Samsung Galaxy S4 (MetroPCS) review

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the ultimate kitchen-sink Android phone for 2013, and MetroPCS brings it with low monthly rates.
Photo of Samsung Galaxy S4 (MetroPCS)

Have $549? Because if so, we have a deal for you. MetroPCS is now offering the same Samsung Galaxy S4 as T-Mobile is, on the exact same network, for less money over two years than T-Mobile is charging. You have to pay attention to the pricing here, though, because depending on your future plans, T-Mobile, MetroPCS, or even Sprint might be the most affordable Galaxy S4 option.

As MetroPCS is now a sub-brand of T-Mobile, it’s selling a lot of the same phones. The MetroPCS Galaxy S4 is almost exactly the same as the T-Mobile Galaxy S4, so read our full review of T-Mobile’s device for more details. I’ll focus on the differences here, which mostly have to do with pricing.

If you’re the kind of person who gets angry about carrier logos on phones, you’re in luck here. There’s nothing on the physical body of the phone to say “MetroPCS”—the little logo on the back, which all the other carriers use, is gone. If you want to pretend this is a Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition, well, have at it.

It isn’t a Google Play Edition phone, of course. It’s running all the Samsung software, and it has a few MetroPCS preloads. They’re undeletable, but you don’t have to click on them: There’s an account manager, visual voicemail, a caller ID app, Rhapsody music, and the horrible MyExtras coupon app. More MetroPCS apps are buried under a special MetroPCS app store icon, but I’m happy to say you don’t have to install them if you don’t want to.

Since we’re on T-Mobile’s network now, we get a few key T-Mobile features that MetroPCS customers didn’t get before, most notably Wi-Fi calling. That lets you make phone calls over any Wi-Fi network, even overseas.

Performance here was identical to the T-Mobile version of this phone. The Galaxy S4 had no problems seeing T-Mobile’s new LTE network in Manhattan and getting 9-10Mbps both up and down; the phone also supports HSPA+ 42 where LTE isn’t available. Talk time of 11 hours, 7 minutes was on par with other Galaxy S4 models.

Note: The slideshow below is of the T-Mobile Galaxy S4, which is identical except for the T-Mobile logo on the back.

Pricing Plans
The real difference here is on pricing plans, and now we need to do some math.

MetroPCS makes you buy your phone up front for $549. The brand offers a 2.5GB plan for $50/month and an unlimited plan for $60/month, both without a contract. On the 2.5GB plan, that means you’ll pay $1,149 over one year and $1,749 over two years.

T-Mobile charges $600 for the phone and $10 more per month for the plans with no contract, although you can amortize the phone by paying nothing up front and $25/month for two years. Over two years, that would cost $2,040, so you’re essentially paying $291 extra for the privilege of the financing.

But wait! T-Mobile’s new Jump plan lets you switch out your phone more frequently at the cost of $10 extra per month. If you only intend to keep your GS4 for one year and swap it out, you’ll pay $1,140 with T-Mobile, so, slightly less than MetroPCS.

That savings only happens if you don’t intend to sell your used phone on eBay, of course, as you have to turn in the used phone to take advantage of Jump.

Looking at other carriers, if you want unlimited data, Sprint is cheaper over one year ($1,159.99) and in between MetroPCS and T-Mobile over two years ($2,119.99). But Sprint has a much slower 3G fallback network than T-Mobile does where LTE isn’t available, and it forces you to sign a two-year contract.

AT&T and Verizon are more expensive, but they offer much wider LTE coverage and better international roaming plans than Sprint and T-Mobile do.

Conclusions
If you’re shopping for a high-end smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4 on MetroPCS is an affordable option measured over one or two years. We’ll call it our Editors’ Choice on MetroPCS for its high-end power, though we’ll also acknowledge that many MetroPCS subscribers may not have $549 up front to spend.

So what do you get if you don’t have $549? Our pick is the $119 LG Optimus L9, which still offers a quality smartphone experience for $430 less. You lose a bunch of features: The L9 has slower HSPA+ 21 data speeds (think 6Mbps, not 10Mbps), a lower-resolution screen, and a much lower-resolution camera. But it’s still a very capable Android smartphone at a very capable price, and there’s no shame in saving money.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, UMTS, LTE
Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Video Camera Resolution 1080p Rear
1080p Front-Facing
Battery Life (As Tested) 11 hours 07 minutes minutes
Processor Speed 1.9 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 Quad-Core
GPS Yes
Service Provider MetroPCS
Total Integrated Storage 16 GB
High-Speed Data LTE, HSPA+ 42
Weight 4.59 oz
Screen Type Super AMOLED HD
Operating System as Tested Android OS
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 13 MP Rear
2 MP Front-Facing
Screen Pixels Per Inch 443 ppi
Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
microSD Slot Yes
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 5 inches
Bluetooth Version 4

Verdict
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the ultimate kitchen-sink Android phone for 2013, and MetroPCS brings it with low monthly rates.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc