02/11/2013

Active vs. Passive: Samsung S4 Active or Regular - Which one suits you better?

If you’ve settled on a top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S4 for a smartphone/life companion, you will then need to decide whether the S4 regular or S4 active is the right best friend for you. With hundreds of positive reviews on the Samsung network site, as well as thumbs up from techno-gurus like CNet and Stuff, you already know that you’re getting a zinger of a phone. But for some outdoorsy types who need a virtually impenetrable, smashable device to keep around, you may only want to consider the Active version, as the regular S4 is very nice to look at, but oh so delicate to hold. Both phones are advertised at the same price, with similar monthly plans from providers like T-Mobile and Orange. Also in the family are little siblings the S4 Zoom for dedicated photographers seeking convenience, and the S4 Mini.

While both the regular and Active S4 phones do focus on your health through the S Health feature which tracks your exercise, calculates your daily food intake, and gives you fitness recommendations based on your body type and size, only one of the two is going to withstand lots of running and jolting about. With the Active, you will lose a few perks: your camera MP will go down from 13 in the regular to 8, and your HD screen will be TFT rather than AMOLED. Your phone will be taller, wider, heavier, and necessarily clunkier, as it’s accented with hardy rubber and metal rivets. Your touch buttons are replaced by three under-the-screen controllers, which survive hard or wet conditions better than the touch-response ones.

But the benefits are pretty outstanding: with the S4 Active you can listen to music (via waterproof headphones - not included) and take photographs underwater with the Aqua setting that frames your shot and lighting just right for deep seas or swimming pools. The Active is waterproof for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 metre. Its IP67 certification makes it dustproof, waterproof and ideal for rugged treatment any day of the week and in virtually any temperature.

As a fair warning to all users who plan to take their Active with them underwater as Samsung advertises, the regular warranty for the phone does NOT cover water damage. Be prepared to pay for it if you do use your phone heavily with water, should something go wrong. All in all, the Active is a tradeoff - you gain some weight and bulk, lose some of the sleek touch-only display, and gain the ability to destroy your phone without actually destroying it. Not necessary for the everyday smartphone user, but a jolly good purchase for those who work outdoors, play outdoors, or have small children.

Thankfully for you, whether you’re active or not, both phones have Adapt Display and Adapt Sound built-in to them, so that your audio, video and display experience will be entirely customized and optimized to your best health. If the screen is too bright and the optical reader understands that your eyes are tired, the display will dim. If the phone is too close to your ear and you’re trying to converse in rush hour traffic, the audio will balance itself so that you can hear but the decibel level will not harm you.

Once you’ve made your decision, supercharge your user experience by delving into the how-tos of some tips, tricks and hidden features of your S4 Active or your S4 regular. Learn how to take a screenshot, customize the LED indicator and set a timer to turn on or off your WIFI. Whichever phone you choose, bundle it up with the right external accessories if that rugged look or sleek face is something you want to treasure for the long-haul, and you’ll have a running or swimming mate for life.

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