If you need proof of Samsung’s growing dominance in the smartphone market you only need look at the wild excitement and speculation that is preceding the release of its next Android flagship – the Samsung Galaxy S4. The rumors are reaching fever pitch with just a week to go until the big reveal. This kind of frenzy is usually reserved for new Apple products, but Samsung’s last flagship, the Galaxy S3, was the first individual Android smartphone to really give the iPhone a run for its money in terms of sales, and the S4 is expected to do a lot better. Samsung is reportedly aiming to sell 10 million Galaxy S4 handsets a month.
Update 3-15-2013 by Jeff: It’s been announced. Be sure to check out our GS4 spec comparisons including the Galaxy S4 vs. iPhone 5, Galaxy S4 vs. Galaxy S3, and Galaxy S4 vs HTC One. We’ve also got a full Galaxy S4 hands on with videos and pics galore. Finally, if you want a full rundown of features and information, check out our GS4: Everything You Need To Know.
A highly anticipated launch
The timing of Samsung’s March 14 launch event in Times Square is no longer in doubt and it has been carefully calculated. We’ve seen a lot of new products released in the last couple of months. First we had major trade shows like CES closely followed by MWC. The BlackBerry 10 launch and HTC’s new Android flagship the HTC One have also made headlines. There’s only one major player at the table still holding its cards close to its chest and that’s Samsung. A lot of people are waiting for the S4 before they decide what their next phone will be and that’s testament to Samsung’s success in building a powerful brand. The big question is whether it can live up to expectations and outdo the competition.
What’s in a name?
One of the first rumors to pop up concerned the name of Samsung’s new phone. Would it ditch the number four because of an unlucky association with death? Apparently tetraphobia is fairly common in China and can even be found in Korea and Japan. Could the S4 name be in jeopardy? The invitation to next week’s event puts that one to bed as it confirms a distinct lack of tetraphobia stating “Be ready 4 the next Galaxy.” It looks extremely likely that it will indeed be the Samsung Galaxy S4 (or Galaxy S IV, possibly).
Rumor: New unlock screen
Added 3-14-2013: The Verge has obtained some videos showing a supposed Galaxy S4 performing tasks. One video shows a brand new unlock screen, which you can see below. It’s mostly an evolution of the Galaxy S3’s droplet unlock.
Rumor: Floating touch gestures
Added 3-14-2013: The Verge discovered some YouTube videos it believes show the Galaxy S4. One of the videos shows the ability to touch the screen without actually touching it: floating touch. This allows features like mouse hovering, etc and could mean that the GS4 screen is much more touch sensitive than previous devices. We’ll find out the truth in about 3 hours.
Rumor: A 5-inch 1080p “hyper bright” display
Anyone hunting for GS4 news wants to know what’s going to be inside the S4, and there are already plenty of rumors about that. Most new flagship phones this year have screens hovering around 5 inches with 1080p resolutions. Samsung looks very likely to hit a similar spec. A 4.99-inch 1080p Samsung display was spotted at CES and the general consensus seems to be that it belongs to the S4.
Update 3-14-2013: BGR reports that Samsung filed for a patent on a “hyper bright” screen. Several outlets believe that Samsung could use a “green PHOLED” screen that will be 25 percent brighter than typical AMOLED screens. It will likely have a silly marketing name for this screen like “Hyper Bright Dislplay.”
Rumor: An eight-core processor
Another persistent spec rumor that has repeatedly popped up alongside the 5-inch 1080p display is that the device will contain Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa eight-core processor. That would certainly catapult it into a leading position since the competition is all packing quad-core processors. The new processors are supposed to be twice as powerful without any additional battery drain. You may wonder whether there’s really any need for eight cores just yet. Not everyone is convinced that the S4 will make the leap and one of the screenshots recently leaked by GSM Israel shows a 1.8GHz quad-core processor powering the S4.
Rumor: A 13-megapixel camera
Every supposed leaked spec sheet we’ve seen has mentioned a 13-megapixel camera, including this fake leak from @evleaks, which turned out to be a speculative render from the Expansys website. It’s a safe bet that Samsung will look to improve on the 8-megapixel shooter in the S3. It’s likely to be supported by a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
Once again those leaked screenshots from GSM Israel are showing a maximum 13-megapixel resolution on the main camera.
Rumor: No microSD card slot?
Suggestions about 2GB of RAM, support for NFC and LTE, and Android version 4.2.1 Jelly Bean all sound perfectly plausible, in fact they sound very likely. One slightly more contentious issue that keeps popping up is the assertion that the S4 will come in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or even 128GB versions with no microSD card slot. This strategy could certainly earn Samsung some extra cash, as it does for Apple and Google, but it will definitely annoy some potential customers.
The idea that the S4 will have a bigger battery is a given and 2600mAh is the figure we’re seeing, which is a step up from the 1800 – 2200mAh batteries we’ve been seeing. The size of the battery is always a trade-off with the design, because Samsung will want to make the S4 as svelte as it can.
Rumor: ‘Smart screen’ and Smart scroll eye-tracking
The biggest rumor to hit concerning new features is the one about S4 eye-scrolling. The S3 had a Smart Stay feature that used the camera to check whether you’re still looking at the screen before turning it off (doesn’t work so great in the dark). The S4 will reportedly go one better by tracking your eye as you read text and scrolling down automatically. It will also apparently pause video content when you look away from the screen. This rumor comes from an anonymous Samsung source who spoke to the New York Times and it’s lent some credence by the fact that Samsung applied for related trademarks in January. Then there’s the screenshot below which purports to show the menu for the new features. It certainly looks legitimate.
Added 3-14-2013: A YouTube video supposedly showing the Galaxy S4 shows that it could have a feature called SmartPause. This feature supposedly pauses your video if you look away from the screen. Even in the test video, it appears to screw up, though.
Rumor: Wireless charging and payWave Visa app
There’s also a decent chance that wireless charging will be supported and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the NFC support was tied into a digital wallet of some kind. Samsung and Visa struck a deal over the payWave app for wireless payments quite a while ago now and it was tested at the London Olympics. Visa mentioned at MWC that payWave would be pre-installed on Samsung’s “next generation” of devices, although there was no mention of the S4 specifically.
Rumor: Samsung’s sticking with plastic, may drop Home button
Every big release spawns lots of artist renders and murky photographs that are wrongly proclaimed as the new device. We’ve yet to see an image that looks convincing. Rumors concerning the design have centered on the idea that Samsung will drop the physical Home button. We can safely assume the device will be as thin as Samsung can make it, but will it remain rounded like the S3? We’ll have to wait and see. The legal battle with Apple could have an impact here.
While many other premium smartphones are crafted from aluminum and glass it looks like the S4 will stick to Samsung’s plastic strategy with a polycarbonate body. Y.H. Lee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, reportedly told CNET that manufacturability and durability were vital concerns for the design.
Rumor: Dual-SIM Chinese variant revealed
Supposedly new pictures of what is possibly a disguised Galaxy S4 have leaked on a Chinese forum. This could be a prototype design as the body looks a bit bulky and there is a home button below the screen, which many rumors predicted won’t be there on the final release. The specs revealed alongside these photos fit with expectations. The only difference is the dual-SIM configuration, but we know Samsung often makes dual-SIM variants of its handsets for the Chinese market.
Rumor: Release date in April
Earlier this year it was suggested that the Galaxy S4 will be released in April (around the 15th) with a launch event one month in advance. Now that we know the launch event is taking place on March 14 that rumor looks quite credible. It is worth remembering that the S2 and the S3 were both released in May, so an April release would break with that tradition. It’s certainly not likely to be released any later than May, but it will probably hit different markets around the world at different times. Previous releases, like the S3, have been staggered arriving on different carriers in various countries over a couple of months.
With the launch fast approaching Samsung has tweeted an obscured image of what is presumably the Galaxy S4 waiting to step out of the shadows. It really doesn’t give much away, as you can see.
Not long to wait
That’s it for our Samsung Galaxy S4 rumor roundup. We’re sure that more rumors will pop up in the next few days, but we’d advise taking them with a pinch of salt. There isn’t long to wait now to find out for sure. In the meantime you can cringe your way through Samsung’s S4 teaser video. We’re expecting a good phone, but the biggest thing “since TVs went color” is taking it too far. What are your expectations? Post a comment and share them.
Updated on 03/14-2013: Added several new rumors and linked in some newly discovered, possibly real, videos of the GS4 in action.
Updated on 03/12/13 by Simon Hill: Added leaked pictures from Chinese forum and Samsung’s tweeted teaser image.
Article originally published 03/06/13