As anticipation for today's unveiling finally reached (if not surpassed) a boiling point, Samsung has officially introduced the Galaxy S4 smartphone.
Announced at a massive media event held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Thursday evening, the latest generation of the Galaxy smartphone series already has a lot to live up to.
The pressure is on for the S4 to compete head-to-head especially with Apple's iPhone 5 (and that device's successor).
Looking at it another way, the expected battle between these two handsets might parallel the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, which debuted at Mobile World Congress in February. That 8-inch tablet is seen as a direct competitor to Apple's iPad mini.
Leading up to today's announcement, Roger Entner, lead analyst and founder of telecom consulting firm Recon Analytics, described in prepared remarks that "the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the next iteration in the most successful series of smartphones next to the iPhone." He added that it is software that will differentiate the S4 against both the iPhone and the rest of the Android ecosystem.
Generation after generation the gap between the Galaxy S and the iPhone has become smaller and smaller. This time we may see Samsung leap frogging Apple and have the best smartphone on the planet for six months until the new iPhone comes out. This would be a pivotal moment as Apple has been able to play offense and enjoy a lead in device capabilities (both software and hardware) and now they might be forced to play catch up.
JK Shin, head of IT and mobile communications at Samsung, described that the design for these 3G/4G handsets were "inspired by the people of the world."
Shin asserted that once consumers spend time with the Galaxy S4, they will feel "very confident about how its innovations" will make their lives richer and fuller.
Describing the S4 as "mindblowingly thin," Ryan Bidan, director of product marketing for Samsung Telecommunications America, introduced the specs.
Promising a "kryptonite"-like case, the Samsung S4 is encased in a plastic exterior (in either black or white) with a full HD, Super AMOLED 5-inch display with 441 pixels per inch. Overall it measures 136.5 mm long by 70.6 mm wide while weighing in at 130 grams.
Additional specs include up to 64GB of internal storage (as well as the option for 64GB more on a microSD card), a 2,600 mAh removable battery, 2GB of LPDDR RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, and IR LED (remote control functionality) and MHL 2.0. The GS4 also supports downloads of 100Mbps and uploads of 50Mbps.
Samsung execs also spent a good deal of time going over the 13-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras. The stand-out feature is a new function called dual-camera mode in which the user can turn both cameras on. The rear camera can shoot fullscreen video as well as picture-in-picture at the same time in conjunction with the front-facing camera.
Another feature that could come in handy for frequent business travelers flying internationally is the S-Translator. Currently supporting nine languages, the feature handles speech-to-text and text-to-speech. It's integrated into messaging apps, and using the optical reader, it also translates written words.
So far, the S-Translator retains at least 3,000 common phrases and sentences. But what most be most vital for those traveling across borders (and might not have international data plans), it works even without a network connection.
Naturally, there are a number of features on the S4 that could be interpreted as direct hits at the iPhone. For starters, the S4 comes with S Voice, which is voice recognition software that will do everything from offering up driving directions to acting as a personal assistant.
Samsung is also looking to establish a stronger footing with enterprise customers with Knox, the dual work/life profile system that was also first introduced back at MWC. The S4 is the first Samsung device that will ship with the suite of security services and apps.
While Samsung spent a good deal of the financial and time budgets on actors and executives describing the features, there wasn't much in regards to availability beyond that it will be available with 327 carriers across 55 countries.
AT&T has already confirmed in the following statement that it will carry the Samsung S4 in the United States.
"AT&T was the first to deliver Samsung’s Galaxy series and we are excited to bring the Galaxy S4 to the nation’s fastest 4G LTE network," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president- Devices, AT&T. "We continue to offer our customers a broad choice of devices and features to fit any mobile lifestyle, and look forward to growing our family of Samsung Galaxy devices."
Sprint also followed up via email to confirm that it will carry the S4 during the second quarter of 2013. The nation's third largest mobile provider also revealed that more details -- including pricing -- "will be shared in the coming weeks."
Images via CNET
More about the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch on ZDNet:
- Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone: By the numbers
- Samsung's Galaxy S4 focuses on differentiation but reveals growing problem for handset makers
- Samsung's Galaxy S4: The supply chain halo effect
- Galaxy S4: Samsung's so far ahead in the Android race, should it start worrying?
- Phil Schiller bashes Android on eve of Galaxy S4 announcement
- Samsung Galaxy S4 confirmed for UK mobile networks
- Samsung's Galaxy S4: Does 5-inch screen make it a phablet?