Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Is it a phone? Is it a camera? Do you care?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Zoom! ZOOM! ZOOM! It's still a phone though.

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom scores some points as a media player. It's got a variety of media apps and a reasonably large screen, though a lack of built in storage hampers it a little.


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom supports MP3, WAV, eAAC+, AC3 and FLAC music files and there are two main music players to choose from - Google's 'Play Music' and Samsung's 'Music'.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

'Music' is a fairly feature rich player. It will sort your songs alphabetically, or let you view albums or artists. You can display albums and artists as either a list or thumbnails of album artwork.

You can also create and save playlists. Once you're playing a song you can access music controls (to pause or skip track) from the lock screen and notifications shade, so it's still easy to control if you leave the music player app or turn your screen off.

On top of all that tapping the menu button from the player and then selecting 'settings' will give you a bunch of options.

You can change the play speed, set the music to turn off after a set period of time and activate 'Smart Volume', which automatically adjusts each track's volume to an equal level.

There's also a 'SoundAlive' setting, which is basically an equaliser with a bunch of presets such as 'pop', 'rock' and 'bass boost'. Plus there's a custom option if you'd rather manually adjust the levels.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Finally the player also features 'Music square', which lets you automatically create playlists that fit certain moods such as joyful or calm. As with most such things the results are variable, but it's a handy way to get new playlists on the fly.

All in all it's a very accomplished app with loads of features and options.

Play Music is available for all Android phones, but it's just as impressive in its own way. The core player is similar albeit slightly more basic- there's no built in equaliser for example, but you can still make playlists and 'Instant Mixes' let you automatically create new playlists based on a specific band or song.

The real killer feature of Play Music is its cloud storage - letting you store up to 20,000 of your own songs or an unlimited amount purchased from Google on the cloud. You can then stream them or download them on any Android device or PC.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Beyond the two players there is also 'Group Play', which can stream music to multiple Samsung handsets- assuming they're all in close proximity.

The idea being that you can boost the sound by playing it through multiple speakers. The problem is that they're still all phone speakers, so it does nothing for the quality.

To get new music on your Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom you can either copy it across from a computer or download it straight to the handset either from Google Play or Samsung Hub.

Both have a decent selection of music available and prices tend to be fairly comparable too, with songs generally coming in at $1.19 each and albums available for $12 to $18.

With such good players and two built in stores the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is pretty good for music. However as it only has 8GB of built in storage a micro SD card is all but essential and the phones speakers aren't really up to much.


There are a few video apps on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom too. For watching videos there's a choice of Samsung's 'Video' app and Google's 'Play Movies' app.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

'Video' is mostly a fairly standard video app- you can see thumbnails of all your videos, tap to play them and then have the option to stretch them to fit the screen, pause them, jump ahead or skip to the next video.

However there are a few other options too. Tapping menu while in a video will let you turn subtitles on when applicable, view chapter previews, change the brightness and play speed or change the sound settings to give priority to voice or music.

The most interesting option in the player is the ability to pop the video out and bring it up in a small window over whatever else you're doing on the phone.

You can drag the window around or change its size so it's not in the way and can still then be watching a video while doing other things. It's definitely a handy feature, but it does mean that you'll be using at most a third of the screen to watch a video on, so it's pretty tiny.

The other video player, 'Play Movies', is a lot more basic as it just gives you standard video controls.

As with music you can get movies from either Google Play or Samsung Hub and both stores offer rentals and purchases.

There's also a Video editor app on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, or rather there's an icon for it, but when you open it a message tells you that it's not installed.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Still, if you do go ahead and download all 100MB of it then you'll have less free space on your phone, but you'll also be able to add music and sound effects to videos and splice them together. It's pretty basic stuff but not bad for a phone effort.

Then there's a built in YouTube app, which gives you easy access to free streaming videos.

The final built in video app is 'WatchON', which makes use of the phones infrared port to control your TV. It's quick and easy to set up and works surprisingly well, even offering suggestions of shows that it thinks you might like.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom supports MP4, DivX, XviD, WMV, H.264 and H.263 files but as with music, video on the handset suffers from a lack of built in storage and we'd also love a full HD screen. Still, at 4.3 inches it's a decent size and it comes with some good players.

Books and Magazines

While books and magazines are hardly a priority for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom we thought they were worth a mention as both 'Play Books' and 'Play Magazines' are included.

They're an e-reader and a magazine reader respectively and they both work quite well, though magazines are a little too cramped to bother with.

New titles can be purchased from Google Play or if you prefer there are also other e-readers available for download, such as a Kindle app.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review


Viewing photos on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is done through the 'Gallery' app. You can sort photos by album, location, people, time or favourites and it will also show photos from social networks.

As well as viewing photos you can share them online or in a picture message and there are a few editing tools built in as well, letting you crop and rotate photos, add colours and effects or add stickers and frames.

Aside from the gallery app you'll also find 'Paper Artist' and 'Story Album' apps listed on your phone, though neither of these are actually installed. Paper Artist gives you additional photo editing tools, letting you add effects and borders to images.

Story Album lets you create digital photo albums. You can choose the photos to go in them, along with a theme, title and cover image. They're then saved on your phone, sort of like an album in the gallery, except they look more like a book and potentially have more than one photo per screen.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

There's a good selection of apps on board for making the most of your photos and while the screen could be better it's still good enough to view photos on.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom fares pretty well as an overall media player too. It's got a fairly large screen for watching videos on and it's quite comfortable to hold for long periods.

It's got loads of different apps for music, video and photos, two different stores to get music and video content from, a built in equaliser, innovative features like pop-out videos and many of the players support DLNA streaming.

Only having 8GB of storage hurts it but it's not a huge problem since there's a micro SD card slot. It's also a shame that the screen and speakers aren't higher quality, but they're not that bad either.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.