Samsung announced Thursday the new version of its hugely popular Galaxy S smartphone, a new shot across the bow of Apple in the battle for mobile phone supremacy.
The Samsung Galaxy S 4 will have a larger, 5-inch screen yet be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, the Galaxy S 3.
"Once you spend time with the Galaxy S 4, I’m very confident that you will feel how it’s innovations will make your life richer, simpler and fuller," said J.K. Shin, head of Samsung’s Mobile Communications. The new phone was revealed during a flashy media presentation in New York City that included a live orchestra, actors and dancers.
The phone will be released in the U.S. and more than 150 other countries beginning in April through 327 carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA, as well as US Cellular and Cricket. The price was not announced but it is believed it will be sold for around $200 with a two-year contract.
Although the phone looks similar to its last iteration, it will have a beefed-up processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a higher-resolution screen than the Galaxy S 3. It also will come with a bevy of new features.
The device will be able to take multiple shots of a scene and automatically create a collage. Story Album is a feature that takes the pictures and automatically creates a photo album based on time and location. Users also will have the ability to record a five-second audio clip just before taking a picture that will be tied to the photo.
Users can separate work and family contacts and information similar to the new Blackberry phones announced last month. They also can automatically scroll through pages on the screen by slightly tilting the device. Smart Pause will pause a video if the user looks away from the screen.
Music lovers who find themselves without a portable stereo can take multiple Galaxy S 4s, sync them wirelessly and turn them into a 5.1 surround-sound speaker system.
Users also can maneuver the touchscreen while wearing gloves.
Samsung’s announcement could worry Apple, which has seen fierce competition from Android phone manufacturers in the past year, including from HTC.
The Samsung Galaxy S 3, which was released in the U.S. in summer 2012 and outsold the iPhone 4S in its first few months, shipped 18 million units to stores in the third quarter.
Growing discontent over the iPhone’s lack of significant features added from one phone to the next has led to Samsung’s rising success and that of other Android-based handsets.
One of the most measurable differences has been in the screen sizes. While those for Android smartphones have been growing to 4.5 inches diagonally and more (the Samsung Galaxy Note II boasts a size of more than 5 inches), the iPhone remained at 3.5 inches. Only recently did the iPhone 5 sport a larger 4-inch screen.
Also, Android’s library of apps have been less restrictive than the apps sold on iTunes. Apple’s control over what apps can and cannot do has caused some users to bolt to Android.
Apple’s next iteration of its iPhone, presumably the iPhone 5S, is expected to be announced as early as summer or into September. Speculation is that the upgrade will be small, perhaps only a processor boost and camera upgrade. But the screen size and form factor probably will remain the same.
On the eve of the Samsung announcement, Apple’s head of marketing, Phil Schiller, slammed Android for out-of-date software and the fact that Android users "have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with."
"The experience isn’t as good as an iPhone," he told The Wall Street Journal.
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