Samsung Takes Its Flagship Smartphone Into a New Galaxy
It’s a scene familiar in the tech world.
The press is lined up hours before the event starts. Competitors are trying to get in on the act.
But it’s usually Apple, not Samsung, that gets this kind of attention.
That the Galaxy S IV launch is commanding this sort of spotlight is a testament to just how much Samsung has grown its smartphone standing in just the couple of years since the first crop of Galaxy S devices. While the iPhone is still the product most talked about in the industry, the Galaxy S has become not only the best-selling Android model and the most common reference point for those talking about the operating system.
A lot is known about the phone and its features, thanks to the usual array of leaks. But there’s still a big unveil to be done as well as time to ruminate on what Samsung is showing.
Lauren Goode is on the scene at Radio City Music Hall and Ina Fried is back in San Francisco to take in the Webcast and offer additional commentary. The doors don’t open for a while yet but check back for intermittent updates and then live coverage once things do really get going.
3:14 pm: As mentioned, Samsung’s rivals have been busy trying to make sure their message gets heard. LG took out this Times Square billboard playing off Samsung’s use of the number 4.
Meanwhile, Apple gave interviews and HTC is outside Radio City Music Hall showing their new HTC One flagship device to those arriving early for Samsung’s event.
3:18 pm: As we noted in our story this morning, all eyes will be on the hardware, but what’s most important is how relevant, useful and well-executed are the new Galaxy’s software features.
3:20 pm: Lauren Goode has checked in with her frozen fingers barely able to type. It looks like the line is split at least three ways — consumers, broadcast media and other media — with all lines wrapping around the block. There’s a fair bit of chaos to go along with the frostbite.
It’s about 69 degrees here at my keyboard in San Francisco. Of course, it’s only fair. When Lauren and I teamed up at CES a few years back for our infamous Footballmer blog, she got the BCS championship game in 3-D and I got Steve Ballmer.
3:36 pm: A few more frozen fingers, but not much new to report. Stay tuned.
3:44 pm: Meanwhile, it looks like I have company in choosing to watch the event from afar.
More than 120,000 people are tuned into the YouTube Webcast and there’s nothing happening yet.
3:46 pm: “Ladies and gentleman, the show will begin in 15 minutes,” or so says the voice on the Webcast.
3:47 pm: Gotta love this tweet from fauxTimCook.
3:54 pm: For those who want to capture every minute of things, the YouTube Webcast is here, but we’ll make sure you get all the details, some analysis and have some fun along the way.
3:55 pm: Five minute warning. Which reminds me, time to grab a snack. I ate all the ice cream sandwiches and my key lime pie hasn’t arrived. Guess I’ll have some jelly beans.
4:05 pm: And now we wait. We’re now told the show will begin in a few minutes.
7:11 pm: Hi Ina! Lauren here. Looks like Samsung couldn’t afford good Wi-Fi … until now!
4:11 pm: 5, 4, 3, 2 …
4:11 pm: Things kick off with a video of their bow-tie clad kid carrying the box to the “unpacked” event.
First Rockette joke of the night. Do a shot, everyone.
Jeremy is the kid’s name. He’s on stage with Will Chase.
Chase offers the kid a candy bar to see what’s in the box. No dice.
(There are 365,000 people watching the YouTube stream, btw.)
4:14 pm: Cue Samsung’s JK Shin.
“In the past several weeks we have heard an amazing combination of rumor and speculation about what I am going to unveil tonight,” Shin said, before launching into a talk on Samsung’s commitment to innovation.
He’s teasing some features, recording sound with photos, seeing yourself in a shot, the eye-tracking smart scroll and smart pause features.
Some sort of translator feature as well as a new “group play” feature.
“We imagine that great things can come from this.”
7:16 pm: Also: Samsung S Health, for activity tracking, and S Knox, for security.
Devices could help with health, divide between work and home (featuring its newly-branded Knox business features), etc.
4:19 pm: Galaxy S4 being shown now. Looks a lot like the Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Note.
And yes, it’s S4, not S IV. (In many ways, that was the biggest unanswered question.)
4:21 pm: 327 operators in more than 150 countries will carry the S4, which will come in 3G and 4GLTE varieties starting in April.
It’s 7.9mm thick, thinner than SIII and weighs less too, even with its larger 5-inch screen.
“There’s less to hold and more to see,” according to the onstage sales pitch.
It will come in a polycarbonate case in “Black Mist” and “White Frost.”
4:25 pm: A bunch of LTE specs that were over even my head, but can support really fast uploads and downloads. I think.
There’s also Bluetooth 4.0, infrared LED for remote control features and a bunch of flavors of Wi-Fi. Main camera is 13MP with a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
7:26 pm: Lauren here. That infrared remote control feature should also work with non-Samsung smart TVs, too.
16GB of storage built-in with options for 32GB or 64GB as well as MicroSD slot for even more storage.
A bunch of sensors, too, including gesture-sensing and temperature and humidity gauges.
Bigger 2,600 mAH removable battery should help power all that.
7:27 pm: Oh my, Ina. Pop-up elementary school on stage. Little girl in a tutu chides father for having crappy smartphone camera.
4:28 pm: Broadway performers are a new twist on showing a product in “real-world scenarios.”
Samsung showing off cool dual-camera mode. User can record him/herself in frame while shooting video/taking pictures.
That’s cool for families that have one main photographer who never seems to be in any photos. (I have a little firsthand experience here.)
7:30 pm: Sound and shot feature lets you add up to nine seconds of audio with a photo.
4:33 pm: Eraser feature lets you take out people you don’t want from your picture.
No more cutting out the bystander or ex with scissors.
4:34 pm: Now showing S Translate feature for when two people don’t share a language. This tech, being shown in different ways by different companies, is truly amazing.
S Translate understands nine languages (10 if you count British English different from Yankee speak).
No pig latin yet. A reader app can translate menus, magazines, etc.
4:37 pm: An adapt display changes settings based on what you are doing, be it reading text or looking at a video of a five-legged cat.
Next up: A story album feature designed to automatically sort photos into folders and then make better use of them. It even knows when you are away from home and sets up an album.
Partnership with Blurb lets you send a printed photo album for $10-$30.
And, if you happen to have a Home Sync device, you can see the photos as they are being taken. Think Apple TV (only you’ve never heard of it).
It was announced at Mobile World Congress, has 1TB of storage.
It has NFC for tap and connect, but can connect to other kinds of devices too.
7:40 pm: And after this, Samsung execs will be appearing at the Stardust Diner to show off their newly-acquired Broadway skills!
They are now doing “A day in the life of an actor”
4:43 pm: A Smart Switch program is designed to allow one to move from a rival smartphone to a new Galaxy.
Meanwhile, S Voice Drive does what you think it would in terms of directions, but also gets other information like weather and email via voice navigation.
It seems like the Galaxy S4 can act like a sort of personal assistant. (Hmm…)
Like the touchscreen on Nokia’s Lumia 920, the S4 works with gloves.
4:46 pm: Things are still cooking here, but if you can multitask, here’s Lauren’s writeup on the Galaxy.
Onstage, Samsung is talking about Knox, the business software it introduced at last month’s Mobile World Congress. A key feature of Knox is the container approach that separates work and personal information.
The Galaxy S4 is the first device to feature Knox.
7:48 pm: Now we’re in Miami, Ina. I’ll take it. I could use some sun.
Yes Lauren, but when this schtick is over you will still be in frigid NY and I’ll still be in San Francisco.
7:49 pm: Still waiting for the powerful-businesswoman use-case for this phone, Ina. #LeanIn, Samsung.
The Miami scene is to show off the “Group Play” feature.
Don’t know about that, but I should note there are now 412,000 people tuned into this.
It’s a good thing it is a tech product launch, because I think if it were a Broadway show it would only run for one night.
4:53 pm: An “Air Gesture” feature lets you scroll though photos or Web pages without touching the phone itself. A wave of the hand can also answer a phone.
When you look away from the phone, the “smart pause” feature puts a video on hold. (LG pre-announced a similar feature for its Optimus G earlier this week.)
4:54 pm: Some attachments can make the phone a useful health monitoring tool to measure weight, heart rate and other information.
7:55 pm: It’s official, Ina, according to this skit: Females are vapid consumers that think S Health can replace marrying a doctor.
4:56 pm: As the event is wrapping up, we just got a note from Samsung’s mSpot music unit noting it is expanding its Silicon Valley presence with new digs in Palo Alto and plans to hire more workers.
mSpot became part of Samsung in May 2012.
4:58 pm: Things are winding down onstage. Here’s the advantage for Lauren and the folks that braved the cold — they get some hands-on time with the new phone.
All us remote folks can do is watch the YouTube numbers drop (383,000 and falling).
I did catch some handy specs on screen.
And things are clearing out quick.