What Mobile got the chance to have a play around with Samsung’s new device, the Galaxy S4.
While the device has hardware to live up to its recently launched rivals, its new capabilities seem to be the things to keep an eye on.
Looks aren’t everything but in a smartphone they’re pretty key. The Galaxy S4 is a pretty normal looking device but key is the fact that the five inch screen – the same size as the Xperia Z, mind – doesn’t look silly when making calls; it just looks like a phone. Second is the fact that the S4 doesn’t look flimsy and exceptionally breakable like the S3 does, probably thanks to its polycarbonate body Samsung has opted for. The version What Mobile saw was a dark grey, which isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off design-wise, and basically looked like a suped up, more durable S3. That was one of Allan’s (What Mobile’s Editor) pet hates from the S3 – its plasticky flimsiness.
The S4 is packing some pretty decent hardware, with 2GB RAM and, depending what market you’re in, a Snapdragon quad core processor at 1.9 GHz or the new Exynos 5 CPU at 1.6GHz. Either way, the phone ran tasks smoothly without lag and didn’t seem to mind multitasking.
The device comes with a removable 2600 mAh battery and while that’s a lot of juice, it remains to be seen not only how the different versions with differing processors compare, battery life-wise, but also just how much life Samsung’s user interface sucks up.
The device runs the latest version of Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) and comes with expandable storage via microSD.
The screen on the S4 is pretty nice; not as nice as the Xperia Z, I’d say from my first couple of tries with the device, but still pretty decent, and with the same resolution (441ppi) with AMOLED HD screen and Gorilla Glass 3.0, and, as above, the S4 feels like it could take some wear and tear. Video and pictures in particular come out pretty sparkling clear.
Samsung really seemed to throw itself into its functionality and app offerings at the launch of the S4, perhaps because hardware can only take you so far with current developed tech.
It debuted its Smart Scroll and Smart Pause technology and this was actually pretty neat. The Smart Pause pauses a video when it senses you’re turned away from the screen. This was a little laggy, to be honest, but still an interesting concept. Just how useful it will be remains to be seen.
Smart scroll likewise stopped scrolling when it sensed you weren’t looking at the screen any longer. This tech used facial image recognition and calulations regarding the angle your face made with the screen, however this feature didn’t work wonderfully well on test runs and seemed to freeze or just plain stop working.
Air Gestures was an interesting development that could definitely be useful – billed by Samsung as ideal for hands free or hands full phone use, Air Gestures allow skipping of music or Internet tabs, for example, by swiping your hand. This worked pretty well but could be hit and miss when I tried it on photos and tabs, and would be useful for kitchen scenarios.
Air Hover was another air gesture, where hovering a digit above the screen, but not touching it, provided a preview of content, for instance emails, messages or Flipboard panels. This worked better than the other two but is restricted to certain applications; however it’s an interesting idea, particularly for workers not wanting to sift through emails for certain details.
The S4’s camera comes with a variety of functions, some useful and some less so. The Eraser function, which deletes moving people in the background of photos, works well and is a lot of fun to see in progress (and is a boon to those affected by the dreaded Photobombing disease). Dual shot allows users to capture pictures or video of themselves and their subjects, using both cameras.
In general, there’s some interesting offerings from Samsung, but the question will be whether they’re finished productes or early iterations; the phone seems powerful enough to handle all tasks thrown at it and its screen helps it look its best, but whether this will drain its giant battery is something to look for too.