Samsung’s Awkward Launch Event Distances Galaxy S4 from Android

| Analysis

Samsung launched the Galaxy S4 on Thursday at a launch event called SamsungUnpacked. The event featured awkward plays, bad executive presentations, and a celebrity MC, but the takeaway is that the company is distancing itself from Google and Android with the new device.

Samsung Unpacked

SamsungUnpacked was packed full of awful, awkward mini-plays

Samsung introduced a variety of Samsung-only software features and showed improvements on old ones. These features and services demonstrated an escalation in Samsung's efforts to build a Samsung-centric ecosystem (like Apple). Some of those features are even redundant to features already offered by Google through Android.

More telling, Google wasn't mentioned once in the hour-long event, and I don't believe I heard the word "Android," either. It couldn't be more clear that Samsung is in the process of using Google's free Android to build a platform it can call its own.

To be sure, the Samsung Galaxy S4 includes Google Play, as confirmed by Michael Gartenberg in the tweet above, but after watching that event I can't help but wonder how long that will be the case.

First, let's give a quick look at the specs:

Samsung Galaxy S4Samsung Galaxy S4

"Less to hold, more to see"

Samsung introduced a great tag line for this device, "Less to hold, more to see." The GS4 comes with a 5-inch display, but Samsung noted that it's 7.9mm thickness, 136.6mm length, and 69.8mm width make it smaller than the Galaxy S3. It's a great tagline, even if the device is marginally thicker than Apple's iPhone 5 (7.6mm).

The display is a full HD-capable Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, much much larger than the iPhone 5's 1136 x 640 resolution. It even has a higher pixel density than Apple's Retina Display, 441 PPI compared to Apple's 326 PPI. Samsung will likely get a lot of mileage out of this difference.

It's built on Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) and features either a 1.9 GHz Quad-Core Processor or 1.6 GHz Octa-Core Processor, depending on the market. It's a 4G LTE-capable device and it will be introduced in a 155 markets around the world some time in April.

It has the usual sensors—Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, Barometer—while adding a Temperature & Humidity and Gesture sensors.

Software Services

It's in the software where Samsung made it clear that its hardware is far more than just-another-Android-smartphone. Let's look at those features.

MoreAt an Angle

Dual Cameras

Samsung made much of the two cameras that come with the device, including the ability to use both cameras at the same time. Users can blend images from both cameras into one, and you can also have a video call where you show your viewers both you (front camera) and what's behind the camera.

Group Play

Group Play allows users to share music, photos, documents, and games without the need of either a cellular or Wi-Fi network. Using the "Share Music" aspect, GS4 owners can share their music with up to eight Samsung GS4s at the same time "to create the best party atmosphere." Users use the NFC-based knocking feature to activate "Share Music."

S Translator

This is one of those redundant features that Google already excelled at with Google Translate. S Translate is Samsung's home grown effort to allow voice-based language translations for those times when you're in a pinch without a common language. S Translator also translates text, which is also redundant to Google Translate.

This service does require a cellular connection as it is server-based.

Samsung Smart Pause & Smart Scroll

Samsung Smart Pause pauses a video during playback if you look away from the screen and starts it up again when you look back. Hopefully you can turn that off, because it seems like that could get really annoying really fast.

Samsung Smartscroll uses eye movement combined with wrist motion to automatically scroll email or webpages.

Air View & Air Gesture

Samsung's Air View allows users to hover their finger over the contents of an email, S Planner (Samsung's calendaring app), an image gallery or video, and preview it without having to open it. Similarly, Air Gesture allows users to accept an incoming phone call, change songs or scroll a document without touching your screen.

S Voice Drive

Samsung is also eschewing Android for voice controlling maps and navigation in the GS4 using S Voice Drive. This allows you to check messages, and control your mapping services with your voice, similar to Siri. We'll have to wait and see how the two services compare.


There's a built in OCR service that will read business cards for you, Samsung WatchON that turns your GS4 into an IR remote, and a healthcare concept called S Health that monitors you.

Android Stuff That Is There

There are Google services on this device, including: Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Latitude Google Play Store, Google Plus, YouTube, Google Talk, Google Places, Google Navigation, Google Downloads, and Voice Search.

Samsung lists them in its press release, but none of them were mentioned in the press release.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is certainly an Android device, hands down the best one on the market today. The screen is remarkable, the hardware specs impressive, and the new services interesting.

Better yet, Samsung is moving away from blindly copying Apple's iOS. Most of the the new software features are not based on Apple features, and we didn't see anything that looked like an Apple interface aside from the rows of icons that has been at the center of previous fights.

If the GS3 was a hit, the GS4 will be a bigger hit, but Samsung is pitching this device as a Samsung smartphone, not an Android smartphone.

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Don’t be fooled by the camera folks. Many phones sport more megapixel cameras but that doesn’t mean you will get better pictures. The iPhone has been known to take the best pictures for a long time and yet have fewer megapixel specs. There’s a lot more into making a good camera than just making one with lots of megapixels.


Moving away from blindly copying Apple. That’s because they already copied everything from Apple. Dual cameras, S-voice drive (Siri), gestures, Accelerometer, RGB light, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro.
All of these came from the iPhone.
5” screen why? It has Jellybean but then Samsung puts its garbage on top which the makes jellybean modified and not up dateable unless Samsung puts the updates through. So like Phil Schiller was saying you end up with software that gets old. Samsung will not update it because they want you to buy another phone. Typical of most phone manufacturers except Apple.


Seems like a nice phone. It has what the iPhone doesn’t, a larger screen. I think it will sell well just based on that but whether it will cause many to upgrade from the Galaxy 2 or 3 remains to be seen(I just really don’t know enough about previous versions of the galaxy/android to make a real guess). From my perspective, Samsung/Android will have its market and Apple will have its market. I don’t necessarily see a lot of iPhone users switching for this phone unless they really want a larger screen. For me, the larger screens are too unwieldy to hold and carry around but that is just me. I think that will hold for many Apple users as well. I don’t think that Apple is in “trouble” as some would like to make people/investors think. At least for right now, the market seems to agree, with Samsung stock down and Apple up.

Let the flame wars begin.

Paul Goodwin

“with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, much much larger than the iPhone 5’s 1136 x 640 resolution. It even has a higher pixel density than Apple’s Retina Display, 441 PPI compared to Apple’s 326 PPI. Samsung will likely get a lot of mileage out of this difference.”

They probably will get a lot of mileage out of this - even though it’s a waste of perfectly good pixels. 1080 looks crystal clear on a 21.5 inch iMac screen at the same viewing distance. Why the heck do you need it and 441 PPI on a 5 inch screen? Ridiculous!

LOL and how much fun would an NFC Group Play party be? Forget me on that one. Sounds like a circle jerk.  Sorry haha

Paul Goodwin

I forgot to put a bump bump at the end


LOL, Paul.  Very good.  But seriously, when you read this:

“Using the “Share Music” aspect, GS4 owners can share their music with up to eight Samsung GS4s at the same time “to create the best party atmosphere.”“

I mean, seriously?  How does sharing music by bumping eight phones together at the same time create the best party atmosphere?  All I can picture is Bosco and his geek buddies sitting around analyzing exactly how far away the phones have to be to share music.  “Yes!!  My GS4 could pick up the signal from your phone from 4.5 cm away!!  My GS3 had to be 3.7 cm away!!  OMG, forget women, I’m having the best freaking time of my life!!  Can I borrow your dog and some peanut butter?”



I’m sure it’ll be a very good phone. I’m sure Samsung will crow over specs: A higher screen resolution that isn’t actually visible to human eyes. Eight processor CPU that doesn’t really make it faster. etc. The thing is that it’s still a Samsung/Android device.
Let me put it this way. For a long time you could buy really good Japanese cars. Then they decided to start making ‘luxury’ cars. A lot of people buy them and are very happy with them. But if you want a Porsche or a Mercedes that’s what you buy. Infinity’s and Acura’s are very nice but they aren’t the same. Sure the iPhone is a bit more money. Sure there are quirks. Sure Samsung has the SmartPhone equivalent of 8 valves per cylinder and carbon fiber seat covers, but in the end for all the gimmickry it’s still a plastic Samsung phone running a heavily customized version of Android.
Thank you, no. I’ll save up for a Porsche.

Lee Dronick

I am not familiar with these phones, I have never messed around much with them. So how do users do the gardening, how do they synch contacts, photos, apps, music, and such?

Paul Goodwin

Hahaha RonMacGuy. Brings up some scary scenes.






Apple is a terrible company. Anyone buying their products is just flat out wasting money.

Censored app store, no innovation. They release phones without core tech, then 6months later re-release the same phone with a minor update to double their profits off indoctrinated hipsters who think they’re buying a Porsche lmao.

ALL TECH COMPANIES WANT YOUR MONEY. Samsung is no different.  They will pander to the drumbest audience with the most money. Technology is about generations. Generations = profit. 5 iPhone generations vs 1 human generation.

Its a cycle to get people to pay money for emotions. You want to be cool, you want people to notice your flashy phone, to be asked questions, to appear on your timeline as the edgiest and most knowledgeable person in your circles.

You want happiness. Not a phone. Stop letting these companies trick you. Happiness does not come from a 5 inch screen. Or a retina display.

Happiness, It comes from feeling and being felt. Marketing is just psychological warfare.


Besides, there’s a reason the Belgian Telekom boss doesn’t allow cell phones or WiFi on his floor. #Research

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