Samsung Galaxy S4 Android phone (preview)

The Galaxy S4 looks similar to its predecessor but Samsung is clearly banking on software features

Samsung has officially unveiled its hotly-anticipated Galaxy S4 Android phone at an event in New York City. The Galaxy S4 retains a similar look and feel to its predecessor but includes a 4.99in full HD display, comes with a 13-megapixel camera and features a number of Samsung-exclusive software features.

Samsung appears to have designed the Galaxy S4 in line with its existing Android smartphones, particularly the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy Note II. The Galaxy S4 has a similar polycarbonate construction with removable back cover, though the company claims it has used a new moulding technology to design the case.

At 7.7mm thick and weighing 130g, the Galaxy S4 compares favourably to most other flagship smartphones on the market. Samsung describes the phone as "slimmer, lighter and more solid" than the Galaxy S III. It measures 136.6mm long and is 68mm wide.

While the Galaxy S4 looks similar to its predecessor there are a few distinctive touches that set it apart. The pattern etched into the glossy plastic that adorns the front and back is new, as is the brushed aluminium-style finish on the sides. The latter appears to be the most significant design change. The Galaxy S4 will be available in 'black mist' and 'white frost' colour variants.

The Galaxy S4 retains a similar look and feel to its predecessor, the Galaxy S III.
The Galaxy S4 retains a similar look and feel to its predecessor, the Galaxy S III.

Perhaps the biggest hardware upgrade is the display. The Galaxy S4 has a 4.99in, Super AMOLED screen with a full HD 1080p resolution of 1920x1080, an increase on the Galaxy S III's 4.8in screen with 720p resolution. The pixel density of 441 ppi is also among the highest on the market and the screen will work when used with gloves, a feature we've already seen on Nokia's Lumia 920.

The Galaxy S4 is powered by a 1.8GHz Samsung Exynos 5410 Octa processor and has 2GB of RAM. The 16GB of internal memory will be expandable by a microSD card slot located behind the rear battery cover, though 32GB and 64GB models will be available in certain markets. A 2600mAh battery is also a significant upgrade from the Galaxy S III's 2100mAh battery.

There will be multiple variants of the Galaxy S4 depending on market but the Australian model will be 4G LTE compatible. It will support the fastest download speeds available, up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

The Galaxy S4 has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, an upgrade from the Galaxy S III's 8-megapixel snapper. The most significant camera upgrades are all software related, however. 'Dual Shot' allows users to take a photo with the front and rear cameras simultaneously using selected templates, 'Drama Shot' takes 100 shots in four seconds and 'Cinema Photo' is similar to Nokia's Cinemagram feature picking one part of the photo to move while the others stay still — somewhat like an animated GIF.

The Galaxy S 4 is 7.7mm thick and weighs 130g.
The Galaxy S 4 is 7.7mm thick and weighs 130g.

There's also "Sound & Shot' which takes a picture and captures up to nine seconds of audio, and 'Story Album' which groups photos together somewhat like a timeline. Finally, an 'Eraser' mode takes a series of pictures, allowing you to remove unwanted people or objects in the background.

Software features dominated the launch of the Galaxy S4 and that's no surprise considering the hardware is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The Galaxy S4 runs the latest version of Android, 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and comes skinned with Samsung's latest TouchWiz UI overlay.

New TouchWiz features include 'Smart Scroll', which allows users to scroll up and down with eye movement, 'Smart Pause', which will pause video when the user looks away from the screen, 'Air Gesture' which allows you to swipe through photos or scroll without touching the phone, and 'Air View, which enables users to hover their finger over the screen to preview selected information on the phone, such as a video thumbnail, a calendar entry, or a photo gallery.

Samsung's head of mobile communications, JK Shin, with the Galaxy S4.
Samsung's head of mobile communications, JK Shin, with the Galaxy S4.

There's also an S Translator app that can translate nine different languages using both text to speech and speech to text, 'Group Play' which can send music photos and documents to multiple devices and an 'S Health' app which aims to replace fitness tracking accessories like Fitbit. A built in pedometer will track your steps and the Galaxy S4 also includes temperature and humidity sensors. Samsung will sell an optional accessory called the S Band that syncs via Bluetooth to the Galaxy S4 when you're not carrying your phone with you (such as when you're playing sport, for example).

Samsung hasn't announced specific Australian details for the Galaxy S4 just let, but the phone will be available through 327 mobile operators in 155 countries and will launch on all major Australian mobile networks including Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile.

The Galaxy S4 will be available at the "end of April".

A promotional video of the Galaxy S4 can be viewed below:

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

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