While I was in Taiwan, Samsung announced the Galaxy S 4 Active - a ruggidized version of the Galaxy S 4. To simply call it ruggedized however is not doing the design justice. The SGS4 Active is IP67 certified, meaning it's fully sealed against dust and submergible in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The resulting design is a bit bigger than the standard Galaxy S 4, but in hand feel is actually not bad at all - especially when you consider what you get with the added dimensions. I noticed the added width in my time with the device. Thickness and weight were tought to gauge as the device was tethered to the demo table. Going by the numbers alone however, it's not all that substantial.

The finish is a bit different than the SGS4, and you get three physical buttons on the front instead of just one. The touch screen won't work under water, which is why you get additional physical buttons on the Active model.

Display resolution and PPI remain unchanged, but the Active ditches Super AMOLED in favor of a standard TFT LCD - which will be a plus for many I suspect. The only other change is in the camera department. The Active loses the 13MP sensor and sticks with an 8MP rear facing camera. The SoC is still the same quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (APQ8960AB) from many variants of the SGS4.

SGS4A vs SGS4 Comparison
  SGS4 SGS4 Active
Length 136.6 mm 139.7 mm
Width 69.9 mm 71.3 mm
Thickness 7.9 mm 9.1 mm
Weight 130 g 151 g
Display 5.0-inch 1080p SAMOLED 5.0-inch 1080p TFT LCD
Camera 13 MP with LED Flash 8 MP with LED Flash

When I got back from Taipei, Brian mentioned the SGS4 Active as something he was very interested in. After seeing it in person, I can understand why. As high end smartphones all tend to be based on the same platforms from the same SoC vendors, it's good to see differentiation along new lines. I used to only hear about ruggedized computing in industrial or military applications, but there's absolutely a market for smartphones that can withstand a drop in a toilet. Especially given how few sacrifices are made in pursuit of the SGS4 Active, it seems like a very well thought out approach to those users who want a high-end smartphone with some serious durability features. 

I also had the opportunity to play with the Galaxy S 4 mini, a 4.3" qHD version of the Galaxy S 4 with a Qualcomm MSM (dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 400 with Adreno 305). I've found myself agreeing with Brian and Vivek quite a bit: 4.3-inches is really the ideal smartphone display size for me. The iPhone 5 is still a bit too small, and the SGS4 is a bit too big.



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  • ImSpartacus - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    I wish there was a camera shutter button on the SGS4 Active.

    If you're using it underwater, I imagine that you're scuba diving or something else vacation-y. That means pictures, and a lot of them.
  • sherlockwing - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    The SGS4's Camera software you can set the volume key as the Camera button, so I don't think that will be a problem. Reply
  • sherlockwing - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    In SGS4's default Camera app(which GS4A also uses), the volume key can be set as the Camera key/Record key or adjust Zoom(+/-). Reply
  • tdktank59 - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    Basically useless for scuba diving since its only rated for 1M or 3.28FT. Snorkeling on the other hand would work, but then again its only rated for 30 minutes.

    My guess is this is for the active people who will be in dusty areas or boaters. Basically wherever you phone can come into contact with water or lots of dust.
  • khaakon - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    My alternative guess is that this type of phone also attracts people looking for durability, like me. One could hope those seals keeps the insides safer for longer. I wouldnt mind have my breaking after two years, dunno if i'm an active person (phone lives mostly in back pocket though) - and my appartement is quite dusty.. Reply
  • khaakon - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    sry, typo;

    * my phone breaking after ...
  • sigmatau - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    I never understood how people keep coming up with the thought of taking pictures with this thing underwater. You do understand that 1 meter is about 3 feet right? You can't swim in 3 feet of water. This is for all the smart people that have dropped their phone in a toilet (and then quickly placed them on ebay.) Not even sure it would work in the rain as pressing wet buttons may get water in the device. Reply
  • hughlle - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    I can easily swim in 1 meter of water, especially if there is more water underneath that 1 meter limit..

    I would personally like to be able to submerge it even 25cm under the waters surface to take a photo while fishing. It then kills two birds with one stone for me. I don't have to be worried about having my phone with me in case of the baot capsizing, or wet hands etc, and i don't have to go out of my way to buy a dedicated waterproof camera.
  • augiem - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    You'll be really sorry if you drop it... Dedicated waterproof cameras are cheap. < $100. I recommend it. Reply
  • hughlle - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    And I'd be pretty bummed if my phone got stolen in a bar and as such I lost my GPS and my mp3 player. I. Guess I could just buy a Nokia 3310 and a 40 quid GPS and a 50 quid mp3 player and such and such. Having everything lumped into one device, for me, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

    Not to mention, I don't ever use hardware in risky situations unless I have a safety precaution in effect, such as a wrist strap, which a cheap case or a diy solution easily accommodates.

    At the end of the day, I am just one person giving my reasons, there are a whole lot of folk who like this potential, hence why they are making the device. I hardly think that Samsung are making this because they felt that they were about to be unseated because Sony were making a waterproof phone. There will always be arguments against, but the simple fact is that there are people who will buy this type of item because they have a personal reason for wanting it.

    One could equally say why take the camera into consideration on any phone because you can buy a camera for peanuts that far outperforms a phone camera. This could simply be the convenience of sharing. Sure I could buy a dedicated underwater camera, but I then have to take numerous additional steps in order to share the photo. Heck, camera companies are now making dedicated cameras these days purely because people are bringing to shun point and shoots because the convenience of having a camera on their phone outweigh the fact that their camera as such costs considerably more than a dedicated camera. You could drop a camera down a tree, off a bridge, down a cliff, just as easily as in water, but people still happily use their present camera phones for these pictures.

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