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Bill Bennett


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.



12 thoughts on “Samsung Galaxy S4 or Nokia Lumia 920?

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

    Really?!!!…haven’t you tried what is arguably the best true Android phone with cracking performance and screen and feels great in the hand…yes, the Nexus 4 (the best LG-Google collaboration out there). It’s also stonking value at $635 (NZ Official stock) with no contract ties!! Beat that Mr Samsung, Mr Nokia, Mr HTC, Mr Apple? All it’s missing is 4G and real-world tests tell me that 3G is fast enough for my sub-millisecond page loads & video streaming!

    Are we all in danger of losing sight of the basics:
    good form factor (not a Fisher-Price plastic casing please)
    stunning right-sized screen (4.7 is the limit)
    value for money (well under $1000 please)
    easy but comprehensive user experience

      1. “Advanced != form factor, ‘right’ size screen, value for money”
        Not advanced

        Buying factors = form factor, ‘right size / quality screen, value for money, user experience

        1. I wouldn’t underestimate the contribution marketing – in all its forms – plays in this.

          Take, say, the HTC One. It is a marvelous phone but has almost no mind share and HTC couldn’t get it out to market quick enough. I find HTC does Android better than Samsung, but that’s simply not enough.

          1. I wouldn’t underestimate the contribution marketing – in all its forms – plays in this”

            absolutely agree Bill…it’s all about the marketing, that’s why Apple has been so successful – in the way it sells. Age-old Betamax vs VHS – not the “best product” but the biggest mindshare – getting sufficient numbers to buy in. What’s great is that the innovation we’re seeing at the moment is immense hence making buying decisions for discerning buyers more difficult

    1. I think that’s a great illustration of what makes Android ‘difficult’.

      It’s hard to explain to a non-technical person why the Nexus 4 is a better buy than a Galaxy S4. And even technical folk will look at the specs and notice the Samsung beats the Nexus on every count without stopping to wonder what the overall experience might be like.

      The next interesting phone to arrive is likely to be the promised stock Android version of the Galaxy S4. I suspect if the price is right it could sell in bigger numbers than the current version.

  2. I would say Bill we have gotten to a point where any phone over $500 can probably do everything you need it to. Your satisfaction at this point would depend on what ecosystem you rely on most; Google or Microsoft (afaik Apple don’t make productivity suites do they?).

    I think Nokia really balked it when they went with Microsoft. Not because Windows Phone is bad, but because it has as much mindshare as Nokia does in the US; virtually zero.

    1. Even the so-called ‘ecosystem’ issue is something of a red herring. There’s very little in either vertical technology stack that doesn’t work on other phones. And I use the web version of Office and SkyDrive as well as Google Drive and Apps on my iOS devices.

      1. If I wanted to buy a Windows Phone I would miss out on a lot as my phone is managed by Linux (so no Microsoft tools). If I was into using all Microsoft stuff their email stuff at least on Android is pathetic, idk about calendar sync etc.

        The difference is everything working or everything working smoothly, I guess.

  3. Can someone leave me some advice based on what *I* want? I decided to ask here as this is the best review (by miles) i’ve seen.

    I’m using a HTC wildfire S right now and I hate it, I have this odd issue where the screen doesnt register touches properly for the first few minutes after unlocking, when i hold my finger down on a button or something, either it registers as a quick press, or not at all, and sometimes the button lights up quickly (as it does when you press it) but nothing happens (its not a lag, it just literally doesn’t do a thing)

    I’m looking to upgrade but I’m not sure between the S4, Lumia 920 and now the Nexus 4. I don’t want to play games on it, all I want to do is be able to check my facebook/tumblr/linkedin/Gmail quickly, and I’d like to be able to get a python IDE, C/C++ compiler, and maybe, if it’s possible, a golang compiler on there. But having to check mail and code and stuff, would also require some good battery life.

    And in terms of priorities, I also have a tablet which I program on, so programming on my phone is low priority, the main priorities are the ease-of-access to the tumblr/facebook/linkedin/gmail apps and obviously, to couple with that, the battery life so when im out I can check my stuff repeatedly without worrying about my phone dying out.
    If you have any reasons for the choice you suggest that arent in the article above, or are in the article but you’d like to highlight it to me, please do so 🙂

    Thanks in advance! You all rock 🙂

    1. PS sidenote: The programming stuff is VERY low priority, just for doing 10-20 line problems for fun. If that stuff isn’t even possible/practical on phones, excuse my ignorance, I literally have no idea what phones are capable of these days!


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