Saturday, March 16, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4: Evolutionary, not revolutionary

The media attention focused on the Samsung Galaxy S4 shows one thing: The race for the "best" smartphone isn't a one-horse event any longer. Samsung unveiled its newest flagship device on Thursday night in New York City, the first time since the original Galaxy S back in 2010 that the Korean giant launched a device in the U.S.

Samsung's Galaxy S4 is evolutionary, not revolutionary. In a sense, Samsung is taking a(nother) page from Apple's playbook, since that is a sentiment that has been expressed for the iPhone 4S and 5.

External design:

The Galaxy S III's dimensions are 5.38 inches x 2.78 inches x 0.34 inches, with a weight of 4.69 oz. The Galaxy S4 comes in at 5.46 inches x 2.75 inches x 0.31 inches and weighs 4.6 oz., so despite increasing the screen size from 4.8-inches to 5-inches, the device is actually slimmer and thinner, yet only 0.8 inches longer.

To do this, Samsung reduced the size of the bezel on all four sides, another page from Apple's playbook.

The 5-inch screen comes in at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels for a pixel density of 441 ppi. Compare that value to the 326 ppi of the iPhone 5 Retina display, and it's clear Apple has been matched on that front.

Internal hardware:

Samsung was said that the processor would vary from region to region, something that has been expected. The U.S. version will sport a quad-core Snapdragon CPU clocked at 1.9GHz. Samsung didn't elaborate on the exact version of the processor, but most believe it may be the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600. The Asian and European versions will sport the long-awaited Samsung Exynos 5 Octa eight-core processor.

Meanwhile, the device will ship with 2GB of RAM, a 2600mAh battery, and 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, with the requisite microSD card slot. It will also have wi-fi, Bluetooth 4, an IR blaster, and NFC. As expected, the rear-facing camera is 13MP and the front-facing camera is 2MP.

The Galaxy S4 also includes a dual-shot mode, which lets you use both the front-facing camera and the rear-facing camera at the same time, for both recording and still captures.


A Samsung exec recently said the "wow factor" of the device would be in the software, and that is definitely the case.

Air View: Similar to the feature in the Galaxy Note series, the GS4 does not need a stylus to operate its own version of the app. You hover over something on the screen and receive a pop-up view of the contents. For example, hovering over a photo album within the gallery will display nine thumbnails from the album. Hovering over an email in the inbox will show a few sentences from the email.

Air View is embedded as part of the standard Samsung email client, photo gallery, calendar, and a Galaxy S4 specific edition of Flipboard.

Air Gesture: Allows you to control the phone without physically swiping on the screen. You can "wave" and control it. Users can swipe left and right to move between web pages, songs, photos in the gallery, etc., while swipimg up and down scrolls. You can even accept calls by waving at the phone.

S Translator: Available in nine languages at launch, including Chinese, English U.S., English British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese, it is a standalone app that automatically translates information that is typed or copy/pasted into it. It is also embedded in Samsung's ChatOn client, text messaging, and email.

Smart Scroll and Smart Pause appear, althouh Smart Scroll isn't as smart as had originally been rumored. Rather than using your eye movements to scroll pages, the device scrolls up and down as you tilt it.

Unfortunately, the feature seems to scroll even when you don't for it to, so this could be one of those features that is quickly disabled.

Smart Pause: Smart Pause automatically pauses a video you're playing when you look away, and this feature was reported to work quite well.

S Health is a health tracker.

In the United States, the Galaxy S4 will be available sometime in Q2 of this year on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Cricket.

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