Yesterday evening, at Radio City, New York, Samsung unveiled their new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S brand has evolved a lot over the last few years and is now Apple’s biggest contender in the Smart Phone market. There’s certainly no love lost between the two companies and Samsung is keen to bounce off the ropes after the non-stop legal battering that Apple has given them over recent years. In order to do that, they’re moving their brand forward and attempting to make a device that is distinctly different to the iPhone (not that the original models were really that similar to Apple’s, but Apple doesn’t like to share!).
After checking out the super-cheesy and cringe-worthy unveiling (or should I say, ‘unboxing’?), it’s clear that Samsung is focussing on bringing something different to the table.
If you’re really interested, the unveiling video is below, however I must warn you that it’s almost hour of your life that you’ll never get back; featuring awful acting attempting to portray a story that highlights the new features of the phone. You have been warned!
So, what are the highlights?
Processing and Memory
The Galaxy S4 features an improved processor (either a 1.6GHz Octa-core Exynos processor or a 19.GHz Quad-core Qualcomm, depending on country) will support the more resource intensive applications. You’ll get 2GB RAM and 16, 32 or 64GB of flash storage (with expansion to a further 64GB with microSD Card).
You’ll get a slightly larger 5″ Full HD (1920×1080) Super AMOLED display, with Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from cracks and scratches. There’s an improved pixel density of 441 ppi, due to the higher resolution.
The phone has two cameras, the rear camera has a larger 13MP sensor, the front is 2MP, a much smaller improvement compared to the back. Nothing too revolutionary here, although with the software upgrades they have included, you will be able to make a lot more use of them. I’ll cover that off under the Software section below.
The phone supports 3G and LTE for high-speed cellular data. Wifi is covered up to N spec and it supports Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Samsung have taken the opportunity to include some other tech, such as NFC and MHL 2.0 (as per the S3) along with an Infra Red LED.
Size and Weight
Samsung have managed to shave a small amount off of the thickness of the already slender handset, shaving off 0.7mm, making it 7.9mm thick! The height is the same as the S3, at 136.6mm and the width is marginally smaller at 69.8mm. Despite the larger screen, you have an overall smaller surface area, which has reduced the weight a fraction down to 130g from the S3′s 133g.
Battery and Charging
With great power comes great need for Milliamp Hours, and Samsung has got you covered. 2600 of the in fact. What that equates to in terms of days/hours/minutes is yet to be confirmed, though you can be fairly safe in betting you’ll be wanting to charge the phone each evening. Speaking of which, the S4 comes with wireless charging, which is a neat feature as it saves with fiddly wires. Simply place it on the charging mat and you’re good to go again in a few hours! As far as I am aware, the only other phone which does this currently is the Nokia 920.
Software and Features
This is where Samsung really went to town during their presentation. The Galaxy S4 is running Samsung’s TouchWiz interface, sat on top on an Android Jelly Bean OS. They introduced multiple new features that they are hoping will improve your interaction with the device. These are the main ones:
This feature will allows the user to interact with the screen as though they were touching it almost, by detecting gestures being made in front of the device. The gestures will likely be pretty basic, but things such as swiping your hand across the handset to turn a page of a recipe, for example, are now possible. This is a nice feature, that I can see use for in certain scenarios. How useful it will be in day-to-day life is unclear.
The next feature, which leads on from the last, is the ability to scroll through pages by tilting the phone. Again the idea seems to be to keep your greasy fingers off that lovely Super AMOLED screen that they’re so keen for you to look at!
One feature that had been rumoured prior to launch was the ability to scroll pages and the like by simply looking where you want it to scroll. Effectively this would be implemented using Eye Tracking. This feature didn’t make the cut, but that doesn’t mean that the phone isn’t watching what your eyes are doing. If you’re watching a video, for example, and look away, the video will pause automatically. It will then resume upon returning your gaze to the screen. As with some of the other features, I’m not sure if it’s something I would use, as if I were watching a video while cooking, for example, I wouldn’t want it to stop-start every 5 seconds. Fortunately, these features can be toggled on/off.
To make the most of the two cameras on the phone, Samsung have now enabled the ability to switch on both at the same time. They gave us a few obscure scenarios where someone might use this (such as superimposing them into a group photo as they take it themselves), but perhaps the most practical will be those times when you’re on a video call and you want to show someone what you can see in front of you, while them still being able to see your face in a little box in the corner.. You know, happens all the time….
One of the smarter features in the camera software was the ability for the camera to take a burst of shots in a short space of time and then automatically cleaning out any background noise, such as someone walking in front of you just as you take the photo. It can effectively use the information from multiple photos, merge them and give you a clean final image. Pretty smart, unless you were intentionally trying to photograph that bird flying past the window..
Another nice addition was the easy to use Smart Translator. It allows you to type or speak a phrase, choose what language to translate it to and then it will speak back the phase in said language (or simply translate the text). It will support up to 9 languages (10 If you include ‘American English and English with a British accent’ ) and will integrate more closely with the rest of Samsung’s software, such as Email and SMS.
There are a whole host of other features and if you didn’t have the energy or sheer dedication to survive the hour long video above, I would encourage you to check out the Galaxy’s new website.
Overall, I was encouraged by Samsung’s boldness to make the product their own. There aren’t any phones out there which perhaps come as feature-packed as this one, and I’ve no doubt that it will sell as well, if not better, than the previous version. This alone should be enough to force their competitors to start looking at upping their game. A lot of the features are a bit gimmicky, making me wonder whether they will get heavily used after the initial try-out, but I’m certain regardless it will be a great quality phone like we’ve come to expect with the premium S range.
The only thing I would do is fire the writer who scripted the presentation.. Really, it was that bad!