Samsung Galaxy S4: What to expect + first teaser

In an attempt to steal the thunder from Nokia, Asus, Sony, and a slew of other mobile device makers at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Samsung has announced that the Galaxy S4 will be unveiled at its own exclusive event in New York on March 14 2013, with public availability to follow soon after. In a follow-up announcement, Samsung has announced that the New York event will occur in none other than Times Square. Some leaked benchmarks point to some very impressive performance from the Galaxy S4, too.

Samsung has also now unveiled the first Galaxy S4 teaser video — and, as you would expect of a video that features a pre-teen boy being given sole custody of the Galaxy S4 until release day, it’s pretty darn awful. It’s embedded below for your delectation.

With the slow but inexorable waning of the iPhone, both in terms of mind and market share, the Galaxy S4 is probably the most anticipated phone of 2013. The question on everyone’s lips, though, is whether Samsung can push the smartphone (and Android) envelope forward, despite lackluster innovation from Apple — and in the face of strong offerings from HTC. Let’s run through the expected hardware and software specs of the Samsung Galaxy S4, and then analyze the current state of play in the mobile space.


The Samsung Galaxy S4 is expected to have a full-HD 1920×1080 display (up from 1280×720 on the S3) — and the display might even make the jump from 4.8 inches to an edge-to-edge 5 inches. There were some early rumors of a flexible display, but they can be discounted — the tech just isn’t there yet. It remains to be seen whether the underlying tech will be AMOLED or LCD, though reports suggest that Samsung’s AMOLED production line isn’t ready to produce 1920×1080 5-inch displays, while the LCD production line is raring to go. Maybe this will mean that the Galaxy S4 can finally compete with the iPhone in terms of image quality and accuracy.

Samsung Exynos 5 Octa SOCUnder the hood, the Galaxy S4 is expected to use Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 600 or 800 SoC. The Snapdragon 800 is particularly exciting because it’s the first chip to be built on TSMC’s new 28nm HPM (high performance mobile) process — though, at 2.3GHz, it might be more of a tablet part. There is also the possibility that we’ll see two Galaxy S4 SKUs — a Snapdragon model with integrated LTE for the US market, and an Exynos-powered model for the rest of the world. If the S4 does use Exynos, the most likely option is an eight-core Exynos 5 Octa — four Cortex-A15 and four Cortex-A7 in a big.LITTLE configuration. There are still big questions about whether the power-hungry Cortex-A15 is suitable for smartphone use, so it will be interesting to see how the Galaxy S4 pans out.

A Samsung GT-I9500, which is believed to be the Galaxy S4′s model number, recently appeared on the Browsermark 2.0 benchmark leader board with a score of 2710. This beats the current leader, the LG Optimus G, which sports a quad-core Snapdragon S4 and a score of 2555. A score of 2710 isn’t strongly indicative of either the Exynos 5 Octa or Snapdragon 800, though.

Also, a Samsung Galaxy S4 owner seems to have run their phone through the Antutu benchmark, revealing that at least one variant of the phone will come with Samsung’s eight-core Exynos Octa 5410 SoC, clocked at 1.8GHz. The same benchmark confirms that a PowerVR SGX544MP GPU (but not how many cores), a 4.99-inch 1920×1080 display, 2GB of RAM, and a 13-megapixel rear shooter. It still remains to be seen if there’ll be a Snapdragon 800 version.

Rounding out the hardware, the Galaxy S4 is expected to have a high-res camera (13MP, according to some rumors), up to 64GB of flash storage, and 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Following the weak, uncertain, and confusing introduction of wireless charging in the Galaxy S3, we expect the S4 to rectify the situation and provide wireless charging by default. You can also expect all of the usual kitchen sink: WiFi (which should step up to MIMO), Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and so on.


There are unlikely to be any surprises in the software department: The Galaxy S4 will almost certainly run a TouchWizzified version of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (sorry, Tizen fans — keep on dreaming). There is also a rumor that the Galaxy S4 will launch with a pad accessory, which, when bonded with S Health, will give your phone the ability to measure your pulse and blood sugar, among other things.

Evolution, not revolution

In short, all indicators point to the Galaxy S4 being a fairly gentle evolution of the Galaxy S3 — a lot like the iPhone 4 and 5. A 5-inch screen would be exciting, but it really isn’t that different from 4.8 inches. An octa-core Exynos would certainly offer a unique selling point — but when you remember that four of those cores are wimpy, and that the Cortex-A15 cores are the reason your smartphone only lasts for six hours, your excitement will be quickly tempered. A laser keyboard, like the one shown in the (fan-made) video below is unlikely.

Truth be told, we would all be wise to temper our expectations when it comes to smartphone and tablet technology. There are some exciting concepts coming down the pipe, but we are probably still years away from flexible, transparent smartphones, or high-capacity batteries that can support pico projectors and other power-hungry features. (See: DoE calls for a chemical battery with 5x capacity, within 5 years – can it be done?) It’s easy to be fooled by the dramatic bombast pumped out by Apple, Samsung, and others, but actual paradigm-shifting technologies really don’t come along very often. It has been five years since the launch of the first smartphone, and we’re still firmly in the penumbra of the capacitive touchscreen; processors have got faster and screens have got larger, but that’s just the continuing, predictable, and thoroughly non-revolutionary march of Moore’s law.


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