Today at the Radio City Music Hall, Samsung released its new flagship Galaxy S 4 smartphone. At least we think they did. The phone itself was marred by quite frankly the most bizarre event I have ever seen. Instead of a traditional keynote, they wrapped the product announcement into something reminiscent of a broadway musical. Here’s the good news though, Samsung actually released a pretty good phone.
For the most part, the rumor mill was spot on. The case is still based on the GSIII/Note II design language, though its a bit slimmer. The Phone is 5.0” with a full 1080P HD resolution at 441 pixels per inch. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. Even with the bigger screen, the phone itself is actually slightly smaller than the outgoing Galaxy SIII at 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm. The predecessor is 136.6 x70.6 x 8.6. Weight is down 3g to 130.
It looks like the practice of different CPUs for different markets will continue. Specs list both a 1.9GHz quad core and a 1.6GHz octo-core. No word on which CPU North America will get. There is also no word on the manufacturer of either the CPU or the GPU. For the cameras, as was rumored, we get a 2MP front and 13MP rear. Both are capable of 1080p video. Rounding out the specs are 6-band LTE, AC-Wireless, GPS/GlONASS, NFC, BT4.0, and IR for using the phone as a remote. For sensors it has the accelerometer, gyroscope, a color light sensor, and both temperature and barometric sensors. It has 2GB of system memory, Standard 16/32/64 storage configurations, and a microSD slot for up to 64GB of additional storage. The battery is 2600 mAh. On specs alone, this is the best mobile device on the market.
The Phone is running Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2, but you could barely tell from the presentation. They only mentioned Android once and as far as I could tell never uttered Google’s name. Samsung placed a premium on their own services, even those which duplicated Google’s. The camera software received a major upgrade. Chief among these is a dual camera mode that allows you to take front and rear shots in the same image. It extends to video too. Also featured was the Sound and Shot mode that took a picture with 12 seconds of audio, and Drama Shot which takes a whole bunch of photos.
Music lovers get a new local share function called Group Play. There is also S Translator for those traveling to a foreign land. Their S Voice Personal Assistance software has been upgraded with a new drive mode. There are new control options which allow you to control the phone with your fingers or with optical tracking instead of the touch screen. For couch potatoes, there’s universal remote software called Samsung WatchOn. Probably the most interesting feature is S Health. Samsung will be going after existing health apps directly here. Not only with a full featured app, but with a full line of accessories.
Take away the event itself, and you have a very impressive device. It is evolutionary, not revolutionary, but it evolved quite a bit. If you are coming off a contract, this looks like a worthy upgrade. If you have a GSIII or something similar, I would wait another year. The GS4 will be available on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Cricket in April as well as carriers in other major markets.