To Upgrade or Not – Samsung S3 vs. S4

I am relatively new to the smart phone market, but in that time I have discovered what features are must haves for me and my online business. When I was given an S3 as part of my work with Telus at We Day the sky’s opened up and angels sang. OK, maybe not really, but it was a step up from the Blackberry Curve that I had previously and I was able to once again use apps like Instagram to socially share my photographs as well as easily connect to Facebook, Twitter and  the internet. Not to mention that everything was faster. I love my S3 and it goes wherever I go. When the announcement of the S4 came out I was as curious and excited about it, but being a frugal person knew that I would have to justify the upgrade. That’s why I approached Telus to see if I could review and compare the Samsung S3 and S4. They thought it was a great idea and sent over a loaner phone for me to play with while I was on vacation in Gaspésie.

Out of the box the 2 phones look almost identical, it’s only on closer inspection that you notice the slight difference in screen size (5″ Display) and resolution (full HD 1080p display) as well as how the phone feels in hand. It’s a smidge less wide and thick. The volume button is placed a bit higher and the power button is a bit larger. The speaker and flash have moved as well. All things that aren’t huge when you look at the phone, but make a difference when in hand. Battery life is comparable between the 2 models when running the same programs.

Upon start-up I noticed a few new preloaded apps on the S4 that I don’t have on the S3 – S Health, group play, Optical Reader, Navigation, Polaris Office 5, S translator, and Story Album.  I didn’t play with them all, but the Optical reader was cool. The translator app was less accurate than I would have liked, although it got the gist of what I was asking to translate. The app I thought was really sharp though was Story album. With it you can take you photos from your phone and in a few simple steps create a book and order through Blurb. Easy and fun and perfect for the mom who uses a phone to capture those moments that make motherhood special.

Here are the main specs of each phone:

Feature S3 S4
Display 4.8”, HD Super AMOLED, 720 x 1280,
  • 5″, Full HD, 1920 x 1080 Resolution, 16M colour depth
Size and weight 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm, 133 g
  • 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm Dimension, 130 g Weight


  • LTE 4G, Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, KIES, KIES Air support


  • LTE 4G, Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, KIES, KIES Air support


Speed Fast, but slower than the S4
  • Quad Core Processor, 1.9 GHz CPU Speed


Camera ? Front, 8 MP back, 4X zoom, LED flash, Auto/macro focus, 9 shot modes (Low light, smile shot, beauty, HDR, panorama, face detection, best face, best photo, single shot), 9 effects.
  • 2mp front, 13 mp back, power LED flash, Auto focus, Full HD (1080p) Video Playback available, Recording up to 30 fps, 12 shot modes (auto, night, sports, panorama, eraser, HDR, animated photo, drama, sound and shot, best face, beauty)


OS Ice Cream Sandwich Jelly Bean

Of course as a photographer the feature I played the most with was the camera. For this camera alone I would make the switch. Here are a couple of sample shots that I took in landscape and portrait layouts.

S4 (512X288)


S3 (512X384)



Both sets of photos were taken from the same spot. It’s not as obvious in the first set as the second, but the point of view, clarity, compression and quality of the images is definitely different.

Last but not least is the speed. I left this up to my hubby to test since minute improvements in performance I don’t really notice. As Hubby is a hunter, he tested the speed on one of his favourite applications, Backcountry Navigator. He noticed a definite improvement over how fast the maps loaded and updated with movement. For applications like Candy Crush and twitter I can’t say that I noticed any change. Perhaps that’s more the application than the phone though.

Features like Air gesture and air view that I was excited to try say while cooking in the kitchen with dirty hands left me feeling a little flat. They didn’t seem to work as flawlessly as on the tv spots, and I found I had to get much closer than I would have like, if not actually touch the screen. I suspect a large part of that is user error and lack of time to really sit and play with the phone. I am the type of person that wants things to work easily out of the box and I don’t have the time to  fiddle. I do appreciate how user-friendly this phone is compared to the S3. The menu on the status screen includes all the features you might want to easily turn on and off such as Bluetooth, GPS, WIFI, Screen Rotation,  as well as new additions like Mobile Data, Sbeam, NFC, Driving Mode, Air Gesture and more. No more having to hunt through the menu searching for the feature you want to change.

See the video for a quick visual of the different menu items.

I have really enjoyed using this phone over the past two weeks and will be sad to send it back. If money wasn’t a problem, or if I was looking to sign up for a 2 year term with Telus I would be all over it. As it stands though I think I will bide my time and wait and see what comes next. I still want a phone with the speed/features of the S4, but I want the size and functionality of the Galaxy Note II. I admit a Phablet (and S-pen) would be the best of both worlds so I could take my office on the go.

The S4 is available at Telus in black and white on a two-year term for $299, or for $700 with no term.


Disclosure  – I was sent a Samsung S4 for the purpose of this review on loan. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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5 opinions on “To Upgrade or Not – Samsung S3 vs. S4”

  1. I know 🙂 I want a Note too 🙂 #drooling I was at the store today and they told me the next one is coming out soon … I’m on contract though so I have to wait a bit  🙂

  2. I absolutely love my Galaxy Note 8 tablet but unfortunately I can’t fit it in my pocket! I hear the Galaxy S5 is pretty cool and would love to get my hands on a phone that I can haul out of my pocket and takes pics with as well as being able to work while I wait at appointments and such 🙂

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