After unboxing last week’s Galaxy S4 Mini, Samsung is keeping the pedal pressed to the metal by announcing another new launch variant of its current flagship smartphone — this time aimed at users who want their device to be made of slightly tougher stuff. Iterating its portfolio in this way is how Samsung squeezes the competition by making it harder for them to differentiate on price, size or special features like water-resistance. Sorry Sony.
The Galaxy S4 Active is being badged as a phone for outdoorsy types — hence it’s dust and water resistent to IP67 (one below the highest possible rating) and has a fully sealed design. This means it can be submerged in water one meter deep for up to 30 minutes, so great for dropping in puddles and streams, not so great for dropping when you’re scuba diving.
Although Samsung’s marketing material makes it sounds like a rugged phone, there’s no specific mention of impact resistance or especially toughened glass in the specs — so if you’re after a phone to take to work on a construction site you’re probably better off with one of these bad boys (having seen my TC colleague Chris Velazco do his best but fail to crack the CAT B15’s will by throwing it at some fake rocks). The thing is, truly rugged phones are necessarily chunky so there is always a trade off.
With the S4 Active you’re getting flagship smartphone power and looks in a slightly less fragile package than usual but not one that looks like it belongs on a building site. The S4 Active is 9.1mm thick and 151g heavy vs the S4’s 7.9mm and 130g. So, basically the S4 Active is a phone for Samsung fans who don’t want to have to worry about taking their expensive phone to the beach. Aside from its sealed design, the one notable hardware design change on the Active vs the S4 is the single home button being replaced by three physical keys: menu, home and back.
Under the hood, the Active has a 1.9GHz Quad-Core Processor, plus the same 2,600mAh battery as the S4. The 5.0’’ Full HD TFT LCD screen includes what Samsung calls its ‘Glove Touch’ feature, meaning it can be operated while wearing gloves — a trick the company appears to have borrowed from Nokia.
On the S4 Active’s rear is an 8 megapixel camera (the S4 has a 13MP lens) to which Samsung has added a new software mode — called Aqua Mode — to improve the clarity of underwater photography and video. The camera’s LED flash is also co-opted into acting as a torch via the shortcut of long pressing on the volume key. So handy if you’re trying to stumble back to your tent in the dark.
Other software features include ‘S Travel (Trip Advisor)’ — which offers “travel assistance, local information, and recommendations” — plus Samsung’s ‘S Translator’ software for text or voice translation.
The S4 Active will go on sale this summer, initially in the U.S. and Sweden. Pricing has not been confirmed — nor has specific market availability for the three colour options: grey, blue and orange.