Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing? - InformationWeek
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08:39 AM

Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing?

Samsung packed the Galaxy S 4 with new features, but here's what we wanted and did not get.

Galaxy S 4
Galaxy S 4
Samsung debuted the Galaxy S 4 with much brouhaha at Radio City Music Hall in New York City Thursday night. The kick-off bash included tap dancing, bad acting and cringe-inducing jokes. The spectacle was meant to call attention to Samsung's flagship smartphone for 2013, which Samsung calls "a life companion," and all its fancy new lifestyle features.

Some of those features have whimsical names, such as Air Gesture, Drama Shot and Story Album, which will let Galaxy S 4 owners do all sorts of creative and productive things with the smartphone. Perhaps the most appealing new capabilities are the Dual Shot and Dual Record features, which allow users to take pictures or shoot video using the Galaxy S 4's front and rear cameras at the same time.

Although the Galaxy S 4 has a lot going for it, Samsung didn't quite include the kitchen sink. Here are a few things Samsung should have considered when designing the Galaxy S 4.

1. A Fresh Design.

The Galaxy S 4 is made of plastic, just like its predecessors. The Galaxy S 4 looks almost identical to the Galaxy S 3. In fact, at an arm's length, it is nearly impossible to tell the Galaxy S 4 from the Galaxy S 3. Rather than take a chance with a fresh design, Samsung trod familiar ground. After all, why mess with a good thing, right? The Galaxy S 3 has sold close to 50 million units worldwide, making it one of the most popular devices around the globe. It would have been nice to see a break from Samsung's current design, but Samsung chose to play it safe.

[ Want to know more about Samsung's intended iPhone killer? Samsung Galaxy S 4 Does Software Magic. ]

2. One-Handed Usability.

The larger display of the Galaxy S 4, although beautiful, can be awkward to use. Its large size means owners will need to perform some palm and finger gymnastics to use the phone without dropping it. Two years ago, the Galaxy S 4 would have been called a phablet. Despite bringing over the Galaxy Note II's Air View feature, the Galaxy S 4 often requires two hands. The Galaxy S 4 doesn't have a stylus, either.

3. Better Battery Life.

The Galaxy S 4's battery is 25% bigger than its predecessor's. At 2,600 mAh, we might expect it to outlast the 2,100 mAh battery of the Galaxy S 3. Samsung, however, made no commitments to longer battery life. The bigger screen, faster processor and more powerful camera are all items (not to mention the huge number of apps/services that will run in the background) that will drain the battery more quickly. The larger battery could be there to help offset the power-sapping of these new features while keeping battery life at about the same level. On the plus side, the battery is removable and can be swapped, something many of today's phones cannot do.

These are but small quibbles about an otherwise impressive device. Samsung will no doubt sell as many Galaxy S 4s as it did Galaxy S 3s.

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User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 2:53:53 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing?
The S4 is the same size as the S3. (Bigger screen with a smaller bevel.) How can you claim that one-handed usability is bad? It can't be any worse than the S3 which is very popular.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2013 | 9:50:08 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing?
Eric, please pardon my rant, but your small quibbles seem pointless, unfounded, and uninformed. If you value functionality over form, then there's little reason for wanting a "Fresh Design" with all of the expanded features of this device. Secondly, since the S4 is no larger than the S3 due to the thinner bezel, there's no reason for it to be any tougher to handle than the S3. Lastly, since the biggest drain on a device's battery is not related to services running in the background, but is instead the display, and the camera isn't going to drain the battery unless you're actually taking pictures, your statements on longer battery life were a bit off the mark.

Of course, the larger display on the S4 may indeed use more power when the device is awake, but devices today employ auto-dimming to counter this effect, and Samsung has likely addressed this issue as much as possible. Besides, as you noted, you CAN swap the battery on the S4 if you do end up running low, and that may be more valuable than raw battery life in the big picture.

In summary, while the S4 is certainly not perfect (after all, what is?), the specific points you threw out just don't add up to a hill of beans! It felt as if you were determined to write something negative and could only come up with these 3 points, but I wonder if you were just creatively making a statement that the S4 has no significant negative issues, using a sarcastic approach. Was that your intent?

(I realize it's possible that the editors misrepresented your article with their own title and summary - if so, shame on them!)
User Rank: Apprentice
3/15/2013 | 8:24:36 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing?
One thing about the hardware design: It's still relatively new, so I'm not all that surprised they stuck with it, and the plastic makes it that much lighter. However, as Tom Mariner points out, at some point you have to decide whether or not to just go big, get the Note 2, with stylus, and call it a day.
Tom Mariner
Tom Mariner,
User Rank: Strategist
3/15/2013 | 6:26:15 PM
re: Samsung Galaxy S 4: What's Missing?
Mixed feelings on the design -- If I am to kick my beloved SIII in the head, I would love to have a bunch of wow reasons. On the other hand, talk about the 5 inch screen had me wondering if I shouldn't just get a Note 2 because it would be bigger than the "just right" size of my S3. My wish was that they just make narrower bezels -- wish granted!

Processors and better battery life -- I'm betting a development team came to a delivery date and went with what they had verified to that point. A world-wide gazzilion dollar launch including renting Radio City Music Hall does not react well to "boss, we need another week to get the newer processors to the final gate." I hate to say it but it was probably a case of "shoot the engineer and go to market". hey, less than a year between model releases is amazing enough.

C'mon Verizon, all I need is a great trade-in plan, quick release, world-phone, and don't emasculate the stupid thing.
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