Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 Impressions and Performance (AT&T)

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update is rolling out now to Sprint and AT&T smartphones and likely in the works for Verizon and T-Mobile. This new Android 4.4.2 update brings a small collection of new features to the Galaxy S4, but does not add the new Galaxy S5 features that Samsung demoed early this week.

This Android 4.4.2 update finally adds Galaxy Gear compatibility to the Galaxy S4, makes it easier to uninstall or disable an application and delivers call reliability enhancements on the AT&T Galaxy S4. In addition to these specific fixes the update adds performance enhancements, an emoji keyboard option and a new Tap And Pay payment method that users can pick instead of being tied to ISIS on a carrier like AT&T.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update is now available.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update is now available.

Android updates bring fixes and improvements, but they can also bring unintended bugs as well, which is why we are taking an early look at the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update. This is for the AT&T Galaxy S4, but expect similar features on other carriers.

Installation

The Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update was not as painless and simple as installing iOS 7.0.6 on the iPhone 5. While the update downloaded quickly, we ran into errors as the installation neared completion.

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On the first try the Galaxy S4 ran through the updating applications process, but stopped on a black screen. Pressing buttons would light up the menu and back button, but would not allow any control of the phone. The power button was non-responsive. After pulling the battery the app update process started over and completed this time taking us to a lock screen.

The AT&T Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 installation wasn't smooth.

The AT&T Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 installation wasn’t smooth.

After unlocking the phone a Samsung Wallet error popped up and would not go away. Tapping Ok closed the message, but a new one re-appeared within a second. To get past this we had to navigate to apps in settings and uninstall Samsung Wallet, in between pressing ok and the next message popping up.

Performance

The Android 4.4.2 update for the Galaxy S4 specifically address performance of Multitasking, which is something Google talked about when the company announced Android 4.4 last year. While we’ve only used the device for a day, multitasking feels faster and overall performance feels faster.

Apps

We did not run into any app crashes or major issues, aside from the Samsung Wallet problem, since installing Android 4.4.2 on the Galaxy S4. The most annoying issue is that we needed to re-login to many apps after the update. We didn’t lose any data, but we did need to re-enter our login details and some apps disappeared from the home screen. We simply added the apps back to the home screen as they were still installed.

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Battery Life

The Galaxy S4 battery life seems about the same as on Android 4.3, lasting up to a full day with limited hotspot usage and controlled brightness. We’ll need to test this further, but so far there are no bugs that will dramatically drop battery life.

Bugs

Not all apps can access the Micro SD card on the Galaxy S4 after the update.

Not all apps can access the Micro SD card on the Galaxy S4 after the update.

One of the biggest Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 bugs that worried us was a limit to access to the Micro SD card. We covered this issue before the update and went in expecting the worst. After testing we found that some apps allow us to copy a file to the Micro SD card while others do not. It appears developers are trying to find the right solution here, so hopefully even with Google’s restrictions we will see fewer issues in the future. Using ES File Explorer we could copy and past a file to the SD card, but not with FX File Explorer.

Connectivity & Speed

The Samsung Galaxy S4 feels faster running Android 4.4.2, though this is not something we can quantify with benchmarks. The app switching is swifter and launching apps is faster. This update did not slow down the device in any way, and sped up many areas of our year old device.

From a connectivity standpoint WiFi and 4G LTE are both running great after the update. Sometimes updates like these can introduce bugs that cause issues with WiFi, but that is not the case in our use.  We are testing in an area with a limited 4G LTE footprint, but after the update it is connected to 4G LTE more often. This may simply be AT&T network updates, but it took place since installing the Android 4.4.2 update this week.

Camera

Samsung updates the camera firmware on the Galaxy S4.

Samsung updates the camera firmware on the Galaxy S4.

The first time opening the camera app after the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update causes a firmware update. Samsung and AT&T didn’t announce changes to the camera, but in testing low light photos appear to be slightly improved.

The two images above were taken before and after the update in the same room with the same light on, but on different days. This is not as handy as a before and after update of a static item, but most of the time we aren’t taking photos of fruit bowls in low light.

firmware update it appears to perform better in low light samples

Tap and Pay

Users can install Google Wallet on the AT&T Galaxy S4 with Android 4.4.2 and login to set up Tap & Pay to make payments using Google Wallet instead of ISIS. Launching the Google Wallet app and choosing Tap & Pay will prompt users to change away from ISIS.

Should I Update to Android 4.4.2?

At this point we could not find any show stopping features warrant skipping the Galaxy S4 Android 4.4.2 update on AT&T. It is a good idea to remove Samsung Wallet before the update and to be prepared for possible issues when it comes to the app updates, but once installed this update is a nice upgrade to the Galaxy S4.

Users that are rooted or who need a rooted Galaxy S4 will need to double-check with developers to figure out if they can update or if they should wait for a new ROM with the Android 4.4.2 update details from a specific carrier.