Samsung Galaxy S 4 launches in feature flurry


So jam packed with features, will anyone ever find them on the device?

Samsung Electronics announced the fourth generation Galaxy S, the Galaxy S 4, last night. The device is packed with features including beefed up tracking technology using eye control, hover features so users do not have to touch the screen to view items, mobile health, language translation, and remote control functionality.

The Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean phone, which includes near field communication technology unlike Apple's last device, has a larger screen size and battery than its predecessor, all housed in a light (130g) and slim (7.9mm) shape.

Due out globally in the second quarter, the device is both HSPA+ 42Mbps, and 4G using LTE, with the LTE version supporting up to six LTE bands to provide broad coverage. An TDD/FDD LTE Dual Mode version will be launched later in the year.

However, Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, stated: 'Overall, there are lots of features [on the Galaxy S 4], but based on past experience most people will never even find them on the device.'

Amongst the many new features are Samsung Smart Pause, which enables you to control the screen using your eyes. When you are watching a video, it pauses when you look away then it starts right up again when you are back. Also, Samsung Smart Scroll allows you to scroll the browser or emails up and down without touching the screen. It recognises your face looking at the screen and movement of your wrist and then scroll the pages up or down accordingly.

Air View allows users to hover with their fingers to preview the content of an email, S Planner, image gallery or video without having to open it. You can even see a magnified view on the internet browser, or a phone number saved in the speed dial on the keypad. With Air Gesture, you can change the music track, scroll up and down a web page, or accept a call with a wave of your hand.

The Galaxy S 4 also breaks down language barriers; S Translator provides instant translation, using text or voice translation on applications including email, text message and ChatON. This instant translation is possible both from speech to text and text to speech and ensures that you can rely on the correct information whilst abroad.

Dawson added: 'The improvements to eye tracking and the additions of S Translator and the hover feature and so on are good steps in this direction, but they can be seen as gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features; there should be something here for everyone, even if most of these new features won't be used by most users.'

Further enhancements include mobile health functionality; using the new S Health software, a combination of sensors built within the device systematically and automatically monitors health, surroundings and more to help improve quality of life. Also, users can check their health conditions using food diary, exercise diary and sleep monitor to stay fit and healthy, using specific accessories.

And at home, using Samsung WatchON, the Galaxy S 4 will transform into an IR remote to control your home entertainment system including TV, set-top box, DVD player and air conditioner. In addition, you can enjoy various content including live TV, cable TV and video on demand, based on the rich information provided by the electronic programme guide.

The Galaxy S 4 has the world's first full HD Super AMOLED display to showcase images at their best. Its five inch large screen has 441ppi for stunning viewing quality. The Galaxy S 4 also utilises Corning's new Gorilla Glass 3, making it durable. Equipped with a 13 megapixel rear camera, the Galaxy S 4 also has a Dual Camera function that allows simultaneous use of both front and rear cameras. At the same time, the Dual Video Call function enables users to make and receive a video call with friends and family while showing what they are looking at during the call.

Yet Dawson warned of challenges ahead for Samsung: 'The Galaxy S 4 is a worthy successor to earlier members of this line, and will doubtless sell well. But it highlights a couple of the key challenges Samsung faces. Firstly, having innovated rapidly over the last several years to vaunt itself into top spot in the world smartphone rankings, Samsung now faces essentially the same challenge as Apple: how to continue to improve its devices year on year when existing phones are already top of their class, and there aren't obvious shortcomings?

'And secondly, how to set Samsung's devices apart from other devices that share the Android operating system that provides so much of the functionality? As rivals such as HTC and Sony up the specs of their devices and provide ever better hardware, it becomes more and more important for Samsung to differentiate on software and services,' remarked Dawson.

Dawson noted: 'For now, Samsung can likely rely on its vastly superior marketing budget and the relatively weak efforts of its competitors in software to keep it ahead. But competitors will catch up, as Samsung has caught up in many ways with Apple, and Samsung will need to continue to stretch. It also needs to build a stronger set of content offerings that cross its various platforms, so that it can extend its leadership in smartphones into the tablet space, and give consumers a reason to buy into an 'all-Samsung' experience with their consumer electronics,' concluded Dawson.

Smart Chimps thinks: It may be laden with a ton of functions that many might not be able to find and probably don't and won't ever need, but Smart Chimps reckons this one is right on the banana, as long as everything actually works – take note, Apple! It will be interesting to see what this phone feels like in the hand as well – the Galaxy S3 felt big and plasticy and being a chimp, we were tempted to try and bend it to see how long it would take to snap. We prefer a slick, tough body like the Lumia 820 and 920, or many of HTC's well-engineered shells, but being ape-like, we are prone to dropping things and so prefer things to feel like they will last. If this device is built better than its predecessors, Smart Chimps definitely fancies a go.


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