Samsung S4 Active E-mail
Thursday, 19 September 2013 00:00

SamsungS4Active AT&T started carrying the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active earlier this summer. Drawn by its waterproof design and its direct applicability to kayak fishing, KFM was quick to get our hands on one, and now after 3 months of use, we share our thoughts.

The back cover of the phone is made waterproof by the use of a gasket. The charge port has a plastic insert to keep moisture out. This insert must be removed in order to charge the phone.

Overall, the S4 Active has specs that are very similar to the regular S4. Other than a slightly different form factor, there are 2 notable areas in which the S4 Active differs.

The first noticeable difference is the screen type. The S4 Active sports a regular TFT LCD screen, whereas the regular S4 uses an AMOLED display. AMOLED displays have lower power consumption, more saturated colors, and a wider viewing angle. They also cost more. Are AMOLED displays better? Some would say yes, while others are not so sure. It likely comes down to personal preference.

The other major difference is the resolution that the camera supports. The S4 Active has an 8 Megapixel camera, far shy of the 13 Megapixels in the normal version. However, being a waterproof phone, the S4 Active boasts an additional underwater mode. This mode boosts contrast, which is normally washed out by underwater photography.

With an IP67 rating, the S4 Active is totally protected against dust, and tested for immersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. The case of the S4 Active is touted as ruggedized, however it isn't bulky like other ruggedized cellphones. That's a bonus. However, it is also a drawback in our opinion, as it just does not feel that rugged. To ease our minds we bought a case for added protection. Since the form factor is not the same as the regular S4, case options are not as readily available, although some do exist. We ended up purchasing this case from HandHeldItems.

One shortcoming of this phone is that it does not float; there exists no tether point to which one can attach a leash or external float. As of this publication, Incipo (http://www.incipio.com/) has announced a floating case called the Skiff; however, it is not available yet. Once it is, it will be a must buy.

Using touch screens in the presence of water is always a tough proposition. Any water on the screen renders the touch functionality almost unusable. In our use, it has been a minor inconvenience to carry a dry piece of cloth to wipe the screen down before use. In a pinch, the back of a dry hand works well. However, one's hands are not always dry.

Minor inconveniences aside, the S4 Active has lived up to our expectations of a usable, waterproof cellphone, while pulling triple duty as a camera and a GPS. In terms of waterproofness, the phone has stood up while being carried in a vest pocket of a PFD or just being laid out on the deck of a kayak. We've further abused the device by intentionally throwing it in the shallows to no ill effect. If you are in the market for a modern waterproof smartphone, the S4 Active should surely be near the top of the list of devices to be considered. Note: the S4 Active is currently available through AT&T in the US and select networks worldwide.  We hope to see it on more networks some time in the near future.

 

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