Samsung’s new phone a mixed bag.
The Galaxy S 4, Samsung’s latest and greatest, has a cute feature we’ll probably see in a lot of phones soon: You can shoot both yourself and your surroundings at the same time, using the front- and back-mounted cameras. It’s a bit like having a two-camera film crew follow you around.
But other than that, it’s hard to point to anything that will set the world on fire in the new phone, revealed Thursday at an event in New York. The S 4 has what you’d expect from a new smartphone: a bigger screen and a faster processor. It may prove to be unfortunate that didn’t stop there when it presented the successor to its hit Galaxy S III, because the phone has a grab-bag of features that don’t come together as a pleasing whole.
The phone will go on sale sometime between late April and the end of June, from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, US Cellular and Cricket, Samsung says. If history is any guide, even smaller phone companies will get it, if not right away. The phone companies will set the prices; expect this phone to start at US$200 with a two-year contract.
Samsung provided reporters with some hands-on time with pre-production units, which revealed the S 4 to be, in terms of hardware, a solid successor to the III. The screen is slightly larger, at 5 inches on the diagonal compared to 4.8 inches for the III and 4 inches for the iPhone 5. It sports a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, as much as you’d find on a high-definition TV set. This should mean that the resolution chase is over in the smartphone area: the eyes just can’t discern any more pixels on these small screens. Competing top-line Android phones already have the same resolution, so Samsung isn’t breaking new ground here.
The bigger screen is crammed into a chassis that’s actually a hair narrower and thinner than the S III’s. This is quite a feat. Samsung shrank the frame surrounding the screen to make room. Shrinking other internal components allowed it to make the battery 20 percent larger than III’s, but Samsung isn’t saying whether that translates into longer battery life – the added battery power could be eaten up by software and hardware changes.
The body is still dominated by softly moulded plastic, and the S 4 doesn’t really advance the aesthetics of its predecessor the way competitors Apple, Sony and HTC have done with their latest phones. Apple and HTC, in particular, have put a lot of sweat into machining metal into jewel-like enclosures; Samsung doesn’t seem to care all that much about looks.