Samsung has finally gone official with its next Android flagship, the Galaxy S 4, and went all-out for a launch extravaganza the likes of which we haven’t seen before. Whether you think Samsung didn’t go far enough with the phone’s design and features, or if it was everything you were hoping for, it’s hard to deny that the company debuted a handset that just screams “Samsung.” On the whole, early reactions to the phone seem quite positive, and even if it wasn’t quite what you wanted, there’s still a lot here to like.

Specifications

We were on the fence about what to expect from the GS4’s hardware for weeks. AMOLED or LCD? Exynos 5 Octa or Snapdragon? In the end, what we got shouldn’t really have been any surprise, and Samsung fell back into its old routine of different hardware for different markets.

The global version of the GS4 will, indeed, run Samsung’s next-gen SoC, the eight-core Exynos 5 Octa. That one’s clocked at 1.6GHz, while North America will see a GS4 running at 1.9GHz, but built around a quad-core Snapdragon 600, instead.

No matter where you get your Galaxy S 4, it will feature a five-inch full HD Super AMOLED display, with some very thin bezels. Everyone can also look forward to 2GB of RAM, and storage options of 16GB, 32GB, or 64 GB, all expandable via microSD.

Samsung branches out a little in the sensor department, giving the GS4 some unusual abilities like being able to determine ambient temperature and humidity, and the company continues its recent love affair for infrared with the inclusion of an IR blaster. Connectivity options include both 3G and 4G radio setups, and high-speed 100Mbps LTE support on any of six different bands, depending on the market. Of course, NFC is back, as is Bluetooth 4.0. All of this gets powered by a 2600mAh battery.

Software

Samsung spent the bulk of its launch event showing off the Galaxy S 4’s software features. Some of them focused on new ways to control your phone, like the camera-based Smart Scroll and Smart Pause, and while Air View relies on an extra-sensitive touch sensor, it’s the software implementation that gives it so much promise. Group Play could be a great way to share media with friends while hanging out together, and if you feel the need to capture some memories, Dual Camera, Drama Shot, and Sound & Shot all give you new ways to do so.

Comparisons

All things considered, Samsung’s a little late to the game with the Galaxy S 4, and it’s competing against phones we’ve already seen announced. Luckily, that gave us the opportunity to bring along some of these models as we went hands-on with the GS4, letting us give you an early look at how Samsung’s new heavyweight stacks up to its competition.




Beyond GS4 versus other smartphone, there’s the Galaxy S 4 versus itself: which of the two launch color options is the most attractive?

Conclusion

The Galaxy S 4 is going to be the Android we’re comparing all other phones to for the foreseeable future. It may not be reinventing the wheel, but between its top-tier hardware and a whole lot of new software features, Samsung has a lot to work with here to capture an even larger share of the smartphone market.

In the coming months, a new iPhone might give the GS4 its first real fight, and there’s hardware from the likes of Motorola that already has us well curious, but it’s still going to be hard to touch the GS4; Samsung just set the bar pretty high.

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