It is hard to get excited about an Android smartphone nowadays. There are simply too many similar devices on the market. Slightly faster processor? Slightly larger screen? Yawn. At this point, Android is simply evolution rather than revolution. Hell, Google I/O 2014 was rather boring. While the proposed changes to Android "L" are nice, it is hardly anything to get excited about.
Instead, it seems that true innovation is coming from the manufacturers, rather than Google. There have been many cool additions to Android by Samsung, LG and HTC to name a few. Samsung in particular has enhanced the OS immensely with its tweaks and features. Sadly, many critics have lambasted that manufacturer for cluttering the user experience with too many features. While I understand the "less is more" philosophy, I refuse to fault any company for being too ambitious. For the past couple weeks, I have been testing Samsung's ambitions with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon) and I would like to share that with you.
Webcam porn! Spying! Cell phones! Bitcoin controversy! Just another normal week in the world of tech news! Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox disappeared offline amid concern about missing millions and then filed for bankruptcy. After panic spread through Mac users following the discovery of a serious SSL bug in Mavericks, Apple released an update that plugged the hole -- but it was also discovered that iOS 7 has a keylogging vulnerability. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Office 2013, but anyone using Office 365 will need to force the installation of newer updates in order to reap the benefits.
Security updates are all well and good for operating systems and applications, but it will do little to protect you against the wandering eyes of government agencies. As if everything we have already learned about the activities of the NSA et al, this week's revelations about what the UK's GCHQ has been getting up to is sure to raise ire. Not content with logging emails and web searches, the UK intelligence agency apparently spent a number of years tapping into the webcam chats of millions of Yahoo users. There may be little good news in this revelation, but it was at least slightly amusing to find that the surveillers were rather taken aback by the amount of pornographic content they encountered. It makes ya proud!
Samsung has announced that its first Unpacked event of the year will be held on February 24, in Barcelona, which coincides with the MWC 2014 opening day. The South Korean maker has also hinted at a possible unveiling of "The Next Big Thing". You did not see this one coming, did you?
Samsung has previously used the term The Next Big Thing prior to taking the wraps off new versions of its popular high-end smartphones, like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, and the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, all of which were also announced at the Unpacked events it held last year.
If you thought the Galaxy S4 lineup could not grow any bigger you would be wrong. South Korean manufacturer Samsung announced, on Wednesday, the fourth member in its upscale smartphone family -- the Galaxy S4 zoom. The handset differentiates itself from the pack by offering a whopping 16 MP back-facing camera with 10x optical zoom. Yes, it's rather large and heavy because of it.
"As communication continues to become increasingly visual in nature, people wish to capture and share their moments in the highest quality possible, but often do not have the space or inclination to carry a dedicated camera for this purpose", says Samsung CEO JK Shin. "The Galaxy S4 zoom changes this forever, combining the industry leading functionality and connectivity of the Galaxy S4 with the high quality photographic experience you’d expect from a compact camera. The result is truly the best of both worlds, without compromise". Surely, the "without compromise" part sounds too good to be true.
Following the Galaxy S4 Mini, on Wednesday, South Korean manufacturer Samsung introduced a new smartphone in its high-end Android lineup. Called the Galaxy S4 Active, the handset sports similar hardware specifications to the company's current green droid flagship -- the Galaxy S4 -- but in a more rugged packaging.
"The Galaxy S4 Active is the newest addition to the Galaxy series and is purposefully designed for active users who love the outdoors", says Samsung CEO JK Shin. "Samsung has taken the innovative features of the Galaxy S4 and added breakthrough protective design elements to create a device that thrives in an active environment and is built for a lifestyle of travel and exploration".
On Thursday, South Korean manufacturer Samsung announced a new smartphone part of its upscale Android lineup, called Galaxy S4 Mini. The handset is marketed as a smaller variant of the company's current green droid flagship, the Galaxy S4, but don't expect any of the latter's bells and whistles.
The Galaxy S4 Mini is shorter, narrower, thinner and lighter than its predecessor, the modest Galaxy S III Mini. However, it can easily be compared to the Galaxy S II (the company's older Android flagship) rather than newer halo devices when it comes to hardware specifications. It's a sheep in wolf's clothing and not the other way around.
On Thursday, little under a month after the smartphone's global launch, the Galaxy S4 finally arrives at US mobile operator Verizon. The handset is available now at big red for $199.99, alongside a two-year contract, in either Black Mist or White Frost.
Today, rival mobile operator AT&T revealed that the Aurora Red Galaxy S4 comes exclusively through its online and brick and mortar stores (pre-orders start tomorrow). Tough luck for Verizon customers looking to grab the smartphone in the red trim, which is a tad ironic considering the carrier's logo (yes, it's red).
There was never any doubt that the Galaxy S4 was going to be a huge hit. When my colleague Joe Wilcox asked BetaNews readers if they were likely to buy the new flagship phone, a whopping 70 percent said you were definitely considering it.
A month after the phone went on sale -- it launched globally on April 27 -- Samsung has taken the unusual step of actually reporting sales numbers, something it hasn’t done in years. According to the South Korean tech manufacturer, the device has shifted 10 million units and is selling at an estimated four units every second, making it the fastest selling smartphone in Samsung’s history.
Today, another Galaxy S4 variant goes on sale at AT&T -- 32GB and yours for $249.99 with two-year contract. Buyers looking for commitment-freedom pay $669.99. The S4 joins HTC One as hottest smartphone of the season. Both pack gorgeous 1080p displays. The One is my choice for design; other benefits include booming front-facing speakers and low-light photography. Samsung packs in larger screen and loads more software capabilities.
For the US carrier selling more iPhones than any other, AT&T makes Galaxy S4 quite the priority, jumping ahead of competitors selling the 16GB model and carrying its larger-capacity cousin. Preorders started April 16, with the 16GB phone in stores two weeks later.
How many memorable video ads about phones have you seen so far? Off the top of my head I can only think of just two recent ones, both released by Microsoft. The first one is from late-October, last year, and features Steve Ballmer discussing his HTC Windows Phone 8X and the second, unveiled little over a week ago, stars the Lumia 920 in an Android vs iOS fanboy war at a wedding.
Both videos are memorable in the sense that they allow us, the viewers, to actually relate to the folks presented in the two scenarios. We are users of different social networks, send and receive emails and messages each day, have friends who are Android or iOS fanboys and so on. Now, by contrast, Nokia's new Lumia 928 video ad is one of the weakest attempts at wooing viewers. It lacks any sort of panache or wit.
Little over a month ago, AT&T announced that on a two-year contract the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 32GB storage trim will be available for $249.99. In the meantime the 16GB version hit the mobile operator's stores for $50 less, but even today the 32GB Galaxy S4 is still nowhere to be seen.
On its Twitter account, AT&T sheds some light on the matter and reveals that the 32GB Galaxy S4 is available starting this Friday, May 10. In just a couple of days prospective customers will be able to purchase the smartphone for $249.99 alongside a two-year contract and qualifying plans.
After a year-and-a-half on an iPhone 4S, I'm now on the current cutting-edge of smartphonery: Samsung Galaxy S4. I've used the phone for almost 3 days now. It's good. I'm excited. Are there any ball games on tonight?
Where was I? Oh yeah, the phone. I'm so excited that I could...do something that excited people do. Honestly, it's a phone. It's a very nice phone with some great features, a great physical design and a lot of bling features that I'll probably never use. I can believe it's the best of the Android phones, but I haven't tested all the others.
If you want to buy a Galaxy S4 and are a clumsy person then you might want to invest in an aftermarket case (or rethink your decision). According to SquareTrade, a company that provides protection plans, Samsung's latest Android flagship smartphone is easy to break, more so than the Galaxy S3 and the Apple iPhone 5.
SquareTrade pits the three smartphones against each other in eight key areas including front panel protection, grip, water resistance and drops. The Galaxy S4 scored badly in the slide and drop tests, grip-ability and size, giving it the highest breakability mark of seven out of 10 (lowest scores are best).
Samsung unifies its PC line under the ATIV brand, rolls out two new Book models and SideSync software
Samsung has announced it will be expanding its ATIV brand name to cover all of its Windows PCs, not just its convertible PC devices. The aim is to create a single cohesive brand for all its Windows 8 products, in a similar way to how the Galaxy brand unifies all of its Android smartphones.
In addition to the rebranding, Samsung has rolled out two new ATIV Book models -- the ATIV Book 5 and ATIV Book 6.
Last week I asked if you would buy Samsung's newest smartphone, which goes on sale later this month. With a large enough sample size -- 1,700 responses so far -- time is come to share the results. Seventy percent say they will buy Galaxy S4, although not all immediately. Just 20 percent answer flat-out "No".
I should qualify the headline: "You likely will buy Samsung Galaxy S4, if you're not American". Over here, more people are bugaboo about iPhone. Apple had 38.9 percent smartphone subscriber share in February compared to 21.3 percent for its South Korean rival, according to comScore. Elsewhere, Samsung rules, selling more general handsets and smartphones than any other manufacturer, according to Gartner. (Woe to damn provincial Americans!)