Samsung Galaxy S4 revealed: Eye controls, simultaneous translation and fitness monitors ramp up iPhone challenge

15/03/2013

Samsung has unveiled its latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, as the South Korean electronics giant ramps up its challenge to Apple for global mobile dominance.

Watch highlights from the official launch event below (source: Telegraph)

s4.jpg

The much-hyped 5 inch device was revealed at a glitzy New York event last night and is often regarded as the flagship Android device to rival Apple’s iPhone.

The S4 features a raft of new features including eye controls, fitness and heat monitors, simultaneous translation tools, a 13MP dual camera, group play and TV remote sync options.

In 2012, Samsung captured 29% of the global smartphone market, compared to Apple's 21.8%. It also took 23% of the overall mobile phone market, ahead of Nokia's 17.9%.

The company's new Galaxy S4 is slimmer and lighter (at 130g) than last year's S3 model, with more screen pixels than a 55in flat screen television.

It has a much-improved processor with eight cores, again outstripping Apple's speeds, matched with a lot of system memory (2GB). This should mean faster web-surfing and smooth running of powerful apps.

It also comes with a a higher-capacity battery pack that should boost battery life by about 20 per cent. Like earlier models, the Galaxy S4 has removable battery packs, and a micro SD card slot for expandable memory storage up to 64GB.

The device goes on sale in the UK next month at a yet-to-be revealed price, available in "black mist and white frost."

Key software features of the Samsung Galaxy S4:

• The phone has simultaneous translation to and from nine languages.

• There's a group play feature that turns a group of phones into a stereo system, each phone broadcasting a different stereo band. It's more syncable than before, for sharing pictures, videos, and music across devices.

• There's a dual camera that allows the taker to appear in a small window in the video they are shooting.

• The phone tracks eye movements for pausing films you stop watching midway. It scrolls by tilting. "Smart Pause" means video can be paused simply by looking away from the screen. "Smart Scroll" allows you to cycle through emails and other content with your eyes.

• The phone reads texts to the user.

• The phone works with various health apps, allowing users to track calories, heartrate and more.

• The 13 megapixel rear camera is served by isoftware that blends together pictures from the front and rear of the device.

• British start-up Swiftkey's keyboard technology is at the heart of the S4 for more intuitive predictive text.

• Air gesture to allow screen interactions without contact with the screen.

• Included sensors are: Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, BarometerTemperature & Humidity, Gesture. The S4 is the first smartphone to include a humidity sensor.

• A number of peripherals, including a clamp-on gaming controller for consoles, were also introduced (see below).

s4 gamepad

Analysis:

Commenting on the launch, John Oswald, Business Design Lead at Fjord, said: “In a bid to maintain its position at the forefront of the mobile market, Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 promises to change the way in which we interact with mobile devices. The service updates signify a new relationship developing between consumers and digital products, as we incorporate a growing number of devices and sensors into our everyday lives.

“The Galaxy S4 will read the user’s body in fresh and innovative ways with its new finger hovering display, which will enable consumers to control their phones without even touching the screen. With this revolutionary eye-recognition technology feature, Samsung has created a more personalised mobile experience which significantly changes the nature of our tactile interactions with mobile devices.

“Digital devices which respond to a variety of human gestures are building personal ecosystems tailored to the needs of individual consumers. Samsung’s updates are set to revolutionise the mobile market, as companies compete to offer consumers a device which understands them and is completely responsive to their demands.”

Innovation challenge

Meanwhile, Jan Dawson, chief telecom analyst at Ovum, said Samsung’s key challenge now is to remain truly innovative, and not rely on gimmicks.

“As anticipated, the device features a slightly larger screen, an improved camera, and beefed up processor power and memory,” Dawson said. “The company also augmented various features previously available, including its eye-tracking capabilities.

“The Galaxy S 4 is a worthy successor to earlier members of this line, and will doubtless sell well. But it highlights a couple of the key challenges Samsung faces. Firstly, having innovated rapidly over the last several years to vaunt itself into top spot in the world smartphone rankings, Samsung now faces essentially the same challenge as Apple: how to continue to improve its devices year on year when existing phones are already top of their class, and there aren't obvious shortcomings? And secondly, how to set Samsung's devices apart from other devices that share the Android operating system that provides so much of the functionality? As rivals such as HTC and Sony up the specs of their devices and provide ever better hardware, it becomes more and more important for Samsung to differentiate on software and services.

“The improvements to eye tracking and the additions of S Translator and the hover feature and so on are good steps in this direction, but they can be seen as gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features – there should be something here for everyone, even if most of these new features won't be used by most users. For now, Samsung can likely rely on its vastly superior marketing budget and the relatively weak efforts of its competitors in software to keep it ahead. But competitors will catch up (as Samsung has caught up in many ways with Apple) and Samsung will need to continue to stretch. It also needs to build a stronger set of content offerings that cross its various platforms, so that it can extend its leadership in smartphones into the tablet space, and give consumers a reason to buy into an "all-Samsung" experience with their consumer electronics.

“Overall, there are lots of features, but based on past experience most people will never even find them on the device,” Dawson concluded.

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