Hands-on with the Galaxy S4, Samsung's next big thing

Credit: Raymond Wong/DVICE

Ending weeks of teases and leaks, Samsung officially unveiled its hotly-anticipated Galaxy S4 Android in New York City today. With impressive features, it'll no doubt set the quality bar for hundreds of other Android smartphones that will be released this year, cementing itself as a phone to pay attention to.

Refining An Already Excellent Smartphone

The Galaxy S4 is a cautious spec-bump of Samsung's already (and still excellent) Galaxy S III. Everything's been upgraded ever so slightly, but just enough while maintaining the same general physical footprint.

The 7.9mm thick Galaxy S4 sports a 1.6GHz eight-core processor, 4.99-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution (441 pixels per inch), 13-megapixel rear camera, two-megapixel front camera and 16/32/64GB of internal storage (expandable up to 64GB via microSD card slot). There's also an IR LED (TV remote control), wireless charging and a longer lasting 2,600 mAh removable battery. The smartphone runs the latest Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Samsung's custom TouchWiz skin.

More "Smart" and "S" Features

At last year's Galaxy S III unveil, Samsung touted its "S Voice" and "S Beam" features. This time around, the company is going all in with more "Smart" features and Air View:

Smart Scroll: As predicted, the Galaxy S4 will know when you're ready to scroll up or down on a website by tracking where your eyes are looking. If your eyes are pointed at the top of the display, the page will scroll up and if they're looking at the bottom, it'll scroll down.

Smart Pause: Again, using eye-tracking, the Galaxy S4 will pause a playing video when it detects your eyes are no longer looking at the screen.

S Translator: One of the biggest problems when it comes to traveling to foreign locales is the language barrier. The Galaxy S4 breaks that all down with S Translator. It understands nine different languages (10 if you count British English as a different kind of English) and can translate languages via speech-to-text or text-to-voice on the fly. At Samsung's event, we saw a guy translate English text to Chinese (Mandarin) speech instantly and vice versa. There's also over 3,000 embedded local phrases in different languages to assist tourists, which work offline. If it works as well as advertised, it'll be awesome.

Air View / Gesture: On the Galaxy Note/Note II, you can use a stylus to hover over the screen and toggle gestures, and now, on the Galaxy S4, the same feature works with your finger — no stylus necessary. Another cool feature Samsung showed off was Air Gesture. For instance, you can wave your hand forward and backwards Kinect-style to navigate backwards and forwards in the Web browser. Air View and Gesture sound gimmicky at first, but it'll be useful when your hands are dirty or wet. And speaking of hands, the Galaxy S4's display works with gloves — any gloves!

Powerful New Camera Features

The saying goes: "The best camera is the one you have on you." There's no doubt one of the most used features on a phone these days is the camera, and that's why Samsung's going all-in with some interesting new optic features.

Dual Camera: So, most smartphones have two cameras on them, right? There's usually a higher resolution one on the back and a lower resolution on the front. With the Galaxy S4's, both cameras can be used to record video or take photos simultaneously, which is interesting, to say the least, and definitely new ground.

Drama Shot: In this mode, the camera takes over 100 shots and then composites the different frames into one shot. Obviously, you won't have all 100 shots, but only a handful of the ones you pick out.

Eraser: Don't you hate it when a person in the background ruins your perfect picture? Never worry again. The Eraser feature takes multiple shots and then lets you easily click parts you don't like and erase them. No more photobombing people. Or at least not as easily.

Launch Details

Naturally, the Galaxy S4 feels very fast and very responsive. The polycarbonate body is a bit too plasticky for my personal taste, especially when there are nice aluminum phones like the iPhone 5 and HTC One out there, but it keeps the entire device nice and light. The glossy finish on the S4 also attracts fingerprints and oil very easily. Viewing angles are incredible on the Full HD Super AMOLED display and images and text appear as if they're bonded on the surface (just like on the iPhone 5's Retina display). Overall, if you liked the Galaxy S III, you'll probably like the S4.

Samsung says the Galaxy S4 will be available on 327 mobile carriers starting at the end of April. All four major U.S. carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — have confirmed they'll carry the S4. It'll be available in 3G and 4G LTE models, tailored for specific markets in "black mist" and "frost white."

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