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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?