Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Vs original Galaxy S4 Vs S4 Nexus: what’s the difference?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

This week Samsung revealed its newest smartphone to add to its growing pile, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. But with 3 versions of the device now in circulation, it’s difficult to ascertain what the difference between them actually is.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is Samsung’s attempt to break into the rugged phone market, amongst the likes of JCB and CAT mobile phones. As the name denotes, the device is designed to offer users a high end smartphone, suitable for use in the great outdoors. But how does it achieve this aim?

Here is our simple guide to explain the difference between Samsung’s original Galaxy S4 device, and both the Galaxy S4 Active a Google-branded Galaxy S4 Nexus.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Samsung Galaxy S4 original

Galaxy S4 Active

Looking at the Samsung Galaxy S4 original next to the S4 Active, it is clear that there are remarkable differences in design. While the latter device shares the same smooth, rounded shape as the regular S4, it also includes a few added extras, marking it out as different.

First of all you’ve got three, rather than just one, physical button on the phone’s fascia; a back button, a menu button and a home button.The device also has a few more obvious alterations to the original Galaxy S4 which promote it as a rugged phone, such as its cross-hatched back casing and visible screws along the handset’s edges.

It is also slightly heavier and thicker than the original Galaxy S4, measuring in at 9.1mm thick (compared to the S4’s 7.9mm) and 151g in weight (21g lighter than the original device). However, for a rugged phone, this is all quite expected.

Google Galaxy S4

On the other hand, the Google-branded Galaxy S4, announced at Google’s I/O last month revealed a device which looks absolutely identical to the original Samsung handset, except perhaps for the odd Google logo printed somewhere on the phone’s casing.


Galaxy S4 Active

Water and Dust Proof

Samsung has seemingly taken a leaf out of Sony’s book by making the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active dust and water proof. The device can be submerged into 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes, much like the Sony Xperia Z, with the headphone jack sporting a waterproof coating which allows users to continue listening to music while the phone is still wet!

The Galaxy S4 Active can also take photographs and videos underwater using the phone’s volume buttons to activate the camera. Samsung’s new ‘Aqua Mode’ is also built into the device, to allow users to make the most of this feature.

Samsung Apps

The main allure of the Samsung Galaxy S4, as demonstrated at its New York launch event in March, was the array of Samsung apps built into the device. What’s interesting is that Samsung has chosen to include many of these features into the S4 Active, making it a high-end rugged device.

Apps built into the S4 Active include Samsung’s Smart Pause and Smart Stay Air View, S Health and Group Play (take a look at our Samsung Galaxy S4 review for more details).

Google Galaxy S4

Conversely to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, the Google-branded S4 device is likely to not include many of these features. The Galaxy S4 Nexus is basically a stripped back of the original S4, and as with most Nexus devices, provides users with an untouched Android experience on an impressive piece of hardware.


Galaxy S4 Active

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active has an 8MP rear-facing camera, which is a slight downgrade from the original S4’s 13MP lens. That said, the camera does a LED flash, which actually turns into a mini flash light, making night time and low light photos much more high quality.

Also, as mentioned above, the camera’s Aqua Mode and ability to take photographs underwater makes this device’s camera stand out from all the rest.

Google Galaxy S4

As the Nexus version of the Galaxy S4 uses Samsung’s handset without the software, the camera on the Google handset is exactly the same as the original Samsung Galaxy S4, offering the same 13MP lens and pre-production features such as Sound & Shot, Animation and Drama modes.


The rugged version of the original Galaxy S4 offers the very same version of Android’s Jelly Bean, meaning that users are getting the exact same Android experience with both devices.

However, the Nexus branded S4, coming straight off of Google’s back, is considered a true Android. While at present this may look the same to the everyday smartphone user, to developers, this means a lot. Not only will the Google-branded S4 not be packed full of ‘bloatware’- apps and features pre-installed onto the device by Samsung- but it will also receive automatic software updates just like other Nexus devices, putting it at the forefront of all Android devices.

So, what is the difference?

As you can see, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active differs from the regular S4 to a far larger extent than the Google-branded version of the device. Whilst developers and Android enthusiasts may opt for the Nexus version rather than the original, the Galaxy S4 Active, in my opinion, has a much larger potential audience.

The rugged phone industry is a market that many smartphone manufacturers have yet to break into. However, Samsung seems to have done an admirable job of offering a top of the range smartphone with great features, design and the latest software, without compromising on the sturdy and shatter-proof build.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is expected to be launched on June 20th, though Samsung has only unveiled its plan to release the device, available in black, white, orange and blue, in the US and Sweden as present. 

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Do you think the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active could change the rugged phone market? And will all manufacturers start jumping on the rugged phone bandwagon? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, or to post a comment below. 

Written by Charlotte Kertrestel

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