Bigger and better
Check out our Best of CES 2013 in Mobile to find full details on the devices that grabbed our attention. The “phablet” space is getting competitive with releases like the 6.1-inch Huawei Ascend Mate, and the market is predictably being flooded with new tablets, but there’s a lack of innovation in the smartphone segment. Sony’s new flagship, the Xperia Z, is a good example. It has a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core processor, and a 13-megapixel camera, just like the newly announced ZTE Grand S and the Huawei Ascend D2.
The Xperia Z definitely compares favorably with the Android leaders right now, but it doesn’t offer much beyond the HTC Droid DNA, which came out last November. A bigger camera and an impressive level of water resistance don’t qualify as big innovations.
We don’t have details on carriers or pricing yet, but the Xperia Z is a premium product and will no doubt have a price tag to match. The ZTE Grand S and Huawei Ascend D2 are launching in China and we don’t yet know when, or if, they’ll reach the states.
The truth is that none of the smartphones announced at CES 2013 should you have you running to the stores or phoning your carrier for an upgrade. When you factor in pricing, you could build a pretty strong case for the Pantech Discover being the most noteworthy release – it’s $50 on a two-year contract at AT&T and it has a 4.8-inch 720p display, a decent 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and a 12.6-megapixel camera. A variant called the Pantech Perception will also be available on Verizon.
You’ll be sorry if you don’t wait
If you’re looking for something slightly better than the Galaxy S3 then there are definitely some options out there, but what will Samsung bring to the table with the Galaxy S4? Until we see what Samsung’s new iteration has to offer, it would be jumping the gun to upgrade your smartphone.
The brand that Samsung has built with the Galaxy S series is impressive. The Galaxy S2 really upped the ante for Android and the Galaxy S3 took it to a whole new level. The Galaxy S3 has surpassed 30 million unit sales worldwide, making it Samsung’s most successful smartphone ever. It was the number one, best-selling smartphone in the third quarter of 2012, beating the iPhone into second place. It won a number of “phone of the year” awards and it is still going strong.
The S3 set the standard for Android smartphones and other manufacturers struggled to match it in the weeks and months following its May 2012 release.
The weight of expectation
Levels of expectation for the Galaxy S brand are sky high. We are starting to see the same kind of excited anticipation and the same explosion of rumors that traditionally precedes a new iPhone launch. That’s because Samsung has consistently kicked it up a gear. The specs for the S2 and S3 were streets ahead of the competition at the time of release. Only HTC came close to keeping up but poor marketing put paid to any chance of competing.
Samsung knows what is expected of it. The S4 has to blow the competition away. If it can’t do so in terms of raw power then there has to be a new innovation. The company is gargantuan with fingers in more pies than you can count and its vast resources allow incredibly fast turnaround times on new developments. We’ve seen teasers of flexible displays and eight core processors from Samsung at CES. It seems doubtful that either is ready to roll out in the Galaxy S4, but you never know.
When will we see it?
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S2 at MWC back in February 2011, but it didn’t hit the market until May of the same year. The Galaxy S3 wasn’t unveiled until May 3rd 2012, but it was rolling out into the marketplace by the end of the same month. There are plenty of rumors about a March or April release, but why would Samsung break with the established cycle? We think a standalone Samsung event in May will be followed by the S4 release later the same month, just like the S3.
With the Galaxy S3 still selling so well and a distinct lack of pressure from rival manufacturers, Samsung can afford to wait a little longer and make sure it produces another standout device. Nothing at CES 2013 will have worried Samsung. MWC next month might be a different story. If something big from HTC or LG grabs the public’s attention then perhaps the S4 will break cover earlier, but we doubt you’ll be able to lay hands on one before the summer.
You might feel that another few months is too long to wait. That will largely depend on what you are rocking right now. If Samsung knocks it out of the ballpark for the third time in a row you’re going to lament that lack of patience – don’t say we didn’t warn you.