We have come a long way since the surreal feeling of the next best thing from Samsung last year. The Galaxy S III could comfortably be characterized as old by the Korean tech giant thanks to their newest intergalactic conquest, the Galaxy S 4.
Since their center stage aura in New York City which consumed the minds of millions worldwide a fortnight ago, I’m already in awe of their 2013 strategy. Much like how Apple brands a device with an "S" in between larger handset refreshes, the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, and iPhone 5, Samsung did with the S 4. It's much more of an evolutionary step rather than revolutionary. Even so, the Galaxy S 4 presumably packs enough firepower to keep it in contention as one of the year's most desirable handsets. And from Apple's viewpoint, it should be cause for concern. Imitation is flattery.
I’ve written about Samsung on numerous occasions and outlined my concerns for the next Galaxy device many times. The Samsung Galaxy S 4 is the newest device out of Korea and it has everything you’d expect it to have. Literally. The device is nearly identical to the rumors. From its lineup of S features and 5-inch display, to it’s internal specifications including the infamous Octa-Core processor (for the international buyers). Samsung wasn’t able to keep it all a secret and I'm not at all surprised they relied on a list of software features to solidify it as the next big thing.
Samsung has considerably added to its ecosystem and app portfolio in the process. Maybe this is the reason the industrial design of the new Galaxy S 4 is so similar to the Galaxy S III it replaces - the software was the focus. Regardless, Samsung's creation of a list of marketable features and ecosystem put it on par with what the iPhone prides itself on. Samsung has been riding at breakneck speed to secure itself as the epitome of Android, and the antithesis to its competitors. The design of the Galaxy S 4 is presumably a reaction to what the company thinks it needs to be compared to the competition, rather than what it needs to obliterate them.
But back up a bit and you’ll see why. Samsung’s Galaxy S III is most notably recognized as the best selling Android smartphone to date, due in part to a combination of specifications that would put you to sleep if read aloud, and a build quality that still beckons the question: "How much did you say this thing costs?" From its eclectic array of software features and premium internal hardware specifications, Samsung delivered what Android needed at the perfect time, all the while in resolute fashion through every possible outlet. It is still a polycarbonate masterpiece in the eyes of any Android fan, and could remain one until the Galaxy S 5.
However, we’re not yet ready for the Galaxy S 5 as proven by Samsung’s latest offering. The Galaxy S 4 ticks the same boxes its predecessor did, and in similar fashion. It's a clear tribute to the mindset don't fix what's not broken. We may be looking at the best Samsung is willing to deliver this year, and I’m smitten. Granted, their successor had large shoes to fill, something I've said is cause for concern. But that's no excuse. The Galaxy S III was a gamechanger, and if you could look past its plastic exterior you'd quickly find that there was more to it than meets the eye.
"We've always been known as a hardware innovator," said Drew Blackard, director of product planning for Samsung Mobile in the U.S. "And now we have become a software innovator. And I think that's surprised people."
S features have proven to be valuable marketing terms for the company, and they're showing no signs of shifting away from the strategy. I’ll give Samsung the benefit of the doubt and admit that they have packed the Galaxy S 4 to the gills with them: S Voice Drive, Dual Camera, S Health, S Translator, Smart Scrolling, Smart Pause, Group Play, and Samsung Knox. But most other devices also have hands-free capability for when you're behind the wheel. LG first boasted about Dual Camera which allows the front and rear camera to act simultaneously like the S 4. S Health is rather a reaction to FitBit and other active lifestyle applications that have been around for the better part of five years, instead of something new. S Translator is probably great if you have never used Google Translate. Smart Scrolling and Smart Pause let your eyes control what's on-screen, rather than your finger. Group Play is great if you only associate yourself with other Samsung Galaxy device owners and wish to share files, play music, and so on. This leaves Knox, Samsung's attempt at enterprise level security by creating business and personal profiles. The most noteworthy takeaway of software features center around Samsung’s Air View which is essentially a reason not to dirty your touch screen. Your finger acts as a stylus in the same way you'd use the stylus of the Galaxy Note II.
Then there’s the hardware. You’re getting a very similar shell that may demand a second take to differentiate it from the outgoing Galaxy S III. You’re looking at another home button. The same plastic outer bits. A similar shape with curved corners. The same capacitive button layout, camera placement, and so on. And again with 2GB of RAM. The most exciting feature is the bump to a 2,600mAH battery in that thin 7.9mm frame. There was a processor bump to Qualcomm's latest, and even a display bump to 5-inches with PenTile in tow. We won't be seeing an Octa-Core processor with big.LITTLE action stateside, which would be the biggest hardware improvement as compared to the S III. Yes, the specifications have gotten better, but for what reason?
It’s obvious that Samsung has developed the Galaxy S 4 as an evolutionary step from the outgoing model. From its software specifications down to its appearance, the Galaxy S 4 is very similar in fashion to the annual device refreshes we’ve seen out of Cupertino.
We’re staring directly at the new Samsung with dropped cojones in tow. The Galaxy S III was just the beginning of what the Korean tech manufacturer is capable of. 2012 proved that Samsung was serious in sending a simple message: we’re here to stay, and we’re calling the bed. It was less of an announcement than a bulldogging of the mobile arena. As the year wore on, the Galaxy S III remained the best of the rest, and proved a privileged companion to most consumers. It was the combination of solid hardware and software features that maimed the Galaxy S III desirable through a perverse amount of advertising and marketing.
The Galaxy S 4 is just that, too. Samsung’s last hoorah in marketing was nothing as compared to what is about to happen over the next few months. The Galaxy S 4 is the beginning in what has become a long battle to pitch marketable terms with only one desire in mind: securing mind share. Making us believe we need the hardware to backup the software features. Like Apple, Samsung has learned that securing a place in the consumer’s heart isn’t as much about the device’s abilities, but rather what happens if you can make us believe it’s more than what the competition offers.
If the Galaxy S 4 is not exactly what you expected it to be, have a seat, because it’s about to break more records. The hoopla surrounding the device could be justified, but I’m more inclined to believe Samsung’s new marketing techniques prove consumers are getting played. From Samsung’s manufacturing expertise and sheer brute marketing, they’ve gone from the best of Android, to all of it, and only Apple’s loyal fans are watching as their beloved successor beckons from the backstage of what is to be a long, familiar battle of the world’s two favorite operating systems.
Do you think the Galaxy S 4 is a refresh of the outgoing S III, or something completely new?
Image via DigitalTrends.