Geeks suffering from the post-Christmas blues, rejoice: not only is CES 2013 set to kick off in earnest later today, but the new year has produced a bumper crop of next-gen smartphone rumours, with the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S4 one of the early favourites in the speculative sweepstakes.
Making the biggest waves is fan site SamMobile, which published a photo allegedly of a Galaxy S4 press shot (see top). The image shows a large handset devoid of physical buttons, suggesting that the S4 could rely entirely upon on-screen controls. That said, it's not exactly the most convincing photo 'leak' we've ever seen, despite apparently coming from an "insider at Samsung," according to the website. The prospect of a buttonless Galaxy S handset is certainly a juicy addition to the rumour mill, but we're filing this one under 'approach with caution' for the time being.
There's also been considerable development on the specification front. Adding to the Galaxy S4 spec leak we reported back in November 2012, SamMobile pointed to the next-gen Samsung handset sporting a quad-core Exynos 5450 SoC clocked at a whopping 2GHz and featuring a Mali-T658 GPU. It also said the device will come with 2GB of RAM, and that in addition to the 13-megapixel primary camera we think will land, the S4 will also rock a 2-megapixel front snapper.
However, Korean site Enuri (as translated by Phone Arena) reports that a slightly different processor set-up is in the off, claiming that the Galaxy S4 will be powered by a quad-core Exynos 5440 system based on ARM's big.LITTLE architecture, meaning it might feature an energy-efficient Cortex A-7 CPU for basic tasks and an A-15 for more intensive work.
The big question, of course, is when the Galaxy S4 will be released? Initial speculation pointed to the aforementioned Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, or February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. While MWC is still in play, the CES/S4 link has been largely discredited, with the most recent school of thought pointing to a series of independent launch events taking place this Spring. Samsung Lebanon is the latest to stoke the fire, commenting that the S4 "won't be released before May 2013" on its Facebook page.
We think there's some legs on this one, as an autonomous May or June unveiling would match Samsung's Galaxy S3 launch pattern last year - that device appeared in May, when London's Earl's Court played host to the Samsung Mobile Unpacked event. If true, these rumours could potentially hint at a lip-smacking showdown between the Korean firm and its bitter rival, Apple, whose iPhone 5S is also being lined up for an early-2013 arrival, according to some sources.
Ready to get jealous now? According to yet more gossip, the Galaxy S4 could shortly be among a select few. Citing South Korean website MT, Phone Arena has Samsung vice chairman Jay Lee offering an early glimpse of the next-gen device to key partners at CES this week. We're not sure who you need to seduce to get an invite to this closed-doors party, but we are going to be on the ground at Samsung's CES press conference later today, so any shocks or surprises will be duly reported.
Finally, there has also been considerable chatter surrounding the possibility that the Galaxy S4 will come equipped with S Pen functionality. Again rooted in an Enuri report, the S Pen rumour would mark a hugely interesting development from a product strategy standpoint, as it could indicate that Samsung is planning to merge its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines into a single product.
Hungry for more? Good, because we lied - that's not quite everything. There's also a neat new Galaxy S4 concept video (see below), which, although a fairly obvious work of fiction, is good for a laugh nonetheless. We particularly like its impossibly thin chassis and the 'hands-on' outing of the device's laser keyboard - how long has that feature been a mainstay of fan renders?
For the complete backstory, check out our dedicated Samsung Galaxy S4 news and rumour page.