This is a guest post by Will Judd
The Samsung Unpacked event has come and gone, and we’re left with the announcement of a new phone: the Samsung Galaxy S4. The phone has gotten a mixed response from critics – some have complained about the phone’s design, which is very similar to last year’s S3, but others have praised its boosted specifications and comprehensive software additions. In this article, I’ll share what I reckon are the new phone’s five best features.
5. Smart TV remote
The Galaxy S4 comes with an IR blaster and WatchOn software, allowing you to use your phone as a visual TV guide and universal remote. While the HTC One includes similar technology, Samsung’s app looks more fully featured and easy to use.
4. Gesture control
One of the coolest software add-ons included with the Galaxy S3 was ‘smart stay’. Basically, the front-facing camera watches for your face. Whenever you’re looking at the screen, the screen won’t dim or lock.
With the Galaxy S4, Samsung have upped the ante and included a wide range of gesture controls. There’s ‘smart scroll’, which allows you to tilt your phone in order to scroll up or down. ‘Air gestures’ let you swipe left and right in the air in front of your phone to skip songs or look through photo galleries. ‘Smart pause’ automatically pauses playing videos when you look away from the screen. There’s even an improvement on the Note 2’s ‘Air view’ feature – now instead of hovering a stylus over the screen to preview content, you can just use your finger.
I worked on gesture controls as my final year project in university, and I’m fairly convinced at this point that they’ll continue to become more mainstream as more use-cases are discovered.
3. Improved Hardware
I couldn’t really mention the Galaxy S4 without making some mention of its utter power – while it may be overkill, it looks like Samsung have crafted an industry-leading beast once more. The phone includes an octa-core processor (yup, eight cores) and a five-inch Super AMOLED 1080p display. That should translate into flawless performance, whether you’re whizzing around your home screens or in the most demanding game on the platform.
2. Comprehensive Cameras
One fairly significant hardware and software upgrade is the 13 megapixel rear camera, which is backed with a host of software upgrades. Samsung’s Android-based camera, the Galaxy Camera, has made its influence felt here, with an on-screen mode dial and new scene modes. For example, there’s an ‘Eraser’ mode that takes a quick series of photographs, then allows you to remove any motion it detects in the background (for example, people walking past or photo bombers).
There are a whole bunch of other ways to take a picture too – from ‘DualShot’, which allows you to shoot pictures or video from both cameras simultaneously, ‘Drama Shot’ which makes a composite photo of someone in motion and ‘Cinema Photo’ which is basically Cinemagraph for Android.
According to The Verge, the camera experience remained fast and fluid throughout, which is hopefully a reflection of both well-tuned software and the powerful hardware at the core of the device.
1. S Health
The big surprise of the show – at least for me – was S Health. I’d been looking into getting a fitness tracking accessory and app for a while now, but Android seems to have been getting the short end of the stick in terms of support from the major manufacturers.
S Health seems to be a fitness app much more powerful than anything we’ve seen on the platform before, and doesn’t require a separate accessory. The Galaxy S4 has a built-in pedometer (which is just a simplified accelerometer, after all) as well as humidity and temperature sensors, allowing the Galaxy S4 to automatically track your environment and ‘exercise levels’. Of course, there are also options for inputting other information that the app can’t glean by itself – stuff like food you’ve been eating and how much sleep you’ve been getting. There are a host of health-oriented Galaxy S4 accessories too, from a wrist-band to a scale.
Ultimately, S Health could be a great app for Galaxy S4 owners, and may pave the way for other Android manufacturers to look at including similar features.
In writing this article, it was hard to pick just five features to distinguish the Galaxy S4 – for example, I wanted to include the S Translator app, which looks jolly useful for anyone that’s multilingual or travels.
Samsung’s presentation was certainly gimmicky in places, but I feel that there’s a lot of lasting value in the additions they’ve made to the Galaxy S4. While the IR blaster and gesture controls may be niche use-cases, the new camera software and the S Health seem like strong apps that I’d use many times a day, and just aren’t matched by the Galaxy S4’s competitors.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.