The two biggest Android smartphones of the year have both gotten off to rocky starts in the United States. The first, the HTC One, saw its launch delayed from March until April, finally arriving on shelves a few days ago. The other, the Samsung Galaxy S4, is still in the midst of a crazy, confusing launch that is full of mysteries and delays. Here is how it all breaks down.
First, let’s set the scene. After months and months of rumors regarding features, release dates, carriers and more, Samsung finally unveiled the long awaited Samsung Galaxy S4 on stage at the Radio City Music Hall, a venue that seats thousands, in New York City. Right off the bat, Samsung introduced the new device and couldn’t wait to tell the world about the hundreds of global operators that would be getting the smartphone. Of course, in terms of release date, it only said that the device would be coming at the end of April.
At the time, consumers were elated and even more so after carriers in the U.S. confirmed the device straightaway. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon couldn’t wait to confirm their plans to carry the device and did so shortly after the lights went down at the event.
A few weeks later, some more good news. Carriers in the United States started issuing information in regards to their Galaxy S4 releases. First, it was T-Mobile confirming a May 1st release date, a date that came far earlier than anyone expected. Next, it was AT&T and U.S. Cellular confirming pre-orders for their Galaxy S4 models. Next, it was Sprint’s turn.
All was right in the land of the Samsung Galaxy S4 U.S. release, or so it seemed. Of course, consumers now know the reality of the situation, that what appeared to be a seamless Android smartphone launch in the U.S. was, in fact, no different than many of the other confusing, delayed, and frustrating Android smartphones launches of old.
Even now, days away from the Galaxy S4 release in the U.S., consumers are as confused as they ever have been. In an effort to make sense of things, here now is a run down of what we know so far about each Samsung Galaxy S4 U.S. release, a release that has been slowed, apparently, by the phone’s own popularity.
AT&T Galaxy S4
What was once the most confusing Samsung Galaxy S4 release on the planet is actually now the most stable as AT&T has become the first carrier in the United States to start shipping the Galaxy S4.
AT&T’s Galaxy S4 is set for arrival on April 25th, for at least some of those who pre-ordered the device. Those that pre-ordered late, may not see their device ship out until April 30th. Of course, the carrier will also have its device in stores on Saturday, April 27th, at which point it will become the first U.S. carrier to have it available in stores.
That is, if AT&T is able to keep its word. We’ve see several other launches delayed by inventory shortages and it’s possible that AT&T could miss April 27th. More likely, the carrier will have thin stock ready at its retail stores across the country with a sell out, at least in some areas, likely.
What’s still unclear is when the carrier will make the 32GB Galaxy S4 available, a device that it confirmed several weeks ago for $250 on-contract. Thus far, the device has failed to emerge in a pre-order and the carrier refused comment when we inquired about its whereabouts on the day it announced in-store availability. We expect AT&T to honor its word, but there is no telling when it might do so.
Sprint Galaxy S4
Just a few short days ago, Sprint was one of the most stable Galaxy S4 launches in the United States with a seemingly concrete release date. However, as the release date inched closer, its sold out pre-order was unfortunately a foreshadow of the problems to come.
Today, Sprint alerted the world to its Galaxy S4 inventory issues, issues that have forced the carrier to push back the in-store release date for the Galaxy S4 from April 27th to a now unspecified release date. Online sales will go on as planned on April 27th but those looking to buy a Sprint Galaxy S4 in a retail location, will unfortunately be without that option for the time being.
Sprint will still be selling the 16GB Galaxy S4 for $250 on-contract and we aren’t sure how long the discount for new lines, which drops the price down to $199.99, will last. We imagine that it could last for the duration of the Galaxy S4’s existence in Sprint but thus far, that remains unconfirmed.
So, instead of a well-oiled launch, Sprint will now be releasing an expensive, 16GB model into the wild without an official in-store release date, not exactly the most optimal launch. We still aren’t sure about a 32GB arrival.
T-Mobile Galaxy S4
T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an official release date of May 1st and we assumed that it could be one of the first to release the device. That seemed to ring even more true when the carrier announced the Galaxy S4 would be available online on April 24th ahead of its in-store release date of May 1st. However, like Sprint, it was all too good to be true.
Late last night, when many consumers were asleep or not paying attention, T-Mobile pulled a fast one and delayed the release of the Galaxy S4 from April 24th to April 29th. That date is much later than many expected and without a pre-order, it will likely be a free-for-all once the device goes up for sale on that day.
T-Mobile seems to still think that the device will make it into stores on May 1st which means that those who don’t want to deal with online sales, can wait and take a chance on a retail location.
T-Mobile has not confirmed a 32GB Galaxy S4 for launch so it’s unclear if the Magenta carrier will ever offer one.
U.S. Cellular Galaxy S4
Like AT&T, the U.S. Cellular Galaxy S4 release was full of confusion with those that pre-ordered blindly ordering their device due to the fact that the carrier hadn’t released any official release details. Today, U.S. Cellular got onto the good side of consumers, like AT&T, by announcing all of the Galaxy S4 release date details.
U.S. Cellular will be putting the Galaxy S4 up for order, online, on April 26th. This is actually sooner than every other carrier out there. It will then release the device in-stores on April 30th, a few days later.
This means that consumers interested in U.S. Cellular’s device only have a little time left to get a pre-order in and take advantage of the carrier’s free S View Flip Cover.
Like the other carriers, U.S. Cellular has yet to announce a 32GB Galaxy S4 which means that for now, the 16GB variant is all that consumers will be able to buy.
Verizon Galaxy S4
The oddest Samsung Galaxy S4 launch goes to Verizon which finally confirmed all of its official details today after some initial confusion.
Prior to today, specific details in regards to the Verizon Galaxy S4 release date were unknown. All we knew was that some premium Verizon retailers were taking expensive pre-orders for an arrival in May and that Best Buy was taking pre-orders for an unknown release date.
Finally, more than a month after announcing it, Verizon spilled the details saying that it will be taking pre-orders tomorrow and that it will be releasing the Galaxy S4 in stores on May 30th. So far, Verizon has only confirmed the Galaxy S4 16GB for $250 which will be discounted with a $50 mail-in rebate.
We still aren’t sure when pre-orders will start shipping out but there is a possibility that they could come before May 30th, as evidenced by the other releases.
There are a host of other smaller carriers that are set to carry the Galaxy S4 but thus far, none of them have announced any specific details in regards to the Galaxy S4 release. Ting, Cricket and C Spire have only given out vague information and we don’t expect to hear much out of them until the bigger carriers get squared away.
Moral of the Story
The moral of the story, clearly, is that big name smartphone launches in the United States cannot get off without a hitch, Android phones worse than others. Apple’s iPhone is typically sold out after it goes up for pre-order, which can be frustrating to say the least, but the iPhone typically meets its official release date.
In the world of Android though, concrete release dates and reliable information are hard to come by and even with the progress that companies like HTC and Samsung have made. U.S. announcements, proclamations at launch events, confirmations from carriers, none of that seems to matter once we get closer to the actual release.
So while the Samsung Galaxy S4 U.S. launch mess might be puzzling to many consumers, those who have been around long enough know that this is simply par for the course and likely will be for the foreseeable future.