Should I Buy the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3?
The Samsung Galaxy S3 remains one of the most popular Android smartphones on the market, despite it being more than six months old. Despite its age, it’s still an enticing buy. However, since December, we’ve heard about a high-end successor to the Galaxy S3, the Samsung Galaxy S4, rumored to be arriving next month and a device that has potential smartphone buyers asking questions.
With Galaxy S4 rumors already in full swing, with a possible launch date slated for March, we’re hearing questions from readers, family members and friends about the Galaxy S4.
And while some have wondered about its features, and others about the Galaxy S4 release date, the majority are wondering about whether or not to buy the current Galaxy S3 model or wait to buy the Galaxy S4 when it comes out.
As we’ve noted many times, the Galaxy S4 has entered the conversation for average consumers much earlier than the Galaxy S3 did. There are a few reasons for this. First, the Galaxy S3 has propelled the Galaxy S series into the same echelon, in terms of customer awareness, as the iPhone. Doing over 40 million in sales will help a phone do that.
Second, Samsung attacked the iPhone with a brilliant ad campaign that poked fun at not only the iPhone but those that buy them. The ad was done in good taste and it was seemingly effective. Again, a company doesn’t just sell 40 million devices out of thin air.
And third, Samsung has really made some noticeable year-after-year improvements to the Galaxy S series, culminating with the Galaxy S3 which combined fantastic hardware, useful software, and swift updates at an affordable price point. And though the Galaxy S3 gets a lot of the credit, the Galaxy S and Galaxy S2 were big parts of that as well. In fact, the Galaxy S2 held Samsung’s sales records until the Galaxy S3 came along.
And this year, those who bought into the Galaxy S2 will be coming off contract, looking for a new phone. Perhaps, a Galaxy phone. Other device owners that will be coming off contract include Verizon iPhone 4 owners who bought the device back in 2011. HTC ThunderBolt owners who bought Verizon’s first 4G LTE phone back in March of 2011 will also be coming off contract.
It’s many of these owners that have been asking the questions, including one question in particular:
Should I Buy the Galaxy S4 or Galaxy S3?
Suffice to say, we don’t blame them. Samsung has established the Galaxy S series as the most visible Android phone and the Galaxy S4 thus far, is the most visible Android smartphone of 2013, even though it hasn’t been announced.
So it’s no surprise that eligible customers are asking this question. Unfortunately, the answer is a little bit tricky but for many, it’s one that can be answered today.
Reasons to Buy the Galaxy S3
Even though the Samsung Galaxy S3 is over six months old, ancient for an Android device, it still is an appealing smartphone and for many, it might be a better option.
Great Phone for Price
One of the great things about the Galaxy S3 still being fantastic at its age is that those looking to buy it will be able to get it extremely cheap. For those unfamiliar, Android devices often dip in price as time goes on, unlike the iPhone which remains at its $199.99 price point except for when it’s discounted during the occasional sale.
Now that the Galaxy S3 has been on the market for six months, it’s extremely affordable and again, very capable. Of course, the discounts aren’t going to come through the carriers themselves. Instead, users will have to go through retailers like Wirefly and Amazon Wireless to secure bargain bin Galaxy S3 price tags.
As an example, current, the Sprint Galaxy S3 costs $199.99 on-contract through Sprint itself. At Amazon, the Galaxy S3 only costs a penny on-contract. Those looking to upgrade will have to pay a bit more, but it’s still far cheaper than Sprint’s asking price.
It might not take the Galaxy S4 six months to see these kinds of prices, but don’t expect them to dip for at least a couple of months.
Lots of Accessories
Another advantage to the Galaxy S3 being out on the market for this long is the fact that accessories are going to be widely available. For instance, the Galaxy S3 has a wide assortment of cases to protect the phone, something that is not necessarily going to be available for the Galaxy S4 when it’s released.
Cases are just the tip of the iceberg of course. The Galaxy S3 also has access to things like extended batteries, which often aren’t available until months into a phones life. And of course, we have accessories like docks and wireless chargers, all of which are available right now for the Galaxy S3, without any kind of a wait.
Read: Best Galaxy S3 Accessories.
Sure, these types of accessories will likely come to the Galaxy S4 as well, but it may not be for many months down the road. Those who want their pick of the litter when it comes to accessories will be better off with the Galaxy S3.
Satisfied with Current Software
The Samsung Galaxy S3 is currently running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, a fantastic update from Google. At the time of its release, it was considered to be the best Android software ever released. Samsung though wasn’t satisfied with just the Android 4.1 on the Galaxy S3, however.
The company has also added its Premium Suite to the mix which includes a powerful multitasking feature called Multi-Window View which allows users to split the display into two and run two apps at the same time. So, for instance the Galaxy S3 can run both Twitter and Facebook in two windows at the same time.
So, Galaxy S3 owners have been treated well and there is likely more to come. Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the latest software from Google, will almost assuredly come to the Galaxy S3 at some point this year, replacing Android 4.1.
It features a number of new features including Photo Sphere, lock screen widgets, a gesture keyboard and more. It’s a fantastic update to say the least. What this means that Galaxy S3 owners will have fantastic, useful software on board for the short term and for the long term as well.
If the thought of Android 5.0 Key Lime coming to the Galaxy S4 first isn’t an uncomfortable thought, and the current and upcoming Android 4.2 features are enough, take a closer look at the Galaxy S3.
Don’t Care About Next-Gen Specs
Of course, it goes beyond feeling comfortable with software. Android smartphones push the bar when it comes to hardware and this year’s line of phones will be no different. We’ve seen rumors of powerful processor, 1080p displays, and fantastic cameras for 2013′s crop of Android smartphones. And while power uses will be tantalized, average users won’t necessarily need it all.
Indeed, the Galaxy S3 is old, but for many, its gorgeous 720p display, its speedy dual-core processor, its good battery life, its solid camera, and its easy to grip, durable design will be more than enough.
Don’t Want to Wait
Lots of users coming off contract won’t be able to wait. Whether it’s because of money, or timing, or something else. And believe us, there will be some waiting involved for the Galaxy S4.
Currently, the device is slated to launch on March 22nd, that’s almost two months away. After that, the phone will need to be released and that’s pegged for April. U.S. carriers are often last to Android devices from foreign manufacturers so we could see the device launch several weeks after it arrives elsewhere around the globe.
At the least, we’re likely looking at a little over a two month wait and quite possibly, even one that stretches into the three month mark.
The Galaxy S3 is widely available for purchase and will be for quite some time we imagine.
Reasons to Buy the Galaxy S4
The Galaxy S3 is certainly worth considering, but there are also plenty of reasons to think about skipping it and waiting the few months until Samsung announces and releases its successor, the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Last year’s Android smartphones raised the bar with their 720p displays. And while they still display quality looking content, they are about to be replaced by new technology.
Already, we’ve seen two smartphones launch with 1080p resolution displays in the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC Droid DNA. Before the Droid DNA/HTC Butterfly, consumers had not had access to full HD displays. What’s more is that these displays are also driving the pixel-per-inch counts, commonly referred to as PPI, through the roof.
The Retina Display on the iPhone has a high pixel-per-inch count (326) and it’s one of the reasons that it has had so much shelf life. A high PPI makes it extremely difficult to see pixels which translates into gorgeous looking images, photos and content as a whole.
The new displays however look to shatter the norm with their 400+ pixel-per-inch count and their 1080p HD resolutions. And the Galaxy S4 is heavily rumored to have that type of technology on board.
Thus far, rumors suggest that the Galaxy S4 will have a 4.99-inch FHD display with 1080 resolution and quite possibly a PPI count as high as 468. If true, it will mean that it will not only be a bit larger than the Galaxy S3′s display, it will also be a whole lot better for movie watching, web surfing, and more.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 isn’t showing its age quite yet but it likely will at some point down the road. Future apps that are dependent on hardware could struggle, battery life will start looking obsolete, and of course, at some point, Samsung will stop issuing updates to the Galaxy S3.
The same will likely happen to the Galaxy S4, though it won’t come as quickly which means that consumers can be much more confident investing their money into a new two-year contract.
Android 5.0 Early
The Samsung Galaxy S3 still doesn’t have its upgrade to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the most current version of Android. It’s possible that Samsung might be waiting for Android 5.0, but a more likely scenario is that it will upgrade it first to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and then to Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie many months later. That is, if it ever gets Android 5.0.
The Galaxy S4 on the other hand will be Samsung’s new baby, its darling, and it will likely coddle it like it did the Galaxy S3 and the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update.
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is rumored to have Android 4.2 right out of the box while the Galaxy S3 must wait. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung holds that update until the Galaxy S4 is released so as to trump it up as a feature.
That could mean Android 4.0 and Android 5.0 could take many months to reach the Galaxy S3 which means those who don’t want to wait will be safer buying the Galaxy S4.
Samsung is rumored to be including a new 13MP rear camera on the Galaxy S4. For those that have used the Galaxy S3 camera, this is fantastic news. Indeed, as we’ve said, the Galaxy S3 camera is solid, but it’s certainly not best in class and it’s not even as good as the rear camera on the HTC One X.
Nothing is confirmed but those who take their mobile photography seriously will likely want to wait for the Galaxy S4 as it’s very likely to feature an improvement in the camera department. Megapixels aren’t everything but with Nature UX, Samsung showed it was serious about camera software as well so we should see an improvement with the next-generation.
Better Battery Life
Another area where Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is likely to improve from the Galaxy S4 is with its battery life. The Galaxy S3 features a 2,100 mAh battery that provides good battery life but with battery life a growing concern amongst consumers, Samsung is likely to make some improvements.
We saw Samsung bump up the Galaxy Note’s battery with the Galaxy Note, a sign that it is indeed taking consumers wishes seriously. And fortunately, Galaxy S4 rumors back up a bump in the Galaxy S4 battery life as well.
First, rumors peg the Galaxy S4 stock battery to be 2,600 mAh, bigger than the stock battery on the Galaxy S3. And two, its processor is rumored to be the Exynos 5 Octa, a quad-core processor that Samsung announced at CES 2013. Samsung says that it offers 70% battery life improvement from its other Exynos 5 in the Nexus 10.
So if it indeed has a Exynos 5 Octa and a larger battery, we could potentially see the best battery life ever offered in a Samsung smartphone. For many, that alone could be a reason to pick up the Galaxy S4.
Immediate Price Drops
No pricing Galaxy S4 rumors have emerged just yet but we don’t expect the device to reach outside of the $199.99 price tag that came with the Galaxy S3. If that’s the case, it will mean that the Galaxy S4 will be as expensive as the Galaxy S3 is right now, though we expect the Galaxy S3 price to drop at carriers in the months ahead.
Even if the Galaxy S4 arrives for a more expensive price than the Galaxy S3, it doesn’t mean that we won’t see discounts. In fact, places like Amazon will almost certainly undercut carrier pricing right from the start, offering quick discounts to prospective owners.