Samsung has finally unveiled its latest smartphone, the highly anticipated GALAXY S4, at a high profile launch event at New York's prestigious Radio City Music Hall.
We were there to see and hear more about the latest tech and features that Samsung has to offer smartphone users and, of course, to be amongst the first to get our hands on the S4. Read on to get our first impressions of this hugely-impressive next-gen smartphone.
As you can see from our product pictures right here, the first thing that regular S III users will notice is that the much-loved look and feel of the S4 is very similar to its predecessor, with a few minor, yet highly important, changes to the form factor.
Samsung's HD pièce de résistance
The S4 is still impressively light, weighing in at just over 130g, with the new addition of a solid metallic banding around the side of the phone. It's also slimmer than the S3, with the phone measuring 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm and packing in Samsung's pièce de résistance – that 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen.
Elsewhere, in terms of the exterior design of the S4, the 'home' button and two 'back' and 'menu' buttons remain in the same familiar place as they are on the S III and on the GALAXY Note II. After all, as Samsung's design team most likely decided, why change a winning formula?
And while the design of the phone's casing is a small but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, it is the startlingly cool new array of features and impressive list of tech specs that is going to win the hearts and minds of smartphone users when the S4 goes on sale on April 26 next month.
Octa-core speed and functionality
With a new octa-core 1.6 GHz Exynos 5 CPU, running 2GB of RAM, this is one hell of a fast phone – perfect for those power users who don't like wasting precious seconds waiting for apps to load up. Not to mention, particularly ideal for processor-intensive tasks such as shooting HD video or playing the latest graphically-demanding Android games.
That said, the real killer selling point here is the screen, as the 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display on the S4 is nothing short of beautiful, being ever-so-slightly brighter and sharper than the S III -- already one of the best smartphone screens currently on the market.
So if you want a smartphone to take pictures, videos or watch movies on, the S4 is simply streets ahead of the competition.
User interface – the S4 as a "life companion"
After noticing the thinner form factor; the faster processor and that stunning screen, the fourth most important new aspect to the Samsung GALAXY S4 is the improved user interface.
Noticeably clever new features such as Samsung's Smart Stay and Smart Pause are able to see if a user's eyes move away from the screen, informing the application you are using to act accordingly – for example, if you are watching a movie or a TV programme, the phone will pause it while you look away from the screen.
There is a huge range of extra additions to the S4's user interface, with some nifty camera and video features that are sure to appeal to both the average user and the would-be pro snapper or movie director, squeezing the most out of the new 13 megapixel camera.
Plus, the addition of Air View, developed originally on the GALAXY Note II, which allows you to control the S4 with air gestures (i.e., without actually touching the screen) is sure to be a strong selling point for many new users.
Life without boundaries, and without limitations
J K Shin, President of Samsung Mobile, was on hand at Samsung Unpacked 2013 to explain to the assembled crowd of mobile industry execs and journalists how the development of the S4 has been driven by a desire to "experience life without boundaries, without limitations…to help us live a richer, simpler and more full life" which is exactly why Samsung is calling the S4 a "life companion" and not a mere smartphone.
Sure, the S4 is smart, but the fact that it can now cleverly place you, the snapper, in your home movies and family pics alongside your subject; help you to translate and understand nine different languages (both spoken and written); improve your ability to play with others,and share your entertainment via Group Play, or even monitor your health and fitness regime using S Health, really makes the phrase "life companion" very apt.
And finally, what might well prove to be the killer apps for the S4: Firstly, the ability to let you connect securely with the office using Samsung Knox, and with your TV at home using Samsung HomeSync. Secondly, the improved ability to obtain your movies, music and books easily and quickly, using the streamlined new Samsung Hub.
Overall, the new Samsung GALAXY S4 is as remarkable as it is familiar. With that blindingly fast octa-core processor and 13MP camera, smartphone users are going to be happily at the cutting edge of mobile tech for the foreseeable future. A place where most of us are happiest!