Time To Move To A New Galaxy?

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 ย 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 Samsungโ€™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 โ€“ so you donโ€™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
  • Itโ€™s got a 5.0โ€ 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 โ€“ 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 โ€“ such as dropping your phone on the pavement or in the sink etc

What do you think?