Should I Swim, Surf or Water-Ski with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active?

Jul 25, 2013 • Android, Gadgets
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S4ActiveWaterWater has long been the Achilles’ Heel of technology. A few commonly recognized scenarios: Phone slips out of your hand and accidentally drops in the toilet, “friends” may decide to throw you in the pool at a party or just plain getting caught in a downpour. These are all scenarios that can happen to any of us.  In some cases, insurance plans will cover liquid damage, while others won’t.  If they do cover part of it, often times it isn’t only until after you pay a high deductible. Either way, once your phone gets drenched, it’s usually kaput.

And then the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active came along.

What sets this “Active” version apart? Most notably, this phone  is IP67 rated to be water-resistant and dust-resistant (up to 1 meter for 30 minutes) and comes with an “Aqua” feature to allow you to take underwater pictures. *after which of course, you can share it directly with all your friends on Facebook, right!? 

Underwater pictures are really hit or miss. Dunking the camera in each tank, here’s a decorator crab in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Tide Pools and pikeminnows in a freshwater pond:

There’s no touch-screen underwater so you really can’t focus; just point-and-click and hope that your picture comes out. Or, take multiple ones and say a little prayer. Stop. Are you kidding me? This phone can go underwater! Who cares about taking pictures, just revel in the glory that there’s a decent smartphone on the market to suit an active lifestyle!!

But how dependable is this IP67 rating? Standards and certifications help a product sound important but does it actually work? Unfortunately, an issue came up after the third time I tested shooting underwater photos.  The back cover is thin, and most of the phone is sealed pretty well and the microUSB port has a protective rubber seal. However, the earjack remains exposed and unsealed, and a recurring notification kept popping up that earphones were connected when none were in place. This also meant that I was unable to hear or make any calls. Although the problem cleared up after 15 minutes, this defect is rather substantial in an emergency.

S4AnimatedResizeThe image here was originally shot as an “animated photo” where you should be able to see the clouds moving in the distance. (Get it? Eucalyptus 3.3 enterprise and hybrid clouds is out!) Looked good on the device but where does one best share an animated photo file format? It posts static to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so perhaps this feature is still a bit ahead of its time.

S4ActiveRichtoneAlthough the S4 Active is an 8mp camera, down from 13mp on the standard S4, you’ll notice that the Richtone format sharpens and enhances your photos rather beautifully.

As for size, the Samsung S4 Active measures at 5.51 by 2.80 by 0.36 inches and fits quite snugly in your hand. Something I’ve noticed with larger phablets (like the LG Optimus G Pro) is that as you put the phone closer to your ear, your voice gets muffled as it gets farther from the mic. And vice versa, you can’t hear as well when you bring the microphone closer to your mouth and the speaker is further from your ear.

Most smartphones these days are pretty standard and all have relatively the same features with a few differences here and there. Overall then, I would still highly recommend this phone due to its ability to withstand full liquid submersion, even in salt water, for added peace of mind for the everyday and active person. This feature alone trumps all others.  Of course, I wouldn’t recommend extended periods underwater or even using the aqua feature at all- its main purpose is to be a phone and internet device, not an underwater camera.

Garick Chan

Technocratic solutions to a communal future, Garick is a connector, matchmaker and community-builder. He's a digital engagement strategist and involved with a number of tech & startup groups both online and in the Los Angeles/Southern California area.

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