Samsung Galaxy S4: Is it too much smartphone?

Credit: Stewart Wolpin/DVICE

In The Cocoanuts, the debut feature by the Marx Brothers, hotelier and real-estate-swindler-wannabee Groucho tries to enlist Chico as a shill for an upcoming auction of whole lots and half lots. Groucho asks Chico if he knows what a whole lot is. "Sure," Chico confidently replies. "It's-a too much."

Chico's oddly logical explanation of how a whole lot is too much (see below) became an ear worm as I tried to absorb the hour-long extravaganza that was the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 last night at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Not only was the hour-long Broadway production and the live Times Square unboxing a whole lot (a live 30-piece orchestra on a rising platform, a half-dozen scene changes, a tap-dancing 10-year-old and even ending credits — for a smartphone?), but the onslaught of specs and features left me dizzy.

Not to mention the literally thousands of media-types and business partners swarming around the lobby, pushing and shoving to get a drink and a free bag dinner, and the demo tables downstairs in the lounge area pushing and shoving some more to get some GS4 hands-on time.

Don't get me wrong. While some of the GS4 features (and you can read Ray's account of some of them here) seem to me a bit technologically clever but ultimately useless, others are deuced clever.

My favorite GS4 specs and features include:

Sound & Shot: You can add an audio caption to digital still photo.

World Phone: Multi-band/multi-frequency compatibility makes the GS4 usable anywhere in the world.

S Health: This Samsung app can monitor environmental, exercise and eating data just like a host of standalone health/fitness apps. Samsung said some accessory sensors can be used with the S Health app, but didn't go into any detail about when these accessories would be available or from whom, or if you can use existing monitors.

802.11ac: GS4 may be the first device other than routers to include gigabit 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity for Internet connection speeds of 1.3 Gbps, around three times faster than current "n" Wi-Fi (AC routers are now available from Belkin, Buffalo, Linksys, Netgear and Western Digital).

Battery: Inside the phone is a 2600 mAh battery, nearly twice the juice of iPhone 5's cell and a smidge more than that of the 2530 mAh power pack in the Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD. Samsung didn't say how much real-world power the GS4 supplies, but the Moto Maxx gives 21 hours of talk, 27 hours of music streaming and 10 hours of video. (But why no built-in wireless Qi charging like the Nokia 920?)

S View Cover: Samsung's accessory cover includes a clear plastic window so you can see alerts and the time without flipping it open. Now why didn't someone think of that before?

And GS4 is almost alarmingly thin and light considering how copious its display is. Its powerful processor enabled even typically slow Web pages to snap quickly into view, and screen sliding and scrolling was silky smooth.

It's a beautiful, thin phone packed with fascinating features that easily moves to the top of the smartphone pyramid.

But maybe it's packed too much.

How much phone do you use?

You know how you go into a diner and are handed a menu that's got more choices than the Yellow Pages (gee, remember the Yellow Pages?). You leaf through page after page of soups, salads, appetizers, breakfast items, sandwiches, blue plate specials, chicken dishes, meat dishes, pasta dishes, vegetarian dishes, dairy dishes, foreign specialties, daily specials, diet plates, kids meals, beverages and deserts, consider this and that — and finally faced with too many choices, you end up ordering a cheeseburger.

Combine Ray's list of specs and features with mine and you still fall short of the full list of GS4 attributes, which is why it may be too much phone.

Like our brain, we use little of a smartphone's full capabilities. According to an NPR news story last month, we download around 10 apps a month but abandon most of them. A couple of years ago, Boston-based Localytics found that 26 percent of downloaded apps are used just once and 72 percent are used less than 10 times. My friend Seth, a dedicated Android user for years, is just now loading his phone with music. I know plenty of Android and iPhone users who barely do anything more than call, text, email and play a game or two.

GS4 may have something for everyone. But I'm just nagged by the thought that the average Android consumer is going to be overwhelmed by its diner menu of features, much less understanding each app's utility and figuring out how they all work. They may discover GS4 is both a whole lot and a too much and simply opt for a simpler cheeseburger smartphone.

(Chico explains how a whole lot is too much: "Any time you gotta too much, you gotta whole lot. Look, I explain it to you. Sometimes you no got enough, it's too much, you gotta whole lot. Sometimes you got a little bit. You no think it's enough, somebody else maybe think it's-a too much, it's-a whole lot, too. Now, it's-a whole lot, it's-a too much, it's-a too much, it's-a whole lot — same thing.")

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