Samsung Galaxy S 4 (white, three up, front, profile, back)

Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, has been declared our “new top-rated smartphone” in a barrage of tests conducted by Consumer Reports, an influential U.S. magazine published monthly by Consumers Union since 1936.

Yup, that’s the same publication that gave Apple’s iPhone 5 a thumbs-up shortly following its September 2012 introduction only to rank it one of its worst high-end devices available on the larger U.S. carriers in its February 2013 issue. So, what Galaxy S4 features did Consumer Reports editors single out as particularly appealing?

According to a blog post, the Galaxy S4 really does live up to the hype.

“It dethrones the LG Optimus G, which occupied the top spot in our Ratings for several months,” the magazine wrote.

It delivers “top-notch performance in the most critical areas of our tests, including the camera.” Indeed, the S4 packs in a 13-megapixel camera with back-illuminated sensor and full HD video capture.

The S4 has an excellent 5-inch, high-definition (1080p) touch-screen display, as well as oodles of gesture- and sensor-based tools for accessing and sharing content you create and capture on your phone.

The camera has a number of advanced features, including auto focus, touch to focus, digital image stabilization, face detection, smile detection, exposure compensation, white balance presets, digital zoom, geo tagging, high dynamic range mode (HDR), panorama, scenes, effects, self-timer and voice activation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRYfSYg8DEk

The device’s five-inch screen impressed Consumer Reports, which praised it for being “sensitive enough to use with gloves on – handy during cold weather.”

They are also loving the S4′s built-in infrared remote and split-screen multitasking, which earned the monster phone a “true multi-tasker” moniker. As for the handset’s battery life and voice quality, Consumer Reports found those two features to “vary slightly between cell carriers,” as with the LG Optimus G.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAEgmeiDbJo

The new Galaxy is scheduled to land on the Verizon network tomorrow, May 23. The Internet giant Google in a surprising move said it’ll start carrying an unlocked version of the S4 with stock Android software on its Play store beginning June 26, priced at $649.

This unlocked model will run on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE data networks.

What’s your take?

Is the S4 at this point really the world’s best smartphone?