Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

Like the normal S4 - but much more satisfying

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review
The tough cookie of the smartphone world

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HTC has been the king of Android contact integration for a few years now but its Korean rival is hot on its heels in second place and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is certainly no slouch in this department.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

The Contacts app is, unsurprisingly, the place where you'll find all the details of your buddies stored and while the layout is very similar to other Android handsets with a profile picture to the left of the names, there is some neat integration.

First up you can add a number of accounts to the Galaxy S4 Active to pull in contacts from all over the place including various email addresses, Facebook, ChatOn, Google and WhatsApp to name a few. There's no Twitter option though.

Once you've signed into the accounts you wish the S4 Active to go in search of contacts on it then makes a pretty decent attempt to match up various profiles from all the mediums.

If your friends have ridiculous names on Facebook then the S4 Active probably won't link the profile to the contacts you have stored in Google's cloud for them, but joining manually is simple.

Just tap on the contact in question, hit the connections section in their card and then select the other instances of themselves to link together.

The S4 Active even displays handy little icons of the accounts you've joined to a person, so you can easily see if you've missed anyone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

Back on the main contacts page there's an handy alphabet down the right hand of the screen allowing you to jump to a particular letter to save you scrolling manically down your huge contact list, plus there's a search bar at the top of the page if you'd rather tap in a name.

Next to that search bar is the button to add a new contact and there's no surprises here, just the standard data entry form you find on pretty much any phone these days allowing you to enter a multitude of information on your new found friend.

Unlike with some Android handsets when you tap through to a contact's card the Galaxy S4 Active won't pull through status updates or photo galleries from that person's social network.

All you get are their contact details and any additional information such as date of birth if you happen to have that data available. It's clean and functional, if not a little boring in places.

A handy feature which appears on all Samsung smartphones is the ability to call or text a contact by swiping across their name in the contact, calls or message lists.

Swipe from left to right over a contact and the Galaxy S4 Active will load up the dialler and call that contact, swipe in the opposite direction and it'll open up a new text message pane with the contact already added at the top.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

It's something we find extremely useful and we use it a lot, as it makes things just that bit quicker than having to tap through a level or two before getting to the action you require.

You don't just get the list of all your nearest and dearest in the contacts apps though, there are three other tabs at the top of the screen: phone, groups and favourites.

The first one is simply a shortcut to the phone app on the S4 Active, but more on that below, while the other two are sub sections of the contacts app.

Favourites are straight forward, hit the star icon in any contact card and they'll be added to this panel, allowing you to quickly get to the people you communicate with the most.

Groups meanwhile allows you to assign contacts to certain, well groups, such as co-workers, family or friends. It's another way to organise your contacts and is aimed at helping you keep on top of everyone, although in practice we didn't use this function.


It's more bread and butter stuff when it comes to calling with the Phone app your one stop shop for all your dialling needs, however as we've mentioned Samsung's clever swipe to call function lets you get on the blower straight from the contacts and text messaging apps.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review

Fire up the phone app and you're transported to the dialler, complete with smart dial and contact suggestions plus there's a button to transform your boring old voice call into a fancy pants video call. Snazzy.

It's not just the numeric keypad that you get in the phone app on the S4 Active though, with a call logs list, favourites tab and links to the Contacts app all present at the top of the screen.

Everything is self explanatory really, and when you get into a call you have the usual buttons on screen including end call, dialpad, speaker and mute, however there is an additional button of the Galaxy S4 Active called noise cancelling.

If you find yourself in a noisy environment hit this key and the S4 Active will do its best to dial down the surrounding hullabaloo so the person on the other end can actually hear.

In practice we found it did make our speech slightly easier to hear, but overall the call quality on the Galaxy S4 Active was pretty good so it's not the end of the world if you forget to engage this setting.

The S4 Active didn't have any issues finding and holding onto signal, and we didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.