Samsung Galaxy S4 Officially Unveiled + My Thoughts!

On Thursday 14th March 2013, Samsung unveiled their “Next Galaxy” device to the world, was it worth the wait and what new features did it bring? Read on to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung GALAXY S4 White Frost (Image Credit: Samsung)

Samsung GALAXY S4 White Frost (Image Credit: Samsung)

Contents:
Display
Camera
Processor RAM and Storage
Air View and Air Gestures
Samsung Smart Scroll/Pause
Extra Innovation – Story Album + S Health + Group Play
Battery, Colours, UK Availability
One More Thing (okay maybe two..)
My Thoughts

Well it finally happened, on Thursday 14th March 2013 at about 11 pm GMT, after months and months of speculation and rumours, Samsung took center stage at Radio City Music Hall, New York to unveil the successor to their highly selling Galaxy S III smartphone, the Galaxy S4, their flagship device for 2013. President and Head of IT and Mobile Communication Division of Samsung Electronics, Mr J K Shin welcomed everyone and kicked off the event by saying “In the past several weeks we have heard an amazing combination of rumours and speculation about what I am going to unveil tonight.”

Display

Let’s start with the display, the Galaxy S4 has a 5 inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 441 ppi, which seems to be the trend in smartphones this year. This is only slightly bigger than the Galaxy S III so people hopefully shouldn’t find it too big in the hand. One complaint of the Galaxy S III display last year (which didn’t receive much publicity at least initially) was that it was Pentile and sub pixels were noticeable at the 720p level, however this year again the display is a Pentile one but at the 1080p level it’s barely noticeable and shouldn’t bother screenophiles (screen enthusiasts). Similar to last year the screen is the main focus of the front, since the bezel around it is very minimal and the front as a whole is very minimal. There are two soft touch capacitive buttons for back and menu functions and Samsung continues the tradition of a physical home button in the centre. Above the display, you’ll find the notification LED, earpiece, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and a 2 MP Front facing camera capable of recording 1080p HD video at full 30 frames per second (fps). The sides of the device are the same as the predecessor, volume rocker on the left and sleep/wake button on the right.

 Camera

Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Mist (Image Credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S4 Black Mist (Image Credit: Samsung)

As mentioned above there is a 2 MP front facing camera but flipping over to the back, we can see the design is again remniscent of the Galaxy S III. However the Galaxy S4 camera has been bumped up to a 13 MP sensor with autofocus and an LED Flash, capable of recording 1080p video at 30 fps. There is a Samsung logo etched in the centre and the speaker which was to the right of the camera before has now been moved to the bottom.

Dual Camera:

Samsung Galaxy S4 Dual Camera (Image Credit: ZDNet)

Samsung Galaxy S4 Dual Camera (Image Credit: ZDNet)

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has quite a revolutionary feature dubbed Dual Camera. This feature allows you take videos and photos using both cameras on the device and then combine the pictures together. Describing this feature in words doesn’t do it full justice, so do check the video below by Jon Rettinger from TechnoBuffalo for a proper demonstration.

Galaxy Camera Style Modes:

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Galaxy Camera Style Modes (Image Credit: Mashable)

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Galaxy Camera Style Modes (Image Credit: Mashable)

The Galaxy S4 Camera also has similar modes as found on the Galaxy Camera. As an aside, I’ll have a full written review of the Samsung GALAXY Camera in a few weeks so stay tuned for that. Going back to the Galaxy S4, you can see some of the modes above. Eraser allows you to remove people in the background from pictures (similar to HTC Zoe on the HTC One). The fact that this sensor is 13 MP and has a lot of great modes should mean at least on paper that you get some great shots with this device.

Processor/RAM/Storage

Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (Image Credit: SamsungTomorrow)

Samsung Exynos 5 Octa (Image Credit: SamsungTomorrow)

The Galaxy S4 comes equipped with either a Exynos 5 Octa 5410 clocking in at 1.6 GHz per core or a 1.9GHz, quad-core Snapdragon Fusion Pro depending on your region. Surprisingly, Samsung didn’t mention the processor at all during the entire event. It also comes packed with 2 GB RAM so this should ensure smooth performance even when gaming or watching high def videos back on the device. For storage options, the Galaxy S4 comes in 16, 32 and 64 GB variants and these are all expandable up to an additional 64 GB with a micro SD Card. The Galaxy S4 is only 7.9 mm thin and weighs 130 grams (3 grams less then the Galaxy S III), making it quite light indeed. The Galaxy S4 comes packed with NFC as well, a common standard in the high end smartphone world we live in today. The Galaxy S4 comes equipped with Android 4.2.2, the latest version of Google’s “sweet” Jellybean operating system right out of the box.

Air View/Air Gestures

Samsung Galaxy S4 Air Gesture (Image Credit: TechCrunch)

Samsung Galaxy S4 Air Gesture (Image Credit: TechCrunch)

The Galaxy S4 takes the “Air” features found in the GALAXY Note 2 even further with Air View and Air Gestures. Air View allows you to hover with your fingers to preview the content of an email, S Planner, image gallery or video without actually opening it. Similarly Air Gestures allows you to change music tracks, scroll up and down a webpage or even accept a call by just waving your hand. These might seem a bit gimmicky to some, but it could prove useful for those cases when your hands are wet or dirty.

 

Samsung Smart Scroll/Pause

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Smart Scroll/Smart Pause (Image Credit: Engadget)

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Smart Scroll/Smart Pause (Image Credit: Engadget)

Samsung had a feature in the Galaxy S III called Smart Stay which basically would prevent the screen from locking as long as the front facing camera detected your eyes looking at it (One could argue, the desired effect could also be achieved by turning off autolock but that’s another issue). Well this year, they’re taking it further with Smart Pause. This works for videos viewed on the device so if for example while you’re watching a video you look away at something else, the video automatically pauses and then later resumes when you look at the display again. Again this is slightly gimmicky and people won’t really find it useful since I’m assuming this feature is only for videos viewed in the Video Player and not external applications such as YouTube or NetFlix etc, it would be good if Samsung ported this functionality to work with third party apps but don’t hold your breath. As for Smart Scroll this is not eye tracking as was heavily rumored but rather it relies on facial recognition and the tilt of the device to scroll through emails and web pages. As your head moves towards the bottom of the page, more text appears and so essentially you can scroll without ever touching the screen. This could be useful especially in cases where you have to use the device one handed, in the rain while holding an umbrella for example.

Extra Innovation – Story Album + S Health + Group Play

There are also a few more innovative features like Story Album which curates various content such as memos, location, weather information combined with pictures and videos to create a personalised photo album, a nice way to treasure the memories and  S Health Software which keeps you up to date with health and wellbeing information through a range of accessories. It can monitor the number of steps you walk with the inbuilt pedometer which is a nice addition. For more information on S Health, do check out this post by Bryan Bishop from The Verge. Group Play allows you enjoy music, photos and games with people around you without needing a WiFi or cellular signal.

Battery, Colours, UK Availability

Samsung Galaxy S4 - Frost White Front + Black Mist Back (Image Credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S4 – Frost White Front + Black Mist Back (Image Credit: Samsung)

The Galaxy S4 has a 2600 mAH removable battery (comparably larger to the Galaxy S III’s 2100 mAH), comes in two colours: Frost White and Black Mist and is said to launch in the UK on 26th April (available from the Samsung store in Westfield Stratford and other operators) and in other countries worldwide around the same time.

Update: Samsung Mobile UK has confirmed that the Galaxy S4 will now launch in the UK on 27th of April 2013.

 

 One More Thing (okay maybe two..)

Samsung Galaxy S4 GamePad (Image Credit: EDGE)

Samsung Galaxy S4 GamePad (Image Credit: EDGE)

This wasn’t mentioned at the event but Samsung had a concept of a BlueTooth gamepad (no official name yet) for the Galaxy S4 and various devices ranging from 4 inches to 6.3 inches. This isn’t a rumour article but just as an aside, 6.3 inches is awfully specific, is this suggesting the size of the Galaxy Note III? Here’s a hands on video of the GamePad by Tim Stevens from Engadget:

  An underrated feature of the Galaxy S4 comes in the form of MoBeam, a way to beam barcodes using pulses of infrared light. Check out this post by Nathan Ingraham from The Verge for more information on that but it should help MoBeam get some recognition since it’s launching on the Galaxy S4 first.

My Thoughts

Ultimately, the Galaxy S4 was more of an iteration (upgrade) then a revolution. If you have a Galaxy S III, there’s no real reason to upgrade apart from a faster processor or better cameras. Yes Dual Camera is quite innovative and looks good from the videos I’ve seen but how often would I use this feature? The Touchwiz improvements such as Air View and Air Gestures are slightly gimmicky, at least on the surface. Having said that, I did find the Galaxy S III’s Smart Stay feature quite weird and pointless initially but I do actually appreciate it now having used the device for about six months or so. I think Samsung have played it safe by keeping the design fairly similar as for most people the upgrade cycle is two years. There was an internet outcry when people realised the design was the same, which is funny because a certain fruit shaped company seems to get away with it every year. I digress, back to the phone, there’s a lot of high end and powerful phones out this year from the Sony Xperia Z, the HTC One and now the Galaxy S4, not forgetting the upcoming next iPhone. It’s far too early to say which is best and it’s not a fair judgement because it depends on your needs and how the phone works for you. Samsung’s tagline for the Galaxy S4 was “life companion”, slightly cheesy in some regard but I can see how the phone can help in everyday situations and create a powerful, personalised and unique experience for the end user. I’m reserving full judgement till I get my hands on one but at least from the event I was slightly underwhelmed, I expected a breakthrough but instead I got a spec bump with a few useful but slightly gimmicky features. Having said that I do like the phone, I just feel Samsung could have done a lot better, hopefully the Galaxy S5 is a true revolution.

So what do you guys think of the Samsung Galaxy S4? Were you impressed or disappointed, do you think it will prove a worthy competitor for the other high end phones out currently? We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments in the section below. Written by Purav, PDTechHD (My personal account is PDTalkinTech)

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I’m a 23 year old Maths Graduate, who has a great passion for technology and in my spare time I make videos on YouTube to show my passion. I'm also co-admin here at TeckComesFirst and I joined this site back in January 2012.
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  • Excellent article! Sounds like it will be a great device, but I wonder how much of the new stuff is more gimmick than innovation. As you say, you learn that by living with it for a while and going with what works for you.

  • No time for a girlfriend or money, I want this! Good job in writing!

  • WOW! This is a very very very quite complete article! Really nice! Awesome job!!! I think is more complete than the Pocketnow’s guys

  • Great article!
    In my opinion, if you have any current high-end smartphone, there’s no real reason to upgrade to this and even for people in the market for an upgrade from an older phone, I’d recommend the HTC One. That said, it very much comes down to personal preference.

    And I don’t like the new software features at all, there’s not one that I would want Rom developers to pick up and put out. The smartstay and smartpause is something I can regulate myself quite well, picture in picture is something I don’t want (I’m never in pictures I take and it’s good that way) and S Health is something I can get on the Play Store or via a decent accessory if I wanted it. And then there are the other gimmicks like controlling your phone “with the Force” by waving your hand about which would be a joke to call a “feature” in my opinion.

    And then there’s the Samsung plastic build quality which I can’t stand and the design of the S3 that I never liked. If I had to choose between current high-end phones I’d instantly take the One. I’m looking forward to the S5 though, I think (read: hope) they’ll blow our minds with that one.

  • Mobile_Dom

    I wont personally be getting one, but the S4 looks kinda good , and well written article

  • NaijaMan

    Another well written article my friend. To be honest, it was better to play it safe with the design then come out with something weird, but why people were crying about it, is still something I can’t fathom considering that certain ‘fruit shaped company’ has been doing it for some years now lol. As in terms of people upgrading, anyone with the latest new handsets might not bother except people like me who still have phones like the HTC Incredible S, which is just scraping by haha, so it is something I will have to look into and compare.

    Also on another note, when you mentioned checking out The Verge’s Nathan Ingraham article on the MoBeam, you forgot to link it; just letting you know.

  • great article.The GS4 seems more like a GS3.14 if you ask me, maybe samsung has adopted the “tick tock” cycle that a certain “rotten” company does. 8 cores is kindof useless until most apps start adopting it , which isnt going to happen until a long time. I think this time it wont be full on domination with the GS4 as it was with the S3 as both Sony and HTC have some pretty great phones.

  • Having a huge dilema now between this and the next iphone. I really want to switch to the S4, but if apple suddenly creats an amazing phone then im stuck with this phone. I really dont expect apple to release any amazing new features, but one can always surprise.
    IOS is lacking far behind.

    Another thing is that most of the features in the S4 will be available on the S3, this makes it a harder choice to love the S4. Since there will be a price drop of the S3 when S4 comes out, why buy a more expensive version when you can “almost” get simmilar features in the S3.

  • Great article purav! Love the phone! We will have loads of content on release!

  • Ben

    Excellent job Purav! I really like the S IV, but I don’t like the touchwiz. Well it’s better than before. lol Anyway great job! 😀

  • Well written article purav well done

  • Great article, lots of hard work! This phone looks really nice! But I’m still sticking with my iPhone 5 😉

  • Marshall Steeves

    Wonderful article, Purav. I thought the update was rather disappointing, however, Apple has made some disappointing updates to their iPhone, as well. It happens.

  • Great Article!

  • Great article, I can’t wait for the S4! 🙂

  • I thought you were exactly right when you noted this is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. A big concern of device vendors is differentiation, and I believe we may be seeing Samsung seek to stand out by creating an exclusive feature set, possibly software that’s, to a degree, backwards compatible.

  • Nice post Purav , it seems like a nice phone wasnt too into the way they released it at there event though

  • Jack Harnett

    Love this article Purav mate, if I didn’t have an iphone 4s I’d definitely get this. Thinking about it now, I’d definitely upgrade to this if my upgrade was due this year. One of the features I like is the game-pad, excellent addition to this and definitely adds an extra dimension to the Samsung Galaxy S4. Loving the content here on TCF, keep it up gentlemen.

  • smokedbyinkyung<3

    great post purav, how long have u worked for samsung? they are lucky to have you. are you based in england or korea?

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  • Great article PD. I personally couldn’t stop cringing throughout the whole presentation. It really sucked and in the end I wanted more information on the basic specs. The S4 I think is the worst of what the Galaxy S series has offered so far. It is more than what the iPhone 4s has given us and is still sporting all the great features of Android which will still keep it up there in terms of most useful and productive smartphones, but what Samsung have given it is 90% gimmicky. That being said there were some good things about the S4 but overall I am not very impressed and it hasn’t taken the world by storm like the Galaxy S2 and 3 did. Really enjoyed reading the article PD.
    My only criticism is that it was a quite a bit longer than I would of liked but apart from that it was a very well written and expressed article.

  • Great article!

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  • IncomingTech

    Really great , extremely in depth article purav 🙂