In the Weapons Locker is an ongoing series that highlights the tech that the writing staff of GWW has in use. In a lot of cases, we try to highlight devices, apps, and uses for both that you may not have heard of or considered. Today, I’ll be going over the Samsung Galaxy S IV and how I’ve re-purposed this two-year old device to eke out additional value.
When the fourth phone in Samsung’s primary line of premiere Galaxy smartphones debuted in 2013, the company did not do itself any favors with the idiotic marketing routine they used at the announcement event. And the phone itself was hampered in two primary areas. First, Samsung had junked so many features onto the device that it significantly impacted the phone’s performance out of the box. Sure, the Android faithful could configure the device to run smoothly, but the average user who lives under the tyranny of the default was left dealing with a lackluster performance. Secondly, those apps which rended the S IV’s performance also took up a disgusting amount of space on the phone’s onboard storage. Out of the box, the S IV had somewhere between 8.8 and 9.5 GB of its advertised 16GB available. This put everyone in a tizzy, including the FTC, which briefly considered whether this practice qualified as false advertising. Samsung leaned on the standard disclaimer that every technology manufacturer does, that the total storage space is not a statement of usable storage. I thought this excuse was rubbish and, although having owned a Samsung Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, and Galaxy S III, decided to skip that round.
Still, the S IV sold well. Engadget reported that the Samsung Galaxy S IV had sold over 10 million units before Memorial Day, the phone having been released in April. Last year, I bought one of these to use as my answer to the iPod Touch. It’s a good way of getting your hands on a smart device that does everything that an iPod Touch does, and often better than the Touch does, without paying Apple’s exorbitant prices.
First disclaimer: I also own an iPod Touch 32GB 5th Generation because, ya know, this is my job. It’s a dog running the latest version of iOS; much worse than the S IV running the recent KitKat update that mine has received.
I have not used the 6th Generation iPod Touch. I assume that it runs well under the new version of iOS given its additional hardware. But the Touch has always been a problem for me in terms of its product positioning. It has a screen that is too small to be worthwhile for use, yielding a cramped keyboard and input experience, and a display that is less enjoyable to watch video on. . And it is way overpriced in terms of what it does. A new iPod Touch with its 4 inch screen is priced as follows:
16GB = $199
32GB = $249
64GB = $299
128 GB = $399
If you did not buy a 160GB iPod Classic before Apple discontinued those, an iPod Touch or one of the new Hi Resolution MP3 Players is your only option if you need a large capacity storage music player that is new, so they kind of have you there. But there are options. A brand new Samsung Galaxy S IV can be found on eBay from reputable sellers for as little as $140. With expandable storage available via its microSD slot, you can bump storage up to about 80GB (72GB of real storage, as the OS is still bloated).
To a certain extent, I regret not having bought and used the S IV as one of my phones during its primary service life. The device feels good in the hand. For a price point much less than the lowest capacity iPod Touch, you get a 5 inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen covered in Gorilla Glass, with a 13MP camera and a 2600 mAH battery. In comparison, with the Touch you get an 1136 X 640 display at 4 inches, an 8MP camera, at the storage levels above. Hardware and design-wise, the iPod Touch is a nice piece of kit, but the Galaxy S IV is a heck of a piece of hardware itself at a much lower price point.
I bring this all up because of how I use my S IV and who I’d recommend it for. I still like having a dedicated music player. As a frequent traveler and someone who often has to work remote without wifi or data signals easily available, I need devices with music on them that is self-contained and can be ready to go on a moment’s notice. The Galaxy S IV fulfills a slot in my kit as a portable multimedia device that plays music, video (both streaming and onboard files), and has a few games loaded on it. I also use it as a small productivity device for note taking, offloading some additional battery consumption from my on-duty smartphone.
Accessory wise, I’ve slapped a tempered glass screen protector on my Arctic Blue US Cellular version, and I have a couple of 5200 mAH batteries for extended endurance. The extra battery life and bigger screen mean that I am able to deploy with the Galaxy S IV as part of my kit and be on the go with capabilities that exceed what I have when I bring along the iPod Touch. The Galaxy S IV is also an excellent little news reader with either apps or the Chrome browser. I also use it as a comms device; for keeping in touch with the rest of the GWW staff or using Google Voice to communicate with friends and family.
Of course this device is at or very close to the end of its supported service life. So if you want to bump yourself forward in the timeline and look at a 2014 Android phone, that might be a better alternative. The main thing I want to get across is that older Android phones are great little devices to use for adjacent functions when their time as your primary smartphone is done. You can re-purpose your old phone when you upgrade, or even buy an older phone for some of the use-cases I listed above, instead of more recently launched and more expensive devices.
Until the next time in the Weapons Locker, take care. Please post about your own experience re-purposing older tech in the comments below, or your experiences with the Galaxy S IV if this is a phone that you owned. We love to hear other opinions on these same topics from our readership, so giddyap!!!