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Why you should wait for the Samsung Galaxy S4

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon explains why the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a device worth waiting for, even if you already have your eye set on the Galaxy S3.

It was only about nine months ago that Samsung introduced its flagship Galaxy S3 to the world.

There's no question the device set a new standard for the high-end Android smartphone. It has also been one of Samsung's hottest selling smartphones. And now it looks like Samsung is about to do it again with the Galaxy S4, set for introduction March 14.

So what is a smartphone shopper to do? In this edition of Ask Maggie, I explain why, even if you still want to get the Samsung S3, it's still better to wait for the launch of the Galaxy S4. I also help another reader make sure her older Android device is really connecting to Wi-Fi instead of eating up her expensive data plan.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy S3 or wait for the Galaxy S4?

Dear Maggie,
I just realized I am eligible for a new two-year contract on AT&T. I have been considering getting a new Samsung Galaxy S3. But now I am wondering if I should just wait for the Samsung Galaxy S4. Are there any discounts on the Galaxy S3 now? Will there be discounts on that phone if I wait? Or will the new Galaxy S4 be so much better, I'll just want that one?


Dear Andrew,
The short answer to your question is to simply wait. If you aren't in dire need of a new smartphone right now, you should wait just a little while longer. This week Samsung sent out invitations to an event in New York City on March 14 where it will debut the new Galaxy S4. The device won't likely go on sale until April, but considering, it's already the end of February, that isn't too long to wait.

It's hard to say how the new Galaxy S4 will stack up against the Galaxy S3 since specifications haven't been released. But there have been plenty of rumors swirling around that give us an idea of what is likely coming. And there is no question that the Galaxy S4 will be an improvement over the S3.

For example, the Galaxy S4 is rumored to have an eight-core Exynos processor, a separate eight-core graphics processing unit, a 4.99-inch SuperAmoled display, 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capability, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, and the latest version of Android, known as 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.

My colleague Roger Cheng, who was in Barcelona, Spain, this week for Mobile World Congress, talked to Samsung execs there who said that the new Galaxy S4 may also sport Samsung's new security software, Knox.

These specs are an improvement over the Galaxy S3, which has a 4.8-inch screen and a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera.

This doesn't mean that you should not consider the Galaxy S3. In fact, regardless of what new specs for the new Galaxy S4 are, the Galaxy S3 is still a very good smartphone. And if you are on a budget, the Galaxy S3 could be a great fit for you.

That said, I still think you need to wait until the Galaxy S4 is closer to its launch or until after it launches. Why wait? That's when you are likely to see the best deals on the older Galaxy S3.

Right now, you can get discounts on the Galaxy S3 if you are willing to switch wireless providers. On Amazon Wireless, you can get the the S3 for $79.99 from AT&T if you're a new subscriber. Existing AT&T subscribers, such as yourself, can still get a discount, but it's not as big. Existing AT&T customers can get the Galaxy S3 for $129.99 with a two-year contract if the device is bought through Amazon.

Samsung's Galaxy S3 helped Android win more sales in the U.S.
Samsung's Galaxy S3 helped Android win more sales in the U.S. Josh Miller/CNET

Also on Amazon, Verizon is offering the brown version of the Galaxy S3 for $49.99. It's $149.99 for existing Verizon customers through the Amazon site.

But the best deal by far is from Sprint, which is offering the Galaxy S3 for 1 cent to new subscribers via Amazon. (Keep in mind these deals do not apply if you buy the device directly from the wireless carrier's store or Web site.)

My guess is that prices will continue to drop as the release of the Galaxy S4 approaches. And even after the new phone is on the market, you can bet that carriers are going to look for ways to get rid of their existing Galaxy S3 inventory. Who knows, the carriers may even offer the Galaxy S3 free even to existing customers renewing contracts. Carriers also like offer two-for-one deals too. So there is a chance that the Galaxy S3 could be used in one of those promotions.

The bottom line is that even if you are not sure whether you will buy the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Galaxy S3, you should still wait. That way you will either get the newest flagship Samsung Android smartphone on the market or you'll get the best deal possible on the slightly older version of the product. Either way, it's a win-win for you.

I hope this answered your question. And good luck!

Help! I don't know if I'm really using Wi-Fi on my smartphone!

Dear Maggie,
I have been reading some of your answers to folks about smartphones and data usage. I don't use a cell phone much except for emergencies, so I bought an AT&T GoPhone plan ($100 per year at 25 cents a minute.) I love technology (a bit like the aunt you mentioned in one of your recent columns) so I recently purchased an AT&T Fusion GoPhone. My minutes roll over so I had about $220 in my account. We have Wi-Fi available in our home, so I thought I could simply utilize that. I did sign-up for a small data plan after I used over $100 of my minutes to download a few things on my phone. Sad to say, I do not understand data vs. Wi-Fi on my phone. I was able to use my old SIM card on my new phone, but you mentioned something about turning off the data on a phone and using your WiFi instead. How does one do that? Seemingly, having downloaded a couple of games and a document or two to my phone, I can use those without incurring any charges. Then I got a charge of over $30 for something I did (I downloaded a ringtone and a Kindle app), and I am not sure why. Any help you might have would be appreciated.


Dear Sherry,
I'm sorry that this is confusing for you. But believe me when I say that you are not alone. I think there are a lot of people out there who get confused about this. Let's see if I can help.

The AT&T Fusion GoPhone is an Android smartphone. It uses an older version of the Google Android OS, known as Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

AT&T Fusion 2

The first thing you need to make sure Wi-Fi is turned on. Here's how you do that.

  • Press Home key
  • Press Menu button
  • Touch settings
  • Touch Wireless networks> Wi-Fi
  • Check the Wi-Fi box to turn on Wi-Fi
  • Touch a network to connect to that network

If you have secured your home Wi-Fi network, you will be asked to log-in to your network using your username and password. From this time forward, you should always connect to your home Wi-Fi network every time you enter it. You shouldn't have to go into settings and connect to this network. It should do it automatically after the first time.

But since you aren't certain that you are connecting, before you download something, you may want to double check you're connected to Wi-Fi. You can do this by repeating these steps to make sure that you're connected.

There is a chance that your home Wi-Fi network isn't working properly. For example, the wireless router may be operating, but the connection to your wired broadband connection to your house may be having problems. So if you're having trouble connecting to the home Wi-Fi network, I would check your connection to your broadband service.

Another way to check whether you are on Wi-Fi is to look at the Wi-Fi icon in the top right of your screen. If you see the symbol lit up, you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. And all data should be transmitting over Wi-Fi. But if you see a question mark through the Wi-Fi signal, you are not connected and when you download stuff it will go over the carrier data network.

If you really aren't sure about whether you're on Wi-Fi, you can go into the settings of your phone and put the phone into Airplane mode. This will turn off the cellular radio on your phone. You won't be able to receive or make phone calls over the AT&T network when this radio is turned off. But you can leave Wi-Fi on in the airplane setting, which will allow you to connect to your home Wi-Fi network. There should be no question at all if you are in airplane which network you are using since the carrier data network is turned off.

If you do this and are still getting charged for data, then you may want to into an AT&T store and ask the salesperson to help you. There is a chance that you may have some apps running in the background of your phone that are downloading things when you're not in Wi-Fi. Hopefully, a store rep can help you sort this out. Otherwise, it may be a problem with your phone. And the store rep should be able to help you with that or at least credit your account.

I hope this answer was helpful. And good luck!

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.