People check out the new slim, feature-rich Samsung Galaxy S4 during its unveiling at Radio City Music Hall in New York. AFP photo
Samsung's new flagship is big on features and equally big on hardware but many will be disappointed in the phone's build quality, especially if they're changing from a Sony, Nokia or Apple handset.
There is little doubt that Samsung has high hopes for the Galaxy SIV. It expects to ship 10 million units a month. Leading UK phone retailer Phone4U is already predicting that it is going to be one of, if not the biggest selling smartphone of 2013. Within 48 hours of its official launch, the company had been inundated with pre-registrations -- some 40 percent more than for the Galaxy SIII. According to Phone4U's Chief Commercial Officer Scott Hooton: "The anticipation surrounding the next Samsung Galaxy has been astounding and it has already received the most pre-registrations at Phones 4U of any other smartphone launch in 2013."
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However, these pre-registrations are from potential owners who are yet to see the device in the flesh. And when they first encounter the phone for real, they could be very disappointed.
In a piece entitled "High-end features, low-end design," BGR writer Dan Graziano criticizes the device's poor quality feel when compared to the flagship phones from its competitors, despite being an incredible device on paper: "Although Samsung was able to increase the screen size from the Galaxy S III and make the device slimmer and more powerful, the Galaxy S IV just doesn't cut it. The first time you pick up an iPhone, HTC One or even a Nokia Lumia smartphone you will be impressed with the build quality. These are devices that actually feel like they're worth the $600+ price tags. The Galaxy S 4, on the other hand, feels more like a toy than a high-end smartphone."
Samsung's new Galaxy S4 is seen during its unveiling on March 14, 2013 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Photo: AFP / Don Emmert
And while Samsung's continued use of plastics as a means of ensuring speedy manufacturing will be an issue for many potential customers, how does the device measure up for existing Samsung customers who may be considering an upgrade from their existing Galaxy SIII?
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In terms of hardware, the SIV is a big step up. It has a 5-inch full HD screen (compared with the SIII's 4.8-inch standard definition display), is a whole 3g lighter, and has a better battery that should last longer between charges. It also has twice as much RAM (2GB versus 1GB) and a beefed-up processor so, on paper at least it, is much faster. It also has a tougher, more scratch-resistant screen and a 13 megapixel camera (the SIII only offered an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera).
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People interact with the Samsung Galaxy S IV, March 14, 2013 in New York City. The Galaxy S IV features a five-inch 1080p screen, a 1.9GHz quad-core processor, a 13-megapixel rear camera and ships with the latest Android version, Jelly Bean. Photo: AFP/Allison Joyce/Getty Images/AFP
However, some of the phone's most impressive features are software-, not hardware-based and Samsung has indicated that many of these functions are going to be rolled out to the Galaxy SIII in coming months, hardware compatibility permitting. All of which means that like the iPhone 5, the new Galaxy is more of an evolution than a revolution and more importantly, just like the iPhone 4S, there is still plenty of life left in the Galaxy SIII for those that are in two minds as to whether or not to upgrade. Or for those that want to wait until Samsung takes the same approach to its biggest rivals in terms of using quality materials such as aluminum, ceramics and alloys in its manufacturing processes.