The arrival of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is big news, there’s no getting away from that fact. 2013 has already been a pretty big year for mobile phones with the launch of BlackBerry 10 and the BlackBerry Z10 handset preceding the unveiling of the HTC One a few weeks later. But in reality, all eyes have been on Samsung, with the Galaxy S4 likely to move the game on once more, and throw down a fresh gauntlet for Apple.
There’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S3 was a hugely successful phone, and one that pioneered some innovative features. But it wasn’t perfect, and Samsung could learn a thing or two about design from the new HTC One, which looks and feels infinitely better than the plastic and somewhat insubstantial Galaxy S3. Could the Galaxy S4 get its form as right as its function?
Rumours have been rife about the Galaxy S4, and given what the competition has done, it hasn’t been too hard to imagine some of what Samsung might pull out of its bottomless magic hat. But it’s the hard facts that we’ve been waiting for, and now we know whether the Samsung’s new flagship was worth the wait, and how much Apple should be worrying.
JK Shin, head of Samsung Mobile, took to the stage in New York to unveil the Galaxy S4, talking about innovation and touching on some of the rumoured features of the new phone – eye-tracking navigation, instant translation, enhanced security for work, media syncing at home etc.
The Galaxy S4 looks remarkably similar to the S3. It doesn't look like it's going to compete with the iPhone or HTC One when it comes to design, style or that all important in-hand feel. Samsung stressed the polycarbonate build during the presentation, but I'd still rather have seen an aluminium casing, even if it meant a sealed battery.
The Galaxy S4 will be available with 3G and 4G LTE versions. The phone will support all 4G networks for global LTE roaming, and it will roll out with 327 network providers in 155 countries.
The S4 supports HSPA+ up to 42mbps and LTE Cat 3 for 100mbps downloads. The good news there being that it will be a fast phone no matter what network provider you opt for.
The phone is only 7.9mm thick and weighs just 130g - full dimensions read 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm. Despite being smaller and thinner, there’s a 5in Full HD screen sporting a 441 pixel pitch. The S4 will come out of the box running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean.
The main camera is 13-megapixel, while the front facing camera is 2-megapixel. There’s a dual-camera record function, which utilises both the main camera and the front facing camera simultaneously. This allows the user to insert an image of themselves onto the main scene.
The camera features a burst mode with a composite image option, letting the user create a single image from all the best parts of multiple shots. Essentially you could remove that annoying guy who strayed into your shot in Central Park.
There’s 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, with options for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage, plus a microSD Card slot for augmenting the storage. There’s a 2,600mAh battery that’s removable and replaceable.
Taking a cue from the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 sports an infrared LED, which allows you to use the phone as a remote control for your TV or other living room devices. This is somewhat odd considering that most modern AV equipment can be controlled via apps over your home network, but hey, if it saves you having to hunt for your TV remote…
The new S Translate feature offers real-time translation – simply type the question in English and it will translate it audibly. It can do the same thing in reverse, so that when you receive an answer it will translate it and present you with the answer as text.
The Adapt Display feature will automatically customise the screen to whatever you’re viewing, whether that be video, images, eBooks or simply swiping around the menus.
Story Album makes it easy to create albums of all those photos you’re taking on the phone.
Home Sync lets you send those albums or any other media home. Home Sync gives you 1TB of storage and can be shared by up to eight users. Home Sync is available through the cloud, but the files live on your Home Sync device at home.
S Voice Drive pairs with your car over Bluetooth and provides a plethora of features that are targeted at usage while driving – hands free, navigation, voice control etc.
Samsung Knox is designed to make the Galaxy S4 attractive as a business device – it basically creates two sand boxed environments, allowing corporate IT Managers to create a secure environment for employees, while also allowing those employees to have all their personal stuff in their open environment.
Group Play lets you share music across multiple phones, so whole tribes of teenagers will be able to annoy everyone on the train with their music. Group Play can also be used to share photos or even play multi-player games.
Air Gesture allows you to navigate the phone without having to actually touch the screen – never end up with a sticky screen again?!? Meanwhile Smart Scroll/Pause will pause a video if you look away from the handset, while tilting the phone up or down will scroll up or down.
S Health will monitor your activity throughout the day, including steps, heart rate, calories burned and consumed etc. Working in conjunction with accessories such as the S Band and a heart rate strap, S Health could be more than just a gimmick.
We’ll be getting our paws on a review sample very soon, so check back for the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S4.
ITProPortal has been tracking the Galaxy S4 build-up from the outset, accumulating the most prominent rumours surrounding the Galaxy S4's design, specs and release date to give you the full story so far.
Having assessed these carefully and used his own industry nous to build the clearest possible picture, James Laird this week told us what we should expect from the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch tonight. If his predictions come to pass, it's fair to say we'll have an extremely capable device on our hands.
Just as James was wrapping up his preview, Samsung struck with its first official image-reveal of the Galaxy S4 - a shadowy depiction suggesting the new model will bear a pretty significant resemblance to its Galaxy S3 predecessor. Not least because the S4 seems to sport the same plastic casing as the S3, which proved to be one of the main bones of contention with last year's flagship phone and would perhaps be a controversial option for the S4.
Regardless of its materials, Desire Athow believes the Samsung Galaxy S4 won't live up to the hype and success of the S3, and argues it will also suffer at the hands of Google's popular and competitively priced Nexus 4.
Attempting to predict Samsung's strategy in ensuring this is not the case, I examined the key weaknesses of the Galaxy S3 and what the S4 needs to do to become the smartphone king.
And finally, Riyad Emeran will also be dissecting the event as it unfolds tonight, so you know where to head for the key announcements and analysis as the curtain is lifted on the new device.