Galaxy S4: Lukewarm reactions to Samsung’s new phone

Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and CBSNews.com's Chenda Ngak was there to check out some of its newest features.
March 15, 2013

Samsung announced a barrage of new features for its Galaxy S4 smartphone on Thursday meant to dazzle smartphone buyers: everything from touchless controls to new implementations of face-recognition technology.

But at its core, the smartphone is exactly what many expected it to be: a larger version of the Galaxy S III, albeit slimmer, with a faster processor.

Some features do seem truly useful, particularly new software that’s meant to make editing photos a breeze and allow users to film or shoot pictures from the phone’s front- and rear-facing cameras at once. Other features include the ability to use the smartphone as a remote control device, built-in translation software that will work with voice or text, three-way video chats and health and fitness-tracking software that keeps an eye on how many calories you’re burning as you carry your phone.

But early reactions to the phone have been ho-hum, with a few folks getting excited about individual features, but no one seeming to find the Galaxy S4 to be a real game-changer.

In its initial review of the phone’s European version, Consumer Reports said that the phone “falls short of being revolutionary.” Still, it got fairly high marks for packing so much into one device.

“The Galaxy S 4 may not offer the dramatic leaps we've come to expect from each new generation of Samsung smart phone,” wrote reviewer Mike Gikas after spending some time with the device. “It does, however, cram a remarkable number of tech-forward features into a relatively svelte package.”

AP reviewer Peter Svensson said the phone lacks a “clarity of purpose” when compared to competitors’ phones. Apple, of course, has made a point of marketing its products as “seamless,” with features that allow users to use the same content across multiple devices. BlackBerry, Svensson noted, also has a very focused strategy of marketing its productivity to users and centering its major new features around that focus.

The phone is still expected to be a hit. As CNET’s Roger Cheng noted, Samsung has set up so much press and momentum headed into the launch that the company would have had to really flub its new model to lose its steam.

“In truth, the company could have released anything with the Galaxy S4 moniker, and it still would have garnered impressive sales,” Cheng wrote, adding later that it  “doesn't hurt that the Galaxy S4 happens to be a pretty good phone.”

Samsung said it will start shipping the phone at the end of April, though it didn’t give any country-specific launch dates. The company also has yet to release the phone’s price. All four major U.S. carriers have confirmed they will carry the device. U.S. Cellular and Cricket Wireless have also said they will sell the Galaxy S 4 when it hits store shelves.

Related stories:

Bloomberg: Samsung and Apple’s phone battle creates unusual winner: Korean Air

Samsung reveals new Galaxy smartphone in bid for dominant model

Video: CBS hands-on with Samsung Galaxy S4

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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