South Korean firm Samsung threw a lavish launch party in New York yesterday for the brand new Galaxy S4. The Radio City Music Hall hosted the theatrical, Broadway themed event with a big band and scripted jollities. The unveiling was also streamed live on the screens in Times Square.
Although the event scored top marks, did the handset itself?
Predicted to pose a substantial threat to Apple’s dominance of the US market, you would certainly think so. The 5” HD AMOLED display sports an impressive 441ppi resolution and has been dubbed the belle of the ball by David Pierce from The Verge: "It looks great viewing angles are great, colours pop on the Super AMOLED display, and the bezels on the device have been slimmed to the point where the screen feels even larger and more immersive." Weighing 130g and at 7.9mm thick - the S4 is both lighter and thinner than its predecessor, but looks incredibly similar. The new ‘slimmer and stronger’ S4 suggests increased class and quality than its clunkier elder sibling.
Despite these appearance tweaks, the launch focused most heavily on software, rather than the hardware, which was showcased through a series of role playing scenes.
The in-built translator ‘S-Translate’ was exhibited by a scene depicting a backpacker in Shanghai, who translated English text into Chinese speak, and back again – the feature is able to translate into 9 different languages. The dual camera feature, ‘DualShot’ was depicted in a scene of a proud father snapping his son’s tap-dancing performance. The feature uses both its rear facing camera (at 13mp) and front facing camera (at 2mp) to take two photos simultaneously and then blend them to make sure the photographer is not left out. Another fun feature is the Cinemagram which picks one piece of your snap to move while keeping the rest still. Perhaps a little gimmicky, but fun nonetheless.
Much of the focus was on the phone’s ability to be controlled without touch. The ‘Smart Pause’ feature allows users to pause a video just by looking away, while the ‘Smart Scroll’ software tracks the user’s eyes, scrolling through content and email. Users can also change tracks or accept a call with a simple wave of the hand.
"The debut of nifty eye motion-sensitive controls to allow users to pause video and scroll through pages using eye movements alone is smart," said telecoms expert Ernest Doku from uSwitch.com. "For commuters crammed in trains - or just those who love a bit of futuristic tech that makes their lives easier - this novel feature will really help the Galaxy S4 to stand out."
Some other funky features include the ability to measure temperature and humidity and monitor your health and the Samsung hub – a multimedia storage facility that can be shared across multiple Samsung devices.
It comes with a respectable 2GM of RAM, a 2,600mAh battery and 1.9GHz quad core processor and it runs on the latest Android operating system, 4.2.2.
"We have taken technology and innovation forward to help us get closer to what matters in life, to help us live a richer, simpler and more full life," said JK Shin, president and head of IT and mobile communications at Samsung. Nothing to do with pipping Apple to the winner’s post, or the devils dough then? Course not!
Despite all of its spiffing features, the phone has provoked luke-warm reviews from critics and analysts; with some dubbing the phone a decent upgrade, rather than a revolutionary handset – as some had hoped.
Charles Golvin from Forrester Research has expressed concern that the swathes of new features may alienate some customers: "The larger question is how much of this stuff can people actually use," he told the BBC. "There's no question that there's a lot of powerful technology and innovative features - but whether people will care about them or use them I'm not sure.”
And this whiff of slight disappointment seems to have followed the launch of most of 2012's flagship smartphones; from Blackberry, HTC and even Apple – all of which provoked good but not amazing reviews – as they have been doing consistently over the past few years. This emerging pattern is likely to be one of the key factors in the shift in emphasis away from flagship to budget phones – which are set to dominate the headlines in 2013.
Despite these opinions, analysts are expecting an unwavering display of loyalty from Android fans. Luke Johnson from Trusted Reviews described the phone as "Perhaps not the out-and-out game changer some were expecting [but] the Samsung Galaxy S4 is, on first impressions at least, certainly a new dominant force on the Android smartphone scene”; while David Cheng from CNet cited the growing devotion of Samsung fans: “The company isn't quite at the level where fans will wait in line for the phone, but the Samsung fanboys are starting to grow as vocal - if not more so - than the Apple faithful. At this point, the Galaxy S4 is a runaway train, something Samsung couldn't stop even if it tried. The rest of the industry better watch out." Oooh.
The handset becomes available in the UK from April 26th.
Are you going to invest in one? We certainly wouldn’t blame you, and might even stretch to a slight pang of jealousy! If you do and end up with and old phone, don’t forget to sell your phone with us here at OnRecycle; not only will it help fund your new S4 but you’ll also be doing a pretty good deed: there’s a lot of harmful stuff in your mobile which – when leaked – can cause nature an awful lot of harm.
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