Samsung Galaxy S4: Apparently It's Really, Really Hard to Use


Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone is supposed to be the iPhone killer. Supposedly, it will dethrone the king of smartphones and herald in a new era in the battle between Apple and Samsung.

Of course, people were skeptical of these claims. The iPhone is a juggernaut that has proved difficult to dislodge from its position at the head of the line. But recent woes in Cupertino, California have people wondering if the Galaxy S4 can actually pull it off. There are a few problems with the iPhone killer hypothesis. It rests on the assumption that both phones can capture the same markets and the same consumers. However, the reality of the situation tells a different story as reviews of the Galaxy S4 pour in.

The iPhone is the pinnacle of a design philosophy followed at Apple like gospel, simplicity and user experience at the forefront. The metal frame on the iPhone series has a simple, understated look that has become iconic in the design circles.

Review after review of the Galaxy S4, however, repeatedly brings up the design of the phone as a negative. The Verge said of the design, "I don't like holding this phone, and I can't overstate how much that informs the experience of using it. It makes an awful first impression, slippery and slimy and simply unpleasant in your hand." ABC News said of the design that "The glossy plastic starkly contrasts with the all-metal and aluminum iPhone 5 and the HTC One; the Galaxy just feels cheaper and flimsier." 

The Galaxy S4's experience for the normal user also comes under criticism. Apple is obsessed with maintaining the simplicity in the user experience as well as the design. The Galaxy S4, on the other hand, piles complexity onto piles of complexity. TechCrunch says that "... really using that technology isn't as simple as you might think, and could be downright overwhelming to a novice smartphone user." ReadWrite was even more critical of the experience, saying that "Your smartphone should not be a source of stress. With its new Galaxy S4, it seems Samsung may not have gotten the memo."

More and more features seem to be the strategy that Samsung has devised to compete with the iPhone. The Galaxy S4's list of feature include Air View, Air Gesture, Smart Stay/Smart Pause/Smart Scroll, Multi-Window, WatchOn, and probably most telling of the entire experience, an Easy Mode for people who are having trouble using the complicated device.

While Apple may be seen as in a bit of trouble after releasing its weak Q2 2013 earnings report amidst rumors of the iPhone 5s being delayed, smartphone enthusiasts should not be as quick as to proclaim that the king is dead yet. The dominant theme in reviews that the Galaxy S4 is not the heir to the throne that people thought it would be. While a powerful smartphone in its own right, its focus on more and more  threatens to leave the average user confused. Apple achieved so much of its success by designing products that streamlined the user experience to the point where it felt warm and natural for those who have never used a smartphone or any high-tech device. Time will tell if the Galaxy S4 or future Samsung products can find a selling point beyond "more."