The Samsung Galaxy S4 Features are Sexy, But are they Useful?

by Reads (5,877)

The Rockettes were nowhere to be found. Instead, the star up on stage at Radio City Music Hall for the latest Samsung Unpacked event was the Samsung Galaxy S4. Like the iconic dancers that call the Hall home, the Galaxy S4 is full of excitement and sexiness… or at least that\’s what Samsung would have everyone believe.

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Hands On

Let\’s get this out of the way first. Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is an attractive piece of hardware, and will likely be the best Android phone available when it ships next month (or maybe second best, compared to the HTC One). It\’s impossibly light and sports an excellent 5-inch AMOLED display with 441 pixels per inch, which makes it one of, if not the, best displays on paper. It will support all LTE bands and function as world phone, and will ship with the latest and greatest Android 4.2.2, though you wouldn\’t know it from the event, where the word “Android” was muttered only once during the presentation.

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks almost identical to the Galaxy S3, though it has a slightly larger display (5-inches to 4.8-inches) and is both thinner and lighter. The Samsung Galaxy S4 build is very heavy on the plastic, and it has a removable battery. For more specs, see the TechnologyGuide Galaxy S4 report.

Life Companion

Samsung is hyping the S4 as offering an entirely different experience, one that makes the S4 a “life companion,” according to the S4 tagline, one enabled by exciting and innovative software. And that\’s where the sexiness comes in.

\"SamsungFeatures like Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, Air Gesture, S Translate, and the new S4 camera functions like Dual Camera (front and rear camera pics taken simultaneously  as shown in the picture on the left) and Drama Shot, are fun and unlike anything you\’ll find on other smartphones, but aren\’t exactly utility features.

During hands-on time with the S4 after the event, the TechnologyGuide team found that they mostly worked as advertised with a few minor hiccups easily dismissed by the fact Samsung had pre-release units on display. S Translate actually worked phenomenally well, at least checked against the team\’s rudimentary Spanish language knowledge. Still, they aren\’t especially useful for day-to-day tasks, nor do they solve problems common with smartphones. Really, swiping your touchscreen to scroll through photos is too much of a hassle, you\’d rather just wave instead? You really can\’t be bothered to tap pause when looking away from a YouTube video?

To be fair, Samsung did announce some decidedly unsexy, but supremely useful features, like Smart Switch, which enables users to back up and old phone and restore to the S4 through a PC. Others include display sensitivity that recognizes gloved fingertips; Story View, for ordering printed photo albums from S4 pics; HomeSync support, a previously announced networked hard drive; and Knox, a security feature, also previously unveiled, for enterprise users.

These were glossed over however during Unpacked\’s main presentation, which featured Broadway stars acting out and showing off the new features in mini skits. Backing up and restoring one\’s smartphone lacks a certain theatrical quality it seems.

All About the Software

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Given all that, the Galaxy S4 launch wasn\’t so much about the smartphone, but rather the smartphone software (the sexy smartphone software). On paper and in pictures, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is simply a modest spec bump and slight upgrade from the successful and well-received Galaxy S3… just like the iPhone 4 and its successor, the iPhone 4S.

How much of a spec bump was a mystery for those just watching the unveiling, as Samsung did not formally announce the processor info. That may be because the Samsung Galaxy S4 will come in two varieties, one with a 1.8 GHz Samsung Exynos octa-core chipset for the overseas release, and the other a quad-core Qualcomm for the States.

But when the S4 ships, only one smartphone will have gesture controls, instant translations, smart scrolling, automated video pausing and a dozen new camera modes. The sexy one! However, it\’s likely Samsung will eventually roll those out to the S3 via an over-the-air update, as some Samsung reps mentioned at the event.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is slated to ship in “late April” on all four major US carriers, and pricing has not yet been announced. TechnologyGuide will have a full review, where we will test out the new features, and maybe find some substance there. Samsung surprised everyone with the Galaxy Note and the S Pen, which many users (TG staff included) didn\’t know they wanted until they used it. Maybe we\’ll say the same about Smart Pause and Dual Camera.

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