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With the Galaxy SIII (or S 3) firmly established as one of the top-selling smartphones of recent years, Samsung clearly believed its successor, the long-heralded Galaxy S 4, deserved a major release event. It got one, all right: a lavish song-and-dance premiere at none other than New York City's Radio City Music Hall, with thousands in attendance.
When the curtain rose on the main stage to begin the release announcement, all that was missing was the Rockettes. Broadway actor Will Chase served as master of ceremonies to introduce JK Shin, president and head of the IT and mobile communication division of Samsung Electronics, and Ryan Biden, director of product marketing for Samsung Telecommunications America.
Via a series of cutesy on-stage skits, Chase and a troupe of actors -- including the remarkably talented tap-dancing kid who was featured in Samsung's "Unpacked" ad campaign -- took the audience through a rapid-fire tour of the S 4's new features.
The key point they stressed was that the feature set for the S 4 is designed to complement the behavior of our daily lives: gallery functions for picture-taking, live language translations for travelers, integration with Samsung's HomeSync devices for integration with TVs and media hubs.
Business-class users haven't been snubbed, though: Samsung's "Knox" technology allows segregation of the phone into separate, protected work and personal facets.
The phone's processor varies -- it's either a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 or Samsung Exynos 5 processor, with different models shipped to different territories. The phone will come with 2 GB of RAM and 16, 32 or 64 GB of internal flash storage, which is further complemented by a microSD card slot that can store up to an additional 64 GB.
Connectivity will include both 3G and 4G radios, with up to Hexa band support for 4G, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac support, Bluetooth 4.0, and even an infrared LED to allow the phone to be used as a controller for home theater and TV devices with the appropriate software. The phone offers two polycarbonate shell designs: Black Mist or White Frost.
The 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera can work together in both Samsung's photo and video chat applications -- for instance, to allow you (using the front camera) and other friends (using the rear camera) to chat with a remote third party using a picture-in-picture view.
The S4 is set to premiere in some 155 countries at the end of April. Pricing has not yet been announced. Dig into our slideshow to look at some key features and decide if this might be the smartphone for you.
The Galaxy S 4's 5-inch AMOLED screen fits in a package that shares the same dimensions as the S 3 (except for thickness -- it's now 7.9mm to the S 3's 8.6mm).
Many touch functions -- such as swiping, scrolling and answering calls -- can be accomplished by simply passing a hand or a finger near the surface of the display without actually touching it. This "Air Gesture" functionality, as Samsung calls it, can be enabled and disabled separately from other touch and gesture functions.
The multimedia dock and game controller shown here (sold separately) help expand on the S 4's functionality. Native integration with Samsung's HomeSync TV and media-hub devices is included.
When the S 4 is inside its case and the folding cover is closed, the time and date display can be seen through the window in the front of the cover.
When the S 4's cover is open, a pop-out side tab from the home screen lets you launch many frequently used applications.
The S Translator app can translate spoken or written phrases between a number of different languages, including English, French, German, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. A data connection is required for the translation function to work effectively, but a collection of common preset phrases can also be used when no data connection is available.
The S 4 can play video on a high-definition television set. The content being played back is 1080p.
Reluctant to part with your existing phone because you don't know how to move your existing settings and data to a new phone? Samsung's Smart Switch app for the PC can do the heavy lifting for you. Samsung claims it will port crucial data from most every major brand of smartphone, including the iPhone.
Many other new functions available in the S4 can be toggled individually. Smart Scroll and Smart Pause use eye-tracking functions to automatically scroll content or pause playback of video (for instance, when you look away from the screen).
A full line of accessories is available for the S 4, including a folding cover and lifestyle and health-related add-ons such as a pulse, temperature and blood pressure sensor called the S Band.