Weeks of rumors and teasers came to an end Thursday night at Samsung Unpacked 2013 at Radio City Music Hall. There, Samsung unveiled its long-awaited Galaxy S4 device to a huge crowd that stretched down Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. It was a launch event with all the trappings of a Broadway musical – including set changes, a live orchestra, and dance routines – and proof Samsung is touting this device as not just another smartphone.
Pre-show buzz about a five-inch screen proved to be true – this phone has a nice, big, bright screen, more tablet-like than phone.
It’s also very thin and lightweight in hand. The presentation made a point of showing S4 with its predecessor in a side-by-side on-screen comparison to demonstrate how sleek the S4 has become.
Despite pre-launch reports that the phone might be made of plastic and speculation it could feel cheap, it actually has a polycarbonate shell that doesn’t feel at all inferior.
Plus, it scrolls extremely fast. And another suspected feature, Smart Pause, allows users to stop videos simply by looking away from the screen.
Even though some reports said the phone would be available in multiple colors after hearing the teaser ads’ “Secret Messenger,” a young boy named Jeremy, coo, “It’s my favorite color!” the devices only come in Black Mist and White Frost at launch.
Perhaps the most noteworthy element is the S4’s photo features, which really got the crowd excited on Thursday. These features include Dual Camera, which allows a user to simultaneously take photos with the 13-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras and blend them together. In other words, never again will one person be missing because they had to stay behind the camera. S4 owners can add themselves to an image in something like a thought bubble. Users can also play around with special effects for this bubble, such as turning it into a fish bowl or a postage stamp.
The presentation made it abundantly clear why young Jeremy was selected as Secret Messenger – he’s something of a tap dance phenom. His on-stage routine was used to help demonstrate some of the S4’s equally impressive video features.
The S4 will also let users add sound to an image and even delete extraneous people and objects from photos. But reports of a 3D camera were greatly exaggerated. And there was no mention of Samsung Orb, which allegedly allows users to take 360-degree panoramic images.
The photo features, along with the full HD screen and the ability to control TVs from afar received the most enthusiastic reactions from the crowd. The in-car and translator features are also intriguing – they eliminate the need for maps, as well as learning nine languages.
A CBS technology analyst said this was the most excited he’s been about a phone launch since the initial iPhone. He was particularly impressed with the album creation feature, which is perhaps further proof the S4’s photo features are noteworthy. He also observed there was no mention of an operating system, which he attributed to Samsung’s aspiration to be the next Apple.