Last night, Samsung unveiled their much anticipated S4 to the masses and the response is pretty mixed. It’s pretty clear that Samsung is continuing it’s all out assault on Apple. For the past year, Samsung’s targeted marketing campaigns aimed towards taking jabs at the iPhone and it’s users. There was no mistaking that Apple is their target and tonight was no exception. This time Samsung even brought a few other allies into the battle arena. But was more interesting was the all out gorilla marketing employed by both LG and HTC. The HTC One was readily available to folks whom were patiently awaiting to be seated inside as well as have their questions about the device instantly answered right there on the spot. Everyone was also reminded about the $100 trade-in credit towards an HTC One. Meanwhile, in Times Square, LG bought billboards directly above Samsung’s S4 launch event teaser billboards. Both brazen approaches that tried to diminish the spotlight on the S4 that I think clearly worked in HTC’s favor. But we’ll get to why I think that in a bit.
So, let’s recap the S4’s highlights and then briefly check out the other products that came out to play as well tonight.
There’s a bevy of enhanced features that begin with a larger screen and a slimmer body. However, the overall appearance is still shockingly similar to the S3. Only when an S4 is directly beside an S3 do you notice any visible difference. The UI interface also looks strikingly similar but we’ll touch on the subtle differences in just a sec.
What Samsung spent a large portion of the event on was highlighting the updated camera and it’s enhanced features. Now this would have been more revolutionary if HTC hadn’t jumped the gun and announced them first can called them Zoe’s. With a 13 Mega-pixel High Definition (HD) back facing and 2 Mega-pixel HD front facing camera, S4 owners will have access to a multitude of photo and video enhancing features. Using the S4 you can take video and pictures simultaneously as well as being able to edit them on the spot like editing out passers-by in a photo, for example. Additionally, the S4 can interlace a series of photos together to create a stop-motion or collage photo effect. Sound familiar? Well, it should since they are all HTC One Zoe features. The one defining camera feature with the S4 is the ability to use both cameras simultaneously while recording a video. This might be something that YouTube vloggers might have been dreaming about for ages.
However, the S4 interface, the UI if you will, looks pretty much untouched. Sure, there’s the removal of a black bar at the top which I don’t really remember being there in the first place, but at least there is a niffy Air View feature that I’ve only seen on the Galaxy Tab 10.1. On the S4, you can hover over images, contacts or the dial pad to either preview a folder, view a contact’s details or even quick dial a contact respectively. Last night, however, this feature was pretty finicky for me. I was either hovering too close that I would simulate a click or I would actually enable the hover and then immediately start calling the contacts I was hovering over.
On top of Air View, there is also Air Gesture. While viewing a webpage, you can simply tilt your phone up or down to enable gesture scrolling and scroll through the page. The phone registers your face and knows to scroll the page for you. Additionally, if you’re watching a video, the S4 will automatically pause the playback if you look or tilt your phone away from your face. This will come pretty handy when you’re taking a mental break at work and have your boss passing by.
But apart from the Air View and Air Gesture feature, there appeared to be a quick launch bar along the side that was fully customizable. You would be able to load up shortcuts to apps you frequently use and probably would prefer to have access at any time. This is pretty similar to the dock on Macs and the only time I’ve seen something similar was on the Ubuntu mobile OS.
Additionally, S Translator appeared really promising. Being able to speak directly into the phone and have it translate speech would be pretty convenient for trips abroad. But it is also able to translate text and play the translation back. However, the S Translator seemed a bit buggy when we were playing around with it. But given the conditions we were under, I honestly think there was way too much interference to get the phone to properly translate our Spanish sayings to English. The text translations were spot on though so this feature would definitely come in handy.
There was also the group play feature which takes sharing music to a whole new level. Friends will be able to wireless stream music simultaneously without the need for a data or internet connection.
The S Health features seemed to need an additional peripheral to get all the full benefits and it wasn’t readily available to try out afterwards. But the S Health feature is your gateway to understanding your bio-metrics; easily displaying your calorie intake, calories burned, weight, and even blood pressure.
What else was there?
A ton of cell phone covers and body measurement adapters that would work with the S Health features.
The Game Pad was also on display which features One touch Bluetooth pairing via an NFC TecTile as well as Dual Analog Sticks, Shoulder Keys and four action buttons. The controller is nice and light even for it’s bulky width but it conveniently houses the phone through a compartment that pulls out from the top. The controller felt pretty neat in my hands, and I’m definitely going to see if I can learn more. So, definitely stay tuned.
So what do you guys think?
Are you gearing up to grab the S4? What do you think about HTC and LG trying to quietly disrupt Samsung’s event?