The Hills Are Greener: Why Hardware Soon Won’t Matter

The Hills Are Greener: Why Hardware Soon Won’t Matter

Mar 25, 2013

All the talk about the Galaxy S IV seems to be based around everything but the hardware itself: will the new features be of use, was the Samsung’s ghastly presentation actually quite sexist? The hardware seems to be a secondary thing. This is a trend that one can expect to continue going forward, for the simple reason that mobile devices are starting to hit that computing ceiling where additional power isn’t adding a proportionate amount of value.

RAM will increase, and processors can get faster, but the question may be power drain, and just how much a power increase is worth it. Games will make use of better hardware, but as we’re seeing, mobile games in particular don’t necessarily need to push high-resolution graphics at 60 frames per second to do well. Especially those card games that are taking off on the top grossing charts. The advantage may come in making desktop-style apps, but on a phone there may not be a reason to have all that power, and tablets have concerns about their interfaces being good for work best done on a full-fledged PC. There’s still room to grow, but when phones and tablets have 2 GB of RAM in them while laptops ship with 4 GB, the ceiling is being approached.

The screen in particular is starting to reach a point where any higher resolution would be pointless. The human eye likely can’t perceive any advances beyond 1080p on that size of a screen, and given that 1080p is the highest resolution for most consumer video content, there’s little reason to go beyond that. Tablets and laptops have, in the name of making their screens look better, but there may not be much of an advance beyond that. Picture quality could improve, but there’s no guarantee.

So ultimately, it is going to come down to software. This is where Apple has had the advantage in both hardware and software, but Samsung is certainly doing things that Apple isn’t, and the other manufacturers may need to focus on this going forward. Anyone can build a capable device, especially with standardized Tegra processors and the like, but it’s ultimately going to come down to the experience. When RAM and resolutions equal out, who will have the best device to actually use? The next couple of years could be watershed ones for who stays alive in the mobile industry and who flounders because they provide a substandard experience.

Samsung Announces Galaxy S IV

Samsung Announces Galaxy S IV

Mar 15, 2013

Samsung’s back with the brand new Galaxy S IV, their new flagship smartphone, announced at Samsung Unpacked on March 14th. Here’s the important details.

Visually, the phone is quite similar to its predecessor, offering what seems to be a similar plasticky design along with many of the same visual cues that influenced the S3 design. Samsung has been on a major push to make a ‘look’ for their devices as seen especially by the similar-looking Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note 2, and even Galaxy Tab 8.0, all with their curved design and that half-block/half-curve home button.

The requisite screen size increase is here, and interestingly, Samsung has elected to go into the 5″ range with the screen that now boasts a 1080p display. This is pushing into Galaxy Note territory in terms of screen size, could potentially scare away those who like smaller phones, and could cannibalize Galaxy Note 2 sales in part thanks to its higher resolution. Of course, an April rollout, as is planned, would be about half a year after the Galaxy Note II was unveiled, which itself was half a year after the S3 unveiling, so there’s clearly a pattern here. Processor-wise, the international version will have an Exynos 5 while the US will get the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro.

As always, a new Galaxy S phone means new tweaks on top of the Android experience for TouchWiz. New “Smart” features like Smart Pause, where looking away from a video will pause it, are included. The camera, which is now a 13-megapixel shooter, comes with a variety of new features that can do things like erase people walking through the backgrounds of shots by taking multiple simultaneous snaps and then making a composite image with erasable background elements. The OS is miraculously Jelly Bean 4.2.2, which is the current version of Android, though one could bet good money that a new version will be announced at Google I/O in May, so enjoy living on the cutting edge while it lasts.

For gamers, Samsung is introducing a Bluetooth controller compatible with the phone, which will support over 80 Android games and come ‘bundled’ with 8 games itself.

Those who didn’t watch the presentation were spared. It was a painful affair thanks to the overwrought announcers and actors plying up their performance a bit too much. Subtlety was a lost art with the presentation. Someone at Samsung watched Qualcomm’s “Born Mobile” CES presentation and thought that was a good idea.

The Galaxy S IV will be rolling out internationally starting this April, with US support for all 4 major carriers, as well as US Cellular and Cricket.