It must have been a rough task for the designers at Samsung, they had to take the best-selling, most highly-praised phone that Samsung had in its line-up and improve everything about it.
Samsung can’t just upgrade the specs, that’s not enough to “dazzle” consumers anymore when launching a new phone. This had to be a big enough change that it would encourage the millions and millions of people who already have a Samsung Galaxy S3 to want to upgrade. It’s not an easy task, first we wanted smaller phones now we want larger screens. We wanted them bigger but not heavier, faster but cheaper. The smartphone market is an engineering minefield, and one wrong step and your doomed.
The Galaxy S4 must have had a very flexible design budget, it appears that Samsung threw everything they had at their disposal into the new phone. There’s a larger screen, it’s faster, it’s thinner and it has so many software options and features that I could write a review for each of their categories. The screen isn’t just bigger, it’s better. The camera stands head-and-shoulders above others in its class (13 megapixels) and the controls have been modified to match other popular Android models. The camera is the best I’ve seen on an Android phone, offering amazing quality and stability. The S4 isn’t going to win any awards for it’s low-light photography but it can stand up to any other phone currently on the market. The camera is impressive but the software that comes standard with the phone to support your photography, is what really makes it stand out amongst its peers. Other models are exactly what the Samsung Galaxy S4 has to beat. Although there are hundreds of smartphone models on the market right now, this phone was designed to go against only two of them. The “HTC One” and the “iPhone 5”. If projections are accurate, these three phones will be at the center of everyone’s attention when looking for a new phone in this price-range.
All three models that I’ve mentioned above have improved their screens over their previous version, and upgraded their processors. That’s not going to win a smartphone war on its own anymore. We use our phones in every aspect of our lives, and that’s something that Samsung really started to understand and focus on with the Samsung Galaxy S4. The phone has so many features and extras built into it, that what it’s capable of doing won’t fully be utilized until the coming months. The IR sensor comes with an application to utilize it, and was built into the phone at launch. This will let users control any television that they choose. That feature can be then be utilized by thousands of hardware manufacturers later on, making your phone a universal remote for almost any device that currently uses a remote now. This is a perfect example for things to come with the Samsung Galaxy S4, and it’s just beginning.
Instead of just upgrading the touch sensors or the finger-gestures like Apple did in the iPhone 5 launch, Samsung pushed forward with its air gestures. This lets you scroll through photos or move through tabs with ease, without even touching your phone’s screen. It’s not perfect yet, it needs to be a lot more accurate for it to take over gesture controls, but the hardware is there and it just needs to be refined. There are nice features built into the air gestures like previewing applications or messages without opening them by hovering over them. It’s available, but it’s not used by many applications yet. In the past however, it has never taken application developers long to implement popular features into their apps. If Air Gestures becomes popular, I have little doubt that all the major applications will support it. Also in this category is the eye-tracking software that auto-scrolls your pages by glancing upwards and downwards. This suffers the same fate as the air gestures, it just isn’t rock-solid yet and more times then not, using my thumb to scroll is still easier and felt more natural at this point. The tech is there though, and adding it in gives developers more options, I’m interested to see how it’s used and improved in the future.
What everyone will talk about when comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the S3 is the screen. This screen is absolutely wonderful to look at. The specs on the display are a 5-inch screen capable of 1920 x 1080 resolution with a 441dpi (for an iPhone 5 comparison that phone has a 1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi) or (HTC One with 4.7 inch screen, Full HD 1080p and 468 ppi). The sound comes from a speaker on the back, which I hate. It’s just incredibly ill-conceived and Samsung isn’t the only phone that does it, but it does not do the phone justice. The sound is clear and consistant if your hands aren’t covering it up, or if it is not laying on the counter.
The real issue that I foresee in the Galaxy S 4’s future, is how potential consumers will react to the physical appearance and design of the phone. The glass feel of the iPhone is standard now for users, if Apple were to switch to plastic there would be apples being smashed in protest on the street. On the other-side the Galaxy S III was extremely popular, but not because of its awkward shell. I think Samsung missed a very-large opportunity in not redesigning the materials and aesthetics of the Galaxy S 4. Once again Samsung went with a smooth-plastic design, and after playing around with the phone for an hour or two (not even talking on it) it already had that uncomfortable slick feeling that plastic gets. It has the same feel of a holding a game controller and eating chips (it’s gross that’s what I’m saying).
Fitness apps have taken application markets by storm and Samsung wasn’t one to miss the trend. S Health is a daily health-routine tracker that allows the user to easily track caloric intake or use their phone as a handy pedometer. I think it’s great that Samsung recognized the trend, but if they are going to have an application built into their phone at launch, it needs to be better than the ones that already exist. I don’t think users of more popular health trackers will want to make the switch. The app market is the secret shackle that most smartphone users won’t break. If you have an iPhone and have spent a lot of money in the Apple App Store, it can be hard to make the switch to Google Play (and the other way around). The real smartphone (jumpers) are the ones that prefer Android, and Samsung’s biggest competitor will be the HTC One.
Everything about the Galaxy S4 is a technological marvel, I think the only issues people may have is it’s physical appearance with the back of the phone. The new features and software that are built into the phone offer the Galaxy S4 a chance to stand out amongst other smartphones, but none of the new tech is really perfectly implemented at this point. I would suggest that everyone who is interested in the phone, pick it up and hold it for a while to be sure that you wil enjoy it. It’s going to be a tough competition this year between the HTC One and the Galaxy S4 but the changes that Samsung made were all done extremely well.