Samsung Galaxy S4: New features explored
The phone you have all been waiting for has arrived. The curtain has been lifted, the box opened and now, finally, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is here.
So what’s new about the Samsung flagship? Hot off the press, here is all you need to know about the Galaxy S4’s new features.
Samsung Galaxy S4 display
The first big talking point for the SGS4 is that it has joined the 1080p brigade. The first impressions are that it's a corker. At 5-inches, it’s fairly big on the smartphone front, matching the Sony Xperia Z for pixel density at 440ppi.
The display also uses some clever tech called Adapt Display, which makes sure that Super AMOLED screen adjusts itself depending on what sort of content you are viewing. So games will have different display settings compared to movies.
It's topped with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which should stop it getting scratched up. One final thing to note, the display, like the 920, can also function when you have gloves on.
Samsung Galaxy S4 processor
Inside the new Samsung is that long-rumoured octo-core 1.6GHz Exynos 5 processor. Yes you’re reading that right … it has 8 cores. We're being told that the aim of the octo-core is to make it more efficient with the battery, rather than for outright power. To be fair, we suspect it'll be plenty powerful too.
Back this up with 2GB of RAM and you should have multi-tasking covered pretty nicely. Whatever happens, this new Samsung will be as snappy as any of the top-of-the-line Android phones.
Samsung Galaxy S4 battery
The new Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 2,600mAh battery, which is 300mAh more than the HTC One. All that battery is likely needed to keep the 8-core chip ticking over, despite its clever ARMv7-based power management.
Samsung Galaxy S4 camera
On the back of the SGS4 is a 13-megapixel snapper, which is a jump over the 8-megapixel option found on the SGS3. It goes without saying, that we will be comparing exactly how it performs against the likes of the HTC One and Lumia 920, but for now, that’s plenty of resolution to play with, even if we've no idea how it will deal with noise, a common problem.
On the front is a 2-megapixel offering, promising a higher-quality experience for video calling, again, something that HTC put into the HTC One X+ in 2012. New camera features include things like the mode wheel from the Galaxy Camera, allowing you to tweak settings to a higher degree.
Dual recording is another clever function, which can record stills and video from the front and back camera simultaneously, giving you picture-in-picture, so you can see your reaction at the time of the shot.
Finally comes Eraser Shot: this function will scan through an image and wipe out any unnecessary clutter from the picture. It’s great for doing things like taking out a passer-by from a posed family shot.
Samsung's own ChatOn can now support up to three video callers at once, share screens and - most excitingly - use both the front and back of the SGS4's camera while you talk. This way one phone can be used to let several people have conversations.
No surprises that the new Galaxy S4 is a LTE handset. It will be supported by EE's 4G network in the UK and should arrive on other providers when 4G launches later in the year.
The Galaxy S4 incorporates an IR blaster so you can control your television using your phone. It's a returning trend we are seeing in handsets, also found in the HTC One, just launched. There will also be a supporting video app, although Samsung quickly skipped over these details.
Not mentioned at the SGS4 launch but definitely a cool feature is the phone's ability to charge wirelessly. We don't have any details yet on docks, but this should charge just like the Nexus 4, without the need for cables.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will be capable of some impressive noise cancellation to clean up background noise from your calls. It's a feature of the SGS3 and the Nexus 10, but the S4 houses the latest generation of Audience audio processor, the earSmart eS325.
Hardware aside, the new Samsung has lots of interesting software tweaks to seperate it from the Android crowd. Air View is one of them, letting you hover your finger over the display to activate specific functions.
You can use it to increase thumbnail size, before selecting a picture. A lot of it is taken from the Note, which uses a similar functions. Then there is a custom version of Flipboard that uses the tech, as well as gesture controls which save you touching the screen, so you don’t need to take gloves off.
Building on the eye-recognition tech found in the SGS3 is Smart Pause. The new function will track your eyes and then pause any video you might be watching the moment you take your eyes off the screen. It's not unique in this feature, as it's also offered by LG in the Optimus G Pro.
Another eye-recognition tweak is Smart Scroll. This can scroll up and down web pages when you tilt the phone, provided you are looking at the screen.
Android 4.2.2 has made an appearance in the Galaxy S4, which naturally has been heavily tweaked with Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI.
READ: HTC One review
We will have plenty more on exactly how the new-look TouchWiz operates once we have got the Galaxy S4 in for review, but there are certainly plenty of features available in Samsung's new software.
Drawing on the joys of Google Translate is S Translator, which does essentially the same thing. S Translator is incorporated directly into the OS, so rather than having to boot up an app, it lets you translate any text you find on the phone, including emails.
The app can speak a variety of languages, including all the obvious ones like Portuguese, English and Spanish. Samsung demonstrated S Translator doing text to speech and speech to text, so you could have a whole conversation via the phone.
Group Play is an interesting function of the Galaxy S4 that we haven’t really seen on smartphones before. It lets you connect with up to eight other SGS4s to share music and play games. The trick is that it can be done independent of a home network.
The really crazy thing is that Group Play can work like a seven-channel surround sound system. You can link up each phone and then pick left, centre and right channels and assign them to each handset. We imagine it will sound nicely tinny, but still cool none the less.
This app comes as part of Samsung’s new health-based suite of accessories. The built-in pedometer allows the phone to count calories or steps and can even connect with the new S Band, Samsung’s answer to the Nike Fuelband.
This app is essentially there so you can print out pictures straight from your phone. Paired with Blurb, Story Album is basically iPhoto, in that it can create and layout proper photo albums directly on the Galaxy S4. For around $30 (£20) the Blurb pairing will let you print any of the albums you make.
S Voice Drive
S Voice has been updated with the Galaxy S4. It now knows when you are in your car, if paired with Bluetooth, and adapts to show things like driving directions and locations.
On top of this, it can read out notifications and gives you the option to respond to messages and return calls. S Voice is now a proper Siri rival.
Samsung Galaxy S4 availability
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will be available globally from 26 April. If you're interested in getting your hands on one, we're rounding up all the UK deals and details in a separate feature.