The Samsung Galaxy S4, one of the most anticipated Android devices of 2013, is one of the best Android handsets on the market. On the other side, we have the Nokia Lumia 928 — the best that Windows Phone 8 has to offer right now.
The Lumia 928 and the Galaxy S4 can be looked at as the unwavering champions in the Windows Phone 8 and Android space. Both are powerful smartphones, but in some cases, it might be hard to choose which one is right for you.
Being the two performers that they are, we’re going to stack these two flagships against each other, to see how well they do. Will the Galaxy S4 with its subtle design changes and powerful hardware come out on top? Or will the Lumia 928 top Samsung’s Next Big Thing with its high build quality and simplicity?
If you’re in a rush, jump straight to the video, otherwise, stick with us to see how well these two great performers do.
Design and build quality
As you might expect, this is a battle of Android vs Windows Phone, but until we get to the software, this battle is purely Samsung and Nokia.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 sports the same tried and true design of its predecessor, the Galaxy S3. The device is covered in plastic, a material that many are growing tired of, however, the form factor of Samsung’s flagship makes it the best handling 5-inch screen device today.
It has a standard button layout — the menu and back button capacitive keys to the left and right of the centered physical home button. Then you have Samsung’s standard power and volume rocker placement. The Galaxy S4 has a removable back cover, giving access to its removable battery and microSD card slot. In the hand, its balanced lightness makes it as nimble as a device of its kind can get.
On the Nokia Lumia 928, instead of the typical rounded design, the handset brings that rectangular look we just don’t see enough of. Rigid corners and a flat profile makes for an easy grip, and with a four and a half inch screen, the device is easy to handle in one hand.
At the bottom front of the device, we have the capacitive keys, and buttons are on the right side of the device. Those are the volume rockers, power button, and the two stage dedicated camera button. Around the back, this white edition is accented by the camera optics atop of a black slit down the middle of the device. It’s a smartphone that is as easy in the hands as it is on the eyes.
Nokia’s high build quality standards hasn’t faltered at all either. Despite a drop on concrete there were only a couple of scuffs on the two corners.
With the sizes of both devices being similar, perhaps it comes down to aesthetics. You won’t have problems handling the Galaxy S4 or Lumia 928, though Nokia’s offering might be a tad bit easier due to the smaller screen. Otherwise, people have grown weary over Samsung’s repetitive design choices, especially when it comes to using a plastic material. So that might make some look for something more stylish and unique.
The Lumia definitely fits that category — it’s simplistic in its black and white profile, but it’s rectangular form makes the colors really pop. However, let’s not forget about that great 5-inch screen on the Galaxy S4. After all, it is the best handling phone out there.
Speaking of the Galaxy S4’s screen, the 5-inch screen has become this year’s motif, though the displays found on these two devices have a lot more in common than you think. The S4 has a Super AMOLED display capable of 1080p and is rated at 441ppi. The Super AMOLED screen brings very saturated colors, and some may not find that appealing, so thankfully it’s customizable for those that want to tone it down. Sharpness is great, and it handles all media you throw at it — TV, movies, gaming, etc — beautifully!
Enter the Nokia Lumia 928, whose display is 4.5-inch in size with a 1,280 x 768 resolution. The lowered specs are somewhat expected due to the smaller screen, but the experience remains enjoyable. Text might not be as sharp as the S4 due to its lower 332ppi rating, but the general user’s eye will likely not notice the difference.
Similar to the Galaxy S4, the Lumia is also sporting a Super AMOLED panel, bringing that same color saturation that, this time, greatly compliments the interface of Windows Phone 8. Viewing angles suffer a bit in the 928, as angles bring a blue hue throughout the screen. Even with that said, it’s still a great display that brings a color experience similar to the Galaxy S4′s.
With the displays being very similar, it all comes down to how hungry you are for hardware. If you need a larger screen with a higher resolution and pixel density, Samsung’s offering is the right path to take. If you aren’t quite as picky, the Lumia will still be an enjoyable experience.
The performance results were pretty skewed. In most markets, Samsung outfitted the Galaxy S4 with one of the best processors out there — the Snapdragon 600 clocked at 1.9GHz, backed by the tried and true Adreno 320 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. This phone is extremely fast, thus it flies through multitasking with the greatest of ease. Even if a number of users reported very sporadic lag, it doesn’t hinder the otherwise good experience. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for one of the fastest cutting-edge phones out there, the Galaxy S4 is a great option.
On the other side, we have the Nokia Lumia 928, which sports a Snapdragon S4 Plus, a dual-core variant of the quad-core processor that powered a lot of the best phones from last year. It clocks in at 1.5GHz, and is backed by an older Adreno 225 GPU, and a mere 1GB of RAM. In the Android space, this would be considered a mid-range device, but the Lumia 928 reminds us that not all user experiences are created equal.
Don’t get me wrong, Windows Phone 8 isn’t any better or worse than Android — it’s just less resource demanding. The Lumia 928 is still very quick and smooth throughout its interface, and I have yet to cover multitasking on it. We’ll get to the software soon, but keep in mind that the Lumia sets out to do what it needs to do and does it very well.
We start with the Samsung Galaxy S4 — and all of its features you probably already know all about. Expandable memory and a replaceable battery is important for a lot of people — thankfully the Galaxy S4 supports both. Additionally, the S4 has an IR blaster that controls your TV, and then it has sensors for temperature, air gestures, hovering fingers, and even eye-tracking made it in this phone, for things like Smart Stay and Smart Scroll. It’s capable of a lot of things, and if you need the ability to use every feature on this phone, you’re going to love its unmatched functionality.
As for the Lumia 928, what you see is what you get, however, what you get happens to work really well. If the Galaxy S4 is good at what we’re used to and excels at trying to do more, than the Lumia 928 definitely excels at all the basics.
32GB of storage is available, and nearly all of it is available for the user instead of the OS taking up a lot of space like it happens on Android. Everything you’re already pretty familiar with is packed in the Lumia 928 — Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth.
Call quality is nice on the Lumia, as the speaker is louder than the standard one on the Galaxy S4. However, if you go too loud, the details in the call can sound blown out. The rear speaker is also louder than on the S4′s, but it has the same exact problem.
All in all, if you’re looking for a lot of functionality, the Galaxy S4 is the best, however, if you just want to get back to the basics, the Lumia is a great choice.
Battery and camera
The batteries on both devices perform very well. A 2,600 mAh battery is powering the Galaxy S4, while a lower, 2,000 mAh non-removable unit is in the Lumia 928. The capacity of the Galaxy S4 is much larger than the Lumia 928′s, though the Galaxy S4 is packing some more premium specs, so that does even out the playing field. However, the benefit here is that the battery is removable on the S4 for spares.
When it solely comes down to usage, both devices get through just about the same full day of work. What’s really impressive though is the standby time on either device. I left both phones alone for about a day and a half, connected to WiFi and never touched. When I activated them again, they both still had at least a third of life left.
The standby time certainly helps with overall longevity, as do the power saving features that can give you that extra edge. Power users may wish to take advantage of the removable battery in the Galaxy S4, but either device will perfectly suit your average user.
As for cameras, both are top notch in terms of quality. The Galaxy S4 features a 13-megapixel optics backed by an app that holds a lot of functionality. The app offers a ton of different modes for wouldbe smartphone photographers. These include cool things like Best Shot, Drama, and Eraser modes. Pictures are generally good, with a lot of nice details and vibrancy, despite some scenes with too much color looking washed out.
As you might expect, the Lumia 928 supports a lesser, 8.7-megapixel camera, but is backed by a lot of awesome enhancements — Carl Zeiss optics, PureView stabilization, and a Xenon flash. While the pictures aren’t as large as the Galaxy S4’s, they hold about the same quality, and both manage to achieve an attractive depth of field. PureView helps lower light shots really pop, and the Xenon flash helps out with that too. The Lumia 928 doesn’t have nearly as many modes, but more can be obtained by downloading add-ons or “Lenses” from the marketplace.
Both cameras pack some really great quality accompanied with highly functional apps. While the Galaxy S4 has all of its capabilities baked in, the Lumis 928 can be expanded through Lenses, and more are constantly offered. Either way, both cameras make taking photos a lot of fun.
And here we are at our our final destination — software, and you can pretty much predict how this is going to turn out. Samsung packed a truckload of software in the Galaxy S4 — S Health, Group Play, WatchON apps, you name it. While they all bring new uses to your typical smartphone, the decisive factor lies within navigation. By taking advantage of every sensor, there are a plethora of new ways to get around your smartphone.
Wave your hand or hover your finger over something and you’ll get a lot more out of what you are already doing. Finally, the Galaxy S4 benefits from one of the largest mobile ecosystems — the Play Store, which has grown a lot over the years.
Looking at the Lumia 928 and its ecosystem, it might remind you of Android during its early years. Not only is there a real lack of variety in the Microsoft Store, but it will also be a long time before any real growth can be seen by its users. As I said before though, the Lumia 928 succeeds in what is already baked into it.
Preloaded applications are included because they are reliable and work really well. Live tiles do a great job at showing you extra information, and in an elegant manner, too. There’s even social media integration in Windows Phone – you can use the Peoples app to sign into Facebook, which will allow you to see your news feed without the official application. The motif of Windows Phone 8 is supposed to remain stylish, while being intuitive.
One can argue that the Lumia is perfect is perfect for anyone who would otherwise get bogged down by such a large ecosystem like Android or iOS. What you see is what you get, and you can get back to the basics. When it comes down to it, you can get whatever you need done in either phone. It’s more of a decision of simplicity or extra functionality.
Price and final thoughts
The Galaxy S4 comes in at up to $700 for the base model unlocked, and the Nokia Lumia 928 comes in at a lesser price tag of $499 due to its lower specs. Similarly, on a new two-year contract, you’ll be looking at a $199 premium for the Galaxy S4 and $99 for the Lumia 928.
If you’re looking for the very best of Android, the Galaxy S4 is one of the top champions. It’s a great handset that gives people who want more exactly what they’re looking for. But if you don’t mind getting back to basics and don’t mind the lack of apps, the Nokia Lumia 928 and the stylish Windows Phone 8 operating system will be a great companion.
If the Windows Phone ecosystem gets a boost, it could easily become a credible threat to some of the big dogs out there. But until then, us Android lovers don’t have much to worry about.
Brad Ward contributed to this review.