For Samsung to repeat its spectacular Galaxy S3 success with the next incarnation of the Galaxy S line, the S4 will need more than compelling marketing. It needs to rock. While Samsung can get a certain distance by plastering the world with blue posters, the Galaxy S4 needs to offer some killer features that convince existing Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5 owners, especially, to find reasons to switch.
My list of desires is pretty much common sense stuff – if the Galaxy S4 has any big surprises, I'm willing to be surprised. One thing you won't see below is the much rumoured eye-tracking software, because it feels like a silly gimmick to me. Samsung has been loading these kinds of alternative control schemes into the Galaxy S line for a while, things like tilt-to-scroll, and most people I know don't take advantage of them.
Rather, for me it's all about scoring on the basics and consolidating Samsung's strengths. The company makes great screens, so the new phone should have a great screen. The company has a broad range of TVs, cameras, and other CE products, so the new phone should interact with those effortlessly. And, of course, it should run Android speedily with a long battery life.
Do feel free to add your own wants and desires in the comments section at the end of this story. Then come back tomorrow at the stroke of midnight – if you can stay up – for the New York launch event to see if your Galaxy dreams come true.
And for more on the Galaxy S4, see our recent article: Where did the Samsung Galaxy S3 go wrong and what must the Galaxy S4 do better?
But now, on with the show, and our list of 10 desired Galaxy S4 features, starting with…
1. Ante up
I'll lump all the penny-ante items in here: A 1080p display, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and a fast processor. These are all the big trends of 2013, and they won't move the needle. They're just what Samsung will need to have on the table, in order to avoid getting laughed out of Radio City Music Hall when faced with competition like the HTC One, pictured above.
2. S Voice and Google Now merger
Google Now is potentially the best thing to come to the Android platform in a year or two. Samsung needs to work with Google's predictive search function, not against it. Extend Google Now with S Voice (shown above) or get out of the way.
3. Better TV experience
Samsung is the only major smartphone maker that also builds TVs, giving it unique access to the living room. It's been working with Peel to create an enhanced remote control experience on its tablets (see the above image), and it's been plugging along with unifying its smartphone and TV interfaces. Samsung needs to make a real breakthrough here; for instance, a unified program guide that combines DVR’ed and streaming content, or a truly effortless way to stream content on a TV.
4. Camera quality, not megapixels
I'm actually disheartened by the rumours of a 13-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S4, because it's almost impossible to make a good 13-megapixel camera for a phone. The sensors are just too small, and anyway, who wants to have to process 13-megapixel images? Nokia and HTC have the right idea here: What we really want is a perfect 5-megapixel image that's noiseless and looks great in low light, not a grainy, noisy 13-megapixel shot. (That's a Galaxy S3 shot above).
5. Dual-window multitasking
The multitasking mode on the Galaxy Note series really improves productivity, and gives phone makers a compelling reason to have these steadily expanding screens. LG's latest phones can run three apps on the screen at once (shown above). Samsung shouldn't bring everything over from the Galaxy Note, but multitasking is a good feature to share.
6. SD card slot, removable battery
One of the things people love about Samsung, and one of the ways it differentiates itself from Apple, is the fact that it isn't afraid of removable parts. Many people love their Samsung phones because they can carry a spare battery or upgrade the memory, and Samsung shouldn't break away from this. Of course, balancing user extensibility with solid build quality will be a struggle, but that's how you stay number one.
7. As many bands as possible
The profusion of frequency bands and mobile technologies we're seeing across the world is getting ridiculous. Is it too much to dream of a single device that can somehow be moved across all the major carriers, globally? (Yes). But still: Imagine the public buzz and economy of scale that could be achieved by a single every-band, CDMA/HSPA/LTE phone. (Sigh).
8. Solid build quality
Samsung's phones have a tendency to feel a bit cheap because the company uses thin, flexible plastic casings. Motorola, HTC, and Apple have all gone for more exotic, premium materials like carbon fibre, aluminium, and glass (as in the iPhone 5 shown here), which make their devices feel like they're worth the £500 odd outlay if you buy them off contract. If Samsung's sticking with plastic, maybe it can go with a classy polycarbonate like Nokia uses.
9. Less bezel, narrower device
The big difference between Samsung's Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines is that the Galaxy S is designed for one-handed use, while the Galaxy Note is more of a two-handed device. (That's one of the usability cues created by the Note's S Pen). Samsung is making the S4's screen bigger – 5in, to be exact. So the company needs to take cues from the likes of HTC's US smartphone, the Droid DNA (shown next to a Galaxy S3 above) and LG's Optimus G Pro and make sure the phone doesn't get too wide. It's all about having the most screen you can comfortably hold in one hand, no matter how big the hand.
10. Battery Life
As phones get bigger and we use them more, the top complaint I hear from readers is about battery life. Motorola socked a giant battery into its Razr Maxx. LG says it has new battery technology that can materially improve battery life, shown here in the Optimus F7 phone above. What can Samsung offer to promise all-day battery life on a large screen LTE smartphone: A low power processor? A new, lower power screen technology? Smart power management software? I’d love to see.