Samsung’s latest all-singing all-dancing smart phone has been unveiled – on Broadway, with a series of skits to illustrate its features performed by actors and a full live orchestra – as the South Koreans challenged Apple on its home turf.
New York’s Radio City Music Hall was the venue for the first Galaxy S-series phone to make its global standalone debut on US soil.
The S4 has a bigger display and unconventional features – such as videos that pause when you stop looking at the screen, and gesture controls, that is the wave of a hand to flip between songs and photos.
But analysts said these are gimmicks rather than game changers, without the “wow” factor to really worry Apple.
Samsung and Apple’s iPhone continue to dominate the smartphone world.
The South Koreans – with a range of phones – sell most, nearly 216 million last year for a 30 percent market share. Apple – with almost 136 sold – has 19 percent. Nokia, HTC and Blackberry each have less than five percent market share.
The New York launch did little for investors though, and Samsung’s share got no bump from the unveiling.
They have been little changed so far this year, while Apple’s shares have tumbled 20 percent as disappointing iPhone sales raised fears its dominance may be slipping.
Samsung said the Galaxy S4 will sport a bigger 5-inch display than the S3’s 4.8 inches. But because the new display will cover more of the phone’s surface area, the device itself will be the same length and slightly narrower, thinner and lighter than the previous generation.
The newest features involve different options for navigation. For example, if the phone senses someone is looking at the screen, the user can tilt it forward or backwards to scroll up and down a Web page.
That feature falls slightly short of what some consumers may have expected after the New York Times reported that the phone would be able to scroll automatically by tracking readers’ eyes.
But what it can do is sense when it has someone’s attention. When a video is playing, for instance, the stream will automatically pause if the person glances away and it will restart when the eyes refocus on the screen.
This is an update on an existing Galaxy feature, which powers down the display if it senses no one’s looking at it, conserving battery power.
Eat and scroll – no sticky screen
The latest phone also has a sensor that lets users move their hands to the left or right to scroll between different websites they have opened or through songs or photos in an album without having to touch the phone.
The idea is to make it easier to change the song playing without having to pick up the phone while driving or to avoid putting sticky fingers on the touch-screen display while scrolling through a Web page at mealtimes.
The phone will also allow users to hover a finger over an email inbox or a photo gallery to get a glimpse of more details of what’s in the email or which photos are in an album.
Another feature includes the option to automatically put a copy of details from a photograph of a business card into the phone’s contacts database or call a number in the business card.
Samsung is also promising an instant translation between 10 different languages for certain applications, as well as a separate translation application on the device.
The device has a 13-megapixel camera, compared with the S3’s 8-megapixel camera.