S4 Launch at Water’s Edge

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So here we are at Water’s Edge, taking photos of an S4 with an S3.

What are we doing here? It’s the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch. The ballroom is packed with the usual accoutrements of any launch – a huge backdrop/screen, lots of models, and a whole host of well-dressed people. This time around, the lighting is blue and random packs of reporters are roaming around with their high-powered cameras, blinding people with camera flashes.

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A countdown. We’ve already spent some time with the S4, and the geeks among us know the phone by heart, so the huge HD reveal trailer doesn’t cause much eye-popping. If this had been played before Etisalat’s Samsung S4 appeared in Sri Lanka… but I digress: Joanna Adams, the host, takes the stage and welcomes the audience, also pointing out the presence of the Korean Ambassador. She goes onto to mention that not one, but three phones will be revealed today: the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Note 8, and the Galaxy Grand.

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Two of these three devices, we’ve seen before. While H.K. Chang, the head of Samsung Sri Lanka, takes the stage, let’s cast our minds back to the Samsung Galaxy Grand reveal at Majestic City some time back. It was mid-range smartphone which, a year ago, would have been top-of-the-line. Mr Chang starts off by pointing out how far Samsung has advanced as a company in just a couple of years – “A few years ago, we were not even on the top charts,” he points out modestly. Well, they have their phones to thank for that.

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His speech was half presentation, half a round of thanks for everyone who participated in pushing Samsung in the country. For the most part, that’s John Keels. Sanjeewa Fernando, head of John Keels IT and Plantations, acknowledges this when he takes the stage next. Both these speeches, unlike most given at official functions, were genuinely good, but for the sake of word limits, we’ll have to skip lengthy descriptions.

 

The reveal

Rather than entirely duplicating the international launch, around which this event seems to be models, Samsung went for something slightly more Sri Lankanized. Once the official, pulsing, rather abstract trailer splashed over the wide screen, showing off the S4, Note 8 and the Grand in time to epic fanfare, it cut to something else: a Sri Lankan Men-In-Black style dude descending from a chopper at Water’s Edge, making his way down the entrance – it’s been suggested before, but it’s rare to see this done well. And just in time, he makes a very sleek and thoroughly MIB-worthy entrance, no doubt pretending to have carried the phones all the way from Korea. It’s an elaborate show, but pulled off well. So let’s see what we’ve got here:

 
Dimensions: 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm
Weight: 130g
Size: 1080 x 1920 pixels, 5.0 inches
OS: Android OS, v4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset: Exynos 5 Octa 5410
CPU: Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7
Camera: 13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, LED flash
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, gesture
Battery: Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery
 

This information is being dished out to us via a round of Q&A between Joanna Adams and Kalpa A. Perera, Country Manager Mobile for Samsung Electronics Sri Lanka. As we watch, Kalpa shows off two phones – one black, one white, demonstrating the S4’s highlights with a very hands-on approach. The Sound and Shot feature he demoes by calling the live camera over, taking a photo of the host and having her speak so he can play it back while the camera broadcasts.

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He does likewise for the dual shot feature, for Air Touch and Air Gesture, and – the S4’s most interesting feature – the S Translator. A video plays in the background, showing English-speaking tourists talk into their S4s, and having the phones repeat the sentence in a host of other languages. The Air Touch and Air Gesture don’t strike us as particularly useful, but the S Translator certainly does. Have the phone translate your speech into another language, or record something in another language and hear it in yours. If there’s one feature that makes the S4 deserve its “Lifetime companion” branding, it’s probably this. Talk to the phone.

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The showcase, overall, is a very welcome alternative to the much-overdone static presentations that you often see. Samsung goes over every noteworthy feature in the phone. On a final note, another video plays. This time the audio track is the exact same symphony used by the Sri Lankan CSI-esque program “Angili Salakuna” sometime back. It’s slightly funny if you’ve got a Sri Lankan sense of humor.

Lastly come the Note 8 and the Galaxy Grand, respectively. The Grand is a well-balanced midrange smartphone, essentially a dual-sim S2 in an S3 shell. The Note 8 is an 8-inch tab that we’d have liked to see more of: it looks unattractive but seems to do the job pretty well. As for the S4s? While people crowd the displays, snapping pictures, we ninja off, because we’ve seen it before.

Read The Samsung Galaxy S4: First Impressions


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