Samsung previews Galaxy S 4: quick summary
UPDATE: Samsung's Galaxy S 4 isn't far away. Samsung New Zealand's head of mobile, Stefan Lecchi tells NBR the new handset is now with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees for testing, and should be on the market soon after the global launch (which was streamed on Samsung Mobile's YouTube channel here above).
No global or country-specific release dates were given at today's event.
Local pricing won't be announced today, Mr Lecchi says.
Galaxy S 4 tech specs (Galaxy S III/iPhone 5)
Display size: 5-inch (4.8-inch/4-inch)
Display resolution: 1080p full-HD, 441 pixel density (720p, 306ppi/326ppi)
Weight: 130g (133g/112g)
Depth: 7.9mm (8.6mm/7.6mm)
Rear camera: 13 megapixel (8mP/8mP)
Onboard storage options: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB (same/same)
Processor: 1.9GHz quadcore or 1.6GHz Octadore* (1.4GHZ quadcore/1.02GHz dualcore)
Memory: 2GB of RAM (1GB/1GB)
Colours: black, white; more colours will follow at an unspecified date
* Will vary by market
As expected, it supports 4G/LTE.
The overall look-and-feel is very similar to the S III.
New interface/software features
An S Translator feature was demo'd today that can translate nine languages - spoken or written - in real time. If it works as advertised, this could be a very useful feature while travelling, turning your phone into a personal translator. The supported languages Chinese, English (US and British), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese.
Also new: S Voice Drive, a voice-controlled interface designed for use while you’re driving, with a simplified screen display and larger type.
The existing S Voice feature has been upgraded. It can now read text messages.
A PC-based feature called Smart Switch lets you back up your old phone and restore it to the Galaxy S 4. The switching software works with any phone - a clear bid to attract iPhone users worried about copying contacts across.
A Dual Camera mode means you can use the (2 megapixel) front-facing camera for video chat and turn on the rear camera so the person you're talking to can also see what's behind the phone (which could be a third participant iin your conversation). You can also combine photos taken by the front and rear cameras. An Eraser mode takes a series of quick pictures, enabling the S 4 to remove the a cause of movement, such a person who tries to photo bomb your shot.
Air Gestures were confirmed. You can now use a range of finger swipes without touching the screen - a boon for those with wet or sticky fingers. [UPDATE: Some US media got a quick look at the S 4 after the launch event. The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg said overall "the Galaxy S 4 should provide the strongest competition yet to the iPhone." But he wasn't completely sold on Air Gestures. "At first I couldn't get it to work. A Samsung rep gave me a quick tutorial, which helped, but it wasn't as responsive as I had hoped," he wrote. Read a round up of early reaction here.]
A related feature, Air View, lets you see a pop-up preview the contents of an email, photo or video by hovering your finger over it.
Another rumoured feature, Smart Pause, was also confirmed. If the S 4 senses you've looked away from a video, it will freeze the clip until you look back.
So was Smart Scroll, which allows you to scroll the S 4's web 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 scrolls the pages up or down accordingly, Samsung says.
On a more meat-and-potatoes level there's S Optical Reader, which Samsung says can recongnise text, a business card or QR code information, and providing useful functions such as translation, call, text message and search.
Mention of Google's Android was almost wholely absent. Ditto mention of Google's Play. The S 4 spruces up the basic Android home screen (4.2.2, aka Jelly Bean) with a transparent overlay.
Media sharing options also get a boost - at least as long as you're with others in the S 4 clan. Music can be shared among eight S 4 owners, no wi-fi required. Games and photos can also be shared.
Business buyers also get Knox, Samsung's new software that can be used to encrypt data and remotely control a phone's security settings - think a BlackBerry-level of control, but without the need for BlackBerry servers.
Other sharing features include the ability to display photos on your S 4 in 1080p on your TV, and watch television content on your S 4 courtesy of Samsung's WatchOn software (I'm still waiting for confirmation if it'll be compatible with Sky and Freeview. UPDATE: Samsung is not sure at this point if this feature will be available in NZ).
The S 4 makes it easier to upload photos to Facebook (one suspects Android maker Google would prefer its Plus service to be emphasised) and, more uniquely, you'll be able to order hardcover books of your photos (pricing of $US10 to $US30 was quoted at the event; Samsung is not sure yet if this service will be available in NZ).
The short story: the S 4 is the phone you can control with a glance of your eyes or a hover of your finger. In demo at least, it looked pretty nifty. Now we wait for the handset to be available for hands on review ...
Earlier: Samsung is unveiling it Galaxy S 4 smartphone today - but can the company live up to the hype.
The Galaxy S III was released in May 2012. Samsung sold 30 million by the end of the year, making it easily the biggest selling Android. Some analysts say it outsold the iPhone 5 (it can't be said definitively as Apple does not break out iPhone sales by model; in its December quarter Apple sold a record 48 million iPhones total, against 63 million for Samsung across all its smartphone models. Looking at the big picture, IDC says iPhone represented 19% of global smartphone shipments in 2012, compared with about 70% for all Android phones).
Unpacking streamed live
For Galaxy completiists, the New York unpacking (which starts 12pm NZ) time will be live streamed to Samsung Mobile's YouTube channel.
NBR will likely be attending a midday Auckland event, so I'll post any local carrier, pricing or timing details that emerge from that - so check back later today.
Meanwhile in a rare interview published in the Wall Street Journal today, Apple market boss Phil Schiller takes a swing at Android phones in general.
"Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn't as good as an iPhone," he says.
We can't say that never would have happened in Steve Jobs' day, as the Apple co-founder was forever taking schoolboy swipes at Android.
Still, bad form. Focus on improviing your own product.