Samsung Galaxy S4: here are all the new TouchWiz and software features

by: Joe HindyMarch 14, 2013


The Samsung Unpacked event for the Samsung Galaxy S4 has come and gone and we’re left to decipher all the things that the Galaxy S4 will be. They didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the hardware, sadly, but they did spend a great deal of time outlining a plethora of new software and TouchWiz features that people will be able to enjoy with the new Galaxy S4. Read on below to see what Samsung has in store for their customers for the next year.

Galaxy S4 Dual Camera (for video and chat)

The first bomb Samsung dropped on the Unpacked event was the Dual Camera feature. At first we thought Samsung had lost their minds and put a second camera on the Galaxy S4. Thankfully, they didn’t pull an EVO 3D. Dual Camera refers to the camera app’s ability to use both the back and front facing cameras when doing a multitude of tasks. First, you can use the Dual Camera to take video. You use the 13MP back camera to shoot whatever you wish while the front-facing camera records a video of you. So if you’re at your kid’s baseball game and you’re taking a video, you can video both your kid and you at the same time. For a lot of people this is going to be a really awesome feature. For many more, it won’t be.

Dual Camera on the Galaxy S4 can also be used during chats. You can use the front-facing camera to record your face and then use the 13MP back shooter to record what you’re looking at. This is a much more useful and cool use of the feature. With this, people will be able to chat with you face to face and if you want to show them something you’re looking at, use Dual Cameras and they will be able to see it too.

Of course, since the feature is there, Samsung included Dual Camera in photos too. The Galaxy S4 can take a dual picture of whatever you want to take a picture of, and you. This would be cool, but it’s hard to imagine anyone using this feature unless it was high school girls taking selfies while they took photos of other random stuff. Prepare yourselves, the dual food and duck face pictures are coming.

Galaxy S4 Shot & Sound

In an effort to recreate every horror movie ever made, Samsung has included a new feature in the Galaxy S4 called Shot & Sound. Ostensibly, this feature is used to take a picture of something and then add a short verbal missive to kind of explain it. So you can take a picture of a sunset and make a comment about how beautiful sunsets are. Then you can send it to people who can see the picture and hear your voice. While it’s cool, it’s not particularly useful. We could imagine a bunch of people making their most terrifying face and adding a verbal message asking their friends if they’d like to play a game.

Galaxy S4 S Translate

This was the first truly impressive feature we saw during the Unpacked event. S Translate  will translate people speaking in more than a dozen languages instantly. This is actually a highly useful feature. If you’re asking for directions in a country where you don’t speak the language, there is no problem. You choose the language and speak into the Galaxy S4. It will translate what you say into any language you select and spout it back out to whoever you need help from. They can respond and S Translate will turn their words into text that you can read. Awesome.

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Additionally, this functionality has been built into a number of apps, including the Samsung messaging app and the email app. So if you get an email in Japanese, it can be translated to English within the app itself. Essentially, there is no more worrying about having to copy and paste everything into Google Translate.

Galaxy S4 Smart Pause and Smart Scroll

We mention these together since they are an extension of last year’s feature called Smart Stay. Smart Stay used the front-facing camera to track your eye movement so it would know to leave the screen on while you were looking at it. Smart Pause and Smart Scroll use this same technology to allow you to control other parts of your phone.

For Smart Pause, the phone will automatically pause and start video based on whether you’re looking at the screen. So if you’re watching a movie and you look at something else, the video will pause automatically so you don’t miss anything. When you look back, the video will start once again. Smart Scroll essentially senses when you need to scroll somewhere and does it automatically.

Galaxy S4 Air Gesture

If you owned the Galaxy Note 2, you’re already somewhat familiar with this feature. With the Note 2, you could over your S Pen above a screen and interact with things without touching the screen. Air Gesture increases this functionality to include your fingers as well as an S Pen. It’s really simple and straight forward. You can interact with things on your phone without actually touching your phone. Rather, you can simply hover over things to interact with them. Nothing people with S Pens haven’t seen before, but still nifty if you’re into that sort of thing.

Galaxy S4 Samsung Knox

Samsung Knox is not a new feature but Samsung has confirmed that it will be on the Galaxy S4. Knox is a pretty awesome application, so it’s worth discussing again. What Knox does is breaks up your phone into 2 halves. The first half can be used for business and be controlled by people like your IT department at work. The other half is controlled by you.

What’s really cool is that neither of these sides can interact. Your IT department can’t interact with the personal half and your personal half can’t interact with the business half. So businesses can invest in the Galaxy S4 and give them to their employees. The employees can make part of the phone untouchable to the business. Everyone wins.  This feature is only available on SAFE (Samsung For Enterprise) enabled devices, which include the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2. The Galaxy S4 joins that list.

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Galaxy S4 Story Album

Jumping back to camera functionality for a minute, the Galaxy S4 now has a smart photo album maker. Called Story Album, it creates albums based on when and where pictures were taken. So if you’re at a get together and you snap 25 pictures while you’re there, Story Album will group those all together for you. This is actually a moderately useful feature for people who love to take a bunch of pictures with their smartphones. Did you take 100 pictures while you were on vacation? Story Album will help you keep them sorted and help you upload them to wherever they need to go. For those who aren’t photo bugs, this feature will likely go unused.

Galaxy S4 S Voice Drive

Well Samsung thankfully put S Voice down as a main assistant app for TouchWiz devices. Thank you, Samsung! However, they didn’t kill S Voice off entirely. It returns in a driving mode app that is pretty much a beefed up version of every other drive mode app. S Voice will now read your texts while you drive, make phone calls, search for music, open navigation apps, and do all the other things people do with their smartphones while they’re driving. It can pair with your car’s Bluetooth if your car has Bluetooth so you can use the speakers to hear the stuff the phone is telling you. As a safety feature, it’s actually not half bad.

Galaxy S4 S Health

Samsung apparently cares more about your health than its letting on since S Health will be released with the Galaxy S4. Essentially, S Health is a calorie counter application that monitors things like your calorie intake and how many calories you burn during the day. As if people needed yet another way to micromanage their health.

However, some features of it are pretty nice. It can keep track of your calories (both burned and taken in) over a period of time. You can also get accessories to use with S Health to measure your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vitals. Like calories, all these stats can be logged for future reference. So if you’re really into keeping track of your health, S Health may be a cool feature.

Galaxy S4 Drama Shot

Another camera feature? You betcha, and this one is just a fancy name for one we’ve all seen before. Better known as burst shot, Drama Shot allows your Galaxy S4 to take up to 100 pictures in just a few seconds. The only defining difference between this and burst shot is that with Drama Shot, the S4 will create a collage of the pictures you took to create a single, epic picture. A Drama Shot, if you will. I apologize for that awful pun.

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Galaxy S4 Adaptive Display

This is another one of the features of the Galaxy S4 that we actually kind of liked. This one is not a difficult feature to implement or explain. Simply put, the screen changes things like contrast and brightness depending on what you’re doing. So if you’re watching a movie, it’ll switch to cinema mode. If you’re reading an email or an eBook, it’ll switch to that mode automatically. This can be a savior for people with sensitive eyes and generally useful for people who like a little more out of their screen when doing things like watching movies.

Galaxy S4 Eraser

We promise that this is the last camera feature. We also saved the best for last because Eraser is actually kind of awesome. Say you’re taking a picture and someone walks through your shot. Erase actually takes a few pictures at once, analyzes the data, and removes pretty much anything that isn’t the subject or the background from the picture entirely. It’s much cooler to see it in practice than it is to explain with words. However, the premise is pretty clear. If there is something in your picture that shouldn’t be there, Eraser can help you get rid of it without having to re-shoot any pictures.

Galaxy S4 HomeSync and Smart Switch

We’re including these together because they both involve outside pieces of hardware. HomeSync uses a separate piece of hardware, also called the HomeSync, to sync your phone with your TV. This may sound a little lame at first but the scope is much greater. You can sync your phone to your TV from anywhere. This will be mostly useful for families but pretty much anyone could enjoy something like this. The hardware comes with 1TB of space that can be divided among 8 users if need be. Then each user can take photos or video and sync with HomeSync and anyone at home can see what’s going on.

Smart Switch also requires some additional hardware, but this time it’s your computer. This is really only useful for people coming from other devices. You can plug your phone into your computer and make a full backup of all the info. Then you simply plug in your Galaxy S4 and Smart Switch will transfer everything. As stated, most people will only use this once to get info off their old phone. What will be interesting will be if the Samsung Galaxy S4 itself can be backed up. If apps, contacts, etc can all be backed up at once, this could actually be a handy tool for root users too. Right now, that’s strictly conjecture.

Galaxy S4 Media Hub and ChatON updates

Most of this list consists of new features by Samsung for the Galaxy S4, but some old friends have gotten revamped and re-introduced. ChatOn has been updated and will now support voice chatting. Ostensibly, this will work with the Dual Camera feature so people using ChatON can see both the front and rear camera feeds if someone is using dual camera. Media Hub has also received an update bringing some improvements, although Samsung didn’t talk about it all that much. It pretty much does the same stuff it always has, just better.

Samsung Galaxy S4 press

Galaxy S4 Group Play

We put this feature last because it is, by far, our favorite. Group Play allows users to play the same media on up to 8 devices at once. This can be pretty cool if you want to share a song with everyone in the house or something like that, but the best is yet to come. You can connect 6 devices and create a 5.1 surround sound system. Just set up devices in appropriate spots and play the song. This also includes support for multiplayer games so you can play games across devices just like you can share media. How awesome is that?

Galaxy S4 new Touchwiz and software features wrap up

There was a lot to love about the Galaxy S4, but there was a lot that wasn’t very impressive also. Many blogs around the Internet are calling the Galaxy S4 and between-er device and we can see their argument. Most of these new features could’ve worked well within the confines of the the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 hardware. However, they’re here, they’re on the Galaxy S4 and while the event as a whole was mildly disappointing, some of these features are genuinely useful and fun.

We’d love to hear from you. What did you think of Samsung’s new features for the Galaxy S4? Does it make the S4 worth grabbing up if you already have the S3 or the Note 2?

  • How awesome is Group Play? It isn’t, really – when it comes to the sound thing. The thing about Android is the diverse ecosystem; for this to work everyone would have to have a recent high-end Samsung device. Besides, this isn’t really useful. At. All.

    The multiplayer thing, though, that’s nicer.

    • Mike Bastable

      Will you really use group play? My mates have Nexus or iphones…..

    • CyBrix_21

      It depends… But it is better if you all have S4…

  • Well a lot of those certainly are nifty, I don’t think those will turn out to be a big selling point for most people other than they were impressed with what their friends galaxy is able to do.

  • Mike Bastable

    Well………..disappointing. the HTC One blows this away in so many ways. The design here is underwhelming, more a Galaxy3S. These touchwiz add ons are poor (apparently they dont work well either) and Samsung is not Apple yet so unique to Samsung sharing features aren’t that good. Glorified bloatware.

    However this processor thing! Why isnt everyone up in arms about this? 4core 8core…depends on your region!? WHY? Can someone please take the time to explain this to me please?, i would love to know the reasoning of this 2 tier product launch.

    Dont get me wrong I LOVE SAMSUNG (best customer service EVER!) but this is seriously giving the othersa chance to play catch up in market share.

    The product launch was frankly laughable and inept. Broadway and tech dont mix, unless you count the flying witch in Wicked.

    • JosephHindy

      Same thing that happened to the Galaxy S3. LTE markets got a snapdragon, international HSPA+ got exynos. Thank Snapdragon for making a better chipset.

      • I don’t really care since there’s not 4G LTE where I live.

      • brendan soliwoda

        Snapdragon making a better chipset, that’s a funny joke.

        • JosephHindy

          Snapdragon chip set supports LTE and Exynos doesn’t. It’s 2013, if your mobile CPU doesn’t support LTE that’s a big huge fail. Snapdragon does, Exynos does not. Hence, fail Exynos.

          • brendan soliwoda

            Just because their chips have LTE support doesn’t mean their chips aren’t crappy. Had a GS2 with a S3 chip inside of it. It was horrible. Would never go back to Snapdragon again. In terms of raw power, Exynos is better. And the GN2 had the exynos quad and an LTE so, Exynos win, Snapdragon fail.

    • fds

      Dude, HTC One and IPhone both have a really shitty design, Galaxy s4 is by far the best looking phone out there

      • cycad007

        I’m sorry…but I’m going to completely disagree with you on this. On looks…the HTC One looks much nicer in my eyes.

        • Manjit

          Every phone is good in either way Sammy in specs, iphone is user friendly(very), Htc soothing to eyes with its awesone sense UI

          • muddyboy

            True that true

      • No One

        This comment really make my laugh, poor samsheep. Have you ever own S3?

      • le_lutin

        Chief, I have a Note 2 (have had an s3 and s2 before that), but even I have to say that samsung designs can’t really touch htc. The HTC One is, in my opinion, a far better looking device.

    • CyBrix_21

      How come HTC One blows this away? Please explain…

      You love Samsung? But why are you complaining that the processors are different depending on your region? They are doing that thing for a long time…

      I think you don’t love Samsung… Saying that their sharing features are bloatwares? I think that comment will not come from a Samsung lover…

      Another thing… How did you know that Touchwiz add-ons are poor? Did you saw it in person? And how it is different from S3…

      To me, S4 looks more beautiful and better than S3… The design looks better… Though, I wish that it will look like S2…

      • Mike Bastable

        happy to explain: the One looks awesome, industrial design, premium build and some innovation hardware wise: new camera and great front facing speakers (i have used this phone) Samsung is still plastic and low end.
        Samsung i love because when my phone was defect they not only sent a replacement THE SAME DAY!, they re-imbursed my full purchase price too! AWESOME company!.
        I just wish they would innovate for all android users! (yes i know about CHATon), too many functions are only compatible with Sammy devices and most of my mates dont have Samsung so i am stuck with software i dont use and cant remove (bloatware).,
        My experience on the S1 / S2 and S3 is that many of the TouchWiz apps were poor performers compared to other apps available in the Play store. My experience.
        The 2 differing processors issue has been bugging me for sometime, that is why i bring it up here since the 8x core seems preferable to the 4x option, i am wondering why do this? Not criticism as such just a question i would like answered.
        I think we all agree that HTC needs to innovate to survive: they are doingt his VERY well with the One.
        I think we all agree Sammy is nr.1 android maker, and i think that with the new handset they are coasting a little. I just expected more.
        Being a Sammy lover i will of course own it very soon and will let u know what its like( My boss will pay for it!, lol).
        Enter the competition to win 1! or pester your boss, despite my small criticisms this IS still a great phone. Hope you win!

        • CyBrix_21

          Design is subjective… They are both good… S4 is good in some areas, HTC One in other areas…

  • Mike Bastable

    also…just a comment. I was suprised to see Android Authority lagging behind its reporting of this live event. ALL the other Android and tech sites had more info and background online a good hour before AA. Whats up guys?

    • JosephHindy

      Hmm, I checked out Engadget after I wrote this and they had half this info about 2/3 of these features spread out over 4 articles. So we weren’t behind everyone sir ;)

      • Mike Bastable

        I was live checking on numerous devices, for work, with AA as 2nd screen choice and there WAS a serious delay. Engdgt has been slow recently too, unless it is an Apple event (of course…) congrats on not being last when i would have expected you to be one of the first. Not bitching here just expressing suprise. Okay.

        • JosephHindy

          Lol well we wanted to make sure to be thorough. Being second is better when you have more info. No cheap work here sir :) and we appreciate your feedback!

          • Mike Bastable

            Thnx Joseph, always like to read your posts, always thorough and non biased. Keep it up dude.

        • le_lutin

          Engadget are banned from even going to Apple events, so I’m not sure how you got the impression that their coverage of Apple events is good.

          • Mike Bastable

            Do you recognise irony….

          • le_lutin

            Only when it’s done well.

          • Mike Bastable

            lol true

          • JosephHindy

            Gizmodo has the lifetime ban. Pretty sure Engadget is still okay to go lol.

          • le_lutin

            Oops you’re right. Sorry! #smartassfail

  • Living the good life with my Nexus 4, just waiting on the Moto X to sway me. This GS3s is full of fail.

  • Hephastus

    Um. The Samsung Galaxy S2 beat the iphone and became the number cell phone in the world and Samsung is the leader in smartphones. It has also invented such things as: LTE hardware and the Apple processor chip was originally designed by Samsung. Anyhoo I do agree lots of software but seems people like software and big camera so maybe Samsungs onto something here.

  • Lucas Barbosa

    I like the finger hovering thing.. Seems innovative and futuristic.

    • nsnsmj

      Sony did it last year.

      • Rahul

        Sony didn’t used it in apps !
        It was just the wallpaper !

        • Besbes Souhaieb

          and the browser

  • Lucas Barbosa

    I think Samsung tried to work on all points people complain about, they added some metal on the phone, bigger battery, bigger screen, made it thinner, and added a power saving processor.

  • 2 things that nobody, at least from the 20 sites I frequently visit, has covered thus far if it has lockscreen widgets or multi-user. Inquiring minds what to know .. hmm…

    • JosephHindy

      That’s because they never mentioned anything about any of those things. Gonna have to wait for device reviews for that one sir.

      • Weeelp .. thought thats what I was reading above 0_o .. waiting game continues ..

  • Curious,
    Galaxy S 4 with 5″
    A. iPhone 5 with 4″


    • Apple will sue Samsung for using 4S backwards

      • anjkanu

        hahaha best comment ever!!

  • no rply

    so haters go play with ur fatty, heavy and tiny toys

  • Mike Bastable

    A note:
    Love the way Joseph doesnt post n run but gets involved in the discussion here! Impressive Sir

    • JosephHindy

      Just saw this now, but thank you!

      • Mike Bastable