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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  • sigmatau - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    You won't be able to use it underwater. Apparently you glossed over half my post. This is in case you drop it in a puddle or get water on it. It will not be usable underwater. There is a reason why they say only one meter. This is more water resistant than water proof. Maybe in a few years. Reply
  • CyberAngel - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    I can take photos underwater in a pool which is deeper than one meter.
    If it's just a few minutes it'll survive 7ft.
    I really own a Samsung Galaxy S4 Active Urban Grey about 2 weeks after introduction in Finland in at about 26th of May. Maybe it was just after 4th of July on Friday the 5th day - Yes!
    There is a special underwater camera mode.
    The touchscreen does not work underwater and you have to wipe it clean in order to use it.
    As fast as the S4 Inactive, but pictures are only about UHD sized at 8Mpx, not the 13Mpx.
    Unfortunately I don't have a sharper monitor or TV or projector to show bigger pictures ;-)
    Reply
  • cmikeh2 - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

    Just a quick typo but the Snapdragon 600 is quad core. How did viewing angles compare with the TFT display in comparison with the AMOLED or the LCDs on the XPERIA Z or the One? Reply
  • amdwilliam1985 - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    "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."

    I agree too, I think 4.3 to 4.5 is perfect for 1 hand use, I have high hopes for Motorola, hopefully they'll figure out the "perfect" size phone with minimum bezels.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Friday, June 21, 2013 - link

    I've had a 4.3" SGS2 and now a 4.7" Galaxy Nexus and am looking forward to getting a 5.5" or 6" smartphone next year. 4.7" is still easy to use single handedly. But I really don't need that. The bigger screen and hopefully bigger battery will be great benefits. That's the good thing about Android: you can get any size you want. :D Reply
  • mchart - Saturday, June 22, 2013 - link

    To those thinking you can use something rated as WR to 1M for taking underwater photos... You are false. Rated to 1M/3Feet means it will only take splashes, or a quick drop in. Anything more and it will fail. Remember, the water resistance test only consists of submerging the device in a small amount of water (Only enough needed to submerge it) and then applying pressure inside the container to simulate 1M below of water pressure. It does not simulate any additional pressure from movement, etc..

    So basically, if you've got something rated for only 1M WR you'd be a fool to actually submerge it. The rating is only there to indicate it is splash proof. Not even a watch rated to 100M WR should be used for much beyond swimming at the surface.
    Reply
  • MonkeyK - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    But it would be great mounted on my bike. Then I wouldn't have to worry about it when I ride in the rain. Reply
  • CyberAngel - Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - link

    Tested in 7ft a few minutes. So practically it *IS* waterproof.
    I *OWN* the device so naturally I tested it :-D
    Reply
  • En1gma - Saturday, June 22, 2013 - link

    "The SoC is still the same quad-core 1.9GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (APQ8960AB)"
    wtf? apq-series is modem-less (apq_0__).. or i dont know smthg?
    "with a Qualcomm MSM (dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 400 with Adreno 305)"
    msm8230/msm8930?
    Reply
  • eva2000 - Sunday, June 23, 2013 - link

    All we need now is "Samsung S4 Mini Active" :) Reply

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