestures. For example you can scroll through a web page by waving your hand in an upwards or downwards motion in front of the phone, or move icons between home screens by motioning either left or right . I’ve found these features to not work as well in practice, at least for me, and so most of them I’ve disabled. I still have a couple switched on that I make use of, and might try experimenting with a bit more in the future (just so long as nobody is looking …)

But… I love the phone. The display I’ve mentioned makes a huge difference to me as I do a lot of reading on the phone. I’m getting on well with Android and finding new apps and cool features almost every day. The phone is very light, fast and responsive and has a good battery life. As for whether it’s better than the iPhone 5, I honestly don’t think there’s much in it. Both are superb phones and I would be happy with either one.

If this was an Amazon review I’d give the phone 4 out of 5 stars. But it’s not, so I’ll just say that I can recommend the phone very highly.

If only they’d do something about the horrible back case…