While subjecting us to a painfully staged presentation, tap dancing kids and all, Samsung finally got around to making the Galaxy SIV official last Thursday night.

As has been the case with just about every smartphone in recent times, leaks in the lead up to the event left us with very few surprises when we did actually get to see the phone for the “first” time.

Samsung spent very little time emphasising the actual specs of the phone, not mentioning the processor at all, but instead focussed on trying to show us how this phone will be our “Life Companion” with it’s various new software features and accessories. (You can watch the whole event here)

SGSIV

So where better for us to start than with the Specs!

Even though this is widely being seen as an incremental update by Samsung, people who buy the SIV will have a phone that is pretty much at the forefront of what’s available at present in the smartphone world.

So what will you be getting for your hard earned cash?

  • A 5″ 1920 x 1080p Super AMOLED screen at 441PPI
  • 2GB’s of RAM
  • 2600mAh removable battery
  • 13 Mp rear and 2Mp front cameras
  • IR remote, a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, GPS/ A-GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0, MHL via micro USB, NFC
  • 16/ 32/ 64BG internal storage options
  • Expandable memory via microSD
  • 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm, 130g
  • LTE and 3G options. LTE will work on all bands.
  • Samsung Exynos Octa processor (4 x A15 cores @ 1.6Ghz/ 4 x A7 cores @ 1.2Ghz)
  • Snapdragon S600 processor in some markets
  •  PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU
  • Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI

So Samsung have ticked pretty much all of the specs boxes with the update but the more contentious issue is with it’s design.

At first glance  it doesn’t look very different to the phone it’s replacing, the S3, and that’s because it’s not! Samsung have chosen to basically fit a 5″ screen into the body of the S3 by reducing the bezel size and in doing so have actually managed to save a few tenths of millimeters on most of the dimensions. For anyone used to using the S3, the new phone will not be any more of a handful and that is a key point as smartphone screen sizes are being pushed bigger and bigger.

What has brought the continued plastic construction into more focus is the launch of the HTC One only a few weeks ago. HTC have taken a different approach and have concentrated on making a phone that looks beautiful and is made from higher quality materials, in this case aluminium. There is no doubt that the HTC One has the better look and feel to it but they have had to make sacrifices such as a non removable battery and non expandable memory to deliver on this. Now the internet is full of raging debates at present centered around the pros and cons of the design vs function of each, but the simple fact is that it comes down to personal choice. You can’t explain to someone that has no use for a removable battery or expandable storage that they are  positive selling points for the SIV but to the people who do make use of both or in fact rely on both it becomes the main reason they won’t buy the HTC One. It’s a no win debate.

HTC have chosen one avenue to go down with the One and it is proving to be divisive among smartphone fans which can only be good news for HTC as they finally seem to have a handset that will compete spec-wise with Samsung’s flagship. Unfortunately though with Samsung’s insane marketing budget and HTC’s decreasing one, there will only be one winner here. Samsung have managed to sell 50 million S3’s so I’m sure they believe that the plastic design is working for them. I also don’t think this would have been such an issue for debate if HTC hadn’t released such an impressive looking phone so recently. Maybe it’s a case that there hasn’t been too much in the form of competition until now and people seem to have been happy to buy Samsung’s plastic constructed phones. One thing is clear though, while HTC may have the more beautiful phone, they are second best in the marketing stakes and that will surely have to change if HTC are to even make a dent in the SIV’s sales.

HTC One

As I mentioned above, Samsung’s big focus was on the included software features. The camera software has seen a lot of changes with features added now that allow the user to record audio while taking a photo, allow the user to add the image of the photo taker into the main pic by using the front camera and superimposing the image and you can also now take 100 pics in 4 seconds.

There is now an in built text to speech/ speech to text language translator launching with 9 different languages at first.

Many of the touch-less features rumoured before had have been included. Gestures above the screen are now recognised in certain Apps such as hovering over an image thumbnail will give you a preview of it, the same with emails. Make a downward gesture over the screen and the page scrolls. You get the idea. You can also now use the screen with gloves on.

Smart Pause uses the front camera to track your eyes while watching a video, if you look away it pauses the clip. Look back and it resumes.

Smart Scroll uses the same tech to see you are at the bottom a page and scrolls the page for you. We’ll need to get our hands on a unit to see how these work in real life conditions but they will have to be pretty spectacular if they are not to end up being more of a hinderance. I use Smart Stay of my S3, the feature for preventing the screen from dimming while your eyes are on it. It works well if the phone is straight in front of you but if you put the phone down on a table in front of you, you move out of the field of vision of the front camera and the feature no longer works. Without having multiple sensors, features like this generally only work in ideal conditions. Also gestures above the phone only offer real advantages if you don’t want to touch the screen. Your hand is already at the phone so it’s not that much of a stretch to touch the screen!

Some of the other features to get a mention were Group Play, which allow you to play media via the speakers of multiple paired devices and Samsung Knox which is Samsung’s answer to corporate security.

In general TouchWiz does not seem to have received much of an overhaul. Menus look brighter and slightly refreshed but on the whole it’s pretty much the same as before. While the home screen set up is pretty eye pleasing, for the most TouchWiz looks too much like it’s design was based around looking like a cartoon. It is disappointing that Samsung have not made more changes here. The SIV will be running the latest version of Android, 4.2.2, but the difference in UI design from Vanilla Android couldn’t be much different. Stock Android looks clean and crisp now, TouchWiz is starting to age pretty badly now and still doesn’t seem to take advantage of the high screen resolution available to it.

On top of the software additions to the phone there is also a range of accessories being released. They include the S Band which is a bracelet for monitoring your heart rate and thus calorie burning. It also claims to monitor your sleep efficiency, all via the S Health App.

S View Cover which is a flip cover with a cut out to allow you to see your notification without opening it.

Game Pad which is basically a wireless game controller that mounts your phone at the top of it  (looks like an Xbox 360 controller)

And in an unusual inclusion a “Body Scale”, which as the name might give away, is a weigh scales, again which monitors your weight via the health app.

There was also talk of a 1 Terabyte home media center/ server type accessory for storing and sharing your media but details of this have been light since the unveiling.

The SIV should be available in Ireland at the end of April or early May.  It will launch on over 300 networks at the same time so none should have an exclusive. We’ll look forward to seeing how it measures up against it’s competitors when we actually get our hands on the device.

 

 

 

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