Samsung Galaxy S4: the pundits’ verdict

SamsungGalaxyS41

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy S4, a new handset pitched directly against iPhone as the must-have high-end smartphone.

It will be released on April 26th, accompanied by an inescapable global marketing and PR frenzy. We asked experts from TechRadarT3 and Gizmodo UK for their hype-free view on the new handset’s stand-out features, and what it means for Apple’s iPhone.

Patrick Goss, editor in chief UK, TechRadar:

“It may be iteration and not revolution, but the Samsung Galaxy S4 looks set to be the best phone around when it arrives, despite some hot competition from HTC’s One. The powerful processor will be a main selling point, along with a much-improved screen and both will be a major boon to gamers and the burgeoning Android gaming landscape.

The Game Pad peripheral may fall a little short in the looks department, but the effort being put in by Samsung to bring mobile gaming to its phones is a big indicator of how it sees the market changing, and there’s even little bit of a hint about the Galaxy Note 3 being compatible with a whopping 6.3 inch screen.

Of course, in phone terms, the iPhone 5 is looking a little long in the tooth now, and actually even the Galaxy S3 had the edge in terms of power, so we’re all expecting (or in some cases demanding) something significant from Cupertino when it shows off the iPhone 6 or 5S in the summer.”

Andrew Wooden, news editor, T3 magazine:

“The main things to point out are the new ways you can interact with the phone. You can now scroll, preview messages and answer calls without touching the screen – which is all suitably Minorioty Report to get people’s attention. The eye tracking software – which, for example, pauses a video if you look away from the screen – is certainly innovative, but we’ll have to see how users take to it.

The camera has a few new rhinestones, like the ability to shoot with the front and rear camera simultaneously. These are all impressive enough, but there may be a fairly low ceiling on how much people actually want to use that sort of thing.

There’s a lot of other more conventional – or in this fast moving industry what we can suddenly but reasonably define as such – features packed in, such as the ability to control your TV and track your exercise.

For the rest of it, we can see the continued expansion of what we consider a reasonably sized screen for a phone. Five inches is huge, but large-screened devices are fast becoming the norm in the high-end  smartphone world.”

Kat Hannaford, editor, Gizmodo UK:

“It wasn’t quite the all-singing, all-dancing phone we were hoping for (though there was plenty of that at the actual launch event), but right from the off, the reaction from critics and the great unwashed certainly suggested Samsung could’ve done better.

Hampered in part thanks to the unfortunate iterative hardware and specs period the whole industry is suspended in, the benefits over the S4’s predecessor could only be counted on one hand. Sure, some of the features, such as S Health and offline translation options, were genuinely useful, but I personally felt after last year’s monumental S III launch, there was little left for Samsung to work with.

It’s now up to Samsung to take notes from its rivals and focus on hardware design and aesthetics, a la HTC, or develop usable features like Apple, until the cogs of the industry start churning again, and we can start making huge leaps in spec once more.”

Sam Gibbs, news editor, Gizmodo UK:

“With the new Galaxy S4, Samsung’s ‘pulled an Apple’ and effectively updated the internals while maintaining the design of the Samsung Galaxy S III, just like Cupertino does with its ‘S’ update variants. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, only time will tell. Given the hype, we were expecting something a bit different, rather than just a spec sheet as long as your arm. No doubt it’ll sell like hotcakes, but I’m a little disappointed Samsung’s stuck with the rather plasticky, and sub-premum body, especially compared to the likes of the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z.”