The Debate

Smartphone Showdown: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

The hugely successful SGS4 has prompted a number of spin-offs. We take a look at a waterproof version.

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been a tremendous success for the Korean manufacturer, not unlike the previous smartphones in the series. The SGS4 managed to sell better during its first month on the market than any other Galaxy S smartphone. That’s probably one of the main reasons why Samsung has decided to launch numerous other spin-offs based (more or less) on the successful S4.

Although there are currently three confirmed Samsung smartphones that wear the “Galaxy S4″ moniker, if we take a look at their specs, only one of them can be viewed as an actual spin-off. The SGS4 Mini doesn’t have too much in common with the flagship device aside from certain design cues, while the camera-centric Galaxy S4 Zoom is an entirely different device – a mash-up between the S4 Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Camera point-and-shoot. That leaves us with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, which believe it or not, actually has a lot of things in common with the original counterpart.

If you were wondering which one of these two smartphones might best suit your needs, or if you’re simply curious about the similarities and differences between the two, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look!

Starting off with the similarities, both the S4 and the S4 Active take pride in their 5 inch displays that boast a resolution of 1080 x 1920 and a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. Underneath the hood we can find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor with a frequency of 1.9 GHz, an Adreno 320 graphics chip and 2 GB of RAM.

A 2,600 mAh battery is keeping these two smartphones powered up, and both run on Android 4.2.2 (with Samsung’s latest version of TouchWiz UI on top). Various other details remain the same, such as the wide range of connectivity options; both handsets feature an IR blaster, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and 4G LTE capabilities.

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So far these two handsets mirror each other perfectly, but that’s not entirely the case. To begin with, the S4 Active has an 8 MP main camera instead of a 13 MP one. It’s also comes only with 16 GB of internal storage, whereas the S4 comes with 16, 32 or 64 GB. On the similar side, both handsets can benefit from an additional 64 GB with the help of a microSD card slot.

Additionally, while both the S4 and the Active boast 5 inch full HD screens, the former has a Super AMOLED panel whereas the latter packs a TFT display.

Aside from these factors, the design language clearly isn’t hiding the fact that you’re looking at two different smartphones. The Galaxy S4 arrives with a glossy finish and a plasticky feel to it; a characteristic that is easily found on most of Samsung’s latest devices.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S4 Active delivers a metallic finish and an industrial design with visible bolts at every corner of the back panel. The “menu” and “back” capacitive buttons have also been replaced by physical ones. However, all of these changes have not been made just for the sake of different aesthetics. In reality, the SGS4 Active is a rugged device, boasting IP67 certified dust and water resistance, allowing the handset to survive submerged under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

This leads us to “Aqua Mode“, which is yet another new feature that the S4 doesn’t have. Since the Active is a waterproof smartphone, it only makes sense for it to feature a camera mode that works best under water, and that’s where “Aqua Mode” comes in.

Last but not least, the ruggedized Active is also slightly larger, thicker and heavier than its sibling. Measuring 139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 mm, the ruggedized spin-off is roughly 3 mm taller, 1.5 mm wider and 1.2 mm thicker. It also weighs 23 grams more than the original SGS4, for a total of 153 grams. However, that’s something that you probably won’t notice unless you’ll weight both handsets in each hand at the same time.

Overall, the Galaxy S4 Active borrows enough elements from the S4 to be rightfully called a “Galaxy S4″ variant, but it’s also different enough to justify its existence and presence on the market. In the end, it’s up to the buyer to figure out which one is these smartphones is best suited for his or her needs. Once the reasons for buying one or the other are clear, the buyer can’t really go wrong with either one of these handsets.

Which one do you think would be best for you? Are you actually planning on buying one of these Samsung flagships? Share your thoughts on the matter by leaving a comment below.

Vlad Andrici is editor for and writes about technology issues.