Samsung Introduces Galaxy S4 With Nary A Mention Of Android Or Google

Galaxy S4At a Broadway-style premiere this evening at New York’s Radio City Musical Hall, Samsung unveiled its heavily anticipated Galaxy S4 handset. The event had the hype and production values of an Apple product launch. But, what barely seemed in attendance was any idea that the S4 is an Android phone or contains Google services.

Samsung obviously spent a great deal of money on the show. Parts of it were awkward and many of the scripted jokes fell flat. But, the phone is sure to be a hit.

The new S4 looks very much like the Galaxy S III (I watched the live stream and haven’t held it in my hand) — or perhaps more like the offspring of the Galaxy Note II and the S III. It’s thinner than the S III and has a larger display (5 inches) like the original Galaxy Note.

The Life Companion, No Google Required

Much of the product launch was devoted to showcasing software rather than hardware features. Samsung is positioning the phone as a “life companion.” Perhaps most interesting, Google was never mentioned and Android drew one lesser mention in the context of the phone’s “Knox” enterprise security system.

Different features of the software and user experience were introduced in theatrical vignettes that illustrated a range use cases, such as “dual camera,” which merges images from the front and rear cameras and “group play” that allow multiple Samsung handsets to effectively become a single sound system.

Samsung launch event

The phone will roll out globally at the end of April and will support 3G and 4G/LTE. It’s made out of polycarbonate plastic and will be available in two colors: “black mist” and “white frost.”

S Stands For Swapping Out Google For Samsung

Samsung has developed or upgraded lots of proprietary software to sit on top of the core Android OS, which is now almost totally obscured to end users. In fact, in a few cases, it replaces or buries the Google software features with a Samsung alternative. S Voice and S Translator are two examples.

Even when Samsung discussed navigation this evening, in the context of S Voice Drive, the screen shot also looked like a different UI than the native Google Maps, although I didn’t see enough screens to be sure. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung acquired a navigation company and replaced Google Maps eventually with “S Navigation.”)

Standout software features included: dual camera, group play, multi-user video chat, eye-tracking (which pauses video when you look away), S health, home sync family cloud and air gesture (allowing interactions with the phone without touching the screen).

dual camera

Samsung has become by far the most successful maker of Android handsets. And this new phone is likely to continue and accelerate that trend. It’s clear that Samsung sees tightly integrated software as a way to further differentiate from other Android OEMs (including Google itself). And it’s using certain hardware-software innovations (e.g., air gesture, dual camera) to compete with the iPhone.

It’s unlikely that any of Samsung’s Android competitors, including HTC and Motorola (Google), will be able to match the S 4′s feature set and marketing muscle. (However, Gizmodo has a surprisingly negative review of the handset, calling it a “missed opportunity.”) Samsung is not only outspending other Android OEMs but is also spending more than Apple on handset marketing.

Google is rightfully nervous about Samsung’s growing dominance of the Android handset market. The company may opt to develop a proprietary (“forked”) version of Android, as Amazon has done. Or, it could potentially make increasing demands on Google, which is now both dependent upon and competitive with its South Korean partner.

Be sure to read our related story: Samsung Launches The Galaxy S4.

Related Entries

Related Topics: Apple | Apple: iPhone | Channel: Local | Gadgets | Google: Android | Google: Business Issues | Google: Maps | Google: Mobile | Google: Nexus | Samsung | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Aaron Bird

    Greg,
    Great write-up. What is the story with the processor? I’ve read that they will ship both a quad core as well as the new 8 core ARM15/ARM7 hybrid, “depending on the market”. Any details on that? I’m hoping that US Verizon gets the hybrid processor for the sake of the battery. Overall, it looks like an awesome phone.

  • abigail_rocket_blast

    Maybe I’m alone in this, but I don’t *want* a 5″ screen. It’s just too big for a pocket or purse. I want a fully-featured phone but that’s a suitable size to carry and use on the go. This insistence on ‘bigger is better’ I’m sure is great for some people but not everyone. Can we have more choice, please?

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