With the features and release date details of the Samsung Galaxy S4 taking shape, it’s becoming clear that the Galaxy S4 is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the first half of 2013. Not only for rumored 2013 flagship phones like the HTC M7 but for current smartphone including Samsung’s very own Galaxy Note 2 phablet. Both the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy S4 are extremely tantalizing to those looking for a device right now and we want to take another close look at how the two juggernauts compare.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the company’s latest phablet device, is currently one of the most popular Android smartphones in the world. Samsung has sold over five million Galaxy Note 2’s around the world and it’s clear that its phablet, a name derived from its size, is more than just a niche phone. Instead, it’s a viable option for those looking to snag a new smartphone. And it likely will be for much of 2013.
That’s because the device was only just released, at least in the United States, at the end of the year. And because it’s equipped with fairly recent software, high-end hardware and a company that is committed to supporting it in Samsung, the Galaxy Note 2 will certainly be a device worth considering up until the launch of the Galaxy Note 3 which should come at IFA this year.
This means that consumers are likely going to be weighing it against a number of different smartphones both current and upcoming. One of those devices is likely to be the Galaxy S4, the device that Samsung is planning to use as a successor to the Galaxy S3, a smartphone that has sold more than 40 million units across the world.
The Galaxy S3 is Samsung’s flagship and it’s a device that is shaping up to not only be a fantastic release but a Galaxy Note 2 competitor. We’ve already taken a first look at the Galaxy Note 2 versus the Galaxy S4, but since then, the Galaxy S4 has emerged from the shadows with new details regarding its hardware, software, release date and more.
So here now is round two between the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy Note 2.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is out, available to customers around the world right now. In the United States, it has been out since October and November. Like the Galaxy S3 before it, American carriers opted to give it a staggered launch with Verizon leading up the rear with a November 29th release date.
Point is, this device is extremely new, even if it seems like it has been around forever. And that means that it’s going to be a solid option for those looking for a new smartphone for quite a bit of 2013.
As we mentioned, there are already rumors of a 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 3 launching later this year and we imagine that the company will, like it has for the previous Note models, debut the smartphone at IFA 2013 in Berlin. That likely means a fall launch and potentially, a Winter release. So, those who are thinking about skipping the Galaxy Note 2 for the Galaxy Note 3 are likely in for a long wait.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 will likely be out long before the Galaxy Note 3, making it a much more viable option for those in need of a new smartphone, particularly one made by Samsung.
Up until a few days ago, the Galaxy S4 was rumored for a possible launch at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain at the end of February. Now it seems, the device might be touching down at a launch event on March 22nd. That rumor, from a publication in Korea, suggests that Samsung will host its own Unpacked event scheduled for the end of March.
Samsung’s Vice President has himself said that a launch would be coming “soon” but the executive did not hint to any specific month or launch date for the Galaxy S4’s arrival. Soon, as we’ve seen numerous times in the past, could mean a number of things. Still, March is as good of a month as any.
As for a release date, the Galaxy S4 is looking like it may be released in April. We’ve heard that month rumored in the past, and thus far, it’s looking like a plausible date for the Galaxy S4 to hit shelves.
Keep in mind, devices from foreign manufacturers typically hit the U.S. later than other regions and the Galaxy S4 will likely be no different. That said, it could be that the device doesn’t arrive on some carriers until May if it indeed has an April release date.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 is a massive smartphone to say the least. Not surprising considering its large display, a display that has caused many to label it a phablet, a device that is in between a tablet and a smartphone.
The Galaxy Note 2, like the Galaxy S3, is made of polycarbonate plastic, which makes it durable and easy to hold. As we’ve pointed out though, it’s not exactly the easiest phone to hold in one hand due to its size. Those with smaller hands are likely going to have some issues.
It’s design is also extremely similar to that of the Galaxy S3, think of it as a larger Galaxy S3, which employs rounded edges and a home button at the bottom for easier navigation. The Verizon Galaxy Note 2 model has a Verizon-branded home button which is different than any of the others.
For those that are into specifics, the Galaxy Note 2 measures in at 151 x 80.5 x 9.4 mm which is absolutely massive for a smartphone. It also weighs 180 grams, which, unsurprisingly, is hefty. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 5 weighs a measly 112 grams and has a 7.6mm frame. Don’t believe it? Have a look at the image of the Galaxy Note next to the iPhone 5 and iPad mini below.
Those looking for a much smaller experience are likely not going to find it with the Galaxy S4. That’s because the device is said to have a 4.99-inch display. Though, we imagine that Samsung will aim to keep it thin and light, to compete with the iPhone 5. It should also be much easier to use with one hand. Still, the footprint will likely still be there. A mockup of what the Galaxy S4 might look like can be seen below.
This render is likely not the Galaxy S4, but it shows a device that is a bit taller than the Galaxy S3 and more rectangular. Both are certainly possible for the Galaxy S4 in terms of design.
We imagine Samsung will not stray too far from its polycarbonate plastic roots but at this point, it’s anyone’s guess as the device remains firmly in the dark.
Maybe the most unique aspect of the Galaxy Note 2 is its display. The display measures in at a whopping 5.5-inches, much larger than a typical smartphone. Specifically, it features a now aging 1280 x 720 HD resolution with 267 pixels per inch (ppi) which translates into good photos and text. The Note 2’s 16:9 aspect ratio will allow users to view widescreen content without wide black bars.
In fact, the real estate of the screen is so large on the Galaxy Note 2 that it can easily be shared by two people when viewing content such as a video or a television whilst on-the-go. This makes it a worthy travel companion, so much so, that leaving a tablet at home is often an option.
Until a few weeks ago, the display on the Galaxy S4 was vaguely rumored. Now, we have seen some specific details emerge and it’s looking like the phone will sport a large display though smaller than the Galaxy Note 2’s.
At CES 2013, Anandtech unearthed a release pipe line for Samsung’s displays. One display in particular stood out. That display was a 4.99-inch FHD display with 1080p resolution slated for arrival in the first half of 2013. All of that lines up with what previous rumors have suggested. That the Galaxy S4 would have a 4.99-5-inch display with 1080p resolution.
Furthermore, it appears that Samsung may looking to introduce not just a 1080p display, but one that should trump many of the displays we see this year. According to a Digitimes report, Samsung may be working on new pixel layouts for its smaller devices, specifically, hexagon and diamond-shaped pixel layouts that could bump the Galaxy S4′s pixels-per-inch beyond the 440ppi mark.
In other words, the content consumers dream.
Samsung, for whatever reason, decided not to offer a significant camera upgrade in the Galaxy Note 2 from the Galaxy Note. The rear camera is solid, no doubt, but it’s not amazing and is trumped by many of the cameras from 2012.
The company included some great software with its Nature UX but even still, the camera quality leave something to be desired.
The Galaxy S3 also had a good but not great camera and rumors about the Galaxy S4 so far suggest that Samsung could have an upgrade up its sleeve, at least in terms of mega-pixels.
Samsung is rumored to be including a 13MP camera on the Galaxy S4 which, if true, likely means that its sensor will blow the Galaxy Note 2’s away.
Consumers aren’t just concerned about the resolution on the display, or the camera, or the design. There are many other factors that they will have to consider before picking one of these phones up. That said, here are the other specs for the devices.
First, the Galaxy Note 2.
- 5.5-inch Super AMOLED HD display with 1280×720 resolution
- 1.6GHz Quad-core Exynos Processor
- 16GB Storage (microSD Card Slot)
- 8MP Camera/1.9MP Front-Facing
- 3,100mAh Battery (Removable)
- 2GB of RAM
And the rumored specs of the Galaxy S4.
- 4.99-inch/5-inch FHD Display with 1080p Resolution
- Quad-Core Processor
- 13MP Rear Camera
- Wireless Charging
- 2600 mAh Battery
Since these are not only high-end devices but also Samsung devices, we expect them to share some similarities. First off, quad-core processor. The Galaxy Note 2 has one and the Galaxy S4 will almost assuredly have one. Thus far, we’ve seen benchmarks point to Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa processor as a possibility.
At CES 2013, Samsung announced a new processor dubbed the Exynos 5 Octa which has eight cores but only uses four at a time. The processor, according to Samsung, will use 70-percent less power than a typical quad-core Cortex A15 processor including its own Exynos 5 processor.
What this means is that the Galaxy S4 might trump the Galaxy Note 2 in terms of performance while providing amazing battery life for a device of its size. The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have a 2600 mAh battery, much larger than the Galaxy S3’s battery and with a Exynos 5 Octa on board, we could see some stellar battery life.
We imagine that that battery will likely also be removable like the Galaxy Note 2’s.
The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have wireless charging capabilities, though it’s unclear if the technology will be built into the device or if users will have to buy a separate back. We’ve seen built-in charging with devices like the Droid DNA and Nexus 4 so it would be odd to see Samsung not include it in their flagship.
Unlike the Galaxy Note 2, expect at least two size options for the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S3 came in 16GB and 32GB form and we expect something similar with the Galaxy S4. At the very least, expect a microSD card slot.
The Galaxy Note 2 also includes an S-Pen stylus bundled in with the device, something that we don’t expect Samsung to do with the Galaxy S4 even though the possibility has been rumored.
While it doesn’t have Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the latest from Google, the Galaxy Note 2 does come equipped with some great software. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is on board right out of the box. Some flagship devices, including the AT&T HTC One X, are still without their upgrade to Android 4.1 and the fact that it has Jelly Bean on board puts it in a nice place for a swift upgrade to Android 4.2 and eventually, Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.
Our favorite Android 4.1 features can be seen in the video below.
What’s more though is that the Galaxy Note 2 features some unique software courtesy of Samsung itself. The company has bestowed software that takes advantage of the device’s bundled S-Pen stylus. The S-Pen specific apps include an S-Note app for easy note taking and another that allows users to simply use the pen to hover over calendar events and emails to get a preview before opening them.
In addition, Samsung’s Nature UX, the UI that the company lays over Android, brings powerful features to users as well including one called Multi-Window View lets users split the Galaxy Note 2′s display into two parts to run two separate apps at the same time. For instance, users can check email on one side while checking Facebook on the other. A demo of Multi-Window View can be seen in the video below.
The Galaxy S4 on the other hand is rumored to have Android 4.2 Jelly Bean on board and not Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie as previously rumored. Our favorite Android 4.2 Jelly Bean features can be seen below.
In addition, we expect Samsung to include some new software on board the Galaxy S4, maybe in the form of a new version of the Nature UX. Two possible features have emerged through trademark filings including a feature called Eye Scroll which could use the front-facing camera to track eye movement and automatically scroll content and as feature called Eye Pause which could pause movies when the eyes look away.
Neither are confirmed but we imagine Samsung will have some software tricks up its sleeve.
The Galaxy Note 2, like the Galaxy S3, launched on the five largest service providers in the U.S. That list includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. All but T-Mobile offer the device on their 4G LTE networks though T-Mobile will be issuing an update to the Galaxy Note 2 that enables 4G LTE data speeds.
Of course, most Galaxy Note 2 users will not be able to access those speeds right off the bat. T-Mobile is going to be launching its 4G LTE network in Las Vegas sometime this month but it will be awhile before it gets service to many locations. The carrier says it plans to cover 200 million Americans by the end of 2013.
The Galaxy S4 will almost definitely come with 4G LTE speeds attached and we imagine that it will be available on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network right from the get-go.
As for carriers, it would be strange to see Samsung abandon its five carrier approach with the Galaxy S4 so expect the same five U.S. carriers to carry Samsung’s latest flagship.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 is not cheap, at least not through the carriers themselves. The device commands a $299.99 price tag through AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon though the AT&T, Sprint and Verizon models can be found for much cheaper through Amazon.
In fact, the Verizon variant dropped to $199 just a short time ago.
T-Mobile charges way more for its Galaxy Note 2, with a $370 on-contract price the going rate right now. Those prices likely won’t dip until later on this year so those looking to snag a Galaxy Note 2 will need to be prepared to shell out some cash.
No rumors have emerged about the Galaxy S4 pricing, but expect it to be lower than the Galaxy Note 2’s price, probably somewhere around $199.99 on-contract across the board.
Retailers like Amazon will more than likely offer instant discounts off the carrier pricing as well.