The smartphone market is still a two-horse race. Apple and Samsung have spent the last several months battling for the title of America’s number one smartphone maker, with comScore recently reporting that the two giants combine for more than half of the country’s smartphone market share. This is not without good reason: Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy handsets are top-shelf products, and both companies have quite a bit of marketing muscle behind them too.
One unfortunate byproduct of this duopoly, though, is the way it has overshadowed every other phone manufacturer. Whether it’s up-and-comers like Huawei and ZTE or fading hopefuls like BlackBerry or HTC, there are plenty of Davids poised to take on Apple and Samsung’s two-headed Goliath. And almost all of them are bringing promising new flagships to battle for the next many months.
There’s still no official word on successors to top-of-the-line phones like the iPhone 5, Nexus 4, Lumia 920 and Galaxy Note II – or rumored phones like Motorola and Google’s “X Phone” – but plenty of companies have already spent time flaunting their new golden childs. So let’s talk about them. Here’s a rundown of the year’s premium smartphones so far.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung is king of the Android mountain. The Korean giant is a leader in many tech markets, but last year’s 1-2 flagship combo of the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II helped spring it into direct competition with its longtime rival from Cupertino.
A Galaxy Note III appears inevitable, but for now Samsung has only let one premium cat out of the bag: the Galaxy S4. Revealed at a bombastic event in New York City, the Galaxy S4 is more about iterating on the S III’s successes than innovating into something different. With a quad-core Snapdragon processor – the specificity of which is unknown, but an Exynos 5 8-core chip will arrive outside of the U.S. — 2 GB of RAM, 16/32/64 GB of storage and a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED display, the Galaxy S4 does make the expected specs upgrades, but this phone looks much too similar to the S III to not be about the software.
Samsung is dubbing the S4 as a user’s “life companion,” which is either going to sound ambitious of pretentious depending on how well its newest features are received. Some of them sound appealing at first blush — Dual Camera mode films with the S4’s 13-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera simultaneously, while Air View lets users preview a thumbnail by hovering their fingers over it.
But for every seemingly useful new feature on the S4, there’s one that sounds a little more…out there. Smart Pause, for instance, pauses video whenever a user looks away from the screen, while Smart Scroll combines tilting the phone with built-in wrist-tracking and facial recognition tech to move through Web pages.
Are things like that really necessary? Time will tell. But for now the Galaxy S4 doesn’t look like it’ll be making any radical departures from its predecessor, merely a truckload of optional additions. That could be both good and bad, but TG will wait until it comes time to review the S4 before making a final verdict.
The Galaxy S4 will be available on all four major carriers plus U.S. Cellular and Cricket upon launch. AT&T has revealed that it’ll cost a relatively hefty $250 plus a two-year contract, with pre-orders starting on April 16. So don’t expect to this newest flagship to come S-cheap. Availability should be sometime around late April or early May, though nothing’s definite just yet.
Next up: HTC One
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7