Samsung Galaxy S 4 tries to out-Apple Apple, out-Google Google

Packed with software, the S 4 shows that Samsung has moved from speeds and feeds to a capabilities mentality

In a major drive to out-Apple Apple and out-Google Google, Samsung revealed the Samsung S 4 today (though with no pricing) and a bevy of services meant to compete with Google's Android Navigation, Picasa, and Translate, as well as with Apple's Apple TV, iTunes in the iCloud, Siri, and iPhoto.

It also has a few truly unique technologies, including new temperature and humidity sensors. But the most intriguing new capability is its infrared gesture capability, which lets you access some smartphone features without actually touching the screen or when wearing gloves. Called Air Gestures, the capability lets you can scroll, swipe, and do other basic gestures, such as wave your hand to answer a call.

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The much-ballyhooed Samsung S 4's hardware unveiled today is very much like the Galaxy S III, though it's thinner and lighter, of course, and it has a 5-inch screen packed into roughly the same width and height due to a thinner bezel. With its release planned for late April, the Galaxy S 4 will be available worldwide with support for all LTE bandwidths, enabling global roaming.

The S 4 has the usual hardware, such as SD card, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, removable battery, and speakers. And like recent Google devices, it supports inductive charging. But unlike other smartphones, both cameras are rated at 13 megapixels, for 1080p video capture -- from both cameras simultaneously, a unique capability.

Video is a big focus of the S 4: For example, editing tools let you remove interlopers in shots by sampling a sequence of images and removing the interloper from a composite image. (That's not a Samsung invention -- Scalado introduced the technology a year ago -- but is hardly common on smartphones today.) When taking still photos, you can record audio at the same time that is associated to that photo. There's also an automatic story-album capability for organizing images based on location, an enhancement of similar capabilities in various apps and in Apple's iPhoto.

Samsung's Home Sync service lets you store videos in the cloud, then play them to compatible TVs and to your Galaxy S 4, similar to Apple's combo of iTunes in the Cloud and Apple TV. It uses a network drive locally to store your content at home, as well as access content stored in the cloud.

The S 4 also does live translation in several languages, both of spoken words and of text. Google Translate offers such a capability, as do several third-party apps, but the S 4 doesn't require an Internet connection to do the translation. Finally, it also lets you transfer your previous Galaxy's settings and content to the S 4, much as Apple's iTunes has long done for iOS devices.

The pattern is clear: Samsung has aggressively embraced a software strategy, rather than focus on speeds and feeds as most smartphone makers do. Of course, Apple's iPhone strategy has always been about what the smartphone can do, not its specs, and Google's Android has also been increasingly focused on its services and apps over its hardware specs.

This article, "Samsung Galaxy S 4 tries to out-Apple Apple, out-Google Google," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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