Samsung has never been shy about plying its wares, and it would be fair to say that the South Korean smartphone giant takes the opposite approach to its biggest competitor, Apple. Instead of updating a single model annually, Samsung fires out a never-ending stream of variants, carpet bombing the market with every possible permutation of features and price tags.
This is a combination of the company’s attempts to secure the attentions of every demographic and its willingness to cater for the individual whims of the different carriers. It’s an approach that seems to have worked very well for Samsung so far, so Thursday’s news that it is being extended further, in the shape of several Galaxy S4 variants shouldn’t be a big surprise.
Can you have too much choice?
We’ve got the good-looking leader as the original S4; a tough, sporty one – the Active; a cute wee one – the Mini; and, lest you should think Samsung is starting a boy band, there’s the beefed up camera version – the Zoom. We’ve also got the usual tweaks to the original S4, which differentiate the phone from country to country, and in the U.S. and China, for each individual carrier. Then there’s the Google edition of the S4 without Samsung’s TouchWiz and bloatware. Samsung’s mobile chief, J.K. Shin also just told Reuters that there will be an LTE-Advanced version of the S4 coming soon.
Let’s compare the big variants and see how they measure up.
|Size||136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm||139.7 x 71.3 x 9.1 mm||124.6 x 61.3 x 8.9 mm||125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm|
|Resolution||1920×1080 pixels||1920×1080 pixels||960×540 pixels||960×540 pixels|
|OS||Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI||Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI||Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI||Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz UI|
|SD Card Slot||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Processor||1.9GHz quad-core processor||1.9GHz quad-core processor||1.7GHz dual-core processor||1.5GHz dual-core processor|
|Camera||Front 2MP, Rear 13MP||Front 2MP, Rear 8MP||Front 1.9MP, Rear 8MP||Front 1.9MP, Rear 16MP|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, NFC||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, NFC||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, NFC||Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, NFC|
|Bluetooth||Yes, version 4.0||Yes, version 4.0||Yes, version 4.0||Yes, version 4.0|
|Price||$600 (no contract)||$595 (no contract)||TBA||TBA|
|Availability||AT&T, Sprint, T-Mob, Verizon||AT&T||TBA||TBA|
In addition to the specs listed above there are other standout features.
Galaxy S4 Active
This is Samsung’s tough version of the S4 and it is very similar in terms of specs and onboard software and features. The Active has an IP67 rating, so it is dust resistant and waterproof up to one meter for up to 30 minutes. The touchscreen also apparently works, even if you’re wearing gloves. There’s also an Aqua Mode so you can capture underwater shots. The LED flash doubles up as a flash light with a simple long press of the volume key.
Galaxy S4 Zoom
The Zoom is basically like a compact camera phone. It features 10x optical zoom, 16-megapixel CMOS Sensor, OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer), and Xenon Flash. The Zoom Ring feature enables quick photo captures at any given moment and there’s an In-Call Photo Share feature that allows you to capture and send photos by MMS to whoever you are on a call with. Photo Suggest gives you access to a library of photos and advice on where to get the best shots for various locations. There’s also a Smart Mode that takes the guesswork out of your camera settings, so you don’t need to have any real photography skills to take advantage.
Galaxy S4 Mini
The Mini is essentially just a smaller, lighter version of the flagship Galaxy S4. It has all of the same Samsung software pre-loaded, from Group Play to S Health. There will be 4G LTE, 3G HSPA+, and 3G Dual SIM versions of the Mini for different markets. The LTE version of the Mini should have 2GB RAM, compared to 1.5GB for the HSPA+ version.
Carrier variations for the S4
The differences between the S4 versions on the various U.S. carriers are far from earth-shattering. They work on different bands to accommodate the various networks, but they are all the same size and weight, with the same 1.9 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and Android 4.2.2 with TouchWiz. There are 16GB, 32GB or 64GB versions, but most carriers are only stocking the 16GB variant. AT&T offers the 32GB model, and it is apparently on the way to Verizon, but that’s it for now.
According to leaks there will also be developer editions of the S4 available from AT&T and Verizon in the near future. Another rumor from @evleaks claims that there will be a limited-edition S4 available from Verizon with a choice of Kidrobot designs on the back cover and personalized wallpapers.
International S4 variants
There are Chinese, South Korean, and International versions that feature the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa system which combines the 1.6 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 and the 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, instead of the 1.9 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait 300 you’ll find in the U.S. versions.
Google Edition S4
For $650, you can buy the stock Android, Google Edition S4, which is completely identical to the standard version except that it doesn’t have the TouchWiz overlay or any of Samsung’s laundry list of apps. Here’s a full Samsung S4 vs Google S4 comparison.
LTE Advanced S4 on the way
As for the LTE Advanced version of the S4, it will be released in South Korea first. The U.S. carriers don’t currently have the network to support it. There are plans to start rolling out LTE Advanced service, which should provide at least double current LTE download speeds, but it will take time. There’s no word on which carrier will get the LTE-A S4 first as yet.
All the colors of the rainbow
At the moment you can choose between White Frost and Black Mist, but new colors are fast approaching. Samsung is planning to add Brown Autumn, Blue Arctic, Red Aurora, and Purple Mirage. They might be exclusive to specific carriers, we’re not sure yet.
More S4s look likely
The Galaxy S4 passed 10 million sales in its first month, and, despite rumors about S4 sales slowing down, the company remains bullish about its prospects. Will all these S4 variants boost its popularity or muddy the waters? We’re not sure, but one thing we are sure of is that we probably haven’t seen the full extent of Samsung’s S4 spin-off plans.