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Samsung Galaxy S 4: 11 Clever Tricks

Apr 25, 2013 (05:04 AM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240153554


Samsung has packed so many new features into the Galaxy S 4, its newest flagship smartphone, it's a bit mind-boggling. Even after several days of testing, I was still finding new additions, such as the ability to add and customize the settings that appear from the notification screen, and some of the new content-sharing mechanisms between Samsung devices.

If you're in the market for your next smartphone, the Galaxy S 4 should be near the top of your list. Its screen is slightly larger than its predecessor's, the Galaxy S 3 (5 inches vs. 4.8 inches), and yet the phone is roughly the same physical size, a bit lighter and slimmer, even. Its screen resolution has been beefed up in a meaningful way, to 1080 by 1920 pixels and 441 pixels per inch. And it boasts a quad-core 1.9-GHz processor under the hood.

But there's much more magic in the Galaxy S 4 software. Some of it was a little quirky, some of it a bridge too far, but most of it got me pretty excited about the future of smartphones.

I picked some of my favorite Galaxy S 4 features, and in the slideshow that follows, I'll try to give you a glimpse of how they work (or didn't in one case), or at least how they look.

It's a bit difficult to show some of the air gestures -- such as the ability to wave your hand up or down, left or right to scroll through pictures, flip between browser tabs or scroll up and down a Web page. And it's a bit difficult to show smart scrolling, where the phone is seeing the tilt of your head as you read, and scrolling up and down automatically in accord. But those were also among my favorite features once I got used to them.

I included one camera feature, called dual shot, but not because it was my favorite. This feature lets you take a picture using both the front and rear-facing cameras. I got the feeling Samsung added this mainly because it could, and to see what people do with it. I couldn't think of much of a reason for using it, other than to goof around.

With S Translator, S Health, and the combination of IR Blaster and the WatchON app -- a universal remote for your television and DVR -- Samsung is trying to make the Galaxy S 4 an even more invaluable companion in your life. Combined with Google Now and Google Maps, and all of the usual features built into Android and available from the Google Play store, it's going to be difficult to untether yourself from this device. Now dig into our slideshow.




The Samsung Galaxy S 4 uses infrared proximity sensors to detect hand gestures. Air View lets you hover a finger over email and "explode" messages for quick viewing. I found this extremely useful for quick message scanning.

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The Galaxy S 4 includes an Optical Reader app that can OCR documents, and transform paper business cards into phone, Google and Microsoft Exchange contacts. Though this definitely qualifies as a cool feature, the business card capability was a bit lacking, with misspellings, the inability to detect cell phone or mobile numbers in some cases, and other errors that I had to clean up.

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The Optical Reader app can translate words in various languages, say from a menu or a book.

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Speaking of language translation, S Translator can do so between spoken or written words, across several mainstream languages. Someone will have to tell me if S Translator got it right, though.

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Samsung's multi-window view lets you use a customizable tab of applications. The tab, if turned on, can be used not only for quick access to those applications, but also to drag an application onto the main window, to see two applications in view at once. This feature is not new to the S 4.

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The S 4 comes with an IR Blaster and WatchOn, an app that turns your phone into a universal TV and DVR remote. I tested it with my Vizio TV, on the Cox Cable Network, using a Motorola set-top box/DVR and it worked very well, except for the DVR controls.

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The WatchOn app has, among other things, the ability to display TV listings in a guide format. Just pick the show and it changes the channel right from the phone.

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Samsung has upgraded its bundled S Health application. To the left is the main menu. Food Tracker, for instance, is new. The application also takes advantage of a pedometer in the phone to track steps taken, and calories burned.

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Food Track, a utility within S Health, lets you input meals and counts calories. It also has a fairly precise custom search that lets you look up specific products, even by brand name.

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The S 4 senses temperature and humidity, which come into play in S Health (they are the "comfort" settings). And yes, those numbers are permanent here in Southern California. Sorry.

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The Galaxy S 4 camera offers tons of new modes, from Drama Shot (several pictures taken in motion) and Animation (keeps some parts of the picture still, and animates parts you choose) to Eraser (automatically detects and removes people who walk into your shot) and Dual Shot, which uses the front and rear cameras to superimpose one picture onto the other. We had good silly fun with these.

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