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Android this week: Galaxy S 4 reviewed; HP Slate 7 arrives; Mailbox for Android coming

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Galaxy S 4 featuredThe Samsung Galaxy S 4 reviews hit this week and it appears the consensus is that Samsung added a boatload of features to help it keep its smartphone crown. I spent several days using a review unit of the Galaxy S 4 and found it to be a high performing device that looks much like its predecessor. Along with many new Samsung-specific functions, however, the company was able to boost the screen size to 5-inches while keeping the phone at roughly the same size as the Galaxy S 3.

That display is wonderful to look at all day. And why not when it’s a 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED screen? The quad-core 1.9 GHz chip and 2 GB of memory keep things humming while the battery should last all day for all but the heaviest power-users. Of course, you can always remove the back cover and replace the battery with a spare if needed; most probably won’t.

Samsung’s secret sauce is on the inside, however: It’s the software. The company’s TouchWiz interface is improved while a number of special features round out the package.

Galaxy S 4 setting buttons

Hovering over the screen with a finger dives deeper into more information without opening an app, for example. You can swipe through gallery images with a wave your hand. And you can pair multiple Galaxy S 4 phones to wirelessly play a single song, with each handset acting as an independent speaker.

All of this makes for solid, but sometimes complicated experience. I don’t think it will hurt sales, however. Folks will either use the Easy Mode — which hides some of the advanced functions — or simply ignore the features they don’t want to use.

Speaking of which: HP(s hpq) has largely ignored the tablet market ever since it’s $1.2 billion investment in Palm and webOS backfired in the form of the TouchPad. That changes with the HP Slate 7, a $169 Android 4.1(s goog) tablet now available in the U.S I took a look — on paper, that is — at the HP Slate 7 compared to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, which costs $30 more. Some will surely opt for the HP, but I see a number of reasons to pay the extra money for a Nexus 7.

HP Slate 7 in red and grayThe main one is the difference in displays: HP chose a meager 1024 x 600 resolution display while Google uses a 1280 x 800 screen. You’re going to be looking at and using the screen more than any other component on a tablet, so I think you should get the best one you can. Having said that, the HP does offer some features not found on the Nexus 7: micro SD card expansion, Beats Audio support and a rear camera.

One of the things I use my tablet for the most is email management. I’m a Gmail app user on all Android devices, but on iOS(s aapl) I prefer the new Mailbox app. It’s very useful in how you can set reminders for various emails; they disappear from your inbox only to reappear at a time more appropriate for you. You can also send emails to a “to-do” list with a tap. Most every function is done with a simple swipe: Mark as read, delete, postpone, etc…. take a look:

[vimeo w=400&h=300]

The good news is that the Mailbox folks have admitted on Twitter that an Android version is in the works. There’s no time-table for the software, but I hope it’s soon. I’ve been able to get through my email more effectively on iOS with Mailbox and I’d love to have the same experience on my Android phones and tablets.

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