Samsung Wows US With ‘Blockbuster’ Galaxy S4

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

Follow on: Google +

The Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone started its campaign at a launch in New York

Samsung has thrown down the gauntlet at Apple, with the Galaxy S4 smartphone. Launched at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall, the phone has got an enthusiastic response from the US.

The Galazy S4 is Samsung’s first Galaxy S phone to be unveiled in the United States – a key market for winning the lucrative high-end smartphone race – so the Korean firm will be watching the American reaction closely.

New Design

The S4, as the rumours foretold, includes a 5-inch display, an eight-core processor, Android 4.2.2, a 13-megapixel back camera and more of the eye-watching features that slightly weirded-out US consumers on the Galaxy S III (a Samsung executive, shortly after that phone’s debut, conceded that market testing suggested it was better to emphasised the SIII’s sharing technologies than its ability to watch users).
samsung galaxy S4 launch from Samsung Flickr feed 4But that’s far from all that the S4 boasts. It’s as packed with features as Samsung’s presentation (there was dancing and a full orchestra) and press release were packed with hyperbole and Hello Kitty-like sayings. The S4, according to Samsung, is “designed to get you closer to what matters in life and bring your world together.

Another gem: “Understanding what matters most to us in our lives, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was developed to redefine the way we live and to maximise our fulfillment of life.”

The S4 is thinner but stronger than the SIII, says Samsung, and though it increased the display from the latter’s 4.8 inches to 5 inches, the newest Galaxy S, thanks to bezel-shrinking magic, is actually smaller, measuring 136.6 by 69.8 by 7.9 mm and (weighing 130 grams) to the S III’s 136.6 by 70.6 by 8.6 mm and 133 grams.

The display is covered with Gorilla Glass 3 and has a resolution of 1920 by 1080, for 441 pixels per inch, which is as far as the envelope can be pushed – the human eye can’t discern anything more. It’s the same (incredibly gorgeous) resolution as is on the HTC Droid DNA – a phone that struggling HTC introduced back in November 2012.

The Galaxy S 4 will begin rolling out in April, for $199 (132 pounds) with a two-year contract, from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Cricket. It will initially be available in white and gray, with more colors to follow.

Impressive Specs

The rest of the S 4’s features can hardly be crammed into a single article.

There’s a Dual Camera function, in which the front and rear cameras – in literally eight different scenarios – can be used at the same time. A Dual Video Call function enables users to make a video call while showing the person on the end of the call what the user sees (Nokia offered this feature back in 2005, calling it “See What I See”).

There’s a Group Play feature that enables a user to share music, without a Wi-Fi or cellular signal, with other phones around them, to create a fun little dance party.

An S Translator provides instant translation, via text or voice; an S Voice Drive, enables users to voice control the phone, while driving; and new S Health software uses the phone’s built-in sensors to “systematically and automatically [monitor] your health, surroundings and so much more to help improve your quality of life.”

Regarding Samsung’s the-phone-is-watching-you technologies, a Smart Pause feature will pause a video when it senses that the user has looked away, and a Smart Scroll feature will scroll the browser or emails up and down without having to be touched – it watches the user’s eyes to see where she or he is on the screen.

There’s also a hovering feature that detects a finger without said finger needing to touch the display – and really so much more.

Media Reaction

The Associated Press, which was among a handful of media outlets to try out the phone in advance, said that new users may be “confused” by some of the S4’s features, which are inconsistently deployed. The finger hover, for example, works with the Email app but not the Gmail app.

“The built-in ‘Gallery’ app will show picture previews, but the ‘Gmail’ app won’t. I suspect users will get tired of trying to hover their fingers and give up on the whole thing,” Peter Svensson wrote in a 14 March report.

Research firm Strategy Analytics, in a blog post following the event, said that Samsung has clearly “worked hard on its software and the results are impressive.”

The firm, which also spent time with the smartphone ahead of its debut, expects Samsung to ship tens of millions of them worldwide this year. It added, “Provided there are major ‘hidden’ bugs that become apparent after launch, the S4 will be another blockbuster product for Samsung.

Do you want a Samsung Galaxy S4?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Samsung Galaxy S4

Image 1 of 13

Samsung Galaxy S4 launch
Samsung Galaxy S4 launch from Samsung Flickr feed

How much do you know about Samsung? Take our quiz.

Originally published on eWeek.