The next big thing is here â€“ at least that is what Samsung is claiming about its next flagship Galaxy smartphone and this time we can't help but agree. Early this morning, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 smartphone or should we call it a phablet, considering it comes with a 5 inch screen (well, you decide). But one thing is certain. This device will make a lot many players (take cue, Apple) very nervous. If you want to know why, read on.
While its predecessor was designed for humans and inspired by nature, this one is a 'life companion.' It has a 5 inch (slightly bigger than the 4.8 inch screen of Galaxy S3) full HD Super AMOLED touchscreen display (1920x1080 pixel resolution) with 441 pixels per inch density (much more than iPhone 5's 326 ppi) and runs on the latest Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) operating system with Samsung's TouchWiz UI interface.
It is powered by a 1.9 GHz quad-core processor/1.6 GHz octa-core processor and if you are wondering how the device can have two processors, this basically means that the selection of the processor will be different for different markets. But even if the Indian market doesn't receive the S4 with the octa-core processor, don't fret, as the quad-core one will also provide lightning-fast performance. It also has 2 GB RAM and in terms of internal memory, users will have a choice between 16, 32 and 64 GB models. There is also a microSD slot to expand the device memory by 64 GB.
As for the camera, this one has a 13 mega pixel autofocus rear camera (Yay!) with LED Flash and zero shutter lag that can also record full high definition videos (1080p) at 30 frames per second and a 2 MP front-facing camera for video calls that can also record full HD videos at 30 fps. But that is not all. It also boasts a 'dual camera' function that allows simultaneous use of front and rear cameras. And that means when you are recording a video via the rear camera, you can add your reactions at the same time by using the front-facing camera. The same applies for still photographs as well.
Additionally, users can choose from a variety of frame effects that blend the two pictures naturally and also adjust the size of the small picture inside the big one. You can select eight different ways to combine the two photos taken by the front camera and the rear camera. And if that's not enough, the 'dual video call' function enables you to make and receive a video call, showing all the while what you are looking at during the call.
The camera is also equipped with 12 shooting modes including 'drama shot' that allows users to see all the action in one continuous time lapse and the 'sound and shot' that stores sound and voice together as the picture is taken. Photos taken by the Galaxy S4 are automatically gathered and sorted out according to the user's timeline, geo-tagging information or a specific event, to create a photo album.
On the connectivity front, the device has Infrared, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi (with Wi-Fi direct), Near Field Communication (NFC), 3G and 4G (depending on the region). It also comes with a micro USB port (with USB on the go) and a microSD card slot. The device has a 2,600 mAh battery and comes with GPS (with A-GPS support).
Galaxy S4 measures 136.6mm x 70.6mm x 7.9mm (making it even thinner than the S3 which was 8.6 mm thick) and weighs 130 gm. Amazingly, at 7.9 mm thickness and 130 gm, S4 is even thinner and lighter than S3, which weighs 133 gm and is 8.6 mm thick.
S4 will be initially available in white frost and black mist colours (finally, Samsung has got rid of that annoying pebble blue) but there will be a number of colour options later this year.
The Galaxy S4 also comes with a number of new features that the company claims will enhance user experience. These include:
Group Play: Allows users to enjoy music, photos, documents and games with those around them without requiring a Wi-Fi or cellular signal. The feature enables users to connect directly with others to share, play and co-create content and entertainment instantly. Its 'share music' option allows you to have the same song playing on multiple phones in sync. How this will help, you are asking? Imagine 10 smartphones playing the same music and each one with its own set of speakers â€“ it can be a party blast, anytime, anywhere.
S Translator: Provides instant translation, using text or voice translation on applications including e-mail, text message and ChatON. Instant translation is possible both ways â€“ be it speech-to-text or text-to-speech.
Smart Pause: Enables you to control the screen by where you look. When you are watching a video, the video pauses if you look away and starts again when you are back (see video below for a demo).
Smart Scroll: Allows the user to scroll the browser or e-mails up and down without touching the screen. It recognises your face looking at the screen and the movement of your wrist, and then scrolls the pages up or down accordingly.
Air View: Users can simply hover with their fingers to preview the content of an e-mail, S Planner, image gallery or video without actually opening it. They can even see a magnified view on the internet browser or a phone number saved in the speed dial on the keypad. Also, with Air Gesture, a user can change the music track, scroll up and down a web page or accept a call with a wave of his hand.
S Voice Drive: Allows users to activate commands via voice control for optimisation when driving. Once connected with a car's Bluetooth, the phone automatically turns into driving mode, converting text to speech so that users can safely check messages without having to look at the screen.
Samsung Optical Reader: Automatically recognises text, a business card or Quick Response (QR) code information, and provides useful functions such as translation, call, text message and search.
Samsung WatchON: Transforms the S4 into an infrared remote to control your home entertainment systems including TV, set-top box, DVD player and even air conditioner. In addition, users can enjoy various content including live TV, cable TV and video on demand (VOD), based on the information provided by the EPG (Electronic Program Guide).
Samsung Adapt Display: Provides an optimal viewing experience, customised for each type of application. Also, Samsung Adapt Sound offers an optimal level and type of sound, personalized for each user.
S Health: For some reason, the company has put special focus on the users' health by keeping them up-to-date with health and well-being information using the new S Health software. The combination of sensors built within the device systematically and automatically monitors your health and your surroundings. Also, users can check their health conditions using the food diary, the exercise diary and sleep monitor to stay fit and healthy (note that certain functions require specific accessories).
Pricing and availability
Samsung Galaxy S4 will be available globally from the second quarter of 2013. While the exact price and launch date for the Indian market are not available yet, it should be up for sale from May this year. Looking at the specs, we think it can be priced between Rs 40,000 and Rs 55,000.
While we generally don't pay much attention to these, this time around, Samsung has introduced a few interesting ones. Here's a quick look:
S Band: Records the user's steps, calories burnt and the distance walked/ran. Checks sleep efficiency by measuring how much you moved while you slept. It works with the S Health 2.0 app and comes with a 10 mm waterproof design.
S View Cover: A modification of the original flip cover that allows users to view new notifications without opening the flap.
Game Pad: The company is also offering a game pad controller that can be paired with the smartphone via Bluetooth pairing. It comes with dual analog sticks, shoulder keys and 4 action buttons (basically the full setup) to provide a complete gaming experience. It will be available in 4-6.3 inch screen sizes, which means it will work with a number of Galaxy devices.
Other accessories include a wireless charging pad and a body scale (measures weight and sends it to S4), among others.
By now, you must be wondering whether Galaxy S4 is better than Apple's iPhone 5. Well, this is a tricky one. If looks and designs are your main concerns, iPhone's elegance is a definite winner over Samsung's plastic-type smartphones. But if you do a holistic comparison of features and specs, iPhone will surely bite the dust. So is it a better smartphone than iPhone 5 â€“ well, definitely yes. But the actual war will begin when Apple launches its next iPhone later this year. Till then, Samsung/Android fans can rejoice as S4 is an awesome product.
Other prominent smartphones in the Rs 38,000-plus price range (that we like to call the exorbitantly priced segment), are Sony Xperia Z (Rs 38,990), HTC Butterfly (Rs 49,990), Nokia Lumia 920 (Rs 47,500) and the recently launched BlackBerry Z10 (Rs 43,500), among others. But going by its awesome features and specs, Galaxy S4 is bound to give them a run for their money.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)