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After several months of rumors and speculation as to what exactly Samsung has been cooking up with its Galaxy S4, today they finally pulled back the veil of secrecy. And the results are certainly an impressive display of what the company believes is its future in the smartphone business as the Galaxy S4 is equipped with a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, a 13MP rear-facing camera and will run on Android 4.2.2.

But that’s not all as not only has the company gone all out with its Galaxy S4, but a new suite of first-party software is also being introduced to further expand on an already impressive showing of hardware. Samsung understand that beyond impressive hardware, it is the user experience and user productivity that will ensure the continued success of its Galaxy S line of smartphones. Update: we have published our complete Galaxy S4 Review, which has photo samples, and performance analysis. Enjoy!

Samsung Galaxy S4 Specs

We know that the Samsung Galaxy S4 specs can be very important for many of you, so we are going to address this right away so that we can move to the user experience part. Samsung has not revealed everything, but here is what’s official right now:

Android: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Main processor: Samsung 1.6GHz Octa 5 processor OR Qualcomm Snapdragon S600 1.9GHz, depending on the region.
Storage: 16/32/64GB models, microSD expandable to 64
Display: 5” Full HD Super AMOLED (441+ ppi). Samsung will reveal more about the display technology when we get closer to the launch.
System Memory: 2GB of RAM
Battery: 2600 mAh
Main Camera: 13MP autofocus, with 1080p recording, BSI Sensor
Front Camera: 2MP front facing, BSI Sensor
Colors: white frost and black mist
Video decode: Codec: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, DivX, DivX3.11, VC-1, VP8, WMV7/8, Sorenson Spark, HEVC
Audio decode: Codec: MP3, AMR-NB/WB, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, OGG, FLAC, AC-3, apt-X
Misc: Infrared emitter (for remote apps), GPS+Glonass
Networking: WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, BT 4.0
Cellular: 2.5G (850/900/1800/1900MHz), 3G HSPA+ 42Mbps (850/900/1900/2100MHz), 4G LTE Cat3 100/50Mbps, 6-bands
Dimension: 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm, 130g

Samsung hasn’t confirmed which region was getting the Exynos 5 Octa, but we’re worried that U.S customers may end up with a Snapdragon S600, which may ultimately be slower. We will know for sure when we run the benchmarks, but given that the Snapdragon S800 is scheduled to ship in devices in Q3/Q4, S600 seems to be likely.

Industrial Design

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As we said earlier, the Samsung Galaxy S4 introduces a 5-inch display to the company’s hugely popular smartphone and the extra 0.2 inches in size is one you probably won’t notice immediately, but when you consider they made the bezel as thin as they possibly could, then you’ll see just how large the display is when compared to the entire phone. The Galaxy S4’s screen is also a Full HD Super AMOLED display, which means it packs a 1920 x 1080 resolution at over 441ppi.

If you’ve used a Samsung Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 will feel second nature to you, even though the S4’s screen is slightly larger, brighter, thinner and overall its weight is lighter than the Galaxy S3. It greatly improves on the exterior of the S3, and that’s saying something since the S3’s exterior was pretty slick.

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There is an infra-red emitter now. Handy!

The S4 is covered in a slick polycarbonate which offers a nice look to the device, although we were hoping Samsung would finally introduce a new Galaxy S device that does away with its plastic casing. Considering how premium its innards are, this would have been the ideal device to introduce such an external, but at the end of the day, Samsung knows what they’re doing for its Galaxy S brand.

Perceived Performance

Right now, we have not been able to run benchmarks and confirm the synthetic performance numbers, but here is how the smartphone felt when I used it. If you are curious check previous S4 benchmarks coverage.

Navigating through apps at a normal pace as well as a pace that would be considered “extreme” resulted in the S4 keeping up with everything I threw at it. The camera’s shutter speed, which I know can be a bit of a problem with certain Android devices, was extremely quick and didn’t lag at all, even when using one of the new features, which we’ll get into in our Camera section.

When I launched applications, there was only a slight delay from the moment I pressed the app’s icon to the application actually loading. Web browsing, on the other hand, was a bit slow, but I think that was mainly due to network connection issues (a classic during such tech events), which Samsung continually was suffering from during their demo time. When web pages did load, scrolling through an article was fast.

Camera

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One of the areas of the Galaxy S4 Samsung put a lot of thought into is its camera. Sure – it’s able to take photos at 13MP, with videos capable of recording at 1080p, but that’s only the beginning as Samsung has thrown in a lot more. First off, the company brought the UI from its Galaxy cameras to the Galaxy S4 considering how much praise Samsung has received for it. That said, we also like the Google Android 4.2 stock Camera app very much, including the photosphere feature (360 degrees panorama).

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They’re also introducing a number of enhancements and settings, such as the Dual Shot / Dual Recording setting. In DS / DR, you’ll be able to take a photo and include yourself in the shot as a floating head in the image. You can spice up your image with a number of templates that can place your image as a stamp, a heart-shape or a fisheye to name a few. You can also reverse the image to have you take the main portion of the photo, while the rear-facing camera is a smaller image.

There are a number of other settings that will allow you to erase photobombers in a photo in Eraser mode, create animated GIFs in Cinema mode where a person is kept stationary while the background moves, as well as a mode where you can take multiple shots to include them in a single photo, called Drama shot.

Communicating made easier

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With the Galaxy S4, Samsung is making it possible to communicate with anyone, anywhere with a number of its first-party applications aimed at making communicating easy. The Galaxy S4’s S Translator will make it possible for you to communicate with people who may not speak your primary language with up to 10 languages beings supported at launch. S Translator is integrated in a number of the Galaxy S4’s communication programs such as its email client, chatON and messaging. We’ve seen something like this before with the Docomo translator, and that is the kind of tool that make a big difference in the real world.

ChatOn is the S4’s video chat program that allows you to chat with other S4 users through 3-way video calls, the more traditional dual-video calls, and even make it possible to share a device’s screen with one another.

The last feature that makes communicating on the Galaxy S4 easier is its Group Play feature, which allows Galaxy S4 owners to play against one another using direct Wi-Fi. You can initiate a connection through NFC, or you can simply connect to other S4 devices through the more traditional Wi-Fi method.

Touchless Navigation

As was rumored a few months ago, Samsung is indeed introducing some methods of navigation with the Galaxy S4 that doesn’t require the user to touch the device’s screen. One of the first is called Air View, which allows you to hover your finger over the S4’s screen in order to initiate a number of additional input methods. For example, you can preview videos, view multiple tabs at a time within the browser or magnify words on the screen.

Air Gestures is also possible with the Galaxy S4, and in fact is a method of interacting with the device I couldn’t help but think was cool. You can wave your hand left to right or right to left in order to scroll through images within the S4’s photo gallery, change tabs within the web browser or change the track to a song within the S4’s music player. Left and right swipes aren’t the only Air Gesture input methods as you can also swipe up and down in order to scroll through a web article.

Both the Air View and Air Gestures worked as they were expected to, although both features had to have been turned on as they were off by default. The S4 was able to recognize my methods of waving my hand in front of it, ranging from an open hand, a clenched fist, and even something as silly as the Vulcan salute were all recognized by the device. As for Air View, tilting the S4 in order to scroll through an email or article was as easy as it sounds, although I’m curious to see how this feature acts when you’re walking down the street and accidentally end up tilting your device.

The Galaxy S4 has its eye on you

Considering how often our eyes are looking at our smartphones, it’s kind of creepy to think our device can look back at us to interact with us in a number of ways. The Galaxy S4 is equipped with facial-recognition technology that it uses in order to know what you’re doing. The purpose of this isn’t the result of some conspiracy where Samsung is learning as much about their users as possible, but instead it’s used for two features: Smart Pause and Smart Scroll, just as the rumors said.

The Smart Pause feature is being introduced as a way for the Galaxy S4 to know if you’re paying full attention to the device and if it should pause the video you’re currently watching. As cool as that sounds, I never was able to get the function working with my short time with the device. I’m not sure if my glasses or the lighting had anything to do with it, but even a complete turn of my head didn’t result in a YouTube video pausing itself. I’m guessing that the ability of the device to “see me” with decent lighting is key to make this work.

Smart Scroll is another Galaxy S4 feature that watches you in order to initiate itself as you could use it while reading an email or web page in order to scroll without requiring you to touch your phone’s screen. This could be a worthwhile feature if you’re holding your S4 with one hand, with a drink in the other and don’t want to give up its deliciousness in order to scroll through an article. Simply tilting the phone in the direction you want the words to scroll, and it’ll do it automatically.

Health and well-being

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Staying healthy is important to a vast majority of people as we go to gyms, go out for a run and even partake in a game of basketball every so often. If you have your Galaxy S4 on hand, it will help you keep an eye on your health with very little interaction. After all, Samsung claims that its Galaxy phones are “made for humans”, right?

Within its S Health program, there are three categories you could track to keep your health in check. The first is a pedometer, which not only keeps a count of how many steps you take in a day, but also if they’re steps on an incline or decline, which would require more or less effort respectively. The second is a comfort level tracker, which simply keeps track of the temperature and humidity throughout the day to let you know, “Hey! You were hot and sticky earlier today.” The last category you can keep a track of within S Health is your food intake as you can input what foods you are munching on throughout the day in order to keep track of a number of things such as calorie intake.

Enterprise-Ready

Samsung is not making big waves with it right now, but the Galaxy S4 comes with KNOX, which is part of SAFE. Both are software that makes it easier for IT departments to manage smartphones, especially in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment where employees and companies want  to have separate “work” and “personal” data and apps. For instance, the company cannot see any private data, which makes the employee happy. On the other hand, the enterprise apps are completely isolated, and the IT managers can easily remote-wipe those in case of a theft, or if the employee leaves the company. We’ve covered KNOX during MWC 2013, so check it out.

Note: Knox doesn’t come with all the Galaxy S4 handsets. Only the “B2B” (business to business) versions will have it from what we can tell.

Smart accessories, too

As you’re probably aware of, the Galaxy S4 will be capable of providing its users with a number of unique features, but Samsung is also working on a number of smart accessories that help make the most out of your device.

One of the first things that is receiving an improvement is its S Covers, which is called an S View Cover. When the S View Cover is combined with the Galaxy S4, it’ll be able to display information through its small window that will show you the time, an incoming SMS, be a caller ID or have the ability to accept or deny a phone call, all within the small window of the S View Cover. This could certainly make taking your phone out to check the time or to accept or deny an incoming call much easier as you no longer would have to completely open up your device in order to handle any of these simple tasks.

In addition to its S View Cover, Samsung is also introducing an S Band that will help in recording more health information than the simple pedometer or comfort level tracker would be able to do. A body scale and heart-rate monitor will also be made available, all of which will be able to connect with the Galaxy S4 through Bluetooth.

Conclusion

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Before today, we knew Samsung would be swinging for the fences with its Galaxy S4. The company has branched out to providing phablets, tablets, mini-tablets and everything in between, but its Galaxy S smartphones have always been their most successful mobile products to date.

The Galaxy S4 looks like it’ll give Galaxy S3 owners even more of what they already love in a much nicer package, while also being the phone to make non-Galaxy S device or iPhone owners seriously consider picking it up when it’s made available Q2 2013. We will make sure to provide a complete “Uber Review” when the retail units show up.

What do you think? Are you excited about the new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone? Was that what you were expecting, and would you upgrade from a Galaxy S3? Leave a comment below.

Filed in Breaking >Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Android, Galaxy S4, Samsung and samsung galaxy.

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