Galaxy S 4 cheat sheet with less than six hours to launch

Software features, not hardware, appears to be Samsung's big focus for new smartphone

Samsung's Galaxy S 4 will be unveiled tonight in New York City. Judging from various leaks, reports, rumors and official tweeted photos, Samsung will focus heavily on new software features when it unveils the Galaxy S 4 smartphone tonight in New York City.

The event promises to be a spectacle attended by hundreds of reporters and analysts and will be live-streamed here and on Youtube.

Based on an official Galaxy S 4 photo tweeted by Samsung on Tuesday, the new device looks very similar to the Galaxy S III, even though the mysterious photo tweeted by Samsung Mobile US shows only the top one-third of the device.

If a new slick look for the device is indeed not Samsung's next direction, look for software features that enhance the user experience, like eye-tracking technology, to be Samsung's biggest focus for the GS4.

Trademarked "Eye Scroll" technology will reportedly use the smartphone's front-facing camera to track eye movements so that as the eye moves down the screen, the software knows to scroll up the Web page being read.

Samsung already supports Smart Stay software in the GSIII that uses the front-facing camera to keep the screen lit up when a person is looking at it, rather than dimming to save power.

A series of four new videos posted Thursday by PhoneDog.com show variations on touchless interactions, such as floating touch, Smart Pause and new ways to interact with the phone's browser, on the Galaxy S 4.

Floating touch appears to let a user hold a finger over a photo thumbnail to expand its size, rather than actually touching the screen. The effect appears to be much the same as mousing over an image on some desktop Web pages.

SmartPause detects when a user is not looking at the device screen, and then automatically pause a video being played. The video resumes when the user looks at the screen again.

Also in the latest videos are demonstrations of how a user can move around a page by moving his hand around in front of the display without touching it.

The latest spec list of reported new GS4 features includes: wireless charging; a 5-in. display (up from 4.8-in. in the GSIII); Android 4.2; screen resolution of 1080 x 1920 with 440 pixels per inch; a quad-core processor at 1.7 GHz or faster; NFC (already in the GSIII) with new mobile payment software; a bigger battery than the 2100 mAh battery in the GSIII; a 13 megapixel rear camera; and 802.11 ac, a faster Wi-Fi spec.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Gartner, warned that a heavy focus on software improvements by Samsung may not sell as well as would hardware and network upgrades.

But Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said that Samsung "keeps its hand on the pulse of the consumer," that makes Samsung the biggest vendor of Android, now running in more than 70% of all smartphones globally. As such, the GS4 can be a solid competitor for whatever Apple announces as the successor to the iPhone 5 this summer, he and other analysts said.

"I expect this phone to put a bigger dent in Apple's lead," said Scott Snyder, president of Mobiquity, a creator of mobile apps and systems.

For his money, Snyder said the most exciting new feature predicted for the GS4 has little to do with software or the interface and is in fact about wireless connectivity, namely 802.11 ac, an emerging Wi-Fi spec that supports up to 1 Gbps connections--about 10 times faster than current capabilities.

"That could enable some really cool use cases that cannot even be supported on LTE, like multiplayer gaming, rich augmented reality and more," he said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile/wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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