Friday, March 15, 2013

Samsung Unveil New Galaxy Phone

It's the current rule, a company cannot announce a new tech product without some sort of fancy event, so Samsung went for their first public showing of the Galaxy S4 under a Broadway theme at the Radio City Music Hall in New York yesterday.  The next iteration of the best selling Galaxy range is looking good and now also looks back at you.

The S4 is slimmer and lighter than the S3 but still packs a punch with upgraded hardware, the biggest highlight being an 8 core processor in the form of the Samsung Exynos 1.6GHz (a whole 1 GHz and 7 cores better than my first PC!), which should mean rapid response and good multitasking capabilities.  Oddly, there was news of a 2nd processor model being available that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, and it seems that the different processors will be sold in different regions (no specifics on this yet).  In terms of RAM it sits at 2GB and comes with the usual storage space options.  The display is a 5 inch full 1080p HD AMOLED screen which boasts a higher resolution than the iPhone 5 but lower than the HTC One, and the handset will be 4G compatible as well as the now standard Wi-Fi features.

The real focus though is on the software rather than the hardware because, in my opinion, we're not seeing much in the way of advances in screens, size or weight now, just the regular processor and memory updates consistent with the shrinking of micro-components. 

The S4 looks like it will ship with Android Jellybean 4.2.1, and is augmented by Samsung's own TouchWiz interface, the key feature of which is the improved Smart Stay.  This was present on the S3 and latest Note and uses the front facing camera to track your eyes so it knows when to hold things because you've looked away (Smart Pause); move content if you look at the screen and tilt the device (Smart Scroll); preview emails/messages/other content by holding your fingers over the S4 (Air View); or perform operations by crazily waving your hands over the phone (Air Gestures).  There's also a nice update to the voice control that let's you operate a lot of the text message and navigation functions when you have to be handsfree (like driving, exercising, gaming, scuba diving, etc.).  I think this last feature is pushing the S4 towards a slightly different market than before by trying to capture the area Blackberry dominate, the company mobile phone.

On top of the standard Jellybean features and the ones listed above, there's also Dual Camera functions for recording photo and video at the same time and blending them together, a content aggrigator called Story Album for building your own unique profile (I've not seen it but Flipbook style springs to mind, or Sony's Social Feed Reader), Group Play for sharing music content across nearby devices without Wi-Fi or phone signal needed (that's going to be hell with school kids on buses!), and "S Health" which sounds like it's going to try and guilt trip your unhealthy ass in to buying expensive and unnecessary peripherals.

There are some questions on whether we really need this kind of phone update each year (and I mean this about all smart phone makers), especially when a lot of the contracts on offer with service providers are 2 years in length.  On the one hand I think it's good we're seeing software development, on the other I'd be unhappy if I'd got an S3 at any point last year.  Either way you feel, the phone is due for international release on the 26th April in two (yes two!) whole colours (white and black), and with prices dependant on contract deal or possibly around £480/$725 for it on its own.  Now where's my purple Xperia Z...

Images from CNET.

Matt Holt - Tech Fixation Editor


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