Samsung Galaxy S4: Not a sea change, but does it need to be?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the successor to last year's best-selling Samsung Galaxy S3.

Say hello to the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone.

No smartphone has generated as much hype in the past few months as the Samsung Galaxy S4. There's a good reason for that, of course: The Samsung Galaxy S3, which was released last year, sold incredibly well around the globe, and even beat out the iPhone in several markets. The term "potential iPhone killer" gets thrown around a lot, but the S3 was the first device to actually warrant the mantle. 

Will the S4 enjoy the same success as its predecessor? Yesterday, at an over-the-top press event in New York City, Samsung reps took the wraps off the Galaxy S4, and from what we can tell, this phone is a monster, from the Quad-core 1.9 GHz processor to the 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and 5-inch display. (A display, incidentally, that boasts a much higher resolution than Apple's vaunted "retina display.") 

Aesthetically, the S4 looks a lot like the S3 – although it is slightly slimmer, writes Peter Svensson of the AP, who yesterday took a test-drive of the S4. 

"The body is still dominated by softly molded plastic," Mr. Svensson writes, "and the S4 doesn't really advance the aesthetics of its predecessor the way competitors Apple, Sony and HTC have done with their latest phones. Apple and HTC, in particular, have put a lot of sweat into machining metal into jewel-like enclosures; Samsung doesn't seem to care all that much about looks." 

But over at PC Mag, Sascha Segan argues that "Samsung's heart" is now in software, and that the best parts of the S4 have nothing to do with the design. Consider the Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean operating system, or a new user interface function that allows you to "float" your finger over the screen and preview e-mail messages or fast-forward music tracks. 

"Samsung doesn't need to provide a new wow in hardware to sell millions of these smartphones," Segan writes. "With its massive marketing clout and momentum, the S4's hardware just needs to be good enough, and it is. This phone doesn't feel premium the way the HTC One and Nokia Lumia 920 do, but neither did the Galaxy S3, and that didn't cause problems for that phone." 

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