S Translator

Samsung is shipping its own cloud based translation app on the Galaxy S 4 called S Translator. Chinese, English (US/UK), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish languages are all supported at launch.

You can type or speak sentences to be translated and either read the translation or have your phone speak it. This functionality has been enabled by Google Translate for a while now, but turning it into a feature and making it very obvious on the Galaxy S 4 is a clear attempt to hit a broader audience.

Based on my limited experience with the translation, it seems like the bulk of the work is being done in the cloud. Samsung isn’t announcing what partner it’s using to do the actual translation at this point.

S Translator is also supported in the Email and ChatON apps.

Group Play

The Galaxy S 4 supports wireless streaming of music to up to 8 other SGS4 devices with a feature called Group Play. What Group Play does is allows you to wirelessly tether multiple SGS4s together to all play the exact same song. The idea is to leverage multiple devices to fill a room up with audio.

It’s not clear what application/DRM limitations exist here, but I can see this being the new tap-to-share for encouraging groups of friends to all buy Galaxy S 4s.

Air View & Air Gesture

With the Galaxy Note series of devices, Samsung enabled hover support with the S Pen. Holding the S Pen above the screen would enable you to preview video, peek at the contents of an email, etc... With the Galaxy S 4, Samsung enables the same functionality - but without the S Pen. It’s called Air View.

Through some clever tuning of the capacitive touch stack, the Galaxy S 4 is able to sense the presence of your finger up to about a centimeter away from the display. Air View works in Samsung’s web browser as a magnifying lens or to trigger a preview of open tabs. It also works in the email and gallery apps as well. Update: You can also use the SGS4 with gloves on, similar to Nokia's Lumia 920.

The Galaxy S 4 also supports Air Gesture, which leverages the IR gesture sensor to enable large hand gestures for UI control. You can swipe your hand in front of the smartphone to switch songs, move between tabs in the web browser, or scroll up and down a web page. You can also use Air Gesture to answer a call, which Samsung views as a good solution for SGS4 owners that have their smartphone in a car dock while driving.

Smart Pause & Smart Scroll

With the Galaxy S 3 Samsung introduced Smart Stay, another feature that leveraged the front facing camera to detect when you’re facing the smartphone and keep the screen on as a result. With the Galaxy S 4, Samsung expands the use of the front facing camera to enable pausing/unpausing of video playback depending on whether or not you’re looking at the display, and enabling tilt to scroll if the camera detects that you’re looking at it.

I tested both features and they seemed to work intermittently, although I’m not a fan of making judgement calls on software until final builds are available.

All of these gesture and camera based user interface features can be enabled/disabled, many on a per application basis but at minimum on a global level. Samsung does have a good amount of control/granularity in the SGS4 software for these features.

Samsung Optical Reader

The SGS4 will ship with some form of optical character recognition, allowing you to scan business cards and automatically populate your contact list with elements from the card. The Samsung Optical Reader app also supports reading QR codes.

S Health

The final new software feature of the Galaxy S 4 is called S Health. S Health includes support for an integrated pedometer, temperature and humidity sensors in the SGS4. The S Health app is supposed to be able to track distance traveled and give you local identification of current temperature and humidity. The app also includes the ability to act as a meal tracker, just look up foods you’ve eaten and it’ll keep a running tally of calories consumed. The S Health app and functionality is a clear attempt to integrate 3rd party pedometer hardware and apps into the phone itself - an obvious next step for any vertically integrated smartphone manufacturer.

Samsung will offer a line of Bluetooth health accessories that can interface with S Health, including a wrist band pedometer (S Band) so you can leave your SGS4 at home when you go for a walk/run, weight scale and heart rate monitor.

The S View Cover

Samsung will also have a new first party cover for the Galaxy S 4 called the S View Cover. This is a standard flip cover but with a small window cut out of the front of it. When the SGS4 detects that the cover is closed, it’ll display a small rectangle of information on its display (visible through the cutout in the cover). In this mode the display will give you the current time, battery/SMS/music status, caller ID and the ability to accept/reject calls. The S View Cover is a pretty neat offering from Samsung and one I see being very popular with anyone who used a flip cover with Samsung’s phones in the past.

Camera Software & Hands On Video Final Words


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  • 10101010 - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    No one knows for sure yet about the international S4, but the USA/Qualcomm S4 most likely has a Qualcomm DAC, just as the S3 did. Reply
  • hsew - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    Samsung, never stop giving us removable storage and battery please. The HTC one was so close to getting it right.

    If the A15 cores in the Octa are really clocked at JUST 1.2 Ghz, then it may not be as fast as all the excited international folks keep claiming it will be. I would personally prefer the Snapdragon 600. I can't imagine overclocking the asymmetrical Octa will be as easy as overclocking the simpler 600.

    The 600's cores are also apparently tweaked A15 cores with a 15% IPC increase. The 600 vs the Octa is ARM's Core i5 vs Bulldozer.

    Of course, this is assuming that the Octa's A15 cores are actually clocked at JUST 1.2 Ghz. At 1.6 Ghz the advantage of the 1.9 Ghz 600 diminishes, but people, do remember that these are still just phones, not workstation computers...
  • lmcd - Saturday, March 16, 2013 - link

    Uhhh, the 600 isn't using A15s, but besides that...

    And "tweaked" doesn't mean +15%.

    Snapdragon 600 is probably the better chip, though probably not in terms of graphics unless the 600 has a way clocked-up version of that in the S4 Pro (Snapdragon 400)
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, March 16, 2013 - link

    You people... no you're not on the internet....

    quadrant 11782
    antutu 20105
    vellamo 2076 824

    snapdragon 600 @ 1.89
  • 10101010 - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    One thing that is abundantly clear from the launch of the S4 is that Samsung understands the future. They understand that mobile devices are the personal computers of the future and that the ability to do a variety of things with the device is important. So they have more sensors, more camera capabilities, apps for health and fitness, more input forms, etc. It is an expansion of capabilities for the human user of the device. And this is going to be what wins the market over time. Google understands this as well which is why their Moto X phone will be very capable as well. These are the two companies that will dominate over the next decade or two. Reply
  • IKeelU - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    Everyone understands this, not just Google and Samsung. This was the future 30 years ago when PCs started becoming popular and it continues to be with virtually every computing device. Consoles became entertainment hubs, phones started to do email (then everything). Cramming more into the device has been the driving force of all tech-oriented marketing since forever. Reply
  • 10101010 - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    Understanding takes many forms. And the depth of this understanding will determine market success. Look at HTC, Nokia, etc. They basically copy Apple's approach to things which is to make the phone simple. There are no added capabilities such as pedometer, temperature, humidity, more input modes other than touch, camera-based user sensing, etc.

    In Apple's case, there is a flexible interface that allows for many third party add-ons. But Apple's approach doesn't scale nearly as well (from either a cost or convenience perspective) as putting these sensors and features into the phone itself. In the market, Samsung is emerging as a big winner. And they have much more velocity in the market compared to Apple. Google is coming up fast. Google's future phones will have language/information processing capabilities that make other smart phones look dumb.

    In short, Samsung gets it. They're making the right decisions, the right investments. HTC, Nokia, etc. are just trying to be Apple for Android or Apple for Windows Phone and largely failing in the market. At best, they will be niche players because their understanding is surface level only.
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, March 16, 2013 - link

    Yes and that translates to (appl nokia htc) their tech SUCKS.
    That's why a frikkin rectangle is an "awesome industrial design", why black or white is "awesome!" and why a lead metal sharp squared weight is "good build for arthritis and hand pain!!!"

    The level of immensely stupid populace wide and at nearly all tech sites is incredible.
  • WaltC - Saturday, March 16, 2013 - link

    I don't know anyone who "understands" this...;) What I understand is that cell phones will continue to be used primarily as cell phones with all of the limitations inherent in mobile, battery-driven devices designed to fit in the palm of your hand. Try running Crysis 3 on your cell phone, or try having friends over to play co-op games or watch the latest movie--not going to happen on a cell phone, that's for sure. (Can you imagine two couples sitting on a sofa and sharing the latest movie on a 5-inch cell phone screen? I can't.) Trust me--the RGB monitor did not replace the television in the home, and the cell phone is not going to replace the personal computer. The whole cell-phones-are-going-to-replace-the-personal-computer mantra is stupid in the extreme. Sounds like propaganda coming from folks who a)don't like personal computers and b) are frustrated by personal computers. People will still be buying personal computers 20 years from now, and people will still be buying cell phones. One device does not obfuscate the other. And one device never will "do it all." The either-or mentality is just lame.
  • lmcd - Saturday, March 16, 2013 - link

    Doesn't understand that Snapdragon's gonna beat their in-house chip AGAIN... Reply

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