galaxy s4-notification

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Under a Microscope: The Software

March 14, 2013 - Written By Brandon Wann

If you’ve read part one of this two-part story, then you’ll know that we have covered the hardware of the new flagship Galaxy S4 unveiled by Samsung.  In the same depth now, we’ll go into the wonderful world of software that drives the internals of this curio.  On top of running Android 4.2.2, many features have been added in to this device; some are new, some are from other phones you know about, yet most are innovated from previous iterations, such as the Galaxy S3.

To recap a bit, we left off talking about the Galaxy S4’s camera, touching very lightly on what it entails.  Now, let’s continue from that:

galaxy s4-camera use

More Camera

Moving from where we left, there are software features that empower the camera:

Suppose that you want to take a picture and be in it at the same time, you can use its sly dual mode; where you can take a photo using the rear camera for your family or friends, and the front camera will also take a picture of you and add it into the same picture, with an assortment of frames you can choose from to encompass your visage.  The dual mode feature also cleverly works with video recording.

Additionally, there’s ChatOn, that app by Samsung that normally gets tucked into the abyss of the app drawer (at least for me.)  This app in particular has been brought into the spotlight here, where you can use dual mode video recording as a video chat feature, and you can add more than one person (up to three, accordingly) to the conversation as well.  This appears to be much akin to the Hangout feature found in Google Plus, but with a different (not better or worse) style.

Last, but definitely not least of the camera features, is Eraser Shot.  In the demonstration, a person took a picture of his on-stage family while people were bombing the shot (walking behind the family while the user took pictures of them.)  This is done by taking multiple photos as the people walked by, and when finished, you can easily tap on the photo bombers and they magically disappear from the picture altogether.  Pretty neat, right?

The (Sort of) Return of Air View

For those of you who ever used the Galaxy Note 2, or the larger Note 10.1 tablet, you should remember Air View.  Air View allowed you to hover your S Pen over items such as in your Gallery, to give a blown up preview of what’s inside a certain album, or to get a better view of the picture; all without having to open it.

It also utilized other features, such as giving brief item descriptions in Samsung-based apps, scrolling any page up or down, and acted as a “mouse” cursor to highlight web links and activate web-specific content.  Now that feature has returned in the Galaxy S4, and uses the newly adopted Temperature Sensor to detect the heat from your finger while hovering over the screen.  It appears that in this case scenario, technology is mightier than the pen.

smart pause

Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, Smart Idea?

On top of patent publications, we’ve heard the rumors float around about the first two features, and the last one still remains unproven.  Being built off the Smart Stay and Smart Rotation concept found in the Galaxy S3, they are unique in a way that allows touchless gestures using your eyes.

Smart Pause works in such a way, that while watching a video and you get distracted, you won’t have to hit the pause button to stop the video.  You can confidently look away to focus on whatever distracts you, and the movie will pause until you look back at it again.

Smart Scroll, as it sounds, notices when your eyes are going to reach the bottom of the page, and scrolls the page up so you can continue reading without even touching the screen.  In contrast, it also works when you look towards the top of the page and it will scroll up.  On a side note, one theoretically should be careful not to roll their eyes while reading an article though, it may confuse the smart feature.

S voice drive

S Voice; More Useful than Before

If you’re like me and own a Galaxy S3, you’ve probably replaced S Voice with Google Now.  Samsung has taken note of that and instead of adding a vocabulary of snarky replies (they already covered that part with the last upgrade,) they integrated it into new features not found previously

S Translate, not to be confused with Google Translate, although it may be easy to do, but it’s a concept where you speak your language to the phone, and it’ll translate into text where a person, who doesn’t speak your language, can understand what you’re trying to say.  They speak back into the phone and it will translate their language into text so you can understand.  Now some of us already know how translating works, the dialects itself may be enough to confuse the true meaning, but it’s better than nothing at all.

S Voice Driving Mode is like a personal assistant, where you can mount your smartphone to your bluetooth enabled car, so you can dictate your messages, answer your phone, and even get driving directions just by speaking the commands.  This is useful especially where laws are strict about cell phone usage while driving.

group play surround sound

Improved Group Play

Without the use of an internet connection, Group Play can share music with up to 8 Galaxy S4 devices, using the S Beam feature founded in the Galaxy S3.  Not only that, but each phone connected to Group Play can act as a 7 channel surround sound system, with each phone being able to be set to either left speaker, right speaker, center, and so on.

Other Software in General

These are some of the software features that don’t require a lot of explanation.  First off, there’s S Health.  We’ve talked about S Health before, so I’ll touch lightly on it here.  It’s a method of keeping track of your activities, such as counting calorie intake, how far you walk in a given period and so on.  All of this is generated into an easy-to-read report that you can review and make changes accordingly.  Story Album is an app where you can print your photos directly from your phone and create different layouts that should come conveniently pre-installed, and the software can pair with various brands of printers out there, and there’s sure to be more added in due time.

So looking at all these features, one may think “Who needs all this?”  Well let’s be honest with ourselves, who really needs a smartphone?  Many of these features may be small individually, but when grouped together in such a package, it really does add up to the end user experience.