Since 2010 Samsung has grown to become not only the clear leader in the Android smartphone space, but the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Its annual iteration of the Galaxy S platform is now arguably one of the most widely anticipated smartphone launches each year.

Like clockwork, tonight Samsung announced the Galaxy S 4: a 5-inch 1080p smartphone, and the new flagship for the Galaxy brand. We just finished learning about the device and spent a short time playing around with it.

Most of the hardware specs are known quantities. The 5-inch Super AMOLED display features a 1080p resolution, for a pixel density of over 441 ppi. The chassis is plastic with a metallic looking rim around the edge. Like most Samsung devices, the Galaxy S 4 feels well built although the plastic construction makes it the polar opposite of HTC's One - and truthfully in a different league altogether. I don't personally believe Samsung's use of plastics is terrible, but it definitely doesn't lend itself to the same sort of remarkable designs we see from HTC or Apple. On the plus side the SGS4 feels very light (it's even lighter than the SGS3). The tradeoff between material feel and weight is one that has a spectrum of solutions. Samsung remains on prioritizing weight and cost, which is understandable given the success the company has seen thus far.

The SGS4 feels surprisingly comfortable in hand, partly due to weight and party due to the device's proportions. I didn't mind the size at all.

The Galaxy S 4 is available in two colors: white frost and black mist. I played with an international SGS4 variant in white frost.

Smartphone Spec Comparison
  Apple iPhone 5 HTC One Samsung Galaxy S 3 Samsung Galaxy S 4
SoC Apple A6 1.3GHz Snapdragon 600 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz Exynos 5 Octa (1.6/1.2GHz) or Snapdragon 600 1.9GHz
DRAM/NAND/Expansion 1GB LPDDR2, 16/32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 32/64GB NAND 2GB LPDDR2, 16/32GB NAND, microSD 2GB LPDDR3, 16/32/64GB NAND, microSD
Display 4.0-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch SLCD3 1080p, 468 ppi 4.8-inch Super AMOLED 720p, 306 ppi 5-inch Super AMOLED 1080p, 441 ppi
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 2G / 3G / 4G LTE Cat 3 (depending on region)
Dimensions 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm 137.4mm x 68.2mm x 4mm - 9.3mm 136.6mm x 70.6mm 8.6mm 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm
Weight 112g 143g 133g 130g
Rear Camera 8MP 4MP w/ 2µm pixels 8MP 13MP
Front Camera 1.2MP 2.1MP 1.9MP 2MP
Battery Internal 5.45 Wh Internal 8.74 Wh Removable 7.98 Wh Removable 9.88 Wh
OS iOS 6.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.1.2 Android 4.2.2
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, GPS/GNSS 802.11ac/a/b/g/n + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0, USB 2.0, NFC, GPS/GNSS, MHL 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (HT80) + BT 4.0, USB 2.0 NFC, GPS/GNSS, IR LED, MHL 2.0

The back cover remains removable, as does the 9.88Wh battery:

Internally, there’s 2GB of memory and 16 - 64GB of on-board NAND, with a microSD card slot for optional storage expansion.

As expected, the SoC will vary depending on region. Samsung will offer either its own Exynos 5 Octa or a 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon SoC from Qualcomm. Given the clock speed and the timing, I would assume Samsung is talking about a Snapdragon 600 but the only official word from Samsung is the 1.9GHz quad-core Snapdragon. Update: Qualcomm has confirmed that this is a Snapdragon 600.

The Exynos 5 Octa side is a bit more interesting. Samsung is calling the SoC a 1.6GHz Octa-core part, but that appears to be the clock speed for the four Cortex A7 cores. The four Cortex A15 cores will run at up to 1.2GHz, which should help keep power consumption manageable. We’ve been wondering for a while what clock speeds we’d see the Cortex A15s run at in smartphones, and I believe this is the first line drawn in the sand. If we go back to Samsung’s ISSCC disclosure of Exynos 5 Octa power consumption, it looks like peak CPU power consumption should be somewhere around 2W - definitely better than what we saw from Exynos 5 Dual in the Nexus 10. Again, no surprises here given that we’re talking about a smartphone - it’s just interesting to see. Update: There seems to be some confusion as to whether or not the A7/A15 clocks are 1.6/1.2 or 1.2/1.6. I was told the former and that's what I wrote down, but it's entirely possible that the information given wasn't correct. I'm awaiting for further confirmation. Although 1.2GHz makes sense for a max clock for the A15s, 1.6GHz is a bit high for A7s if they're truly to be used to keep power consumption down. I can see it working either way.

Samsung isn’t ready to talk specifics about what SoCs will end up in what regions. We weren’t allowed to run any downloaded applications or benchmarks on the hardware at the event, nor were we told what SoCs were used in the demo hardware. Both SoCs should be good choices though.

Similarly, there’s no disclosure on what baseband silicon is being used although LTE support will be offered depending on the region. It’s highly likely that we’re looking at another MDM9x15 with a discrete applications processor (Snapdragon or Exynos 5 Octa). All of the expected wireless connectivity options are present including 802.11ac and BT 4.0. Samsung is claiming support global LTE roaming (up to six different bands) and FDD/TDD LTE.

As is the norm these days the Galaxy S 4 comes with both a front and rear facing camera. The front facing camera features a 2MP sensor and is capable of recording video at 1080p30. The rear facing camera sees a move to a 13MP sensor with flash. No word on the max aperture or focal length of the camera systems at this point.

The Galaxy S 4 will ship with Android 4.2.2. It will be available both internationally and in the US starting sometime in Q2 (Update: first shipments will be in April). US operators signed up to carry the Galaxy S 4 are AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Cricket and US Cellular.

Camera Software & Hands On Video
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  • Badelhas - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

  • Grandpa - Sunday, March 17, 2013 - link

    I'd rather have a phone that didn't need a removable battery. The Micro slot would be nice though.
  • jayseeks - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - link

    This phone is most definitely not high end.
  • robert3892 - Monday, April 1, 2013 - link

    That is also why I won't buy the HTC ONe because it has neither a removable battery nor a micro sd card slot
  • kcsween - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - link

    Now if they can only add the front facing dual speakers from the HTC One and we'd have arguably the best phone thus far in 2013.
  • Freakie - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    Am I the only one who caught that this thing has a THERMOMETER?!?! Nearly 67 years of mobile telephony and we FINALLY HAVE A PHONE THAT CAN TELL THE TEMPERATURE! PRAISE THE GOD OF THE TECH GODS!
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, March 14, 2013 - link

    That is actually really cool, I completely missed that.
  • Freakie - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    I can't shake the feeling that I am missing something here. It seems no other tech blog is picking up on the fact that there is finally a phone that can tell ambient temperature. Hasn't every smart phone owner ever wanted their phone to do this at some point? This is just one of those awesome tiny details that is small on paper but a "killer" feature in practice, in my opinion of course.
  • Ridgie - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    Potentially lots of problems with a thermometer on a mobile phone, such as accuracy when the device itself is running hot during intensive use or the fact that most of the time the reading will be close to body temperature... The number of caveats, warnings and disclaimers around the feature will detract from its appeal.. I'd be interested to see how they position this feature in the marketing.
  • Freakie - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    I can think of a couple of ways to mitigate that. They can simply use the battery's temperature as a basis for how warm the device is in general, or any of the other temperature readings they can get across the chips on the PCB. And with that, they will be able to tell whether it is possible that the phone's internal temperature is interfering with the ambient reading. Then they can display a message along the lines of "We noticed that your device is running a bit warm at the moment which may affect the Ambient Temperature reading. For the most accurate results, please reduce phone activity and try again after the device as lowered in temperature."

    Another thing they could do is simply take minutely readings of ambient and battery temperature (I would think this could still be accomplished while the phone is in deep sleep too, so that it does not create a wake-lock in order to be effective) and then if it detects that both ambient and battery temperature have risen in a specific pattern (battery heating phone up would look different than going from air condition room to 110 degrees outside) in a short amount of time, it can display a similar message about the phone's internal temperature interfering with the reading. All in all I don't think it would actually be too difficult to differentiate between real and artificial ambient temperatures and so the caveats and disclaimers wouldn't be too much.... If they do it right that is =P

    I think it's a nice touch and a small detail that hopefully can be the start of a mainstream feature. Features gotta start to be built up somehow, after all!

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