The Samsung Galaxy S IV might be the most-hyped non-Apple smartphone yet, judging by the volume of news coverage that ensues from the smallest possible leaks. Here's our review of what we know -- or, at least, what we think we know -- about the highly anticipated Android flagship.
It's important to remember that, while the device's existence is more or less an open secret at this point, Samsung has officially confirmed nothing about the Galaxy S IV.
One thing that most speculation agrees on is that the Galaxy S IV, like several recent high-end Android devices, will use a roughly 5-inch screen with 1080p resolution. However, there's been fairly entertaining speculation about the nature of that screen, covering everything from the possible -- GSMArena says it may be unbreakable -- to highly risible, like the idea that it'll be a bendable display. (Sort of like if this guy made a smartphone.)
Another prototype Samsung flexible display wows the crowd at CES 2013.
OUR TAKE: Samsung's prototype bendable displays have rarely failed to excite speculation, particularly now that there's a highly anticipated smartphone on the way as well. However, it seems far more probable that the company will opt for a traditional display with perhaps some minor wrinkle.
Since CES earlier this month, rumors on this topic have focused on the possibility that Samsung utilize its Exynos 5 Octa SoC -- which was introduced at the show -- in the Galaxy S IV, providing the device with two sets of four-processor cores. Four would be low-power ARM Cortex A7s for improved battery life, and the other four would be powerful but energy-sapping Cortex A15s for high performance work.
Although Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs recently took a public swing at the Octa -- calling it a PR stunt, and saying it's not a "true" eight-core SoC -- the alternating quad-core system could still provide concrete benefits, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see it in the Galaxy S IV.
Prolific Samsung rumor site SamMobile reports that an AnTuTu benchmark shows what could be a result for a Galaxy S IV, with its processor running at 1.8GHz - the Octa's core clock frequency.
OUR TAKE: While it certainly makes sense for Samsung to put its newest and hottest SoC in its newest and hottest phone, it seems strange that they'd make a public announcement of the Octa at one of the tech industry's signature events, but not release the Galaxy S IV. If the Octa is powering the S IV, it would unquestionably be the SoC's flagship deployment, so why not roll them out at the same time?
Still, the way companies plan out their release dates is frequently pretty opaque, so it's tough to second-guess on that basis. That, along with the AnTuTu benchmark, has us leaning in the direction of "yes" on the Octa/Galaxy S IV combination.
The Rest of the Hardware (And Software)
There haven't been many leaks on the less sexy hardware in the Galaxy S IV, but there has been plenty of speculation, most of which gives the device 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (and an SD card slot), a high-end 13MP main camera -- presumably complete with all of Samsung's existing camera goodies -- and a slightly less impressive front camera.
The aforementioned AnTuTu benchmark shows the ostensible Galaxy S IV running Android 4.2.1, which makes sense.
OUR TAKE: Non-SoC hardware in top-shelf Android phones these days pretty much all looks the same. Everything runs with 2GB of RAM, an 8MP to 13MP main camera, a 720p front camera and somewhere between 8GB and 32GB of internal storage. So while it would be nice to see the Galaxy S IV improve on that -- we'd love to see 4GB of RAM for better mobile gaming, for example -- it's tough to predict anything other than the same old, same old for the rest of the Galaxy S IV's internal hardware. Not that that's a bad thing.
Also, if the Android version used is anything less than Google's latest and greatest, we'll be pretty shocked.
The Release Date
The broad consensus seems to be that Samsung's going to roll out the Galaxy S IV at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and you'd be hard-pressed to find rumors that have the device being released later than the first half of 2013.
Still, that general agreement has been eroding lately -- many have pointed out that Samsung probably pulls enough weight to hold its own party for the its heavily hyped new device, and dates in March, April and May have all been floated by various sources.
OUR TAKE: The idea that Samsung would want news cycles all to itself for the Galaxy S IV launch does make sense -- however, we don't think that necessarily means the company would have to throw its own event. The Galaxy S IV is going to be THE story when it comes out, regardless of setting. Our gut still tells us that MWC will be the launch point, but we'll be paying close attention to further developments.