BitDepth#877 - March 19

Samsung introduces the new S4 smart phone.
Samsung polishes its flagship smartphone

Samsung’s thinner, taller, faster successor to the S3, the unsurprisingly named S4.
Photo courtesy Samsung.

Last Thursday evening, Samsung announced the S4, the newest entry in its briskly updated line of smartphones.
Unlike Apple, Samsung brings many communications devices to market, but the S4, like its three predecessors, is designed to be the company’s leading edge competition to Apple’s market defining iPhone.

The S3, until last week the best that Samsung had to offer, proved to be a robust, well-designed competitor to the iPhone and one that the company has successfully marketed as both an exemplar for the Android operating system and a real alternative to Apple’s attractive ecosystem of media, software and hardware.

The company has also sold 40 million S3‘s worldwide since the product’s introduction ine months ago.
Samsung, of course, doesn’t control the operating system it’s put into the new S4, so its competitive advantage is focused on the software tweaks it can layer on top of the Android OS and the hardware it builds into the soap sliver shape of its phone.

The new smartphone offers a mix of the useful, the puzzling and the anticipated.

Count among the items that were anticipated by S3 customers, the improvements to S Voice. The software provided functional voice recognition on the S3, but the new version is not only smarter in its responses; it adds useful navigation and voice control capabilities for drivers keen to do more hands-free with their phones.

The new device sports an updated processor. Depending on the market, the new phone will ship with either a 1.9GHZ quadcore processor (up from a peak of 1.5GHZ in the S3) or a 1.6GHZ octacore processor.
The new screen supports full HD resolution, packing 2.1 million pixels into a screen that’s slightly taller and thinner than the one on the S3.
The S4’s front facing 13 megapixel camera, supported by smarter, hipper software also can record HD video.

The increase in power and screen density (441 pixels per inch) call for more power and the battery capacity has been increased by 500mah over the S3’s 2100mah power source.
Business users in B2B deployments will be pleased to find that Samsung’s Knox technology separates data for business from personal data, an idea that was introduced last month by Blackberry at it’s launch of the Z10, perhaps heralding a greater focus on business use and data security in future iterations of the Samsung smartphone line.

Other useful innovations include air gestures and air view, which read your hand or finger’s position and responds to it before you touch the screen and S Translator, a voice aware translation tool that can hear and respond in nine languages.
Some of the innovations introduced with the S4 are just puzzling though, or perhaps I’m just not social enough to appreciate them.

I get impromptu local chat and gaming, but I just can’t imagine a situation in which I’d want to beam music to eight other phones around me. I might, however, want to control a television using the built in infrared transmitter and software, just not the ancient tube box I’ve got in my living room right now.

But judging the S4 by what Samsung has added to its software suite would be premature. The hardware innovations provide a capable platform for developers, and it’s going to be intriguing to see what they come up with.

Samsung’s new S4 is an iterative improvement on its predecessor and an intriguing device in its own right, but it may not be one that lures happy S3 users from their devices.
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