Trying to guess what hardware is going to power the Samsung Galaxy S4 ought to be a fairly easy exercise for a number of reasons. Firstly, Samsung will need to catch up with the rest of the competition (that includes the Google Nexus 4, the HTC One, the LG Optimus G Pro and the Sony Xperia Z).
Secondly, all recent top-of-the-range smartphones (bar the Nexus 4) offer LTE connectivity and thirdly, Samsung has already unveiled several products based on the Cortex-A15 SoC (the Samsung Chromebook Series 3, the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa development tablet and the Google Nexus 10).
Many expect the Galaxy S4 to come with the Exynos 5 Octa which was unveiled earlier this year at CES in Las Vegas. But we don’t think that this will be the case. There’s an Exynos 5 Dual (AKA Exynos 5250) already as used in the Chromebook Series 3 and the Google Nexus 10 and the Exynos 5 Octa (AKA Exynos 5410). The former has two A15 and the latter four A15 and four A7. There’s space for a quad-core Exynos 5 sans the four A7 cores (perhaps clocked at 1.8GHz and etched on a 28nm HKMG manufacturing process) mostly because it would be cheaper to produce (less waste because of dodgy dies, smaller die size) and would in theory offer a longer battery life. And it will have to be a quad-core, rather than a dual-core, due purely to marketing concerns; ST-Ericsson (with the Cortex-A9 eQuad) showed that dual-core solutions are still capable of competing with quad-core architectures, due partly to the Android’s incapability to make good use of extra cores.
The growing importance of LTE connectivity means that Samsung could go for the Qualcomm MDM9215 as it did for the Galaxy Note 2 or go for an all-Samsung baseband modem solution using the CM221S in the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE (SHV-E210s). The other option would be to use a Qualcomm-based SoC with an integrated modem but Qualcomm only has dual-core SoC and it’s hard to see Samsung using the same chip as the Ativ S or the Motorola Razr M for its flagship smartphone. So unless Samsung gets the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 three months before it is supposed to debut, our money is on a new Samsung Exynos 5 Quad part with a Samsung CM221S baseband modem although an Exynos 5 Octa with a Qualcomm MDM9215 baseband modem combo can’t be discounted.
As for the GPU used, the current Exynos 5 Dual uses ARM’s latest Mali-T604 solution and we suspect that Samsung will stick to that solution (or a variant like the second generation Midgard Mali-T658 which is reportedly 10x faster than the Mali-400) rather than adopting Imagination Technology’s PowerVR SGX54X solution. But then again, we might be wrong.
The display of the Galaxy S3 was a 4.8in, that of the Galaxy Note, 5.29in and that of the Galaxy Note 2, 5.55in. Rumours point to a 4.99in display for the Samsung Galaxy S4 as well as a full HD display. While we fully agree that the S4 will have a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution to match the rest of the competition, we’re not sure about a 5in display. If Samsung wants to play the “best of breed” game, that’s one feature it could bet on. Rather than going for bigger, Samsung could well go the other way round, and equip the S4 with a 4.4in display, surpassing the mythical 500ppi barrier. As usual, we expect the smartphone to come with a Super AMOLED HD display but shy away from the controversial PenTile technology (and hence get the “Plus” suffix back). And as expected, the display will be covered by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass.
We expect the S4 to have almost the same storage specification as the S3 with the notable exception of the RAM (to be boosted to 2GB). The rest will still be the same 16GB of onboard storage plus a microSD card slot and cloud-based storage (possibly 50GB). We suspect Samsung may use the launch of the S4 to debut an integrated cloud-based offering in a bid to catch up with the competition (HTC, Apple, Asus).
NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi direct, Bluetooth 4.0, GLONASS, MHL and DLNA. That’s what the competition (and the S3 used). We don’t expect any surprise here and yes, it is very likely that Samsung will come with a “S Beam 2”.
A 13-megapixel rear camera with a bigger aperture (f2.0) plus a front facing 1.9-megapixel camera is the least I’d expect from Samsung, just to stay on par with the competition. I suspect Samsung will also try to add spin some marketing features out of the two cameras. An update to Smart Alert maybe or something along the lines of HTC’s VideoPIC or Zoe. The S3 used a 2,100mAh battery and we suspect that the battery capacity of the S4 will be similar. Design wise, based on rumours and other reports, we suspect that it will have a “cheap plastic construction” rather than posh aluminium or glass. Plastic has three advantages. Firstly, it is cheaper than both aluminium and glass, secondly it doesn’t interfere with the wireless connectivity and thirdly, it can be easily moulded.
Regardless, all will be shown on 14 March in New York. For now, why not check out our wiki-esque compte-rendu of the Galaxy S4 since the beginning till now.