In Praise of the Samsung Galaxy S4

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The key worldwide smartphone trends over the last year have been these: Android keeps rising above 70% market share, Apple stalling around 21%, and Microsoft slowly winning over BlackBerry in the sub-9% market share residual.

With Android at 70%, however, it becomes important to examine two questions:

  1. Why is Samsung dominating Android's 70% market share?
  2. Why has Apple's meteoric iPhone rise 2007-2012 stalled?

As a smartphone reviewer, I have the luxury of spending a lot of time with pretty much all available devices. Over the years, you have heard me complain about most of them -- there is always something that's not good: Too slippery, bad button placement, too slow, terrible software -- you name it.

To whit, in recent reviews and comparisons I have complained about:

  • Windows Phone: It's missing some of the critical apps that I -- and many others -- use.
  • BlackBerry 10: Poor contacts synchronization with Google , having lost that superior "fast action" experience with email, contacts and other basic communications needs that the old BlackBerry 7.1 has.
  • Apple iOS: Too small iPhone screen, less optimal for users of Google services.
  • Other Android smartphones: For example, I found the HTC One to be slippery and difficult to repair if damaged.

In other words, there has always been something to complain about: Either the hardware is too small, too slippery, wrong button-placement or has bad battery life, or the software is of the wrong kind, or in Android's case skinned with something inferior to Google's own reference Nexus OS.

For the first time since I started using the original GSM BlackBerry -- the 5700 -- in April 2002, however, I have now found a device where I have no meaningful complaints: The perfect hardware, with the perfect software, with decent battery life, all the right buttons in the right places, with removable battery and expandable storage. It sits steady in your hand and can be repaired if you have an accident.

This smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S4, and it's the simultaneous answer to why Samsung dominates Android as well as has become the strongest competitor against Apple's iPhone, Microsoft's Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

Let me explain how it all comes together in this device, which in turns explains the high customer satisfaction and meteoric sales success:

1. The hardware:

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a five-inch 1080x1920 screen, which is housed inside a plastic shell. This plastic shell is perfectly curved to be both comfortable and enable you to hold the phone without dropping it.

I can't emphasize this point enough: Especially with bigger phones, approaching five-inch screen sizes, it's critical the device isn't slippery. With these high-end phones costing mostly around $600 (unsubsidized, cash price), you don't want to drop them.