Samsung Galaxy S4: Carbon Copy Or Impressive Upgrade?
With the dust now settled on a launch event that brought more fanfare – both literal and figurative – than most events in recent memory, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will face the typical scrutinising expected of a flagship device. But, in the cold light of day, it seems that the latest Android powerhouse could polarise opinion rather than provoke devotion.
Making its bow against a backdrop of glitz and glam at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Galaxy S4 was met with a lavish ceremony that, arguably, flattered it. With its billing as the Android King-elect well and truly installed before the showy shindig, there’s a view that what arrived was a little disappointing.
There can be no arguing with the device’s specifications; Octa-core processor, 13 megapixel camera, 5-inch Full HD display and 4G capabilities instantly establish it as a genuine leader in the smartphone market, and from that there can be no hiding . Whilst the legitimacy of said processor will no doubt be open to much debate – it’s actually two quad-cores on one chip – a device with such specifications will deservedly fly off the shelves.
Yet elsewhere, Samsung will face criticism for both a lack of ambition and an overreaching need to innovate. In terms of design, to say the Galaxy S4 takes inspiration from its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, would be a drastic understatement. Bar a larger display, the casing, home button and basic shape remain the same, with the only noticeable difference coming in the colourways in which it’ll launch.
When compared to the likes of the HTC One, a direct competitor, this will undoubtedly work against Samsung. As well as being one of the most impressive devices of 2013 so far, HTC’s flagship is a marked departure from the polycarbonate-filled norm, its sleek aluminium body lending a premium feel to something that demands a premium price.
Even when pitted against the Sony Xperia Z, a large, hulking slab of square plastic, the Galaxy S4 will struggle to impose. Despite being considerably sleeker and more refined, its flimsy nature and perceived lack of innovation may persuade undecided buyers to look elsewhere.
Seemingly to counter a lack of change on the exterior, Samsung has turned to a raft of new features. With decidedly mixed results. Smart Scroll and Smart Pause form the main shouting points, further vision-based controls that build on those found on the S III and allegedly improve the user experience. Yet, much like the previous efforts, the smell of “gimmick” can be detected a mile off.
Air View and Air Gesture, versions of the preview features found on the Galaxy Note II and which allow the previewing of content without having to physically touch the screen, buck the trend and could prove genuinely innovative. But, when grouped with those other not-so-obviously useful features, this may not be enough to sway the cynical or dismissive.
So, has Samsung managed to both under and overdo it? In a word; no. Whilst the Galaxy S4 may not win any awards for design and despite not having resisted the urge to dabble in pointless gadgets, the device looks to be a top notch flagship handset. Beneath the underwhelming shell and fluffy features lies a quality product that will worry its competitors and please fans in equal measure, and this is the most important fact.
It may not set the world on fire, but Samsung has taken a leaf out of its biggest competitor’s book with the Galaxy S4. Apple may face criticism for not innovating enough between handset releases but sometimes all you need is a gentle polish to an already impressive product, something the Koreans have done perfectly. In more ways than one, we can expect Samsung to imitate Apple a lot more in future.