The Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced yesterday at a special media event in New York City's Radio City Music Hall. The Galaxy S4 is the latest flagship smartphone from the South Korean consumer electronics manufacturer, and it is the follow up to the Galaxy S3, the most popular Android device of all time. Although the Galaxy S4 was announced in an over-the-top event at one of the most famous venues in the world, the device won't actually be available to consumers for a couple of weeks.
The Galaxy S4 was announced on Thursday, but the Galaxy S4 release date—or, in other words, the day that the device is made available for purchase to the general public—is being pegged to the second quarter of 2012. The phone is expected to reach consumers by the end of April 2013. The Galaxy S4 price wasn't specifically mentioned at the Samsung Unpacked 2013 event at Radio City Music Hall, but the start price has always been presumed to be $199 with a two-year contract. The Galaxy S4 price is expected to be $199 because the Galaxy S3 was recently reduced to $99 leaving room for the Galaxy S4 for take the high-tier price point in Samsung's bullpen of devices. The Galaxy S4 price without a contract will most likely be between $700-800. The Galaxy S4 cost and price has not been confirmed or announced by Samsung, so only time will tell whether projections are accurate.
The Galaxy S4 launch in New York City was an absolutely over-the-top production created to generate buzz about Samsung's newest smartphone. The event featured an entire orchestra and several Broadway stars. During the hour-long presentation, fans frequently applauded as features were announced. The crowd was buzzing following the presentation, and it's safe to say most people were impressed with the design and functionality of the phone.
Samsung decided to use its "minimal organic" design that was popularized in the Galaxy S3 and other Galaxy-branded Samsung smartphones. The Galaxy S4 uses the same design concepts that were first introduced with the Galaxy S3, except the new model has an expanded Full-HD Super AMOLED display. The Galaxy S4 packs in 441 pixels-per-inch (PPI), which is significantly higher than most other smartphones on the market.
The Galaxy S4 specs that leaked prior to the device's official unveiling proved to be accurate for the most part. In addition to having some of the best features available for a smartphone, the Galaxy S4 included several new software-based features. One of the most-talked about features leading up to the Galaxy S4 announcement was the new "Smart Scroll" technology that was supposed to track a person's eye movement and automatically scroll down the screen.
"The phone will track a user's eyes to determine where to scroll, said a Samsung employee who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media," reported Brian Chen of the New York Times Bits blog prior to the Galaxy S4 launch event. "For example, when users read articles and their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next paragraphs of text."
Unfortunately, the "Smart Scroll" technology isn't an eye-tracking software product. Instead, the feature is powered by facial-recognition software that allows the smartphone to determine when a user is looking directly at the screen. "Smart Scroll" will lock into a person's face when they're looking at the screen, and when that user slightly tilts their wrist, the phone will begin to automatically scroll text on the page. It's not quite as exciting as eye-tracking software, and in general, we were disappointed by the new feature.
Samsung unveiled a large variety of new features with the Galaxy S4, and among them all, we were most impressed with "Air View" and "Air Gesture." Both features were largely inspired by functions that were originally brought to the Galaxy Note 2 thanks to the inclusion of the proprietary S Pen stylus created by Samsung. With the new features, Galaxy S4 users can simply control the device using their fingers. It's 'important to note that a large majority of the new features included on the Galaxy S4 can only be operated through Samsung apps and a few third-party applications. Unfortunately, Google Chrome is not one of the apps that support gesture controls.
Other Galaxy S4 specs include the following: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)-based TouchWiz UI, 13-megapixel front-facing camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, Titanium Gray and Sapphire Black casing option, S-Voice command capabilities, 2600 mAh battery, 2GB of RAM and 16, 32 or 64GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot. The Galaxy S4 is easily one of the best Android devices on the market at this moment, but it may be quickly outdated because of the operating system that it used.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is running on TouchWiz, a user interface that's overlaid on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. For anyone that's ever owned a Galaxy-branded Samsung device before, the new version of TouchWiz should be extremely familiar. Samsung fans definitely won't mind the new operating system, however, passionate Android fans will be disappointed that the Galaxy S4 doesn't include a stock version of Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The inclusion of Samsung TouchWiz shouldn't have any major effects on the user experience of the Galaxy S4, but if Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie is released as soon as we suspect it will, it could quickly outdate the Galaxy S4.
The Galaxy S4 is expected to hit shelves by the end of April 2013. The Galaxy S4 is expected to cost $199 with a two-year contract when it's released. Samsung hasn't confirmed either of these points, so both are subject to change. We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.