(Pocket-lint) - Samsung has finally lifted the lid on its more rugged version of the Galaxy S4 smartphone, the Galaxy S4 Active. Previously, and perhaps prematurely, confirmed by a Samsung executive in the Middle East, the Active is Samsung's answer to the Sony Xperia Z or ZR rivals, as it is protected against dust and water - more so than the stablemate from which it borrows a name, at least.

Of course, this now leaves you in a quandary - considering your lifestyle, which flagship Samsung Android handset should you choose: the Galaxy S4 or the new Galaxy S4 Active?

Water and dust proofing

As its name suggests, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is aimed at the more sporty and thrill-seeking consumer. It is therefore far more likely to survive tough conditions than the current Galaxy S4, even though the latter has a Corning Gorilla Glass 3-fronted screen and can survive a fair few bumps and scrapes in its own right.

The Active comes with water and dust resistance and proofing that keep it working in extreme circumstances, but also bring new uses to the device. As the phone is waterproofed to one metre for 30 minutes, it can be used to take pictures underwater. Also, as the earphone jack is water resistant too, you can listen to music in a downpour while skipping tracks on screen, for example.


One sacrifice made to add the "active" functionality is that the camera on the S4 Active is just 8-megapixels one in comparison to the 13-megapixel camera found on the conventional Galaxy S4. This might not make a whole lot of difference to pictures, as megapixels are really not as important as the lens itself in taking decent shots. If you want bigger pictures, you'll need more megapixels, but who wants to create their own posters from smartphone snaps?

The Active also has a unique mode designed for underwater picture taking. Aqua Mode can be used to increase the visual quality for underwater shots and video.


Like the Galaxy S4, the Galaxy S4 Active has a 5-inch Full HD 1920 x 1080 display. However, it is TFT LCD whereas the original S4 uses Super AMOLED technology. Although we've not seen the Active's screen yet, we suspect that the conventional S4 will have more saturated colours and enhanced vibrancy in comparison. AMOLED is also known for being less power hungry than LCD.

One interesting feature added to the Active, however, comes in the form of Glove Touch technology which allows you to use the phone even when you are wearing non-capacitive gloves - ideal for the slopes when skiing.


As there is more protection for the S4 Active, it is slightly beefier than its stablemate. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a superthin device, just 7.9mm thick, while the Galaxy S4 Active is 9.1mm. That probably won't feel like much in the hand or pocket, however.

It is also slightly taller, wider and heavier, measuring 139.7 x 71.3mm and weighing 153g. The Galaxy S4 measures 136.6 x 69.8mm and weighs 130g.

Internally speaking

Many of the rest of the internal specifications of the two devices are similar. They both offer a 1.9GHz quad-core processor (in the UK, at least) and 4G LTE support. Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean comes installed on each from the box. Battery capacity is identical, with a 2,600mAh battery in both. And there is the usual smorgasbord of connectivity options: Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi ac, Wi-Fi Direct, NFC and USB 2.0.

But when it comes to storage space there are differences. From Samsung's information so far, the Galaxy S4 Active will be available only with 16GB of internal storage space - the Galaxy S4 has 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models. But Samsung's claims on how much of that is usable by the owner is greater on the Active.

It has been much reported that the Galaxy S4 16GB model offers only around 9GB of that to the user because of its own system software. It seems that by restricting some features on the S4 Active another 2GB has been gleaned for use, so around 11GB is quoted as available. That might make a difference to some.

Which should I choose?

If extreme sports are your thing, we feel it's a no-brainer. The Galaxy S4 Active is an interesting addition to the family and some might even wonder why the company didn't add the extra rigidity and water proofing to the original Galaxy S4 for launch.

However, it does trade sleek looks for more practicality, and we have to admit that the original S4 just feels beautiful to hold in the hand.

If you're still on the fence, it could simply come down to colour choice. The conventional Samsung Galaxy S4 comes in white and black colours, with blue, red, purple and brown versions to hit the streets in the coming months. The Galaxy S4 will be available on release this summer in grey, blue and orange.

Writing by Rik Henderson.