Samsung Galaxy S IV, or Galaxy S4 as Samsung has been calling it so far, was officially unveiled Thursday at an event accompanied by a live orchestra while an audience of thousands watched the theatrics unfold on a four-level stage.
The Galaxy S4, which crams a 5-inch screen into body slightly smaller than the S III's, will go sale starting April. Samsung didn't say what the phone will cost, but it can be expected to start at $200 with a two-year contract in the U.S. That's comparable to the iPhone 5.
JK Shin, the executive in charge of Samsung's mobile communications division, promised the money would be well spent for a "life companion" that will "improve the way most people live every day."
That bold promise set the tone for the kind of flashy presentation associated with the showmanship of Apple, the company that Samsung has been trying to upstage. Apple contends Samsung has been trying to do it by stealing its ideas - an allegation has triggered bitter courtroom battles around the world.
One way Samsung and other makers of Android phone have been one-upping Apple is by increasing the screen size. Every successive generation of the Galaxy line has been bigger than the one before. The S III sported a screen that measures 4.8 inches on the diagonal, already substantially larger than the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen. The S4's screen is 56 percent larger than the iPhone's.
Apart from the larger screen and upgraded processor, the S4 has a battery that's 20 percent larger than that of the S III. Samsung didn't say if that translates into a longer battery life - the added capacity might be gobbled up by the bigger screen or other internal changes.
The S4 comes with a built-in infra-red diode, so it can control an entertainment center as a universal remote. This is a feature that has showed up in Android tablets before.
The S4 comes with several new technologies intended to help users interact with the phone. For instance, the screen now senses fingers hovering just above the screen, and some applications react. The Mail application shows the first few lines of an email when a finger hovers above it in the list, and the Gallery application shows an expanded thumbnail.
Users can control some other applications by making gestures in the air above the phone. In the browser, you can command the screen to scroll up by swiping from top to bottom a few inches from the phone.
The Camera application can now use both the front and rear cameras simultaneously, inserting a small picture of the user even as he's capturing the scene in front of him.
When several S4s are in close proximity, they can link up to play the same music, simultaneously - perfect for headphone dance parties.
The Galaxy S4 also will include a tool that enables users to create a dividing line so part of the phone is devoted exclusively to work while the other part is filled with personal information and photos. The feature is similar to a function on the latest BlackBerry - an indication that Samsung is going after other smartphone makers besides Apple with its latest model.
Let's take a look at how Samsung Galaxy S4's specifications compare to Apple's iPhone 5 and the rest of its competition.
Galaxy S IV launch in picturesWith inputs from AP