Samsung launches 5in Galaxy S4, due for end of April launch

Samsung has officially taken the wraps off the Galaxy S4, a 5in smartphone to be launched during the year's second quarter.

Journalists packed Radio City Music Hall tonight for the big reveal, which – as expected – was brought on stage by Samsung's pint-sized pitchman, Jeremy. Samsung's mobile chief, JK Shin, touted the Galaxy S4 as "a life companion for a richer, simpler life."

"We are committed to innovation, we are always listening to learn from people around the world about what kind of progress they really want," Shin said. The smartphone will roll out with 327 mobile operators around the world in 155 countries starting at the end of April, he said.

The revamped smartphone, which follows last year's Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 is "slimmer yet stronger, less to hold yet more to see, [and] it is simply amazing," according to Shin.

Design and Specs

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and weighs 130g, the same height but slightly slimmer both in width and depth than the Galaxy S 3. The edges are a little squarer than the GS3's, but the phone is still made of plastic. It comes in two colours, "black mist" and "white frost."

There's a 5in 1920 x 1080 pixel Super AMOLED screen on the front with a very tight 441ppi density. New software on board alters the screen's colour temperatures based on what kind of content you're looking at, for the best possible view.

The processor inside is either a 1.6GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa or a 1.9GHz Qualcomm S4 Pro, depending on the country. The phone has 2GB of RAM and either 16, 32 or 64GB of storage, plus a MicroSD card slot. It runs Android 4.2.2.

There's a 13-megapixel camera on the back and a 2-megapixel camera on the front. The cameras can actually be used together to shoot picture-in-picture photos and videos.

For networking, the GS4 has EDGE, HSPA+ 42 and LTE; there will also be a CDMA/LTE version. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, and MHL are all on board as well. An infrared transmitter lets the phone work with the built-in WatchOn software to function as a TV remote and electronic program guide. The phone will support wireless charging if carriers demand it, the company said.

Tons of New Software

The Galaxy S4 has a huge amount of new software and features beyond the Android baseline.

"We wanted to give users a device that really understands what's going on around them," said Samsung's director of product marketing, Ryan Bidan.

Samsung groups the new features into four categories. "Fun" features include a bunch of new camera modes including dual-camera picture-in-picture, time lapse, and animated GIF, and a "sound and shot" mode which lets you record nine seconds of audio with any image. The built-in "Story Album" app lets you combine pictures with location information from TripAdvisor and then print it all as a paper copy through Blurb.

The "relationship" features include Group Play, which lets multiple Galaxy S4 phones play the same music track, show the same photos, or play multiplayer games over Wi-Fi Direct; Asphalt 4 and Gun Bros 2 will be the first two multiplayer games to be supported, Samsung said. S Translator builds language translation into both the email program and Samsung's ChatOn chat program, automatically translating between nine languages.

"Convenience" features include WatchOn, a universal remote control app which works with the phone's IR emitter. It combines data from the Peel electronic program guide along with streaming choices from Netflix, Blockbuster and Samsung's own media store, although it can't access DVRs. Smart Pause pauses videos when you look away. Gesture control lets you scroll the screen or fast-forward music by waving at the screen. Air View lets you preview items like e-mail messages by hovering your finger over them, like you can do with the S Pen on the Galaxy Note. An OCR program reads business cards.

Finally, "S Health" takes on Fitbit and its ilk with a built-in pedometer, environmental sensors and diet guide. Samsung will sell Fitbit-like bands for people to wear when they aren't carrying their phones with them, and the biometric data will sync back to S Health, the company said.

All of these features interact with the new Samsung Hub, a unified app, movie, video, book and music store that will appear on Galaxy S4 phones.

No Samsung event would be complete without a theatrical performance. Samsung showed off the Galaxy S4's camera functionality with a scene at an Upper West Side dance studio, where Jeremy's mother was all set with the GS4, but his classmate's dad was out of luck. Then, of course, Jeremy tap danced – all captured by the new Galaxy S4.

Flash to two friends travelling around the world, which gave Samsung the chance to show off S Translator, as well as photo album options. In concert with blurb, Galaxy S4 owners will be able to order hard copies of their albums for $10-$30 (£7-£20) for a 20-page album.

To cut down on distracted driving, meanwhile, S Voice Drive features bigger fonts and bigger text to speech for drivers. It's intended to serve as an in-car personal assistant, and allows users to respond to texts, calls, and other messages by voice.

For those in cooler climates, meanwhile, the Galaxy S4 works for those wearing gloves.

Availability and Operators

The Galaxy S4 will come out on EE, the UK's only 4G network from 26 April. The device will also come to EE's Orange and T-Mobile networks, where it will be available on less expensive, 3G-only plans. Neither Samsung nor EE have cited a price.

"The interest we've received from consumers and businesses has almost reached fever-pitch levels, so we're delighted to be the only UK operator to offer the Samsung Galaxy S 4 enabled with 4G from launch," said EE director of products and services, Paul Jevon.

"When paired with our unique superfast 4G network, customers really will be able to make the most from the powerhouse performance the Samsung Galaxy S 4 provides – utilising its capabilities to the maximum," he added.

EE has set up a registration page for the Galaxy S4, but the other networks will likely want to throw their hat in the ring, too.