For many tech pundits, early-2013 will be remembered for the build up to, and bizarrely staged launch of, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Given the critical and commercial success of its forerunner, expectation of the new handset is understandably high - for its part, 2012 was largely defined by the disruptive impact of the impressive Galaxy S3. Will the Galaxy S4 be able to emulate the achievements of its predecessor? Moreover, is the eagerly anticipated follow-up handset a drastic improvement over the Galaxy S3, or does the older device manage to hold its own against its shiny new brother? Let's take a look at how the two Samsung smartphones match up on the specs front.
Size and weight
With dimensions of 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and a weight of 130g, the Galaxy S4 is almost identically proportioned to its predecessor. The S3 measures up at 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm and tips the scales to the tune of 131g.
Both the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3 feature Super AMOLED screens, but where the older device offers a plain ol' HD (720p) resolution at 306ppi, Samsung's new flagship has upped the ante and sports a Full HD display with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution at an impressive 441ppi.
Storage and memory
Samsung has committed to providing 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions of the Galaxy S4, while the LTE version of the Galaxy S3 comes in one standard model with 16GB of on-board storage. Both devices offer a microSD card slot so these capacities can be cheaply and easily augmented, but content hoarders will no doubt be gravitating towards the newer S4 and its 128GB storage potential. Both devices pack an ample 2GB of RAM.
Processor and battery
The LTE version of the Galaxy S4 set to come to the UK will feature a quad-core Snapdragon 600 chipset clocked at a hefty 1.9GHz – the most impressive clock speed for a smartphone processor we're aware of. The 3G-only model of the same phone is expected to feature the much-lauded 8-core Exynos 5 Octa, while the Galaxy S3's quad-core Exynos 4412 configuration - clocked at 1.4GHz - is still impressive circa 2013. Both devices offer removable batteries. The Galaxy S4's huge 2,600 mAh battery is probably necessary given the intensive nature of many of its features, while the S3 offers a 2,100 mAh battery that's nearly as beefy and comes with a purported 11 hours call time.
The Galaxy S4 features the latest version of Android, Jelly Bean 4.2.2. The closely related S3 runs Jelly Bean 4.1, with an update to the more recent OS expected in the near future. The real talking point on the software front, though, is the rash of snazzy new features introduced as part of Samsung's latest TouchWiz skin. Eye-tracking technology in the form of Smart Scroll and Smart Pause took many of the plaudits, but it was the S Translate real-time translation service that really grabbed our attention. However, these features shouldn't be a key point of differentiation between the two handsets for long - Samsung has indicated that it plans to bring its new software innovations to the Galaxy S3.
When it comes to photographic capabilities, the gap between old and new is reasonably pronounced. The Galaxy S3 features an 8-megapixel camera and a 1.9-megapixelauxiliarysnapper, while the Galaxy S4 sports a 13-megapixel camera and 2-megapixel front-side shooter. For the intrepid on-the-go amateur photographer, the inevitably dearer Galaxy S4 will likely prove worth the investment.
Connectivity and wireless
The most recent iteration of the Samsung Galaxy S3 (the GT-i9305) comes readied for the UK's superfast 4G LTE spectrum, still furnished exclusively by EE but due to be rolled out by the likes of Vodafone and Three in Q2. The Galaxy S4 is set to come available with 4G LTE support and in a 3G-only model, with all models of the S3 and S4 featuring NFC technology. The Samsung Galaxy S4 also supports the 802.11 ac wireless standard.
Price, availability, and opinion
With its quad-core SoC configuration, 4G LTE compatibility, HD display, 8-megapixel camera and expandable storage, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is still an impressive handset and is currently available SIM-free for as little as £420 if you're content with the muddy 'Amber Brown' look.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will release in the UK on 26 April, courtesy of EE. While off-contract pricing has yet to be revealed, we'd expect SIM-free pricing to start at around £550 for a 16GB, LTE-ready model - expect to pay considerably more if it's the 32GB or 64GB iteration you're after. Pre-ordering for the device is yet to go live, but you can register your interest in the Galaxy S4 via Phones 4u.
If Samsung holds good on its promise to bring the bulk of new TouchWiz features to the S3, the question becomes how much a beefed up hardware package is worth to you. There's no doubt that a 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 processor, Full HD display, and 13-megapixel camera are extremely desirable - but are they worth £150, possibly more? There's little doubt that the Galaxy S4 is the superior smartphone - but its antecedent the Galaxy S3 may actually represent better value for money, and pricing should continue to drop in the weeks and months to come.
For more, check out our Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Apple iPhone 5 spec comparison.
Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE
Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE
1,920 x 1,080 pixels
1,280 x 720 pixels
Processor and battery
Samsung Exynos 4412
Claimed 3G talk time
Up to 11 hours
Storage and memory
16GB /32GB / 64GB
1080 @ 30fps
1080p @ 30fps
802.11 a / b / g / n / ac
802.11 a / b / g / n
Integrated wireless charging
136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm
136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean