Cricket Galaxy S4 Review

by PrepaidWirelessGuy

Once you read my Cricket Galaxy S4 review, I hope you're as excited about this phone as I am! I've been using it as my primary phone for several weeks since I got it when it launched. I have it on the $70 plan, which includes unlimited Muve Music, mobile hotspot, and 5GB of high speed data. I'm only paying $65/month (plus the $1 account admin fee) due to the $5 discount for signing up for automatic bill pay.

Important Notes:
  • Although the S4 is now an old phone, it's still a great phone that continues to be sold as refurbs by carriers, as well as being resold by recycling services like Gazelle. Thus, I decided to leave this review here for people who are still looking at purchasing this phone, as it's still very relevant!
  • The conversation on the next page of this discussion (see link at the end of the page) regarding comparing the Samsung keyboard versus Swype versus SwiftKey, is also still extremely relevant. In fact, I'm still using SwiftKey on a Galaxy S5, even though the S7 is out. In other words, these older phones remain extremely useful for many years, despite the fact that people like to upgrade every one or two years!

First Impressions
To my surprise, despite the large 5" screen, the device is quite comfortable to hold. A lot of people complain about the plastic case, however, unlike the earlier Galaxy models, it doesn't look or feel as cheap. It certainly doesn't feel premium, which is unfortunate as everything else about the phone is premium. That said, I don't find this aspect to be a deterrent, as I wouldn't want it to be much heavier, and the carbon fiber look is nice. In addition, I put a case on it, so I don't end up seeing much of the phone's chassis anyway.

The screen is bright and vibrant, and having come from a smartphone with a 3.1" VGA screen, it was like upgrading from a Corolla to a Ferrari! The phone is fast, and stable with an amazing camera, and I actually appreciate the additional functionality afforded by Samsung's additional TouchWiz layer.

The size (with the case on) feels fine in most of my shorts and jeans pocket. However, with pants with shallower pockets, the phone does start to get too large. For those occasions I use a belt clip case, which I don't generally like to do as it feels somewhat obtrusive and geeky (though very convenient!). Even without the case on, its horizontal and vertical dimensions will not be comfortable with all shorts and pants. So far I find that I can comfortably keep in my pocket over 90% of the time, which is respectable.

Operating System
The Cricket version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with Android Jelly Bean v.4.2.2, which is the latest Android version at the time of writing this. Having come from Froyo, this version of the Android OS is so much easier to use, and generally much sleeker. Also, multitasking is a much better experience. The first thing that came to mind regarding multitasking was that it's a complete webOS ripoff, which is perfectly fine with me given that webOS is essentially dead. The more great webOS features that can be built into Android and iOS, the better in my opinion! In addition, there's no doubt that not only has the OS improved, but the 1.9GHz quad core processor must contribute greatly to the performance. Lastly, unlike my previous experiences with Android, I have yet to have to restart this phone or pull the battery due to applications freezing.

Samsung Extras
As I noted in the first impressions section, I really like Samsung's TouchWiz. It takes time to figure out the differences between stock Android and TouchWiz as they're not completely obvious without a direct side-by-side comparison. Having had the opportunity to see
the Nexus 4 next to it and compare some of the navigation elements, Samsung seems to have added a number of useful menu items, and more flexibility with home screens and the application list/launcher. I have no doubt that many of these features could be added by downloading third party applications, however, generally speaking, if simple navigation can be included, I much prefer not to have to have unnecessary applications running in RAM.

Samsung includes a number of apps on the phone like Flipboard, WatchOn, Play Books, Samsung Hub, Samsung Apps, Samsung Link, Story Album, and a few others. Many say that these are useless apps. I think it really depends on your personal needs and taste. For example, I personally like how Story Albums suggest albums and allows me to create scrapbook-like albums in a matter of seconds, and save them to PDFs. Scrapbooking (real or digital) is not something that I enjoy doing in general, so the fact that it basically does it for me is really quite cool. Whether or not I end up using it in the long run still remains to be seen. What I've done is create a folder where I can dump all unwanted apps into so they don't clutter up my apps list. I can also choose to hide these apps and/or folders. i.e. These superfluous apps don't generally bother me. I think the biggest complaint here is that you're unable to uninstall these apps to recover space if find that you don't want them. In fact, there was a firmware update in July that added some enhancements (ex. "increase legibility" for text, and the ability to move applications to the SD card), as well as decrease the OS size and freeing up additional space (~800MB). That said, people are still quite upset about the fact that these extra apps take up so much space.

Features like auto-scroll by tracking your head movement, waiving your hand over the sensor to navigate, and smart pause are kind of neat, but generally unnecessary, and ultimately not that useful. I praise Samsung for trying to innovate, however, none of these features would/should sway someone to buy the phone over any other similarly capable smartphone.

Screen & Keyboard
The 5" screen on the Galaxy S4 has a resolution of 1920x1080, and uses Samsung's HD Super AMOLED technology. What this means is that it's very sharp and vibrant. Some reviewers have noted that there are other better looking screens that have better contrast and are less reflective in the sunlight; however, without a side-by-side comparison, I doubt that even avid screen connoisseurs could tell. In other words, the screen is fabulous! That said, the screen quality was not unexpected. What was unexpected was the quality of the keyboard.

The only aspect that has kept me from ditching my old QWERTY smartphone (i.e. physical keyboard) was my hatred for virtual keyboards, coupled with my distaste for vertical sliding keyboards. Using the Galaxy S4 was my first opportunity to really commit myself to using a virtual keyboard. I was literally SHOCKED that after about 20 minutes of playing around with it, I knew that I could be more than happy using a virtual keyboard. This revelation was literally a 180 degree turn from my stance for over two years! Let me explain why:

It was probably a combination of screen resolution and touch sensitivity, which allows for more accurate touching of keys, coupled with an optimized keyboard layout and predictive technology, allowed me to declare that I can actually be happy using a virtual keyboard. The phone comes with the Samsung keyboard as well as with Swype. I could write many many pages around the various keyboard technologies currently available, however, to keep this succinct, here are the key points that you need to know: Continue Reading Cricket GS4 Review - Part 2

Comments for Cricket Galaxy S4 Review

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Jul 01, 2013
SwiftKey Upgrade Process NEW
by: PrepaidWirelessGuy

So I upgraded to the full version of SwiftKey near the end of the trial period (30 days). I have to say that I am disappointed in the upgrade process.

What I'm generally used to when upgrading from trial versions is a simple in-app purchase process that provides the full license, and allows me to continue to use the app as I was previously using it (i.e. settings and all).

Unfortunately, the SwiftKey upgrade process involves downloading a completely new version. It doesn't replace the trial version. And while it asks you if you want to remove the old version, prior to doing that, I checked to see if the new version maintained my previous settings. As I spent a LOT of time customizing my settings, I didn't want to lose those settings by removing the old version.

It's a good thing that I checked, for the full version did NOT grab my old settings! Thus, prior to removing the trial version, I checked my settings and entered them into the full version. Sure, I could have figured it out without too much trouble, however, it's a hassle that I didn't want to have to take the time to deal with.

So, be forewarned that upon upgrading to the full paid version, you'll need to basically start from scratch, so take note of any important settings that you spent time customizing before uninstalling the trial version.

My understanding is that it maintains the learnings from the trial version, however, I have yet to prove that out. I still love this app though!

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