When I first embarked on a long(ish)-distance cycle back in 2009 cycling along the Pennine Cycleway from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Derby I took with me a pre-smart phone. I think it was a Nokia. It did a pretty good job allowing me to take some half-decent pictures and send them to this blog with a bit of text to explain where I was. Fast forward twelve months to summer 2010 and I embarked upon my first continental crossing by bike with a much smarter iPhone 4. I had to be careful with the data but it served me very well indeed and I tapped out an astonishing 30,000 words on the screen’s keyboard during the five weeks of the trip. It also allowed some high quality picture-taking including the one that ended up on the front cover of Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie. Move forward another three years to 2013 when I set off once again to cross the continent by bike and I had upgraded to an iPhone 5 supplemented by a mini iPad and a package from Vodafone allowing me to use data pretty much as I use it back here in the UK. Could things have been any better? Well yes, they probably could… Although the old Nokia had its limitations it was durable little phone. It would have probably survived a few drops on the floor but that said, rain would have been an issue. The iPhone in contrast was all singing and dancing on a technological level but one slip of the hand could (and once did) lead to it smashing into pieces. During both European trips I had to be very careful with the Apple technology; it was a bit like cycling across Europe with a piece of glass in my pocket. If only someone could make a smart phone that had the technological prowess of the iPhone with the durability of a waterproof brick…
Well, perhaps my prayers have been answered. A couple of weeks ago I was sent a Samsung Galaxy S4 Active to review. It’s a standard Samsung Galaxy S4 (although the word ‘standard’ seems a little harsh as the phone itself has some impressive features that outdo the iPhone 5 such as a much larger screen & a significantly more versatile camera) that’s had some major pimping for the ‘active’ market, hence the name. If I drop my iPhone onto a hard surface it’s as good as destroyed. That’s not the case with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. Although I haven’t tested it to the point of destruction, I have dropped it a few times (on purpose) and it’s still in once piece and fully-functioning, even after a collision with a hard surface. It’s also waterproof (for up to 30 minutes at 1 metre apparently). Now it’s been uncharacteristically dry in Berkshire over the last few days so I had to resort to dunking the phone in the bath and again, it has survived the experience! The camera even has a special ‘aqua’ function for shooting underwater. I did this in the shower but I’m afraid that particular video remains classified. It also has an ‘air gesture’ feature that allows the device to be operated (to a certain extent) while wearing a thick pair of gloves for example – quite cool!
I have to be honest and say that I’m quite loyal to my iPhone but having had a go with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active I’m beginning to wonder whether my loyalty is in conflict with me using a piece of kit that gives me exactly what I’m looking for; a very smart smartphone that has been specifically designed to cope in a more challenging environment. When upgrade time arrives in summer 2014 I’ve got a difficult choice to make!
Official Overview (provided by Samsung):
- The Galaxy S4 Active is a toughened-version of Samsung’s flagship device, the Galaxy S4
- It is dust-proof and water proof for 30 mins at 1 metres with a special Aqua mode for shooting underwater. This means you can take it places where your normal smartphone would get wrecked
- It is robust so suitable for outdoor activities – so you don’t have to worry when using your phone on long rides. You can instead capture the experience and even share them with friends instantly
- The 5.0-inch Full HD screen has been designed with Glove Touch, so you can even use the touchscreen while wearing gloves
- It’s got a 5.0” Full HD TFT LCD
- It has an 8 MP camera with Aqua Mode and LED flashlight
- It has Drama Shot, Sound & Shot and Group Play – all features available of the Galaxy S4 device
- This makes it the perfect device to withstand both extreme conditions as well as the pitfalls of everyday life – such as dropping your phone on the pavement or in the sink etc