March 15, 2013

Samsung's Galaxy S4 Is Great But No iPhone Killer (VIDEO)

Control the Samsung Galaxy S4 with your eyes or your hand
Please stop asking me if the Samsung Galaxy S4 is better than the iPhone 5, and stop calling every new smart phone a potential iPhone killer. Any new phone could be a killer if you consider a thousand small cuts a prelude to death.

Based on specs, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the better phone; it now has more power and cutting edge features. Things like face/eye tracking and gesture-based controls are features iPhone 5 users can only dream of – for now.

The resolution of the 7.9mm Galaxy S4 is higher than the iPhone 5, and there’s more screen real-estate on the 5-inch Galaxy 4 than the 4-inch iPhone 5. The Gorilla Glass 3 – the first device to sport the new technology – is ostensibly stronger than what iPhone 5 has (though only a drop test can tell us for sure).

The GS4 is thinner than the GS3 and has metallic trim.
Inside, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a near 2 GHz quad-core CPU. The dual-core iPhone 5 has 1 GHz of power. Samsung stuffed a 13 megapixel camera into the Samsung Galaxy S4, while the iPhone 5 tops out at 8MP. Not to mention the fact that the Galaxy S4 can shoot with both cameras at one time to create mind-boggling effects that you may or may not want

Samsung is also starting to use NFC is interesting ways: letting people pair the phones by tapping and then turning the ad-hoc connection between multiple phones into a surround sound system. That’s quite cool, though it also seems pretty impractical.

Feature-for-feature, the Galaxy S4 appears to have the iPhone 5 beat. So why can’t I declare victory for the Galaxy S4?

Because it’s not that simple.

Hands On

I did spend some time with a couple of pre-production units and must admit, the phone feels and looks good. At 4.6 ounces, it’s relatively light for a 5-inch phone, and since it’s actually somewhat smaller than the Galaxy III, it didn’t feel like it was stressing my hand.

The marquee features: Air Gesture, Smart Scroll and the Dual Camera all worked pretty much as advertised. Smart Scroll, which might be Samsung’s biggest innovation, was a bit touchy for me in the pre-production unit. It’s also, as Samsung told me, misunderstood. It’s not eye-tracking per se. Instead, the phone’s front-facing sensors see your face and eyes and then the tilt-to-scroll works. That’s right, you tilt the phone back and forth to scroll up and down on a page. You cannot simply use your eyes to scroll. It’s a cool feature that, with some refinement and practice on the user’s part, could become useful.

Air view is a highly intuitive feature that I want Apple to adopt immediately: Where programmed, the Samsung Galaxy S4 screen reacts before you touch it. I tried hovering my finger over the browser tabs and then a thumbnail of my hidden pages showed up – before I even touched the screen. To a certain extent I think this is an amplification of the capacitive abilities that exist in most smartphone screens. You know what I mean: You hover over your phone’s screen and it takes action before you’re ready? Remember, capacitive screens read the conductivity in your fingers. If the signal is strong enough, you probably don’t have to touch. I’m guessing they turned the capacitance up to 11 (though I may be wrong).

Air Gestures feels like a feature from the future. You wave at the screen and things happen. I was, for example, able to switch between browser tabs by waving at the screen. Not a “hello” or “goodbye” wave, mind, you. It was more like stroking the airspace over the phone. To make it work right, though, I had to gesture near the top of the Galaxy S4 screen – over the sensors. Still, once I got the hang of it, it worked so effectively that I want to rename this feature “Galaxy S4 Jedi Control.”

The camera takes ultra sharp photos, but while the dual screen feature worked well, I had trouble imaging in when I’d want to take a photo like that. I bet people will use the dual video features more often (think simultaneous video conferencing with prospective home buyers while showcasing your open house).

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