Samsung Galaxy S4 Review: Does The Smartphone's 'Necessary' Bumper Make It 'Too Big'?

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While the Galaxy S4 is actually one of Samsung’s smaller handsets, its 5–inch display still makes it quite a gargantuan smartphone.

When it comes to handling, the size of the Galaxy S4 is not bad; however, with a case or bumper more or less required in order to keep the device safe from falling catastrophes, the Galaxy S4 begins to approach “too big” territory.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 spans 2.75 inches in width, which is slightly less wide than its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, which spans 2.78 inches. Be advised that the 5–inch display advertised for the Samsung Galaxy S4 refers to its span diagonally. In actual handling of the phone, its true width becomes much more important.

Added protection from a bumper or case may be necessary for the Samsung Galaxy S4 as it has proven to be a fragile device. Drop tests have shown that the smartphone can suffer excessive damage, including screen shattering, especially when it is dropped from a long distance, such as from the ear.

As a drop-happy phone user, I purchased the Tech 21 Impact Snap case, which covers the corners of the Galaxy S4 -- these areas stand to suffer the most damage if the device is dropped.

However, the bumper adds to the width of the Galaxy S4, which I have found makes handling of the phone slightly tedious. While using my Samsung Galaxy S4, I sometimes have to adjust it in my hand and get a better grip. Actions such as holding the phone in my hand and using my thumb to browse also require stretching to reach the far side of the screen.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Holding the Samsung Galaxy S4 naturally

On its own, I can wrap my hand around my Galaxy S4 and have all my fingers touch; however, with its case on, I can just barely have my thumb and my middle or ring finger meet and can’t meet my thumb and point finger at all. In addition, holding the bumper-equipped Galaxy S4 essentially takes up my entire hand.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Attempt to touch thumb and pointer finger with the Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 Samsung Galaxy S4 in comparison with my palm

Tech 21 offers some of the thinnest bumpers for the Samsung Galaxy S4. Other cases such as those from Speck and Otterbox could make the Samsung Galaxy S4 a lot chunkier, which could make the device even harder to handle.

Perhaps people with larger hands will have no problem handling the Samsung Galaxy S4 with or without a bumper, but I would imagine it would be even more difficult for people with hands even smaller than mine. Comparing the size of the phone to the hand of a petite friend of mine, the phone in fact does encompass her entire hand, both in and out of its case.

Samsung notably makes even larger smartphones than the Galaxy S4, such as those in the Galaxy Note phablet series. The Galaxy Note sports a 5.3-inch display a width of 3.26 inches, while the Galaxy Note 2 has a 5.5-inch display and a width of 3.17 inches.

The Galaxy Note 2, in particular, fared much better in drop tests than the Samsung Galaxy S4, indicating that it may not necessarily need protection from a bumper, in which case users need not add extra bulkiness to their device if they don’t want to. Phablets are already large to begin with, so people with smaller hands may naturally avoid them for that reason. However, consumers may not use size as a deterrent from buying the Samsung Galaxy S4. While large, it remains in the general realm of smartphone sizes and is not much different in size from its popular predecessors.

So be advised that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is susceptible to extensive damage when dropped, which makes a bumper necessary to protect the device from accidents. That bumper, however, may extend the size of the device beyond comfortable handling for some people depending on the size of their hands.

I expect I will get used to handling my Samsung Galaxy S4 over time, but I will still be in the market for a slimmer bumper to see of that makes a difference.

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