Samsung Galaxy S4 – The Latest News
Update: 12 March 2013
With just a few days to go until the official launch on 14 March 2013, we more-or-less know everything about the Samsung Galaxy S4, in unconfirmed form. Hardly any of the initial rumours have been countered, pointing towards a 13-megapixel camera, eight-core CPU and a plastic body.
The phone itself has been “leaked” in physical form, although its bod was so depressingly innocuous design-wise that most believe this test handset was clothed in an imposter shell to deter leaks. It’s a believable premise – check the new story below for the full scoop.
What we’re looking at is a phone that carries on the Samsung Galaxy S series in the same style as its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3. It has cutting-edge specs, a functional body that encompasses expandable memory and a user-accessible battery, and a custom UI that adds more of the neat gadgety features of the last model.
These features – most notably the Smart Scroll function, which scrolls text as you move your eyes – make use of features that don’t get a whole lotta love from many phone users: namely NFC and the user-facing camera. They’re clever tweaks that make great little gadgety anecdotes.
What the Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t is a market-shifting dynamic phone. It’s out to maintain the status quo. Samsung doesn’t need to change up because all of the previous “S” models have proved such roaring succeses. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has already shifted more than 40 million units, and will continue to sell strongly for months and months to come – well beyond the Samsung Galaxy S4’s release date.
The question is – is such a phone enough to get you really excited?
Update: 7 March 2013
A bunch of leaked screenshots has all-but confirmed many of our previous suspicions about the Samsung Galaxy S4.
These include that the phone will have a 13-megapixel camera, as revealed by the a “13M” graphic in the camera interface. To see the picture for yourself, scroll down to the bottom of the screen for all the latest Samsung Galaxy S4 news.
Other leaked screengrabs confirm the existence of a few rumoured software features. Eye Scroll uses the front-facing camera to automatically scroll a page by monitoring the movement of your eyeballs. Pretty cool, eh?
There’s also mention of Eye Pause, which presumably will pause video when the Galaxy S4 notices that your eyes have wandered away from the screen.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Release Date
Do you need an instant Samsung Galaxy S4 fix? Samsung has released the first video teasers for the phone. They all point to an “unpacked” event that takes place on 14 March in New York.
This is where the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be unveiled – it’s an open secret. We’ll be on the ground on launch day with our full impressions and all the photos your eyes can stomach.
On 14 March, we’ll also likely find out when the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be available to buy. Leaked pictures suggest the phone will go on sale from 22 April, five weeks after the phone’s launch.
However, online retailers are likely to let you pre-order the phone as soon as it’s officially announced.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Design and Photos
Big-name phones are often leaked months in advance, as the big Far East factories that produce millions of the things let the odd component seep out. You don’t need Tony Robinson’s Time Team to work out what a phone looks like once you’ve seen its casing components. Curiously, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has not been leaked in this way. Quite how Samsung has managed to keep this tight a lid on the phone is anyone’s guess.
There are two “favourite” designs, but in reality they’re little more than best-guess renders.
One Samsung Galaxy S4 design looks much like a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. It keeps the soft keys and central select button, as well as the “default” white Samsung finish.
Another rendered image of the Galaxy S4 shows a rather different design. It’s more angular, and tries much harder to limit the amount of area the phone takes up above and beyond the 5-inch screen. This second design also ditches the soft keys and physical nav button in favour of an all-touch style.
The former, more “canon” design is likely to be the real one particulary since online retailer Expansys rubbished some of the specs and designs saying it was stolen from their Galaxy S4 renders.
Veteran phone leaker Eldar Murtazin suggests that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will feature the same often-criticised plastic body we saw in the Samsung Galaxy S3, noting that “all the weaknesses that are widely discussed for Galaxy S3 will be carried over to this product.”
The continued use of glossy plastic in the Samsung Galaxy S4 is unsurprising, though, as recent releases such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 have stuck to this plastic-clad design philosophy.
Using a traditional plastic battery cover makes it dead easy for Samsung to implement a user-replaceable battery and a microSD memory card slot. Both of these will feature in the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Screen
The one element of the Samsung Galaxy S4 screen that the rumours can agree on is that it’ll be around five inches, 4.99 to be exact. Early rumours were certain that it would use a full HD variant of the OLED technology that has been used in every Galaxy flagship phone to date.
However, a more recent report from SamMobile suggests the Samsung Galaxy S4 will use a SoLux screen. This is an LCD variant, and is therefore completely different from the former Galaxy screens. This is likely to be complete nonsense, however.
The SoLux term surfaced around reports concerning the HTC One’s display, and SoLux it’s effectively a marketing term HTC appears to have made up.
Samsung to borrow an HTC screen for their flagship Galaxy S4 phone? We don’t think so.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 screen is much more likely to be a 4.99-inch AMOLED display, of 1080p resolution (1,920×1,080). However, it is not expected to use the PenTile sub-pixel arrangement seen in the Samsung Galaxy S3. This is an uneven sub-pixel array that reduces sharpness and makes text look a little fuzzy in mid-resolution phones.It is also the cause of the some iffy colour reproduction and the blueish tinge the Galaxy S3 suffered from.
You probably wouldn’t notice it in such a pixel-packed screen as the 441dpi Samsung Galaxy S4, but it’s always good to know the phone you spent half a grand on is reasonably up-to-date technologically.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – CPU and Specs
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S4 is – will it have an eight-core or quad-core processor?
The latest leaked benchmark reports suggest it will indeed have eight processor cores. Details from an AnTuTu benchmark result show that the Samsung Galaxy S4 has an Exynos 5 1.8GHz octo-core CPU backed with 2GB of RAM.
However, this does not mean that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be twice as fast as quad-core phones like the Sony Xperia Z. It’s not that advanced.
Four of the phones cores are there to function as everyday energy-saving engines, leaving the 1.8GHz monsters to come out when needed – such as when playing games, for example.
The new Exynos 5 architecture chip was shown off at the CES 2013 conference in January. Its performance cores are based on the Cortex-A15 architecture. The first phone to use this chip type was the iPhone 5 – and it provides excellent performance at its clock speed. A 1.8GHz quad-core chipset should boast serious power.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Software
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will run Android Jelly Bean, with Samsung’s customary TouchWiz interface on top. TouchWiz’s strength is in packing-in loads of headline-grabbing gadgety features.
In the Samsung Galaxy S3 we had Smart Stay, video multitasking and S Beam, which was Samsung’s application for the at-the-time near-useless NFC connectivity. Samsung hasn’t yet officially teased what we have to look forward to in the Samsung Galaxy S4’s TouchWiz 6. However, a few morsels have escaped.
Smart Scroll is a natural progression of Smart Stay. It’ll scroll text automatically when the user-facing camera senses you’ve finished a line. It should work, in theory, as long as you don’t have nystagmus.
Another extra is called Orb, although it’s specific to the camera, rather than being a general interface tweak. It’s much like the Photosphere camera mode that was introduced in Android 4.2.
Orb will let you take a full 360-degree panorama of your surroundings, turning it into a miniature globe.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Camera
Other than Orb, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is expected to feature a 13-megapixel camera. Although it sounds impressive, it’s on the verge of becoming depressingly common.
Almost all the flagship phones we saw at MWC 2013 used 13-megapixel sensors, and they all use the very same Sony sensor. It’s the one seen in the Sony Xperia Z. It may be great, but it will also seem pedestrian very soon.
This means the Samsung Galaxy S4 will need to include impressive software and an impressive lens in order to stand out. What we want to know is its aperture. This is the width of the “gap” that lets in light within a lens.
Aperture is measured through the f-stop rating system. The lower the number, the better. For example, the iPhone 5 camera has an aperture of f/2.4, and the Nokia Lumia 920 an aperture of f/2.0. Oddly, enough, the most impressive aperture rating we’ve seen recently was in the Nokia Lumia 720, which has a fantastic f-stop of f/1.9.
To put this into context, f/1.8 is a common aperture for reasonably high-end prime DSLR lenses. However, the Sony sensor of the Samsung Galaxy S4 will naturally limit the phone’s photographic performance. A small sensor with small photosensitive pixels means limited low-light performance.
One way to improve image quality without using a larger sensor is with image stabilisation. This lets the Nokia Lumia 920 take longer exposures without blurring images – improving low-light performance a good deal. However, we’ve not heard any suggestion that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will feature this.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Features
The one dramatic change we doubt whether Samsung will implement is a digitiser layer, as seen in the Galaxy Note 2. That there’s talk of a Galaxy Note 3 suggests the Galaxy S4 will not have a digitiser, as it’s the key defining characteristic between the two ranges. Think the next Galaxy should feature a digitiser? Drop up a comment below.
Other noteworthy features are ones that are practically guaranteed – 4G mobile data connectivity and NFC wireless connectivity. We also expect the Samsung Galaxy S4 to keep its microSD memory card slot, like every flagship in the series to date.
Samsung Galaxy S4 – Impressions
Unless Samsung has something hidden to unveil on 14 March, the Samsung Galaxy S4 does not appear to be a particularly dramatic or innovative phone. Its CPU architecture is interesting, but the rest of its features we’ve seen explored in other phones. Does the Samsung Galaxy S4 need true innovation? Arguably it does not, but we’re left longing for something a little more innovative than what Samsung appears to be offering here.