Wow, Samsung knows how to throw on a show – the Korean giant took over the Sydney Opera House last night to launch their new smartphone, the Galaxy S4 and did so in style, with a blue carpet for guests to walk, their very own blue roses and even projecting images on the outside of the Opera House for the whole of Sydney to see. It really was quite spectacular.
Now, If you’re in a hurry and just after the Australian specifics, here they are – Aussies get the still super fast quad-core variant and it goes on sale this Saturday for $899 through Samsung with pre-orders open from today or you can grab it from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin.
All carriers are selling the device on a $60 plan, with Virgin being the best value at $61 (theirs is a $49 plan plus $12 repayments) which includes $450 of calls, unlimited SMS and 2GB of data.
The full specs for the device include – a 13MP camera, 1.9GHz quad-core processor, 2GB ram, 5-inch 1080p screen, LTE and 16GB of storage expandable by up to 64GB via microSD. The device is running on Android 4.2.2 with Samsung’s TouchWiz UX on top – which really is where most of the innovation in this product lies.
Holding it at first confused me – the 5-inch device which looked a lot bigger than my Nexus 4 was actually ever so slightly smaller when put side-by-side – the edge to edge screen really does a great job on giving greater screen real estate and keeping the device at a usable size. The screen itself was brilliant, it felt so close and the colours looked so vibrant that it almost felt like you were holding a fake phone with a super high quality, high resolution photo stuck on rather than a digital screen.
The device is made of polycarbonate – like the Lumia 920 or an F1 drivers helmet. This and the square shape of it made the device have a bit more a of a premium feel compared to previous Galaxy devices.
Being in the limited environment I was, I didn’t really get to test all the software features out, but the ones I did play with were probably the most interesting – S Translate, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, Dual Shot and Air Gestures.
S Translate, as you probably gather by the name is Samsung’s new translation app. Before the event, I have to admit that I was quite skeptical of this feature, when I actually used it, though, it really impressed me. I both wrote a message which it translated to me as I was writing it and I also got to use the voice features which worked almost perfectly, even in a loud room.
Smart Scroll allows you to scroll through web pages or documents by using your eyes, well, more your head. To get it going, you look at the screen and a little green eye will pop up to let you know you’re locked in, from then you can move your head up and down to scroll up or down the page. Alternatively, you can change the settings so you can tilt the device to scroll, rather than your head if you didn’t want to look a bit stupid.
Smart Pause was a bit of hit and miss when I used it, but I think that was partly due to the lighting of the room I was in. What Smart Pause does is it detects when you are watching a video and if you look away it will automatically pause it so you don’t miss anything. I can see where it can be quite useful, but it pretty much uses the camera to detect movement so sometimes even if you just move your head a touch it can stop the video which can be quite annoying.
Dual Shot is a camera feature which allows you to take a picture combining both the front and rear camera shots into the one photo. I didn’t play with this too much, but I noticed one funny example of a girl taking a picture of Guy Sebastian singing with the rear camera and herself in a love heart next to him using the front facing camera.
Air Gestures was another thing I found a bit hit and miss as well – this is the much talked about feature that allows you to use your phone without actually touching the device on certain apps. I tried it with the gallery where you can swipe over it side to side to get to the next photo – this was good except if you moved your hand back over the device to swipe it again, it swiped back the other way which got quite annoying.
The S View Cover was really quite cool and something I would be getting with the device. It covers both the front and back of the device but also includes a small transparent screen up the top which displays basic information like the time and all your notifications. It’s a simple idea, but really cool.
Also announced was a Foxtel GO app, an exclusive for Galaxy devices, which previously has only been available on iOS devices.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on the device, head to a Samsung experience store today to have a play and pre-order the device.
We will have a full review up for you in the coming weeks.