The Samsung Galaxy S 4 Is Just as ‘Boring’ as the iPhone 5

Although Apple's detractors like to say the company isn't innovating anymore, it's hard to see how Samsung is much different.

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Samsung

Samsung‘s big reveal of the Galaxy S 4 on Thursday night was an event with virtually no surprises, unless you count the arguably sexist skits and other bizarre spectacles on stage.

Compared to the rumors leading up to the show, the real Galaxy S 4 isn’t much different. It looks almost identical to its predecessor, but with a bigger display in nearly the same chassis, a faster processor, a better camera and a handful of new software tricks. It’s an incremental improvement to what is already one of the most popular phones in the world. It will, without a doubt, sell in great quantities.

Does any of this sound familiar?

You may recall that last fall, Apple released a smartphone that the rumor mill thoroughly documented ahead of time. It looked similar to its predecessor, but with a larger display, and it had a faster processor, a better camera and a handful of new software tricks. It was not a revolutionary new device, but an evolution for the most popular (and profitable) phone in the world. It sold, and continues to sell, in great quantities.

I’m talking, of course, about the iPhone 5, a phone that some pundits quickly dismissed as “boring.” Dan Lyons proclaimed that iPhone launches aren’t exciting anymore. Wired‘s Mat Honan wrote that the iPhone 5 is amazing but also a snooze. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jessica Vascellaro stopped just short of declaring her boredom. The Telegraph‘s Mic Wright lamented the iPhone 5′s success over seemingly more exciting rivals. Phonedog’s Anna Scantlin tried to make a list of exciting things about the iPhone 5, but failed to come up with anything.

Even if Samsung’s reveal doesn’t elicit the same reaction, the Galaxy S 4 is just as dull of an upgrade as the iPhone 5 was, by all the same metrics. Although Apple’s detractors like to say the company isn’t innovating anymore, it’s hard to see how Samsung is much different.

My point isn’t that the tech press treats Apple unfairly, or that Samsung’s getting a pass for following the same pattern as its rival. Plenty of ink’s been spilled about that already, and you could go in circles arguing whether the press loves or hates Apple. It really goes both ways sometimes.

Rather, the launch of the Galaxy S 4 reaffirms that boring is reality now. Over the last year or so, phones have hit a hardware plateau. Screens are now as pixel-rich as they can perceptibly be, and they can’t really get bigger without turning into tablets. The latest processors no longer provide a tangible benefit over the previous generation. Data speeds will be stagnant until wireless carriers build even faster networks.

Granted, you can find more exciting phones. The general consensus is that HTC’s One is snazzier than the S 4, with an all-aluminum chassis and an “UltraPixel” camera that excels at image stabilization and low-light photography. Compared to the S 4, we’ve certainly seen more interesting hardware designs in LG’s Nexus 4 and Nokia’s colorful Lumia 920.

But boring has its benefits. As Samsung’s Y.H. Lee told CNet last week, the use of plastic allows the company to ship at high volumes, and meet what will surely be huge demand for its latest handset. It also brings other advantages, such as lightness and durability.

Meanwhile, HTC is having troubling shipping the One, and has pushed the launch back to April in some markets. LG and Google have struggled to meet demand for the Nexus 4. As for the Lumia 920, most people just aren’t interested in taking a chance on Windows Phone. The Galaxy S 4 may not be the sleekest phone on the market, but it’s a familiar experience from a trusted brand. And when it’s time to go phone shopping, you’ll actually be able to buy one.

Significant improvements in smartphone hardware are coming, including flexible displays (which are thinner and more durable), greater power efficiency and drastically better cameras, but they’re not ready for primetime yet. And by the time they get here, it’s unclear whether the market will treat these advances as revolutionary. People will gobble up smartphones in droves as long as they work well, are readily available and are affordable.

And that’s pretty much where we’re at today with the boring, predictable Galaxy S 4. There’s no better example of the smartphone’s metamorphosis from work of technological magic to just another object — except, of course, for the iPhone.

11 comments
RobertLyon
RobertLyon

IOS is boring because Apple dictates form and feature. While all manufacturers take this approach to a degree, there is at least choice out there with Android. I do agree that there is a certain plateau being reached, however at least some companies try to give the consumer all the latest and greatest, rather than making excuses as to why it can't be included. I use my 4.7" nexus 4 one handed fine and I paid with NFC an hour ago.

wizardgggg
wizardgggg

I think many complain about the size being too big. 

in terms of size....

I think GS4 will sell as good as GS3 since the device got thiner and lighter 

PLUS  screen is bigger WITHOUT making the device body bigger.

MohsinKhan
MohsinKhan

The S4 had some major differences from the S3 when you compare it to the  S4 and the 5. The S4 now has a full 1080p resolution which puts its 440 ppi way above Apple's retina display. Also, the S4 comes with an Exynos 1.6 Ghz Octa-core processor with 2 GB of ram. This doubles if not triples the power of the S3. Apple merely changed out the processor from the S4 to the S5 with barely any significant difference.


The biggest thing is going to be the OS. 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Which is a far superior OS compared to iOS 6. Also Key Lime Pie 5.0 is set to hit sometime this early summer. What makes these android phones superior to apple's is not just that they can compete on the same level of hardware; but they can outperform and out-feature most of what iOS offers.

luscusrex
luscusrex

Since most of us giving our opinion, and reading others opinion are more that just "simple users", I still heavily consider 2 things above anything else before purchasing a new phone:

 1- Are they going to upgrade the OS on a timely fashion, or what I buy is what I pretty much get for 2 years. I have read comment after angry comment from not just Samsung phones but Moto, HTC, LG  whose comments are  A- Completely disregarded the pleas for upgrades like Verizon, Motorola, Samsung and in some cases lied about upgrade arrivals , or B- Blow the owners of because they are counting on us to get a new phone every 2 years.

2- What kind of warranty the phone co. has. Now if you are unlucky enough to own a Samsung (like me) and the phone breaks down, be prepared to be without a phone for 10+ days (They say 5 to 7 working days to diagnose your  problem and get back to you if the phone trouble is  warrantied!! plus 1 to 2 days of Shipping each way). Unacceptable for a company that knows that x% will be lemons.

I currently have a Nexus (Samsung) love the new OS and I'm about to purchase a new phone, and can't decide should I get an XTC one and live with that OS, or wait for the Nexus 5?

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

As soon as I can take my phone snorkeling, then we can talk about whether there's been enough innovation.


Tino
Tino

It literally looks identical to the Note 2 if u ask me, the only difference is the size. I would rather have a Note 2 having seen it in action, it has the benefit of being big enough to use as a tablet and i think that sets it apart from the rest!

AllritchTessono
AllritchTessono

There’s no better example of the smartphone’s metamorphosis from work of technological magic to just another object except, of course, for the iPhone. Excuse me but the GS3 and GN2 are gaining momentum in that area. The only thing I feel Samsung needs to do is to make their mobile device feel more business like. Those Unicorn Apocalypse commercial ain't cutting it.



Rhettimus
Rhettimus

What are you talking about "The latest processors no longer provide a tangible benefit over the previous generation" Battery life and overall speed are intangible? Clearly your expertise is lacking.



newmanjb
newmanjb

@Tino That's my feeling as well. If it's going to be too big to use comfortably with one hand, it might as well be big enough to double as a small tablet. I liked the Note 2 but I'm not eligible for an upgrade, so at this point I'm just going to stick it out for the Note 3 or something similar with a 1080p display.

newmanjb
newmanjb

@Rhettimus It's hard to tell in my view. Most reviews of the One are saying that the battery life is just okay, even though it's using the same new Qualcomm chip as the GS4.  As for speed, I thought the One X was pretty zippy. I think it's going to be hard for most people to tell the difference, especially compared to the jump between sub-1 GHz and 1 GHz chips from a few years ago, or the jump from single-core to dual-core chips with twice the RAM. I've tested a lot of phones over the last couple years, so I'd disagree with your view that my expertise is lacking. I just think we're in the thick of diminishing returns when it comes to this stuff.