Today, Samsung unveiled its latest flagship Android smartphone, the Galaxy S IV. The new phone is a gentle evolution of the S III with the main improvements falling under camera and software. While it certainly sounds like an impressive phone, is it worth upgrading your Samsung Galaxy S III for?
It feels like the Samsung Galaxy S III only came out yesterday, yet it has already been knocked off the top perch by the inexorable march of progress. If you're still clutching onto your S III, here's an overview of the main improvements ushered in by the new phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV has a 5-inch 1080p super AMOLED display boasting a pixel density of 441ppi (pixels per inch). Its predecessor made do with a 720p 4.8in super AMOLED display with 306ppi.
The S IV's boost in resolution should translate to a significantly sharper viewing experience, especially when it comes to photos and small or spidery fonts. The added screen real estate will also be a plus for web browsing and video playback, but at the same time, it does make for a slightly more cumbersome smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV is powered by a 1.6GHz 8-core Exynos processor, although in some regions it will ship with a 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU (at the moment there's no word on which version Aussies will get).
The original Galaxy S III came with a 1.4Ghz Exynos 4 quad-core processor which proved perfectly zippy for most tasks. If you're a casual smartphone user, the S IV's additional processing power probably won't make that much of a difference.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV runs on the latest version of Android Jelly Bean and comes with a handful of new UI tricks up its sleeve that were absent from the S III. Chief among these is 'Air Gesture', which allows you to explore, magnify and preview content by hovering your finger just above the screen — in a manner reminiscent of Windows 8 touch displays.
The Galaxy S IV's touch screen has also been optimised for use with gloves, which really only affects people living in colder climates (although we suppose it could be useful if you happen to own a motorbike).
The Samsung Galaxy S IV will be compatible with all Australian 4G networks. At launch, the Galaxy S III was a 3G device, although this has since been replaced by an LTE version dubbed the Galaxy S III 4G. Depending on which version of the S III you have, the S IV could be worth upgrading to.
The launch model of the S IV will be a 4G category 3 device which means it "only" supports download speeds of up to 100Mbps. It should still be plenty fast though.
Today's launch event in New York featured crumping house wives, smooching lovebirds and tap-dancing kids — but as much as Samsung tried to distract us, there was no getting past the fact that this was a very similar looking smartphone to the Galaxy S III.
At 7.9mm thick, the Galaxy S IV is slightly slimmer than its predecessor and it also comes with a bigger screen, as mentioned. Otherwise, the word 'samey' springs to mind. It will be available in black and white variants. (Or 'white frost' and 'black mist' to give them their obnoxious marketing names.)
Memory and storage
Samsung has doubled the amount of DDR3 RAM in the Galaxy S IV which now stands at 2GB. Again, the added grunt probably isn't something you'll notice during day-to-day applications.
The S IV will ship in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB configurations. Like the Galaxy S III, it also boasts a Micro SD memory card slot for additional storage.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV has been decked out with a 13-megapixel camera capable of shooting Full HD video. It can also take 100 photos in four seconds, although we're not sure what the practical purposes of this would be for a mainstream user.
The most interesting thing about the new camera is its inbuilt editing software, which includes an auto-album creation tool, "talking" photos (via embedded audio files) and an 'eraser' function which lets you to auto-remove unwanted people and objects from your photos using the S IV's touch screen. Bizarrely, Samsung has also built a hard copy album app into the camera which lets you order physical albums of your photos for around $30 a pop.
If you use your smartphone as your primary camera, this may be the deciding factor in making the leap to the Galaxy S IV.
The S IV will ship with a 2600mAh battery, which is slightly more powerful than the Galaxy S III. Whether this will translate to longer battery life remains to be seen however — the bigger screen, beefier specs and myriad inbuilt applications will presumably take their toll.
We're going to reserve our final judgement until we actually get out hands on the device, but based on today's unveiling, we wouldn't class the Galaxy S IV as an essential upgrade — in terms of hardware evolution, it's roughly comparable to the leap between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.
While the myriad improvements are nice to have, the Galaxy S III does a perfectly adequate job in most of the same areas. Meanwhile, many of the all-new features, ranging from inbuilt calorie counters to temperature and humidity sensors, seem a bit niche. (Samsung might even bring some of the new software over to the S III in a future update.) For the time being, we'd stick with what you've got.