By building the Galaxy S4, Samsung has yet again pushed the technical boundaries. However, it's undeniably true that these boundaries don’t have much to do with the hardware anymore. These innovations have occurred elsewhere: in software, material and design. The Galaxy S4 offers a lot when it comes to these specifications, but not everything.
Enumerating all of what the Galaxy S4 has to offer would take eons. However, there are a few things that really need to be pointed out: its new super AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 pixels, a power processor with 2 GB RAM, a fast LTE standard and WLAN, which supports the new ac standard.
The last feature that I mentioned is where the problem lies. Does anyone really know what this feature entails? Basically, a download rate of 1 gigabyte per second is made possible and the question that remains is this: do we really need this? Do you really buy a smartphone because it supports ac WLAN?
The Korean manufacturer knows the answer and are developing a marketing strategy, which puts into play the purest technological data. They intend on shifting the purest technology from the background that has been playing an essential role in the last years.
Technicalities are a thing of the past. During Samsung's presentation in New York, not a single word was muttered about which processor the Galaxy S4 will have (there will be two variations Qualcomm Snapdragon with 1.9GHz and Exynos 5 Octa 1.6 GHz). Instead, they raved about the Software. The Galaxy S4 wasn't called a smartphone, but a ''life companion''.
So that this cold chunk of metal could hold the title of life companion, Samsung stocked it with the Android System (4.2.2), and stocked it with numerous software improvements, an amount that no other manufacturer provides at the moment.
Dual Shot / Dual Recording
Let's take a closer look at the cameras. It now offers the cool innovation of using the front and back cameras at the same time. The picture will show not only what you've captured, but the ''capturer'' too! This is a great function, which gives pictures or videos a new depth that had never been explored in the past. It creates a richer picture with new meaning and content. You can also use the dual camera function for video chats, in order to show your talking partner things in your surrounding, without having to turn the camera.
Sound and Shot
Photos can be enriched with sound fragments: I can link a picture with a voice recording, so that when I preview a picture, I see the image and hear the sound. For example, you can tag a sunset or party picture with a short explanation of who and what was going on. You're able to take a picture for a maximum of nine seconds.
Cinema Photo and Eraser
Thanks to these functions, you can create really unique pictures. The camera will take the picture over the duration of many seconds, while the software algorithm separates the moving and stable pixels. The moving portion will then be marked red in the picture preview and can then be removed. For example, you can erase the person who happened to walk in front of a beautiful scenery. By turning it around, you can take a picture of a dynamic background subject and put it into an animated collage: your loved one smiles happily in the foreground, while the metro whizzes by in the background (Cinema Photo). Video and Photo are combined in a unique way.
Every single thing that is written - from E-mail, to SMS, to Chaton - has received an integrated translator software, which quickly translates the text to your language of choice, just with the touch of your finger. However, when I tried it out with German and English it didn't work. ''How are you?'' was translated to the German ''Wie sind sie?'', which means how are you in a formal context in this language. One of the test devices couldn't translate Asian writing and simply told us ''language code cannot be translated''. But that's just peanuts. The idea itself to integrate this translation function seamlessly into the system is great!
Smart Stay and Eye Controls
These are two extras which really blew me away, because for starters, they're uncommon and worked really intuitively after a third try. Websites scroll easily by slightly looking up and down in the direction of your screen. SmartPause stops a playing video, as soon as you've looked away.
This is a function that you can write home about. You can use this feature to control the screen, without even having to touch it. It can recognize your finger up to 0.8 inches away. You can even zoom in on texts. Nonetheless, Samsung still needs to fine-tune this feature: it was never really clear to me, at what point in time it was reacting to my moving figure. After one second or three? But maybe my time in New just wasn't long enough to know everything for sure.
Infrared remote control
Just like the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 works with an infrared interface, so that it can be used as a replacement for the universal remote control in your living room. This is definitely a meaningful improvement.
This is also something new: you can connect many Galaxy S4s via NFC and play music synchronously. If ten devices are connected to play some popular song at full volume, you have to ask yourself if you necessarily need this feature. This question pertains to many of the S4's features.
What makes this device so unique, is the mere number of extra functions that it has to offer. Samsung is following a particular pattern and recipe for success: when the others offer x, then you have to offer xyz+10%.
Design lacking imagination
Samsung made the same mistake again. ''Evolution, not revolution'' is what a colleague in New York explained to me during the presentation. But the problem is this: the design didn't budge one bit since the last one. Even the material is the same. The backside is made of a thin and very bendable polycarbonate. In combination with the glossy varnish, it doesn’t give you the impression of being high-valued. If you hold the S4 next to the S3, you have to look very closely to see even the smallest difference. Other than the evolved display, both look like two of the same.
The Samsung flagship will definitely be compared with the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z and it doesn’t look too good for the new device. Both of its competitors look more high-valued and feel much better in your hand.
The Galaxy S4 is pushing boundaries in two different respects. It’s already clear that the device has attained the technical limit: higher, faster and further isn't pacing the smartphone development anymore. Instead they are forging a new way with software innovations and design. Samsung shows its limitations with the latter. The unremarkable plastic chassis reveals a risky strategy, which is curiously paralleled with a lack of openness to risk. The S3 was very successful, so they left the design as is. This sort of comfortable behavior has brought many companies to fail, take Nokia as an example. HTC and Sony need not fear the new Samsung flagship either. All in all, the Galaxy S4 isn't as far ahead in the race as its predecessor once was.
Technical Data Overview
- Dimensions: 5.37 x 2.74 x 0.31
- Weight: 4.58 oz
- Chassis: Plastic
- Display: Super AMOLED 4.99 inches 1920x1080 pixels, 441 ppi
- Processor: Quad-core 1.9 GHz (Qualcomm Snapdragon) ; Octa-core 1.6 GHz (Exynos 5 Octa 5410)
- RAM: 2GB
- Internal Memory: 16/32/64 GB + microSD slot up to 64GB
- Camera: 13 MP (front); 2 MP (back)
- Video: 1080p
- Wireless and Networks: LTE/HSPA/WLAN/Bluetooth 4.0/ NFC/ WiFi
- Ports: microUSB with MHL/ headphone jack
- Operating System: Android 4.2.2
- Battery: 2600 mAh
Benchmark Comparison with HTC ONE
(translated by Loie Favre)