If ever there was a phone to beat, it was this one. Samsung took everything that was good in the Galaxy S3 and made it better in its successor, the Galaxy S4.
Well, maybe not quite everything. The plastic body remains a turn-off for many, and it's certainly not as chic as the aluminum HTC One. It's also lost a bit of the curve of the Galaxy S3. And while Samsung has managed to squeeze a 5-inch display into the same size as the slightly smaller Galaxy S3, the IPS or Super LCD displays on other phones perform better in sunlight and seems to better handle shifts in brightness. The TouchWiz user interface has been refined a bit, but it's still flat in places and doesn't match the sophistication of other UIs.
Samsung's camera, however, remains the best in the business, as far as everyday use is concerned. It's filled with features, and the camera app itself is a joy to use, having been adapted from the high-end Samsung Galaxy Camera. You might not use features like the animated gif creator every day, but they're fun to have, even if they're not all that innovative.
But what landed the Galaxy S4 as our No. 2 is the laggy user interface -- we've experienced delays and stutters on a number of versions of the phone -- as well as the anemic storage situation. Samsung's 16-gigabyte version of the GS4 only has about 9 gigabytes of storage available to the end user. And while Samsung likes to say you can add another 64 gigabytes with a microSD card, that's a different kind of storage. Good luck keeping your larger games and apps on there. The sin isn't so much that Samsung's using all that space for the hundreds of features on the phone -- and it's got some really good preloaded apps and settings. The sin is that in 2013, that sort of deceptive marking and, for many, a lack of larger storage options, is unacceptable.
Would we recommend someone buy the Galaxy S4, which is available on just about every carrier on Earth? Absolutely. It just might not be the first phone we suggest.