Three times the trouble


Samsung’s press relations people sent me a test unit of their new Galaxy S4 phone, even though my colleague Kevin Tofel did a pretty in-depth review. And while, I am unlikely to do a review, I wouldn’t mind sharing my impressions, since Apple vs Samsung is the real story.

First impressions: it doesn’t look anything like the iPhone 5 ( or 4) and it is distinct enough to stand out in a sea of Android (devices.) Beyond the looks, there is a lot more “stuff” going on here, which to an iPhone user can be overwhelming. For instance, since I already have an Apple ID, in order to sign-on for my iPhone, I just need to put that ID and I am all set. The new iPhone wants you to create a new Apple ID. In the case of S4, when I used the device for the first time, I encountered three screens asking me to either sign-in or sign-up: Google, Samsung and AT&T. The phone is packed with Google Apps (good), Samsung Apps (meh!) and AT&T apps (why.) [I have a Google account, so I signed up with that and ignored everything else.]

That adds up to a messy experience and a rude reminder of the pre-smartphone world of “carrier decks.” I guess phone companies are not very bright in realizing that they are well not Apple or Google. I cringe at the idea of a phone company product or a recommendation. Anyway before I go too far into this rabbit hole, I do like to say one thing — in my apartment in South of Market area (SOMA), AT&T LTE is much faster than Verizon LTE. Maybe carriers should focus on making awesome networks and not apps. And good customer service!

When it comes to the phone, I can see why Samsung quickly sold 10 million of these S4 phones. It is light-weight, powerful and clean looking. Maybe it is time to put Google’s Android on this and try it again. That said, I am writing this post on Drafts on my iPhone. It is one of my favorite new apps on the iOS.