We’ll be honest – we’re falling over ourselves with excitement here as the Samsung Galaxy S4 unveiling gets ever closer, but we can’t help but fear it’s going to be somewhat of an anticlimax.
The Samsung Express has been charging through the smartphone stations over the past couple of years, but like all great masters of the rails it has to come to a halt at some point, and the launch of the Galaxy S4 may be that tipping point.
“But why now?” we hear you cry. Well, there’s no question that Samsung is going to continue to innovate the technology under the hood of the S4, but there’s the fear that design is getting overlooked which could kill its current dominance.
We’ve seen the Sony Xperia Z and HTC One launched this year, both of which explore new design paths for the firms and see the inclusion of premium materials such as toughened glass and brushed aluminium.
Is plastic still fantastic?
Samsung though looks set to keep the plastic clad chassis which has served it, admittedly well, over the past three iterations of this top-end smartphone, but times are changing and it will increasingly struggle to stand out as a premium handset.
There are a number of people who won’t be phased by the plastic exterior of the handset, and some will argue the Galaxy S4 will actually benefit from this allowing for more flex and thus a higher resistance to bumps and knocks.
However the ‘plastic = cheap’ philosophy still stands in many people’s mind and since the Samsung Galaxy S4 isn’t going to cost less than its premium clad rivals (unless Samsung pulls a highly unlikely Nexus 4 price crash) it’s going to feel a little sub-par in the hand over the Xperia Z, One and even the iPhone 5.
To the average consumer in store that’s going to potentially make the Galaxy S4 a difficult sell as customers want the new smartphone they’re spending a small fortune on to actually feel like it justifies the price.
Samsung managed to dodge this bullet with the Galaxy S2 and Galaxy S3 by overloading the handsets with various specs and features, but the competition is more fierce than ever and it’s going to take more than on-paper gloating to keep hold of the top spot.
History comes a knocking
It may seem pretty unlikely that the huge market share Samsung currently enjoys in the high-end smartphone arena will disappear overnight, but don’t go thinking it’s immune.
Look at the iPhone. Cast your minds back to the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4 and the frenzy which surrounded their launch saw the handsets heralded as game-changing and revolutionary.
Although Apple has banged out hyperbole at every subsequent iPhone launch event there’s no getting away from the fact that the announcement of the iPhone 4S, and more recently the iPhone 5, have been met with a more muted response from the industry and fans alike.
While both are still excellent handsets – garnering 4.5/5 in our in-depth review process – there’s been a noticeable lack of design inspiration and game changing features which left many slightly narked at the Cupertino-firms cheek of releasing more updated rather than brand new handsets.
Bye Bye Moto
Samsung will need to ensure it doesn’t fall into the trap of resting on its laurels and assuming that it’s now in an unassailable position – as the mighty can indeed fall.
The Motorola Razr V3 entered the mobile phone world in 2004 and blew our minds with its futuristic design and impossibly thin 13.9mm body, but then made the same thing again, and again, and again – now Motorola struggles to pique the interest of many when it quietly – almost bashfully – launches a new handset.
Hey guys, we’re Moto, remember us?
We were secretly hoping the Galaxy S4 would see a new design twist from the Korean firm in an attempt to stay ahead of the game, but if the image teased by Samsung itself is anything to go by it looks like things are going to stay as they are.
While the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2 aren’t exactly hideous they didn’t quite capture our imagination in the same way as the Razr V3, iPhone 4 or Galaxy S2 did and we fear when it comes to the fickle world of appearance the Galaxy S4 won’t be able to gain that “it phone” status.
Of course the design isn’t officially confirmed yet and Samsung could still throw in some curve balls.
If the Galaxy S4 does turn out to sport premium materials than this argument gets turned on its head, but from the vast swath of rumours we’ve sifted through that seems highly unlikely.
There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will sell by the bucket load, we just fear it won’t be as many buckets as Samsung is hoping for and 2013 could well be the year it sees its lead dramatically shortened by an ever-improving chasing pack.