Remembering the Past: Samsung Galaxy S Series Phones

After Apple introduced us to the world of iPhone in 2007, it became kind of a household name and grew to be the most popular smartphone in the history of smartphones. Other companies like Nokia, BlackBerry, and Samsung were struggling to come up with an innovation that could shake the iPhone empire. Android came forth and started a revolution as we know it. Android’s diversity in the form of an open source mobile operating system, licensable to OEMs made it a huge success. The Google Play app store helped a lot.

When OEMs like Sony, HTC, and Samsung came up with all kinds of amazing hardware and software innovations to work with the Android operating system, a multi-tasking PC-like platform was possible outside Apple. This did really popularize the smartphones. One important milestone in the smartphone revolution is the Galaxy series of phones introduced by Samsung, especially Galaxy S series, introduced back in 2010.

On Oct 26, 2011, Samsung announced that the Galaxy S phones—S and S II have sold over 30 million units. iPhone’s success should be read along with this. iPhone did sell far more units than Galaxy S and S II did. In the most recent quarter ended in , Apple did report 47.8 million iPhones were sold. We looked through the press releases made by Apple over time, and a total of 318.945 million iPhones were sold since its beginning in 2007.

That is the total number of iPhones sold, and it is ten times the sales of Galaxy S and S II combined.

Then came along, Galaxy S III. With one of the largest screens and quad-core processing power, Galaxy S III did achieve a monster sales record. It was in that Samsung made this announcement. Galaxy S III had made 30 million sales. In one of the recent press releases, Samsung announced S series phones have sold over 100 million units. By September and November last year, Samsung Galaxy S III was confirmed to be the highest selling smartphone in the market, surpassing iPhone as well.

There is no other smartphone in the history of smartphones that have come anywhere near the sales record of these two smartphone families, iPhone and Galaxy S.

Those Old Galaxy Devices

 

Galaxy S Series started off with the first device, back in 2010, known by that name, Galaxy S. Here it is.

Samsung Galaxy S

 

Briefly, the technical specifications were as follows: 4 inch Super AMOLED display, WVGA resolution (800×480 px), Samsung Exynos 3 processor (1 GHz single-core), 512 MB RAM, up to 16 GB storage, and running Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread operating system.

The phone is not powerful by today’s standards. In 2010, it was one of the smartphones with the highest configuration. The competition was iPhone 3GS, HTC Evo 4G, Droid Incredible (also from HTC), Nokia N8, etc. Although there were devices like Evo 4G with slightly superior hardware specifications, Galaxy S did make it to the top.

Then came Samsung Galaxy S II, in May 2011. The device sort of looks like iPhone (as do several other Samsung devices), and it spawned a long-lasting legal battle with Apple. Oddly enough, Galaxy S II was not regarded by Apple to be one of the infringing devices. Here is the S II for you to look at:

Samsung Galaxy S II

 

The tech specs were a major improvement over Galaxy S. S II in fact was the highest-specification device at the time of release, and became an instant hit. It is worth mentioning that Galaxy S II started the most prolific smartphone growth that Samsung is experiencing today. It had 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus display (it is Super AMOLED Plus, as opposed to Super AMOLED on S III, and Plus is definitely better) 480×800 px, Exynos 4 dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, Android Gingerbread (upgradable to 4.1 Jelly Bean), 1 GB RAM, 16/32 GB storage, 8 MP camera, etc.

It did have competition in the form of iPhone 4, Motorola Droid Bionic (Verizon’s Droid), HTC Evo 3D, Sony Xperia Play, LG Nitro HD, Motorola Atrix 4G, etc., to name a few. A few devices released after S II’s launch, such as iPhone 4S and 2012’s release of Nokia Lumia 900 also came with amazing technical specifications.

About time when Samsung started to feel that Galaxy S II was losing out on technical specs, they made a slightly modified version available, in the form of Galaxy S II Skyrocket on the AT&T network. It did have slightly modified features like a 4.5 inch screen and Snapdragon 1.2 GHz processor (that supports LTE better). Another recent modification to the S II was released very recently in the form of Galaxy S II Plus.

Through fierce competition, Galaxy S II emerged as a highly popular device, and has sold 40 million units as of . These amazing achievements do set the Galaxy S family apart.

Galaxy S III

 

Samsung Galaxy S III

 

Samsung Galaxy S II’s amazing success paved way for Samsung to come up with a better, more advanced, faster challenger, known as Galaxy S III. Before the launch of S III, Samsung did launch another of its most successful products—Samsung Galaxy Note. Galaxy S III had a smaller screen than Note, and did not come with an S-pen. Still, Galaxy S III, just as supposed, broke all sales records.

One or two very important aspects behind Samsung’s success are its high-end configuration with Galaxy S II at the time of availability, and its strong hold on the Super AMOLED display technology, regarded to be one of the best of mobile display technologies. Things that don’t favor Samsung are its build quality and battery life (which I suppose you could rectify with an updated firmware and other steps).

Galaxy S III was unveiled on , more than one year after S II was released. Galaxy S IV’s launch of today is relatively early, you should know. It was released with one of the greatest technical specifications of all smartphones in the industry. It is almost a phablet with its 4.8 inch screen.

While the edge design is not personally appealing to me, the smartphone excels in more factors than any other smartphone in the industry to date. Briefly, the technical specifications are Exynos 4 quad-core processor clocked at 1.4 GHz (or Snapdragon S4 1.5 GHz dual-core), 4.8 inch Super AMOLED HD (720p), 8 MP camera, up to 32 GB storage and 64 GB SDXC, 1/2 GB RAM, Android 4.0.4 ICS (upgradable to Jelly Bean), NFC, 4G LTE, etc.

The phone is available in all major carriers, and in 145 countries, two important factors behind its immense success. In some countries, the phone has 2 GB of RAM as well. It built on the platform provided by Galaxy S II and became so popular. By , the smartphone has sold over 40 million units. We don’t have the most recent sales figures from Cupertino, but it is safe to assume Galaxy S III has become the most feared competitor of Apple.

In Conclusion

 

Galaxy S series is continuing. Within a few hours from now, at 7 pm Eastern Daylight time, in the Times Square, New York City, Samsung is unveiling the next Galaxy S smartphone. The unveiling is a little early as compared to S III’s release. It is an exciting time for smartphone buffs around the world. We have a lot of information as to what is expected of the device.

You can watch the unveiling live through Samsung’s YouTube channel.

In the last few days, we have been hearing a lot about 4.99 inch Super AMOLED Plus display (yes Plus is coming back), eye-tracking feature, 13 MP camera, 8-core processor, and a few others, on S IV. Everything that we have been hearing about will be clear within a few hours. You can follow me on Twitter @bluebugletech to know the latest about Galaxy S IV.

To get the Galaxy devices, go to: Galaxy S Phones from Amazon Wireless.

Additional New Sensors on Galaxy S4 Give Extra Features

Samsung Galaxy s4
You may have read our initial reaction to the Galaxy S4 launched last week. A few things that went into this smartphone include a few new sensors that will truly revolutionize the smartphone world. With these three additional sensors, Galaxy S4 is capable of a lot of functions that other smartphones in the market are currently not. For instance, your Galaxy S4 can sense the temperature and pressure of the surroundings.

If you remember, we did cover the most widely available sensors on smartphones in another post. Those sensors are already there in all of the current smartphones. Samsung has gone one step further to add three more sensors—temperature, humidity, and IR gesture. These sensors can measure the temperature and humidity of the surroundings and lets you control the phone through air gestures. Let’s check them out. We don’t have yet the actual details of the sensors used on Galaxy S4, but here’s how they basically work.

IR Gesture Sensor

 

Have you ever played a game on Microsoft Kinect? Do you have any idea how Kinect works? Samsung Galaxy S4 and Microsoft Kinect have one thing in common—an IR gesture sensor. Kinect emits an Infrared beam to cover the room in which you are playing a game and this particular beam helps it identify your movements in order to replicate it within the game. The same principle is used in Galaxy S4.

In order to do certain basic functions on the GS4, you can use hand gestures without actually touching the phone. Tasks like accepting calls, viewing images on a gallery, changing tracks, etc., are possible with hand gestures.

hand gestures

 

Smart Stay Features

 

You know, there had been quite a bit of hype regarding the eye-tracking feature of Galaxy S4. This particular feature was supposed to help the phone scroll through what you are reading based on your eye movements. Well, that is implemented in a slightly different way on GS4. First of all, Samsung improved the Smart Stay feature it implemented in Galaxy S3 smartphone. Smart Stay makes sure the display stays on as long as you are looking at it.

The Smart Pause feature is implemented as an improvement over Smart Stay, making sure that your phone pauses a video you are watching if you look away. This has nothing to do with IR gestures. It is simply a software improvement on Smart Stay.

Another thing that got a bit of hype was the smart-scrolling, in which people believed the phone can scroll the display based on where you are looking on the screen. Well, not quite. The scrolling happens when you tilt the phone, and not when you look at the bottom of the screen. These features don’t make use of any sensors, only the front-facing camera.

Temperature and Humidity Sensors

 

Two other major improvements on Galaxy S4 are its temperature sensors and humidity sensors. We don’t have much information about the chips used to implement these features. Also, more information about how these features work and the apps available to take advantage of these features will be known once the device hits the market.

In order to gather temperature and humidity data, usually you need an attachment for your phone, such as this Netatmo Weather Station for iPhone, shown in CES. But within GS4, apparently you don’t need an attachment to make it into a weather station.

As a TV Remote (Samsung WatchOn)

 

Galaxy S4 has an IR blaster built in. This makes the smartphone capable of controlling your TV’s set top box in the form of a remote. Samsung is shipping an app called WatchOn that works with the IR Blaster feature to make Galaxy S4 your TV companion. Apparently it works pretty well:

In Conclusion

 

As you can see, Samsung Galaxy S4 is proving to be one of the most advanced smartphones in the industry today. Samsung has not only improved the Galaxy series in terms of hardware, but also software. We did look at quite a number of software improvements in our preview of GS4. These features should make the phone one of the most productive smartphones in the market.

Smartphone Manufacturers: Bashing Each Other: They Will Go to Any Length for Better Sales of Their Phones!

Have you noticed the tech CEOs and top executives are constantly engaged in bashing the competitors’ products? Our favorite tech companies and their executives badmouth the competitor products almost all the time, especially when the competitor is winning on several aspects. It is not peculiar, but quite a bit distasteful (on the part of the bashing company) considering that the winning company not only bashes back, but enjoys being silent in a debonair sort of way.

BlackBerry & Apple

 

One of the recent so-called opinions was from Thorsten Heins, CEO, BlackBerry, about—the obvious competitor, Apple iPhone.

Australian Financial Review conducted a minor interview with Heins, in what he mentioned this:

Apple did a fantastic job in bringing touch devices to market … They did a fantastic job with the user interface, they are a design icon. There is a reason why they were so successful, and we actually have to admit this and respect that.

History repeats itself again I guess … the rate of innovation is so high in our industry that if you don’t innovate at that speed you can be replaced pretty quickly. The user interface on the iPhone, with all due respect for what this invention was all about is now five years old.

What you can notice is that the CEOs are not basing their opinions on lies. They are definitely either too subtle about the device they are bashing or speak the truth in a mild way accusing the other guy.

Apple & Samsung

 

Apple has been really shaken to the core by the release of Galaxy S 4. Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing in Cupertino, Phil Schiller was very disturbed by GS4, it seems. He tweeted this:

That link from F-Secure he mentions in the tweet gives us some unsettling results about Android’s security. Here is a graphic that explains it.

mobile OS threat statistic

 

That is the statistic of threat families and variants identified in 2012 year end by F-Secure. One other thing that IDC identified is that about 70 percent of all mobile phone shipments in 2012 belong to Android, while only 19 percent belongs to Apple. It looks as if the more the phones the more the threats, something similar to the whopping number of security threats targeting Microsoft Windows for nearly two decades of dominance in desktop operating systems market.

Android is being targeted by the malware developers, and you really have to have one of these security apps installed.

Phil has taken care to show us this particular PDF. One thing that escapes one’s attention is the fact that this particular report was published back in December, and it is no longer news. Check this Google index snippet we found:

article publication date from Google

 

Why was Phil sharing that document right about a week before the launch of GS4? Not stopping there, On , right on the day of release of iPhone’s biggest threat, Schiller told to WSJ this:

Android is often given as a free replacement for a feature phone and the experience isn’t as good as an iPhone.

He didn’t stop there, on a separate interview with Reuters, on the same day, he said this:

With their own data, only 16 percent of Android users are on year-old version of the operating system. Over 50 percent are still on software that is two years old. A really big difference.

HTC About GS4

 

HTC was also seemingly disturbed about Galaxy S4’s launch, considering the fact that GS4 could outsell HTC One and remain on top of business, keeping HTC’s profits down despite their coming up with an equally great smartphone.

HTC President, Jason McKenzie appeared glad because he believed HTC has a better product than Samsung. If so, there is no reason for these comments from him, told to CNET:

Watching the presentation, it looks like they invested a lot in marketing instead of innovation.

HTC’s bashing doesn’t end there. In another interview, the Chief Marketing Officer of HTC, Benjamin Ho told:

With a continuation of a plastic body, and a larger screen being the most obvious physical change, Samsung’s new Galaxy pales in comparison to the all-aluminum unibody HTC One. This is more of the same.

HTC remains the best option for those people looking for the best technology wrapped in premium design. Our customers want something different from the mainstream, who appear to be the target for the Galaxy. Our customers want original cutting-edge technology, mouth-watering design and a premium feel from their mobiles, which is why we created the HTC One.

That is actually true, and it is almost time for me to put HTC One up at a spot in our list of most durable smartphones.

In Conclusion

 

It is definite that the release of Galaxy S4 has shaken several pillars. Every smartphone manufacturer and their mother has watched the show that Samsung put up in New York, and they are feeling heavily daunted. It is up to them to find a way to gather sales for their devices.

One or two specific aspects worth mentioning are these. First of all, Apple’s allegation of Android’s security threats is based on facts. Android does have more threats than any other smartphone operating system. It however is probably not going to deter people from purchasing Android devices. Look at the specific example of Windows vs. Linux and Mac OS X. For the better part of the last two decades, Windows did dominate the desktop world despite being the most erratic OS with many, many security threats.

Only one way that Apple can counter Android evolution is by coming up with better hardware, a thing that we have been asking them to do for quite some time. Apple doesn’t provide with iPhone a number of features that Android phones provide easily—NFC, USB-on-the-Go, etc. BlackBerry is almost the same. These platforms lack a number of things that Android provides, and yet they somehow want to command premium prices. The business model is either bound to fail or succeed. You know the luxury smartphone market still has customers.

HTC One is a great device, something that HTC should be proud about. Still, they are worried so much about GS4. There are a few aspects that GS4 rocks in, such as the screen and a number of Samsung-supplied apps. HTC probably doesn’t have a software division as vast as Samsung’s to come up with a lot of ideas that would differentiate its phones. However, it doesn’t mean the device is bad.

An important point that I will elaborate on an upcoming article is that the tech companies can do a lot better than badmouthing the competing products. These strategies have backfired more often than not. One thing that they can do is come up with good products with great features at good prices. Any company that is struggling should innovate badly to stay on the market; if not, it would be too late when they realize their mistakes.

An Addendum

 

Here’s a tweet I had posted on 14th: LG is spooked:

Which Phone to Buy? Apple iPhone 5 Vs. BlackBerry Z10

iPhone 5 vs BlackBerry Z10

A lot of changes have come about in the smartphone market since the release of iPhone in 2007. Apple’s entry has paved way for other OEMs to innovate in smartphone design. This particular graphic from BBC shows it pretty clearly.

BBC image of iPhone changing smartphone world

On the other hand, since its inception in 2003, BlackBerry has been quite a unique force in the professional world, with mostly business class users. Its technologies, including BBM and the signature keypad have been instrumental in its success.

However, after 2007’s full-touch iPhone, BlackBerry slowly gave the market away to Apple and other companies like Samsung. The comeback that BlackBerry made this year with the release of Z10 is probably proving to be profitable for the company. Here, we will review the features of both the current iPhone and BlackBerry Z10 and see which is the better smartphone.

Tech Specs Comparison

First of all, let’s compare the technical specifications of both these devices.

Feature Apple iPhone 5 BlackBerry Z10
Display 4 inch LCD IPS Retina Display (326 ppi) 4.2 inch LCD IPS (356 ppi)
Processor Apple A6 1.3 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus 1.5 GHz dual core
Graphics card PowerVR SGX543MP3 Adreno 225
RAM 1 GB 2 GB
Storage 16/32/64 GB 16 GB with expandable micro SDXC for up to 64 GB
Battery 1440 mAh 1800 mAh
Camera 8 MP 8 MP
Full HD video capture YES (front-facing 720p) YES (front-facing 720p)
Front-facing camera 1.2 MP 2 MP
Connectivity features Lightning connector, Bluetooth 4.0, no near field communication NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, micro HDMI
Network HSPA+, LTE HSPA+, LTE (quad-band)
Dimensions Height 123.8 mm (4.87 in) Height 130 mm (5.1 in)
Width 58.6 mm (2.31 in) Width 65.6 mm (2.58 in)
Depth 7.6 mm (0.3 in) Depth 9 mm (0.35 in)
Weight 112 g (3.95 oz) Weight 137.5 g (4.85 oz)

In terms of the technical specifications, the clear winner is BlackBerry Z10 with the larger screen, faster snapdragon processor, more RAM, major connectivity improvements including micro USB and NFC, and quad-band LTE.

When we compare these two smartphones, the major defining factor is the operating system running on them rather than the hardware specifications. When we compare the operating systems, the table may turn in Apple’s favor. Let’s check out various differences.

The Performance

Clearly the faster one of these smartphones is BlackBerry Z10 with a much better Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.5 GHz processor. Apple’s custom-designed Swift microarchitecture powers A6, while Qualcomm’s Krait microarchitecture powers Snapdragon. In the industry circles, there is a hushed acceptance of the superiority of Snapdragon processors. All of them perform in stellar fashion in benchmarks.

For instance, let me attract your attention to this particular benchmark. This is Geekbench results obtained for iPhone 5 and Z10, the data was given by various tests conducted.

Geekbench tests for iPhone and BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry Z10 can perform a little better than iPhone 5 based on these tests.

In terms of browser performance, Ars Technica found out these details. In JavaScript performance on SunSpider, BB10 browser performed worse than iPhone 5. iPhone 5’s SunSpider score was 914, while BlackBerry 10 scored 1724 points; you should note in this lower score is better.

In other JavaScript tests also (like Google Octane) iPhone 5 performed much better: iPhone 5 scored 1672 while Z10 scored 1002 (higher is better).

It is safe to assume iPhone 5 shells out quite a bit of performance with its low end hardware. One other thing is iPhone 5 was released much earlier than BlackBerry Z10. Four months of smartphone market is equivalent to four years in literature.

The Display

BlackBerry Z10 clearly has a better display than iPhone 5. The technology used is the same. What set Z10’s display apart are its larger size and much larger resolution. The ppi ratio of 356 is better than Retina Display touted by Apple.

The only thing that sets the display back is its brightness factor. iPhone 5’s display can provide 525 lux of brightness, while Z10 gives only 295 lux.

The Operating System and Apps

The most important difference between these two phones is in the operating system in use. BlackBerry Z10 uses the latest QNX-based BlackBerry 10 operating system, while iPhone comes with iOS 6.1. Both these are proprietary mobile operating systems that perform really well.

One of the reasons why iPhone performs in benchmarks even with less than amazing hardware is due to iOS and its app ecosystem built to work perfectly with the hardware provided.

There are quite a number of features that BlackBerry 10 holds against iOS. Let’s check them out.

iOS is your plain vanilla mobile operating system that introduced quite a number of features in 2007. It has all the favorite touch gestures and apps that you need for regular smartphone operations.

We discussed the app availability by operating systems in another post. Looking through that, you will get an idea of the difference between Apple iOS’s nearly 800,000 apps and BlackBerry 10’s slightly over 70,000 apps. In terms of app ecosystem, iPhone is way ahead of BlackBerry and Windows Phone. The only mobile OS that can match iOS’s app availability is Android.

BlackBerry 10 OS has certain important features.

BlackBerry Hub is an app tightly integrated to the OS. It can be viewed from any app. The feature known as Peek lets you do a simple gesture (swipe up and then right) and see the BlackBerry hub app. The Hub gives you a number of notifications, email, SMS, social media updates, etc.

Another feature known as Flow keeps BlackBerry Z10 glued to your social media profiles. A simple swipe to the right and you are looking at some important notifications.

In this video prepared by the biggest fans of BlackBerry from CrackBerry.com, you will get an idea of the operating system.

Multi-tasking with BlackBerry is much improved. Here, you can open up and keep up to 8 apps at the same time. In our first review of Z10, we did look at the various features including the keyboard, time shift camera, improved interface, etc.

Another important thing is Flash support in the browser. While Apple iOS doesn’t support Flash, BlackBerry 10 does. Also, HTML 5 support on BlackBerry 10’s browser is at 485 points (11 bonus), while iPhone 5 browser scores only 386 points (9 bonus).

Camera

Both these cameras have autofocus, but on BlackBerry Z10, you can move the autofocus to a different object if you wish. Also, Z10 allows you to select the aspect ratio of the picture—16:9 or 4:3. Also, Z10 gives you a number of shooting scene options, which are not there on iPhone 5.

However, the actual comparison comes when we look at actual pictures taken with these devices.

Digit has done a pretty good camera comparison between these devices. Here are the pictures.

[Z10 left, iPhone right; click to enlarge]

photo with Z10photo with iphone

 

Image taken with z10Image taken with iphone

 

low light Z10 imagelow light iphone image

In another comparison, CNET found out BlackBerry Z10’s amazing capability in the outdoor situations. In low light, it shows again how BlackBerry is no match to iPhone 5.

Image taken with Z10Image taken with iPhone

Z10’s camera gives much better outdoor shoots and color reproduction than iPhone 5. It however fails in low light conditions. It has long way to go to be able to compare to one of the best cameras available in the smartphone world today, Nokia Lumia 920. Here is a comparison done by Gizmodo between Z10 and Lumia 920 in low light.

low light on Z10low light on Lumia 920low light on iPhone

The Price

Z10 is not yet in the US. Recent report gives us that one of the carriers is selling unlocked Z10 for a thousand dollars. While Apple iPhone 5 is available to purchase

, BlackBerry Z10 will soon come to the market.

In terms of price, both these devices are on par with each other. iPhone 5 sells with contract anywhere from 199 dollars. In the UK, BlackBerry Z10 price is around 500 pounds which will be around 750 dollars. This is the unlocked version. Most of the outlets are selling the contract version of BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry has tie-up with almost all carriers out there—Orange, T-Mobile, EE, O2, Vodafone, EE, 3, etc.

Find the prices in these links:
Carphone Warehouse;
EE
O2
Orange
Phones4u (outlet)
3
Vodafone

In the US, Z10 is available via Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T, while Apple iPhone is now available in T-Mobile network as well.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. These two smartphones are coming with amazing capabilities. They have great hardware specs and amazing build quality. BlackBerry Z10 has Gorilla Glass protection, while iPhone doesn’t say what protects its glass, but we know its Gorilla Glass. It is also one of the toughest smartphones. They are both premium devices running premium operating systems. Also they are user-friendly.

The price is the only thing that separates them from other smartphones in the market. They tend to be a little more expensive than Android devices. It is also one reason why I would suggest one of these devices only if you are absolutely certain you want one of them. Otherwise, you could simply go with an Android phone. BlackBerry Z10 wins in areas other than app availability. Even though BlackBerry Z10 was released with the highest number of apps for any first generation OS, Apple is far ahead in an unreachable position with the highest number of apps for any mobile platform.

If you really need to get your work done and have quite a bit of fun with games, then iPhone is the device to go with. If you are willing to wait for apps to come in the future, and you need slightly better hardware, then select BlackBerry Z10.

[Image: ITProPortal]

Buy-or-Not: Samsung Galaxy S IV Android Smartphone, A Detailed Preview

Samsung Galaxy S 4 smartphone

Yes, it came. One of the most anticipated smartphones of the year, in a packed event in Radio City music hall, Times Square, New York—Samsung Galaxy S IV, touting a huge screen, big camera, two quad-core processors, 2 GB RAM, and a number of software features.

proud JK Shin presenting the device

I suppose you could glean the excitement of the top Samsung executives from that image. If you haven’t watched the Unpacked event, then be my guest:

Now, we will check it out in detail and see how great this smartphone really is.

The Technical Specifications

Briefly, the known technical specifications are listed here for you to review, with notes about what we are going to discuss further.

Feature Galaxy S IV Notes
Display technology Super AMOLED Full HD Worth buying for
Resolution 1920×1080 px (441ppi) that is Full HD
Screen size 4.99 inch
Processor Exynos 5 Octa (two processors, 1.6 GHz ARM Cortex-A15 and quad-core ARM Cortex-A7); US version has Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.9 GHz Definitely amazing processors, but Exynos 5 will not perform as great as Snapdragon. We will see a few benchmarks below.
RAM 2 GB
OS Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Storage 16/32/64 GB with Micro SD up to 64 GB No difference from other major phones
GPU Depends on the SoC. Exynos—PowerVR SGX544; Snapdragon—Adreno 330
Connectivity Cat 3 LTE 100/50 Mbps
Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
BT 4.0
IR-LED
NFC
HTC One, Xperia Z also have Cat 3 LTE with same download/upload speeds.
Camera 13 MP, 2 MP
Battery 2600 mAh
Dimensions Height 136.6 mm (5.38 in)
Width 69.8 mm (2.75 in)
Depth 7.9 mm (0.31 in)
Weight 130 g (4.59 oz)

This particular update to the Galaxy S family is a wonderful, hot update indeed. We have some important aspects to share in this article. Let’s go to them feature by feature.

The Display

There are major aspects of display that we need to talk about. Current Galaxy S IV smartphone uses Samsung’s own technology known as Super AMOLED, and it uses the Full HD resolution on this device. Leave resolution out, and just think about the display technology.  There are few advantages and disadvantages that AMOLED has, which are detailed in this article, comparing AMOLED to the other major display technology, known as LCD IPS.

Now, there are two versions of Super AMOLED—the regular and Super AMOLED Plus. Galaxy S II smartphone released back in 2011 used Super AMOLED Plus, which is a much better technology than Super AMOLED, although Samsung has in time made improvements and adjustments.

The difference is in the use of the matrix array.  Let’s check it out. In Galaxy S II, the sub-pixel array of the AMOLED screen uses all three sub-pixels on every pixel—Red, Green, Blue. It is hence known as RGB matrix, and the display panel is known as Super AMOLED Plus. Its layout is represented below.

pixel-array

On the other hand, Super AMOLED uses something known as PenTile matrix. It doesn’t have RGB array, but RGBG array. That is, there are two types of sub-pixels—the one that uses RG and the one that uses BG. They are interlaced.

RG BG sub-pixel array as in Super AMOLED

The end result is that the RGBG pixel array takes up less power, but at the cost of slight pixelation.

Within S IV, the resolution is so high that you probably won’t see any pixelation, just as in the case of Retina Display. However, RGB sub-pixel array is better to look at than PenTile array, as the latter may tend to have a little green tinge to it.

High resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio of S IV means that you won’t have those black bars on the top as you find on iPhone 4, 4S, etc., while watching HD content. Since the 720p and 1080p HD videos are rendered in 16:9 aspect ratio, such movies and images will fill the screen in the most visually pleasing way.

An improvement of the display is a feature known as Adapt Display, which Samsung says improves the display by adjusting various things like brightness, contrast, etc. It probably is an improvement to the auto-brightness feature available in most smartphones. In this case, the display probably adapts brightness and contrast to give you better viewing depending on what you are viewing—a web page, an ebook, or a video. This is a very clever move by Samsung indeed, and could probably make better use of that 2600 mAh battery.

Chinese blog IT168 did publish a number of images here that compare Galaxy S IV to S III and Xperia Z.

display of S 4 compared to Xperia Z and S3
display of S 4 compared to S3

Remember the Xperia Z phone has Sony mobile BRAVIA engine and that is bound to give better resolution pictures. With Adapt Display feature, Samsung is probably trying to compete with Xperia Z.

The Performance

Talking about Galaxy S IV’s performance, I would like to point you to the truth behind the Exynos 5 Octa processor. The last time that we got to see an Exynos 5 processor was with Google Nexus 10 tablet that really performed well. The reason why Exynos 5 is important is that it is based on ARM Cortex-A15 architecture, and that is the in-thing at this time.

The importance of this processor—Exynos 5 Octa (aka Exynos 5410) is that it has two processors in it: one low-power, low-performance quad-core processor working on ARM Cortex-A7 architecture and a secondary high-power, high-performance quad-core processor based on Cortex-A15 architecture.

ARM has introduced a new way of saving power, known as big.LITTLE, in which the partners of ARM, who develop CPUs based on its architecture, can use Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 cores side by side to save power.

The essence of these inner workings is that your S IV’s processor is not eight-core, but it is two four-core processors (which is not much different from S III, which has an Exynos Cortex-A9 quad-core processor). When you are working on processor-intensive tasks like gaming or productive works, the processor will switch to A-15 core and will give you maximum performance. When you are working on easy tasks like reading a document, the system will switch to low-power Cortex-A7 processor. In short, you will only see performance of a quad-core processor (albeit great performance), and not an eight-core processor as touted by some publications.

There is however something that we have to clarify for you. There are two editions of Galaxy S IV. One that ships in the US and one that ships elsewhere. Within the US, Samsung will release Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor clocked at 1.9 GHz with the device. Elsewhere, you will get Exynos 5 Octa processor. We have recently gone through some benchmarking results published by Chinese blog, IT168.com. Here are the results that they identified, translated by GSMArena:

Performance benchmarks of Galaxy S IV

 

Vellamo benchmarks of Galaxy S IV

There is importance to these results. First of all, the international version uses quad-core Exynos 5 Octa, while others in the competition may use a Snapdragon processor, like HTC One that scored higher points using its Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 quad-core 1.7 GHz processor, which is much better performing than Exynos’s ARM Cortex-A15 core. Sony Xperia Z also uses Snapdragon, but it is S4 Pro, slightly older Snapdragon. But it also gives comparable performance.

In essence, we have to say Exynos 5 Octa is just a regular processor, and falls slightly short of performance as compared to Snapdragon’s 600, which is slightly more advanced than even Cortex-A15, as Qualcomm develops its own microarchitecture known as Krait, which has always been slightly more advanced than ARM’s parallel Cortex microarchitecture.

In the US, however, Galaxy S IV uses Snapdragon 600 quad-core clocked at an amazing 1.9 GHz, which will definitely make it the fastest smartphone available.

The Camera

If you watched the Unpacked event, given above, Ryan Bidan, director of product marketing, Samsung, has told us about the camera improvements on S IV. The phone uses 13 MP camera (if you read our article on camera technologies, you may realize there is no point to big megapixel counts).

Impressive things about this camera are some software improvements which allow you to take pictures with both the front-facing and main cameras at the same time, a feature known as dual-camera. With this feature, what you can do is take a picture and within the picture, in an inset, you can have your own picture embedded with the help of the front-facing camera.

dual camera on Galaxy S IV

Quite an amazing feature, indeed, but we don’t know if there is any requirement for that. It doesn’t get you into the context, just in an inset. And you can pick the shape of the inset. This is just a minor convenience feature that most people may not be excited about.

Another camera feature is ‘sound and shot’, which lets you insert a piece of sound to the captured image. Another major feature is the ability to remove unnecessary objects from the final shot.

In order to know the actual camera performance, we have to wait till the device hits the market to test it against other popular smartphone cameras.

Translation

One major feature of S IV is that it can work as your personal translator. S Translator app on the phone understands nine languages, and can translate what you speak into whichever language you want it to. This is a nifty feature for international travelers. However, we always come across the problems of software translators, most of which are not perfect. This is still one feature that really is very attractive.

The phone supports text to speech and speech to text, with which you can type in or speak and have the phone speak it in different languages.

Besides these new features, the phone has several major software improvements.

Software & Apps

The phone comes with the latest Android, 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, which we know has been rolled out to Google Nexus series. On the top of that, Samsung has its own TouchWiz UI, which we have had the chance to experience in other Galaxy handsets. There are other major software improvements that Samsung has announced with this phone.

A few we are familiar with already are Air View and S Voice. A few new software features have been introduced to Galaxy S IV. One of them is Story Album that helps you create an album out of the pictures that you take. You can create themed albums with images and text, and Samsung has partnered with Blurb to make the story album available in print.

S Voice gets an improvement known as S Voice Drive, with which you can use S Voice to attend calls or read messages to you while you are driving. Another program called Smart Switch helps move data from other devices—Android, iOS, etc., to new Galaxy S IV.

Remember how BlackBerry 10 has your professional communications and personal communications separated? Samsung has introduced a similar feature into S IV, known as Samsung Knox, which separates personal space from workspace.

We have looked at only a few software features here, and there are quite a few (group play, video call enhancements, etc.) that we will get to experience when the device comes to the market.

Other Major Aspects

Connectivity with 4G LTE is possible on Galaxy S IV. It gives speeds of 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload, at LTE category 3. This is a hexa-band device, which means the device should be able to support a diversity of LTE band sets for different regions.

Other major connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. 802.11ac is still under development, and it will provide better bandwidth on your Wi-Fi networks. MediaTek’s MT7650 has HT80 Wi-Fi technology that supports up to 433 Mbps in Wi-Fi dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) in 802.11ac. This is probably what Samsung Galaxy S IV has on board.

The phone has Infrared (IR-LED) function, which makes it a TV-remote. Besides these, there are quite a number of sensors that allow such features as air gestures, Smart Stay, Smart Pause (pausing the video being played if you are looking away), etc. Also, the device touts 50 GB of Dropbox storage availability, as opposed to 20 GB given by HTC One.

The Build Quality

Samsung has finally gone with a polycarbonate back for Galaxy S IV, and this is a very welcome change. We have only got the chance to look at the device, and not touch and feel it, and it definitely looks strong and sturdy. Available in two colors, Black Mist and White Frost, the phone from the front reminds me personally of a larger Nexus 4 (did any of you feel so?)

The phone is quite thin and light, as compared to the previous Galaxy. At only 7.9 inches, the phone is very thin and light, probably thinner than almost all competing phones out there, save iPhone 5. HTC One is thicker at over 9 mm, while Sony Xperia Z is as thin as S IV at 7.9 mm.

The Buying Decision

The major competition to Samsung Galaxy S IV comes from two other smartphones that we reviewed earlier—HTC One and Sony Xperia Z. While all three phones have full HD resolution, HTC One has the smallest screen of 4.7 inches. Both Xperia Z and HTC One have similar connectivity options like LTE Cat 3 and other Wi-Fi options.

Samsung Galaxy S IV has two editions, the International edition which comes with Samsung’s own Exynos 5 Octa processor, while the US edition uses Snapdragon 600 processor.

When it comes to choosing the right smartphone, there are quite a few aspects to consider. Let me elaborate on the aspects that are in favor of Galaxy S IV here.

If you need a really large, gorgeous display, if you need a lot of control over the device through those gestures and extra sensors, if you need that carrier flexibility, then please go ahead and opt for Galaxy S IV.

If you are in the US, Galaxy S IV probably is the fastest smartphone available. On the other hand, if you are in the international market, I would suggest HTC One as it has better processing power, albeit not extremely noticeable. Also HTC One fits in your pocket better and has slightly better build quality.

In Conclusion

The price is another important factor that decides whether you need to buy a smartphone or not. With these features that Samsung developed, the price is not going to be small, but it should still be better than iPhone 5, I suppose. As Apple’s product has long lost its glamor, I would suggest you go for some great Android devices. Samsung Galaxy S IV is definitely worth it to buy, and it is coming to a huge market of 155 countries and 327 mobile carriers.

As you probably remember in our review of best smartphones, we have taken Galaxy S III as the champion in mobile carrier market. Galaxy S IV could probably replace S III in that list. Our recommendation to you is if you are a fan of large screens and Galaxy S series in particular, then don’t hesitate and get your hands on this wonderful smartphone when it comes to the market by the end of April.


[Update: ]

News has come that Samsung is at work on a technology that enables the Exynos Octa processor’s all eight cores to be used at once. The improvement is expected by the fourth quarter of 2013. We have mentioned earlier in the review that these eight cores do not actually work together. The four cores in Cortex-A15 technology work when the performance has to be high, and the other four A7 cores work when the performance doesn’t have to be high and the power has to be saved.

New solution for heterogeneous multiprocessing developed by Samsung will enable all eight cores to work simultaneously, while saving power and improving performance. At that time, S4 could indeed be one of the fastest smartphones we have available.