Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Review: Finally a Phone for Klutzes

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What happens when you take one of the world’s best Smartphones and make it waterproof? You get the new Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, which is an AT&T exclusive variant of the popular Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S4 Active takes all of the great features of the S4 and ups the ante by making it IP67 certified to be water-resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, and dust-resistant. Yep, just in time for summer we’re getting a phone that is ready to travel with you – sans a case!

The Galaxy S4 Active is a bit heavier than the S4, weighing 5.29 ounces vs 4.59 ounces. It’s also a smidgen bigger in size measuring 5.50 x 2.81 x 0.36 inches vs 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31. Overall, the extra heft required to make the S4 Active more durable is very minimal. The S4 Active also packs in a 5-inch HD TFT display made from Gorilla Glass. This display is specifically built to be tougher and more scratch-resistant. When comparing it side by side with the original S4’s display, we noticed that the S4 Active’s Full HD TFT (441 ppi) display has colors that are more muted than the S4’s HD Super AMOLED display. The display also doesn’t get quite as bright as the S4’s display. But that is not to say that the Active S4’s display isn’t good, it’s still a very good display, it’s just not quite as vibrant and rich as the S4’s display.

The S4 Active has been designed in the image of the original S4 but it sports a more durable finish which actually offers a better grip than the S4. It also sports three dedicated buttons on its front side, as opposed to the single dedicated button on the original S4 which is flanked by 2 touch sensitive buttons. Overall, the S4 Active’s design is less svelte than the S4, but it also feels less cheap and plasticky.

Finally a phone for klutzes that doesn’t skip on features.

We put the Galaxy S4 to the test in several daring environments that would make most Smartphone owners shudder. First we washed it under the sink. Next, we took it with us to the beach where we submerged it in water, dropped it in sand, and then washed it all off. The S4 Active walked away unscathed and kept on kicking.

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All of the same great features of the original S4 are packed into the S4 Active, that includes the cutting edge features too – like Air View and Air Gesture, as well as the same neat camera tricks. But as far as the camera is concerned, the S4’s Active’s camera is an 8MP camera vs the S4’s 13MP camera. However, everyone knows, that it’s not all about the megapixels. And fortunately, the S4 Active’s camera doesn’t disappoint. And then there is its neat Aqua mode feature which lets you take photos and video underwater – just make sure to keep the microUSB port cap closed before submerging the phone. Below are sample photos taken with Aqua mode. Notably, when Aqua mode on the S4 Active is turned on, the touchscreen becomes disabled under water and the phone’s volume key becomes the camera / record key.

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Waterproof and rugged phones have come and gone for years, but the Galaxy S4 Active is the first waterproof Smartphone that makes no compromises. If you’ve dropped your phone more than one time in the toilet, boy is this for you. And for $199 with contract, it would be silly for a clumsy person not too choose this over the more fragile S4 which costs the same price. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is available now from AT&T for $199 with a 2 year contract. The phone is available in a choice of two colors – “Urban Gray” or the more fun aqua-like, “Dive Blue”.

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The Good: Finally a phone you can take to the bathroom, or um, the beach. Neat Aqua mode takes photos under water. Packs in all of the same features as the Galaxy S4, but offers a tougher form-factor.

The Bad: Display isn’t as good as the S4’s display.