Samsung Galaxy S4 announced & what the tech sites think

Last Thursday, on 14 March 2013 at 7 pm New York, US time, Samsung held their event at Radio City Music Hall to announce their 2013 flagship Android smartphone – Samsung Galaxy S4. The time difference translates to Friday, 15 Mar 2013, 7 am for us here in Malaysia. A little early but it was nice to see other tech journalists live tweeting along with me. Hello, @LowYatNet, @soyacincau, @pcdotcom, @yogaretnam, @Yahoo_MY and @1Obefiend.

SGS4 unveiled
JK Shin (CEO of Samsung Mobile) unveiling the Samsung Galaxy S4 (Image Source : Phandroid.com)

The event was a theatrical, Broadway-esque affair. There”s an actor emcee (Will Chase whom I recognise from Smash), that kid from the teaser videos (watch Part 1 and Part 2 of the videos), a cast of singing and dancing actors acting through scenes of how SGS4’s new features fit in your daily life.

Personally, I feel that this show-and-tell is a good change from the traditionally boring product reveals. Considering it is in Broadway, the whole theatrical performance is a good fit. Acting through scenes to showcase the phone’s feature is a good idea, too. Unfortunately though, the screenwriting was horrible. The whole thing was badly written with cheesy lines, bad acting, fake laughs and forced enthusiasm.

Samsung uploaded over 50 minutes of the whole video of the launch on their official Samsung Mobile YouTube channel. Watch it for yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yaw6CSaPnfk

 

Everything to know about Samsung Galaxy S4

In days leading up to the event, of course, there were leaks of the device from pictures of the hardware, to videos of the features. Surprisingly though, all the leaks turned out to be true.

 

Hardware Overview

Samsung Galaxy S 4

Everything was revealed and we’re introduced to the evolutionary (not revolutionary) smartphone. Here’s a quick overview of specs for the Samsung Galaxy S4 :-

  • 5″ Full HD Super AMOLED display (1920X1080)(441 ppi)
  • 1.9 GHz quad core Snapdragon 600 processor / 1.6 GHz octa core Exynnos 5 processor (depending on the country or  HSPA+/LTE variant)
  • 16/32/64 GB internal storage (expandable microSD slot) + 2 GB RAM
  • Powered by latest Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 OS (with Samsung TouchWiz interface)
  • 13 megapixel rear camera, 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • 7.9  mm thin, weighing only 130 grams
  • 2,600 mAH removable battery
  • Connectivity : HSPA+/LTE, WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, IR (infrared) Blaster
  • Available in Black Mist and White Frost

For more information and full spec and feature list, check out Samsung Galaxy S4 microsite HERE

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 looks pretty much like the current Samsung Galaxy S III. In fact, the size is pretty much the same (0.08″ taller) and slightly slimmer (0.6mm thinner).

Samsung Galaxy S III vs Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S III vs Samsung Galaxy S4 (Image Source : Gizmodo)

The build quality is once again polycarbonate (read: plastic) and like many others, I am disappointed. With so many great build qualities like glass (iPhone 5, Sony Xperia Z) and all metal unibody (HTC One), it’s unfortunate that Samsung has chosen not to compete on the premium feel. Nevertheless, I understand their reasoning on using plastic polycarbonate material that are quicker to manufacture to meet the super high demands. They sold 50 million Samsung Galaxy S III globally.

Because the new smartphone is only a slight hardware improvement to the SGS3, the SGS4, like the iPhone 3GS or 4S are simply an evolutionary device from Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy S4 is glove friendly
Samsung Galaxy S4 is glove friendly (Image Source : CNet)

The other additional plus is that the touchscreen is now glove friendly. Which means that you can still navigate and tap on your phone while wearing gloves, for those in winter weather. Don’t quite apply for those of us here in Malaysia, unless you’re gloved for motorbike riding, or something.

 

Software and Features Overview

Samsung Galaxy S4 -
Samsung Galaxy S4 – “Life companion” (Image Source : QZ.com)

With a 13 megapixel camera bump, Samsung also added a few extra features for the camera. Although recent HTC One launch (read my post here) we  learn that higher megapixel doesn’t necessarily mean better pictures, Samsung has improved the spec bump with a slew of great camera features as well.

SGS4 Dual Camera

  • Dual Camera – Lets you use both the front and rear camera simultaneously. Take a picture with your rear camera, as well as use the front camera to take your own picture (which will show as a framed thumbnail at the top left). The same can be done for video recording, too.
  • Dual Video Call – Allows you to have a video call with your face on the front facing camera, while turning on the rear camera to let your caller see what you’re looking at. It was demonstrated at the event as a video call where the caller can say hi to the rest of the family in the room with the rear camera. Handy, I think.
  • Sound & Shot – It’s like an MMS feature of sorts. You take a picture and you can record up to 9 seconds audio clip along with the picture.
  • Drama Shot – Stitches a series of burst shots into one picture (good for action shots). This also comes with Eraser function that allows you to erase unwanted background distractions, like people walking in your shot.
  • Story Album – Lets you create an album (think Photobook) with different layouts and theme, based on locations, events, etc.

There are a number of other features other than Camera enhancements, added to the SGS4:-

SGS4 - Air View & Gestture

  • Air View – Just like the Galaxy Note where you hover the S Pen to view detail image albums, appointments or messages, you can now do this on the SGS4 without a stylus S Pen by just using your fingers.
  • Air Gesture – Wave your hands over the screen to scroll, change music, browse the web or answer calls.
  • Smart Scroll – Not eye-tracking as per previously leaked, it’s actually using your phone’s accelerometer to scroll web pages / emails by tilting the phone.
  • Smart Pause – Automatically pauses video when you look away from the screen. An extension of the previous Smart Stay feature that turns off your screen when you close your eyes.
  • S Translator – Using voice recognition or by typing, you can automatically translate over 9 languages (eg. French, Chinese). It works with picture recignition (aka Google Goggles), email and SMS too.
  • S Voice Drive – Extension of the S Voice (Siri equivalent) optimised for voice command for when you’re driving (eg. make/answer calls,  map directions, read messages).
  • S Health – App that comes with Samsung wearable fitness accessories (wristband, heart rate monitor, scale) to track your overall fitness levels.
  • Group Play – Wireless connection to other SGS4 to play the same music via each devices’ speakers, without internet connection. Can be used to play gaes and share files/documents, too.
  • Adapt Display & Adapt Sound –  Display that automatically adjusts its brightness and contrast based on your viewing environment. Sound that automatically adjust like an auto equaliser.
  • Samsung Home Sync – Up to 1TB of cloud storage to sync pictures, videos and other media with a home “media server” box to stream any content when you’re away from home. Eg, share pictures from your phone while on vacation with those at home.
  • Samsung Knox – Like Blackberry Balance, this feature ensures it separates your work and play info on your phone with higher security. Eg, your work emails and files can be remotely wiped from your phone in case of theft.
  • Samsung Smart Switch – As with most smartphones today, Samsung Smart Switch makes it super easy to transfer all your data (contacts, pictures, files, etc) from  one phone to another. Including you iPhone users looking for a switch to SGS4 (*wink*).

As mentioned, more details on these features are available on the Samsung Galaxy S4 microsite HERE.

There are so many features that Samsung has introduced with the SGS4 as a way to distinguish themselves among the hoards of Android smartphones in the market. Just the above list alone counts over 17 features highlighted by Samsung during the unveiling event.

Mind you, not every feature will be used by everyone. Heck, I think an average person would likely only use less than a handful of them. That is if they’re aware of the features and can find them in the phone. I have so many friends who owns a Samsung Galaxy Note II and didn’t even know about the Best Photo or the Air View feature.

Personally, I feel that Samsung has given us a crazy amount of features for the SGS4 but none of them really gave me any “wow” effect. Nothing jumps out for me. All cool features, but I don’t see them making any huge difference, really.

 

Accessories for the SGS4

There are a number of great accessories revealed ranging from covers, wireless charging pads, game controllers, S Health accessories and many more. Click on the image below to enlarge :-

For more info, check out the Samsung Galaxy S4 microsite HERE under the “Accessories” tab.

 

Video and Photo Gallery

If all those list of features introduced in the Samsung Galaxy S4 confuses you, Samsung packed most of them in this nice video on the highlight of the device for you. It’s the official video “Introducing Samsung Galaxy S4”.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a full gallery of images of the Samsung Galaxy S4 for you to feast your eyes on (Click to enlarge):-

 

What major tech sites say about the Samsung Galaxy S4

There are way too many major tech sites that covered the launch event, which includes some highlights of their first impressions on their hands on during the demo session after the announcement. Some even have early preview verdicts and here’s a quick overview of them.

But when you pick up the Samsung Galaxy S4 for the first time you won’t be blown away. In fact, you’ll have to check it IS the new phone, rather than another Galaxy S3 that you left on your desk.

TechRadarHands on: Samsung Galaxy S4 review

Samsung has done what it needed to – in the manner of Apple and the transition between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S – to bring its flagship up to speed.

SlashGearSamsung GALAXY S 4 Hands-on

… as much as its add-ons differentiate this handset from last year’s, we can’t shake the feeling that the GS 4 falls flat next to the competition. In fact, we get the sense Samsung could’ve called this device the GS III Plus.

EngadgetSamsung Galaxy S 4 preview: a flagship with some familiar roots

The Galaxy S 4 the Android smartphone by which all others will be judged in 2013.

BGR : Samsung Galaxy S 4 Preview : The King is Dead, Long Live The King

There has been a ton of hype and build-up to this device, and ultimately, it left us feeling cold. The S IV feels uninspired.

GizmodoSamsung Galaxy S IV Hands On: Everything New Is Old Again

By the looks of it, general consensus was a bit of a disappointment as the 2013 Android flagship from Samsung seemed more of a minor improvement rather than one to wow the consumers. Nevertheless, all tech sites did indicate that these are early previews and opinions with little time spent with the phone. Full reviews should be out shortly after the Samsung Galaxy S 4 goes on sale globally.

Of course,  in case you need to compare Samsung Galaxy S 4 with its older brother and other flagship smartphones in the market today. So, check out these useful links:-

 

Even Samsung’s competitors can’t shut up

TNW has a good compilation article HERE on what Samsung’s competition has to say about the Samsung Galaxy S 4 launch right after the event.

With a continuation of a plastic body, and a larger screen being the most obvious physical change, Samsung’s new Galaxy pales in comparison to the all-aluminum unibody HTC One. This is more of the same.

– Benjamin Ho, CMO @ HTC

“LG Optimus G is here 4 you now” (Image Source : TNW)

LG Optimus G billboard in NY Times Square.

… the news we are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old. Customers will have to wait to get an update.

– Phil Schiller, Head of Marketing @ Apple

Andy Rubin was reported to have called Samsung “a threat” in a closed meeting

– via TNW from Andy Rubin, SVP Mobile & Digital Content @ Google

Read the full article by TNW : As Samsung launches the Galaxy S4, rivals jostle to shoot down the world’s top phone maker

 

Pricing and Availability

During the launch event, Samsung announced that the new Samsung Galaxy S 4 will be available in 3G/HSPA+ or 4G/LTE variant with 327 mobile operators in 155 countries starting April 2013. Malaysia will likely be in one of those countries, but chances are we’ll see it end April / early May 2013.

There’s also no indication on the pricing (RRP) of the device yet. However, LowYat.Net reported that Maxis has officially dropped the RRP for the Samsung Galaxy S III to RM 1,699 soon after the SGS4 announcement. This means that we might be seeing the Samsung Galaxy S 4 quite soon in the local market. *fingers crossed*

 

Conclusion

Just like Apple, Samsung has grown to be one of the largest phone manufacturer globally in the recent years. Spending a hefty USD$401 million Marketing budget in US alone, no doubt the bottomless pocket from the South Korean phone giant will ensure no expenses are spared for this Samsung Galaxy S4.

Although I have been more of a HTC fangirl, I think the HTC One has impressed me more with another solidly built phone and my bias preference towards Sense UI. No doubt, there are great features about Samsung devices that I really find impressive. I don’t doubt that Samsung Galaxy S 4 will sell like hot cakes. I already have tonnes of friends who are super excited for Samsung to take their money!!!

So tell me – Are you excited about the Samsung Galaxy S 4? Or are you leaning towards other Android superphones like HTC One or Sony Xperia Z. Or are you still a die hard iFanboi? Or is this time for you to switch to a Nokia Windows Phone 8 experience / Blackberry Z10?

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