Samsung GALAXY S 4 hands-on

March 14, 2013
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The next big thing is here from Samsung. That being the often rumored and recently heavily leaked GALAXY S 4 smartphone. The specs and features have been hotly debated in the months leading up to today's big reveal, and now we finally have all the details and our hands on the device. Just confirmed moments ago the S4 indeed comes with a 5-inch 1080p full HD display, a blazing fast 8-core processor and a quality 13 megapixel camera. It wasn't the radical design change many wanted, but they've merged new features into improved hardware. Read on for our thoughts on all the new functions and features of the GS4.

Samsung certainly has a huge following and an impressive track record on Android. After all they are the number one smartphone manufacturer and show no signs of slowing down. While the HTC One kicked things up a notch on hardware, Samsung chose to stick to a formula that's already working for them. That being a very similar design, and durable materials. Only this isn't plastic, this is a polycarbonate shell. Then focused on improving all the areas we use daily. Those being the screen, camera, and software.

The new Galaxy S4 isn't too big, and actually gets a larger full HD 5-inch display while staying in nearly the same overall size as the previous generation. You'll be working with the same 136.6mm tall, wider at 69.8mm, and actually a thinner 7.9mm frame. All this is housing a larger 1920x1080p FHD PenTile panel, bigger battery, and 8-core processor. Many might complain that the design is too similar to last years Galaxy S III, but they've made huge strides in what they've accomplished here. You get WAY more in your hand, in roughly the same size as before.

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Real quick one more time lets talk the full numbers. Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean is happily on board, as well as a smooth TouchWiz UI we'll get into below. The hardware is that 5-inch FHD display with 441 PPI. Then as expected and rumored we have a blazing fast 1.6 GHz Exynos 5 Octa 8-core processor accompanied by 2GB of RAM. Samsung isn't being too clear, but appears we'll get the Snapdragon 600 series quad-core in the US running at 1.9 GHz. Then storage comes in 16/32/64 variations, as well as a 13MP camera on rear and 2MP front.

As far as how the Galaxy S4 feels in your hand - it's wonderful. Everything we love and made the Galaxy S III the best selling smartphone to date is present. The awesome design has been refined and improved without getting bigger. The bezels are slightly smaller allowing for the larger HD display, yet it's still comfortable to hold thanks to the rounded back. That aluminum ring around the sides should also help keep the S4 safe from drops, and we know the drop tests will be coming soon. As far as the screen goes. It's amazing. It truly is extremely crisp, stunningly bright, and a joy to use. It also is the worlds first with Gorilla Glass 3 for extra protection. Viewing angles are top-notch, but the HTC One SLCD3 seems a bit natural and more clear.

Flipping through homescreens, launching the camera or Google Now, and of course using the new 'Hover' feature (talk more on that below) all is as smooth as butter without a drop of lag. This thing flies. We haven't been able to fully test out that camera or all of the features yet, but we're getting there and will post all the details soon. So far the subtle changes to TouchWiz are nice, but nothing major or worth making headlines. It's the added features inside the OS that are important, and we'll get into those below.

Just as rumors and sources close to the situation suggested Samsung has focused on software innovation more than hardware innovation. We're not taking anything away from the stellar design and beautiful screen, but the software received the share of attention. Software is the key here - and is what Samsung hopes will set their device apart from the competition. We're happy to confirm it's running the absolute latest Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean so you'll enjoy lockscreen widgets, Google Now, and everything else but all of Samsung's additions are make it truly shine.

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Samsung focused on four main pillars and gave them fancy titles, and they are: Enjoyment, Creating and Nurturing Relationships, Everyday Convenience, then Health and Wellness. With new camera features to cover enjoyment and creating relationships. Scrolling, hovering, and air features for convenience, then tons of S-Band features for health and wellness.

Here's the names: Hover, Smart Stay, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, Air Wave, Air Browse, Air Jump and more are all brand new to the Galaxy S4. Hopefully most come to the SIII in an update too. They aren't as confusing as they sound either. Hover will give you previews of images in a gallery, a sample of an email or text, calendar entries and much more all while hovering your finger over the area - without touching the screen. This feature will work in a brand new version of Flipboard for Android. It works wonderfully too! This will be one of my favorite features, that's for sure. The Smart Stay and Smart Scroll is also brand new and truly an innovation in mobile devices. The Galaxy will scroll through an email or web page automatically for you based on eye recognition and tracking technology, and it works as good as you'd expect. It's right on somehow. I'll be disabling the smart pause because I don't always look at the screen 100% of the time while viewing a video, but it's a nice touch. Look away and it pauses. Fancy that!

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Then the 'Air' features are all motion-based. Waving a hand over the phone when a call comes, switches songs with Air Jump while playing music, and in browser you can scroll up and down or left to right to jump between tabs. Just with a flip of your wrist. This same feature takes screenshots of the Galaxy S III, now it's just improved for more functionality.

That isn't all either. While HTC has the Ultrapixel camera and Zoe feature as selling points, Samsung's done the same sort of thing on another level. They've thrown something unique into all aspects hoping that at least one new feature sticks to the wall for someone. This will be their way of getting anyone and everyone to buy the Galaxy S4. They're predicting more than 100m sales, and we can see why. The Galaxy S4 has a IR-Blaster and a new WatchON remote app, but we'll have to get time with that soon. They've added a business card scanner that converts it to a QR code, and their ChatON app has been overhauled too. ChatON will be a unified messenger and video calling feature, and even has a new feature called S Translator for different languages.

Samsung even has their own new accessory called S-Band and an app called S Health. And yes, it's a band that syncs to your Galaxy via Bluetooth. This is part of the health and wellness pillar above. It's a food and calorie tracker, comfort level tracker, and walking mate. It has a pedometer and huge database of nutritional information. Then the band is a body scale, tracks your heart rate and temp then will sync via Bluetooth. Looks like they are aiming for the Nike FuelBand with this optional accessory.

To be honest tons of these features like Smart Scroll or the Hover features are nice, but it's almost as if they're just throwing tons of ideas out to see what sticks. Almost too many features, if there's such a thing as too much awesomeness. I'm a bit torn on what I think. It's an overload, but awesome and many users will love it.

In the end the expectations for the Galaxy S4 are extremely high, and now we have all the details. Obviously the verdict is still out until we get a review unit, but so far we've come away extremely impressed with the level of polish and innovation to the software. This is clearly a show about software, while also upping the game in hardware. The Galaxy S4 is an evolutionary smartphone, and not an revolutionary step many wanted. Will that matter though? Probably not. Will users still flock to this stunning smartphone? Absolutely.

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While the hardware has been vastly improved over the previous generation, most of the cutting edge changes (screen aside) are with software, which we're expecting to eventually be updated and added to the Galaxy S III. So the question here is will you, or should you upgrade? There's tons of features that will grab buyers attention and die-hard fans will certainly upgrade to have the latest and greatest. Most likely not all the features will be carried over to differentiate the GS4 from last years king, so that's a thought. In the end we get a sense there's enough hardware changes, and certainly software improvements, that there will be a little something for everyone to be excited about.

Stay tuned for all of our additional coverage as we break down the details, get hands-on with the accessories and S-Band, and anything else that appears here in NYC. For everything we know so far hit the timeline below.

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  • h4ck3d

    Shut up Phil!!!!

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      ummm.. right!

  • Gilbert Gonzalez

    Very disappointed….I think I’ll be getting an HTC One. It just looks TOO much like an S3. This is HTC’s chance to get back in the game.

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      I somewhat agree. Although larger battery (removable) and SD slot are huge + for Sammy

      • Gilbert Gonzalez

        True, but man I just can’t see myself spending 500 bucks or so on another phone that looks just like the one I already have. I’m not an iSheep. Software wise, I could careless about all those smart features as I’m going to root and throw pure google on it anyway. for me, the phone has to sell me with appearance. S3 did cuz it was different. S4 did not cuz it wasn’t. This was TOO much like iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

        Big let down Samsung! As with your new “innovations” you just lost me as a repeat customer. And let me tell you, I have a mountain of Android phones in my drawer. 6 mos is the longest I’ve gone with any given phone. Perhaps I’ll consider the S5 so long as it they change the device.

  • Gary

    I love the HTC One looks, however I’m not that shallow to buy something on aesthetics alone. The interior hardware and software provides more substance for me, and the Galaxy S4 looks like its packed full to the brim! Smart Scroll alone would make me buy this, however I have the Galaxy Note 2 and I’m pretty sure there will be an update with all these new features anyways. I think even die hard apple fans are going to have a hard time suggesting this new Samsung is “cheap, plasticky s**t” as the software innovations are just amazing. What did the iPhone 5 bring? A slightly taller screen and a faster CPU. This beauty rocks a 5″ qhd screen, 13mp camera and an 8 core CPU, not to mention all the new features with “Touchwiz”.. Yes I like the HTC One, but with no removable battery or micro SD card slot, I’m still sticking to Samsung… For now anyways lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207419436 Rick DeChiara

    Sticking with my S3. The S4 isn’t that much bigger of an upgrade and I am under contract with the S3.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Foosa-Noble/100001939436588 Foosa Noble

    I had just received an email from Apple, stating the wonders of the
    iPhone 5 and iOS. Coincidentally after the Galaxy S4 Debut.. How
    Desperate, Childish and Pathetic could Apple get?

  • Richard Yarrell

    Galaxy S4 pimp slaps this Htc One pretty silly.