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Samsung Galaxy S4 or Nokia Lumia 920?

Nokia Lumia 920 and Samsung Galaxy S4
Nokia Lumia 920 and Samsung Galaxy S4

It took Samsung a month to sell 10 million Galaxy S4 smartphones.

That’s a great start for a brilliant smartphone and goes to show even a wrong-head, cheesy show business launch function can’t stop the momentum building behind Galaxy’s brand.

When the review Galaxy S4 arrived I immediately began making comparisons with my mainstream smartphone: Nokia’s Lumia 920.  How do they compare as business tools?

The Galaxy S4 is six months newer than the Lumia 920, so you’d expect it to have an edge. Yet the difference is less than I expected. That’s partly because the pace of smartphone innovation is slowing and partly because while the extra stuff packed in the Galaxy S4 looks good on paper, it doesn’t amount to much in practice.

Feel: There’s no question the Lumia 920 feels better. It’s a solid piece of kit, It could probably stop bullets. In comparison the Galaxy S4 feels flimsy. Although both devices are made of plastic, Samsung’s phone feels cheaper and less substantial. It’s also, well, boring.

On the flip side, the Galaxy S4 weighs almost one-third less and is much slimmer. It’s so slim and light I barely notice I’m carrying it. It didn’t take me long to warm to the feel of the Galaxy – even so, the Lumia is better.

Screen: On paper the Galaxy S4 has a better screen – much higher resolution and half an inch bigger. Both look wonderful compared with other smartphones. Again this is a tie.

Grunt: Samsung’s phone is considerably faster than the Nokia. Direct comparisons are hard because of the different operating systems. In use it’s rare for the Lumia’s power plant to stumble over any normal workload. Most of the time you wouldn’t know one is faster than the other. Even so, we’ll give this round to Samsung, because there may be, as yet undiscovered, applications where the extra computer power is useful.

Included software: The Galaxy S4 comes with more software than you can shake a stick at. Most of the bundled apps are things I’ll never use – you probably won’t use them all either. A lot of them are for photo-editing. It’s fair to say most handsets will end their useful lives without every last included app being explored. Overall, I rate this as a tie, but you might have other ideas if you like the idea of photo manipulation.

OS: We could argue the toss over the merits of Android versus Windows Phone 8. The S4 has the latest Jelly Bean version of Android with Samsung’s software overlay. I’m not going to call a winner here. Nor am I going to get dragged into the debate about Android’s bulging third-party app catalog. If you need something on one OS that’s not on another, then your choice is made. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to make a difference. I’m calling this another tie.

Camera: Nokia’s Lumia 920 has an outstanding camera that takes stunning pictures, even in adverse conditions. Samsung would need to do something outstanding to beat that. It has gone for a huge bump in the pixel count with 13 megapixels compared with 8 megapixels on the Lumia. Throwing more pixels at photography isn’t necessary a smart move and frankly I’d say the Lumia takes better shots most of the time. So I’m giving this to Nokia.

What else? I noticed the Lumia 920 battery lasts longer than the S4’s. I can typically get a couple of hours more from the Nokia before needing to recharge. Again there’s not much in it, but the bigger screen and more processing cores gulps down more power.

Telecom NZ lists the Galaxy S4 at $1150 while the Lumia 920 is $900. Prices for the Galaxy are the same elsewhere, the other carriers don’t list the Lumia 920.

Overall: Comparing specs makes sense, but what matters is how the phones work and feel in practice. Windows Phone 8 seems to power through the work I need to do as quickly as the Android device. I’d say the Samsung Galaxy S4 has many more fun features, if you just want to play then it is a better choice. For work I’d say the six month older Lumia 920 is at least as good as the S4.

Of course Samsung will sell many more Galaxy S4 phones than Nokia will manage with the Lumia 920 – there’s a lot to be said for hunting with the pack when it comes to technology.

The S4 is clearly the most advanced phone on sale today, but its lead over the rest of the market is slim.

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