Quite a few smartphones these days can claim to be waterproof, but you have to hand it toSamsung’s Galaxy S4 Active for turning that characteristic into a camera feature. Specs-wise, that waterproof camera is the only element that justifies the creation of this brand-new S4 phone.
The 8-megapixel shooter’s underwater aqua mode absolutely works — so long as the seal holds — but it’s a mistake to think of the S4 Active, which is also dustproof, as a rugged or durable phone. Internals are still vulnerable behind a flimsy back panel, and “tougher” design elements are largely cosmetic. You don’t buy the Active to go SCUBA diving or mountaineering; you buy it because you like a flashy design and top-tier Android features. The surge of worry-free confidence you get on beach days, hikes, and at the pool is all extra.
Beyond its design and hydrophilic camera, the Galaxy S4 Active rarely strays from the Galaxy S4 flagship phone in any meaningful way. Most other specs hold steady, which is why AT&T is charging the same asking price that it does for the 13-megapixel Galaxy S4: $199.99 retail with a two-year contract.
Those looking for a true rough ‘n’ tumble smartphone will find that the Active’s name oversells its outdoorsy abilities. But if it’s a fun, slightly sturdier S4 experience you want, you’ll find it here.