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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Samsung’s ‘Galaxy S4’: What you need to know


Samsung is set to make a big splash Thursday evening with the launch of its next Galaxy smartphone, which the company has dropped heavy hints will be called the Galaxy S4. Here’s a catchup for those wondering what rumors are out about Samsung’s new flagship so far, before the event starts at 7 p.m. tonight.

Big screen, plastic body: Samsung is expected to continue its trend toward bigger screens with the Galaxy S4, with Bloomberg reporting that the phone will measure 5 inches on the diagonal, as opposed to the 4.8-inch display on the Galaxy S III. That’s still smaller than the company’s pen-toting 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2, but is considerably bigger than the recently enlarged 4-inch iPhone. With data, rather than voice services, becoming a more important part of users’ everyday smartphone experiences, some customers are happy to have screens that are better for browsing even if it comes at the expense of comfort while talking. Samsung has been delivering to that data-focused market of users — no surprise if it’s going after iPhone customers, who are known for gobbling up more data than other users.

The rumor mill also seems fairly certain that Samsung will stick with the plastic body it has used on previous versions of the Galaxy smartphone line, rather than opt for an iPhone-like aluminum body for a more premium feel. Reviewers have long said that the plastic panels on the Galaxy S4 are one of its weakest features, since it can make the phone feel cheap.

There also has been speculation that Samsung may put an eight-core processor in the new phone but, Bloomberg reports, that may only come in versions of the phone outside of the United States.

There’s also the long-shot rumor that Samsung will put the flexible screen technology it showed off at the Consumer Electronics Show in January into the new phone — though even the most optimistic analysts admit it’s an outside chance at best.

Software rumors are fuzzier: Bloomberg also noted that one of the biggest software features rumored to be in the new phone, eye-scrolling software reported by The New York Times, may not come in the launch versions of the phone. Instead, the report said, those features may show up in later versions of the phone. Some eye-tracking software is expected, however, such as the ability to pause videos when users look away from the screen, the report said.

Major marketing campaign: Samsung has been going all out on this gadget launch, commissioning everything from traditional TV commercials to a flash mob in Times Square. The company is clearly setting up the phone to be a serious competitor to the iPhone — not just the Android phone you buy because you don’t like Apple for some reason.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung spent $401 million in U.S. advertising on its phones compared to Apple’s $333 million, citing research from Kantar Media. The company has been quick to act on doubts investors have had that Apple will continue to deliver innovative products and put itself forward as “The Next Big Thing” while also poking fun at Apple’s products and its fans.

Apple speaks up: In a sign that the Galaxy launch may have its biggest competitor, Apple, a bit hot under the collar, Apple’s chief marketing executive Phil Schiller made a rare public comment on the launch in interviews with Reuters and the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, saying that “fragmentation” — the fancy way to say that a lot of phones are using different versions of Google’s operating system out there — is an obvious Android weakness.

“[We] are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," he told Reuters. "Customers will have to wait to get an update."

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