Is Excitement About the Samsung Galaxy S4 All Hype?

If all the hints and info from CES are to be believed, Samsung is going to release the Galaxy S4 phone in the next couple months. According to the Wall Street Journal, we’re seeing iPhone-like hype about the Galaxy S4. Here’s the question, is the interest we’re reading about true interest or just hype from the tech journalist echo chamber?

First off this isn’t about whether or not Samsung makes great devices. The Galaxy S3 is a great phone. The screen looks awesome and the responsiveness—when I was able to try a friend’s S3—is fantastic. The S3 isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a second class device.

This also isn’t about iOS vs Android. While many folks feel that Apple isn’t innovating enough with iOS and Android is doing all the great stuff, I think Apple is really letting Android be the vanguard in the feature world. The vanguard hits the battle first and take heavy casualties, the folks left standing are the strongest. So, you let Android developers test out new ideas and Apple can see what works and what doesn’t—then refine and improve on the idea.

What I’m really wondering, and I don’t have an answer yet, is whether we’re really seeing well deserved interest in what the S4 will be like or are the WSJ and other publications hopping on an “Apple is old news” bandwagon. An article this week in the WSJ claims iPhone-like hype for the S4, which given the dual quad core processors and full HD screen (rumored) that the S4 is supposed to have, isn’t surprising. However, the WSJ also was first (and possibly mistakenly) to claim reductions in iPhone 5 parts orders were a sign of weakening iPhone 5 demand. Funny thing is, that later in the same week consumer and market data showed no decrease in demand for the iPhone 5. Explanation: better production efficiencies and adjusting for a pre-launch build up. One could draw the conclusion that the WSJ was biased against Apple, which would be ironic considering how much Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD likes Apple products and the rapport Mossberg and Apple have built over the years.

Having been on the inside of the tech blogosphere for almost a decade now, I know how things get. A company is hot and we all cover it. A company is perceived by a few influencers and being on a downslide and we all cover that too. But once and a while someone sticks their neck out and says “Hey, maybe things aren’t as good/bad as we thought…” Sometimes the words fall on deaf ears, sometimes not. What I think we’re seeing right now is that Samsung had some great stuff to show at CES. Samsung is on people’s mind. They have, without a doubt, cool innovations in the pipeline (curved and flexible screens? Heck yeah) that I look forward to seeing in production products.

Apple? Apple doesn’t do CES. Apple is also so secretive that they make the Soviet-era Kremlin look like a bunch of chatty teenagers. So getting something real from Apple we can sink our teeth into for what the next iteration of the iPhone will be like is like smoke through our fingers. So while Apple, by all accounts is still doing very well on the business front, wasn’t just showing off cool tech to tech journalists.

Tech journalists are like toddlers—apologies to my colleagues—we like the new shiny thing that is top of mind. Then we read what the other toddlers in our play group (aka the other sites and feeds we follow) are talking about and we think everyone is talking about it.


The reality is that we too often a circular and insular view of the world (aka echo chamber), that it’s hard to gain true perspective on what is really going on.

So, is the Galaxy S4 going to be an exciting device when it is announced?

Certainly. No doubt in my mind at all.

Is the S4 going to set a standard for other handsets to meet or exceed?

Probably. Not 100% on that, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet. In the Android world for sure, against the current iPhone 5, probably, against the next iPhone, unlikely.

Will the tech press say Apple is doomed when the S4 is announced and that the iPhone is a tired, old device that no one wants?


Will they be saying the exact opposite when the next iPhone comes out?

Probably so again.

Bottom line: until the next generation devices are both out and available to review, it’s too early to count either company out or either company as the winner…yet.

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  • Mr X.

    The s3 is a standard for the next iPhone let alone the s4. ATM I would say the iPhone 5 is on par with the s2

    • Shrivatsa Somany

      Really? I’d be interested to know what your reasons are (to clarify, I’m not trolling here)

      • Mr X.

        Well just to scratch the surface, the s2 has the same camera as the i5, the s2 and the i5 both have similar processors (in regards to cores and GHz), same RAM. In some countries the s2 has LTE, the s2 has a bigger 4.2″ screen compared to a 4″ in the i5, and probably the most important factor the s2 runs a feature packed and extremely customizable OS known as Android. The ONLY factor where the i5 wins is apps, and Android is sure making some great progress threre

        • Shrivatsa Somany

          But you are looking at raw figures. Real figures: The S2 has bad battery life (I own/owned one…android dev. here). The S2’s camera doesnt even begin to touch the quality of the 5, the S2 in regard to cores and GHz doesn’t even scratch 1/2 the speed of the 5. So nominal figures are one thing, real world is way different dont you think?

          • PimpDaddyWiteBoy

            S2’s battery life is just fine. i had one before

  • Pacomacman

    The 8 core processor is no more than marketing hype! My quad core Nexus 7 is nowhere near as fast and responsive as the latest dual core iPad which is why Googles Nexus 10 was reduced to dual core. As a programmer writing processor intensive software I know how difficult it is to utilise all cores at all times. We write software to utilise multiple threads not cores, so it seems its more a difficiency in Android which is not making good use of the extra cores. When Apple finally release a quad core device I’m sure they will do it right, in which case Google ought to be worried. You need a good combination of CPU, GPU and OS to create an iPad / iPhone killer, and so far it hasn’t happened. The S4 and Nexus 10 post some pretty impressive CPU benchmarks, but unless its utilised well by the OS and matched by the GPU it’s all a waste of time.

    Finally I don’t think Android has done as much innovating as Samsung. Looking at the two OS’s from a technical point of view iOS has always been superior as its essentially Mac OS with a Touch interface. Most programmers I know much prefer writing software for iOS and port to Android as a necessity not through choice. Samsung is the major draw for the Android platform. Take Samsung out of the equation and what are you left with?

    • Shrivatsa Somany

      This. I completely agree with you. Yes, in certain places iOS has become very stale…but when it comes to them implementing low-level stuff, they do it right (I’m still a fan of iOS multitasking). At the end of the day, the iPhone 5 is more CONSISTENTLY responsive than any Android device, including the S3.

      As for the Android draw, I don’t fully agree because Samsung too has a habit of shoving in dumb “features” and marketing them. Their strategy works, so you can’t blame the company. Vanilla Android has made a bunch of strides.

      Now when it comes to marketing Android and sales: I completely agree with you.

    • Johnathan

      The Nexus 10 was not reduced to 2 cores because it was more responsive than 4. It is built on the latest ARM a15 chip (only available in dual core at the time). The chips used in the iPad 2 (A5r2) and 4 use 32 nm process while the Tegra 3 uses 40nm. And not sure what difference a quad core Apple chip will make if like you said programmers don’t seem to be making use of more than 2 cores. Apps may not take advantage of all the cores in Android but it certainly does make a difference in how responsiveness the OS is (Browser, launching apps, widgets, scrolling, etc)

    • Anonymous

      I agree with most of your argument, but really a marketing hype? that is the iPhone and every friking apple device, all marketing hypes! and their is nothing wrong with that, but you can’t treat Android like its all hype. Android bases itself on performance and features, whilst Apple works off marketing hype and lifestyle branding.

  • Gray Fox

    Used to own the iphone 4, recently got an S3, never ever going back to iphone. Having said that, I do have an iPad and it is by far the best tablet on the market Interest in 4S? Well, it would be interesting to see what new things it can bring on top of the S3 stuff, but no not really following it closely.

    • Jeremy Taco Patterson

      Perhaps you should compare the iPhone 5 to the Galaxy S3, considering the iPhone 4 is about 1/3 as powerful as the iPhone 5.

      Just so you know, in ALL aspects of performance except battery life, the iPhone SOUNDLY beat the GS3.

      • Mr X.

        Really? the iPhone has better performance, it is like saying Chromebooks boast better performance than Windows or Mac OS X, If it were possible to run iOS on a S3, it would be MUCH faster.

        • Shrivatsa Somany

          It would be much faster, but the point is: it isn’t. Android is a fantastic OS, but it is NOT known for its optimization.

        • Jeremy Taco Patterson

          I quote independent tests for my sources, sir. Not my opinions.

          I’d be more than happy to link you to some articles and test results with IRREFUTIBLE proof of iPhone 5 soundly outperforming the GS3 in both performance and display quality.

          • Shrivatsa Somany

            True, in fact the iPhone 5 has one of the closest screens to the sRGB spec.

          • Jeremy Taco Patterson

            Of course, they never reply when faced with actual factual test results instead of perceived opinions and “fanboyness”.

            I AM an Apple fanboy, I FULLY admit that. However, it is because I truly believe they offer a superior product. Do they have the biggest screen? No. Do I honestly feel like the iPhone needs a similarly sized screen? Absolutely not.

            I tend to think Apple should go ahead and build one to kill all the flack they take for the current iPhone 5 screen “still being smaller”, but a part of my hopes they stick to their guns and stick with a size that is fully useable with one hand.

          • Shrivatsa Somany

            I really hope they stick to their guns. Flack or not. I am a fanboy as well, but I can acknowledge a better product by a competitor when I see one (hell, I’m an Android developer…). Now, as someone who has used the S3 on many occasions, and as someone who has hands that can easily palm a basketball…I find it disturbing that I cant reach the top left/right corner of the screen (depending on which hand I’m using). This size -> perfect. I had the S2, and that too was a great size.

        • PimpDaddyWiteBoy

          dont be such a blind fanboy

  • Tris Hussey

    Good discussion folks. Personally I want to see the S4 be a really great phone. It set the bar higher for everyone.

    • Shrivatsa Somany

      Same here, the only thing I hope they don’t do is push the size of displays again. The de-facto standard is 4.5″ right now, and I reaaaaaaly hope it stays that way.

  • James

    I currently have the iphone 5 64gb and I just listed my phone today on craiglist hoping to sell it or trade it for a samsung galaxy note 2 . My co-worker has one and I got to use it the past two weeks and I decided to switch . The note 2 is more business friendly and with the mult-task/multi-window ,sd card slot, and stylus I was sold . Also my co-worker has his phone rooted and it’s amazing . The iOS has gotten stale it’s to restricted and apple may have more apps on there store but android has more apps that I want that iOS doesn’t offer where is call/sms blocking on the iOS and why can’t I change my theme on a iphone unless I jailbreak. I been waiting on a jailbreak for the iphone 5 and I’m tire of waiting goodbye for now iPhone.

  • Eric

    To all the fanboys out there (I used to be one), just try and use GS3 for few days and i betcha u will never wanna go back to using Iphones again. seriously app store has like what, more than 750000apps? c’mon guys we all know this is just marketing hype and that only like 10% of them r really usefull, others r just crap apps. apple is seriously lacking behind and their iphone5 is way too boring without a jailbreak. anyway im glad samsung is setting the bar higher for everyone and giving apple a serious run for their money.
    just my 2cents!

    • Shrivatsa Somany

      your two cents: Android’s 750,000 apps and maybe 0.1% are worth owning. Lets give credit where due.

  • Fábio Duarte

    That stroke me too!