Samsung Galaxy S4 displaying the S Translator feature. (Photo: LAPTOP)
When Samsung rolls out a new flagship phone, it packs in a slew of innovative features that make last year’s model look simply outdated. The just-launched Samsung Galaxy S4 is no exception, adding exciting new applications and Android enhancements that let you shoot with both cameras at once, get added info just by hovering your finger over the screen, keep track of your fitness and so much more.
These are the 12 best new features of the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Dual Camera photos and recording
Two cameras are better than one. With the Galaxy S4’s Dual Camera mode, you can capture stills or videos from both the rear-facing, 13-MP camera and the front-facing 2-MP webcam at the same time. Just imagine recording the look on your own face while you watch and record a concert or even the birth of your child!
With the launch of its Optimus G Pro, LG recently added a very similar dual-recording feature, but unlike LG, Samsung lets you reposition and resize the boxes that hold the picture from each camera, allowing you to have a split-screen view or make the front camera have a bigger chunk of the picture. Even better, the Galaxy S4 includes several attractive templates that will change the look of the image, making that picture of your head heart-shaped, oval or blurred.
Smart Scroll/Smart Pause
Scrolling down your favorite Web pages on a touch screen is pretty natural for all of us by now, but it can obstruct your view and potentially cause you to tap a link by accident. And forget about scrolling if you’re using a phone one-handed, unless it’s the Galaxy S4.
The Galaxy S4’s Smart Scroll allows you to move up and down the length of your favorite websites just by staring at the screen and tilting the phone back or forward. The phone also knows when you’ve looked away from the display and, using a feature called Smart Pause, will pause any videos you’ve been playing until you look at it again.
Air gestures/Smart Call Accept
You’re driving in the car with your phone mounted on the dashboard and it rings. What do you do? If you take your hand off the wheel, reach across the dashboard and slide the answer button, you might veer into another lane by the time your mom starts talking on the other end.
Fortunately, with Samsung’s new Smart Call Accept feature you can answer the phone and have it turn on the speakerphone with the wave of a hand. You can control your music player with Smart Gestures, allowing you to wave right past that Taylor Swift song your wife snuck onto your playlist. You can even cycle through open tabs in the Web browser with gestures.
On the pen-enabled Galaxy Note II, users have long been able to get more information about many onscreen items simply by hovering over them with the S Pen stylus. Of course, the Galaxy S4 doesn’t come with an S Pen, but it allows you to get the same Air View functionality by holding your finger above the right area of the screen.
Using Air View, you can get larger blow-ups of thumbnails in the gallery, see preview thumbnails of upcoming scenes when you jog through a video or view the first couple sentences of an email in a pop-up window when you hover over a message in your inbox. You can even see thumbnail previews of the tabs in your Web browser by holding your finger just above the screen. No stylus required.
Ever get an important email that’s at least partly written in Spanish or contains Chinese characters? Samsung’s S Translator will convert emails, SMS messages and ChatON IMs from 9 different languages to English (or your native tongue).
Walking down the street and need to ask directions from someone who doesn’t speak your language? Like Google Translate, S Translator can convert voice input too, allowing you to hold a helpful but awkward conversation where you hold the phone up to your mouth, talk and then play the translation for the other person. LG’s QTranslator is a little more robust as it uses the camera to translate foreign language text in real-time and offline.
Your smartphone is your constant companion, so why not use it as a digital health counselor? Samsung’s new S Health app monitors how much you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned and what you’ve eaten (though you have to enter this manually) When paired with an accessory, you can even measure your heart rate. Better still, special sensors in the phone record the external temperature and humidity level to help you decide how far to push yourself in the heat.
Thanks to its infrared port, the Samsung Galaxy S4 can control your TV, effectively replacing your remote control. With its WatchOn feature, the S4 can do a lot more than just change channels for you.
The Peel-powered app allows you to search for content in Samsung’s Media Hub video store and the current TV schedule at the same time. So if that episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man” with Andre the Giant as Bionic Big Foot isn’t airing for a while, you may be able to buy and download a copy.
If you’ve ever watched one of the Harry Potter movies, you’ll notice that all the still photos in Harry’s World move in a little loop. Online, you can accomplish this kind of looping still image with animated GIFs with the Galaxy S4’s new Cinema Photo feature. Just shoot a picture and highlight the areas of the image you want to move in the final product. So your friend’s face can be still in the foreground while trees sway in the wind in the background of your picture.
Even the best smartphone speakers aren’t loud enough to fill a large room all by themselves. But what if you could have all of your friends’ phones act as speakers and turn themselves into a giant stereo? With the Galaxy S4’s Group Play feature, all you need to do is tap phones and you can stream a song to every other handset in the room.
With the Galaxy S4, you and your buddies can share more than music, photos or videos. You can cooperate or compete in games such as “Asphalt 7” racing or “Gun Brothers” — and those are just two of many titles that will support this feature. We’re holding out for a mobile version of “World of Warcraft.”
It happens every time you’re on vacation. You’re taking a picture of your kids standing in front of a landmarl and some weirdo with a Mickey Mouse hat that has two beer cans strapped to it runs across your field of view. Unless you want a blurry image of this dude to dominate your memories, you’ll appreciate Samsung’s new Eraser Shot feature. With this mode engaged, you’ll be able to zap moving objects from your photos, leaving only the people and things you want to see.
Ever meet an interesting new business contact at an event, grab that person’s card and then lose it before you’ve entered their info your contacts list? With the Galaxy S4’s Photo Reader app, you don’t even have to type that information in. Simply launch the app, take a photo and wait a couple of seconds as the phone uses optical character recognition to read the words on the card and translate them into editable text.
The Photo Reader also integrates with Samsung’s S Translate so, if you’re photographing a piece of paper with a foreign language written on it, you can translate that text accordingly.
You take pictures everywhere you go, but you rarely look at them twice because they’re all in one giant folder. You could sort them into albums based on the time and place you took them, but that’s work. The Galaxy S4’s Story Album feature knows when you’ve been traveling and, if you take a bunch of photos at the same time and location, it will send you a notification suggesting that you create a new album.
After naming your album and picking a cover photo, the Galaxy S4 puts the photos together in an attractive package that’s easy to upload to Facebook. Better still, Samsung’s partnership with Blurb makes it easy to order printed versions of your Story Albums for old-fashioned offline viewing.