Samsung Galaxy S4 First Impressions: Beautiful But Bloated [Gallery]

If there is one thing you can say about Samsung, it sure knows how to throw an extravagant party.

After the showstopping launch event at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the new Samsung Galaxy S4, there's only one question left to answer... is this smartphone any damn good?

During the event, at least, Samsung's theatrics overshadowed the phone itself? Really. We had Jeremy Freaking Maxwell, Samsung's "secret messenger" doing a tap dance routine. We had skits of adolescents traveling the world taking pictures, women sharing music over cocktails and something about an actor and his agent. Oh, and somewhere amidst the festivities, a new smartphone made an appearance. 

Oh, and somewhere amidst the festivities, a new smartphone made an appearance. There was some very limited hands-on time after the show, er... keynote. 

Here it is:

Samsung Hub is the center of Samsung's media experience Samsung Hub is the center of Samsung's media experience

But it wasn't just the phone, Samsung showed off some gadgets that will go with the Galaxy S4, including this cool-looking controller that appears torn out of an Xbox. The Galaxy S4 fits into the controller, which is powered by its own AAA batteries. Instead of using the touchscreen to navigate, you use the controller. In this case, the demo was a Sonic The Hedgehog game.

The Galaxy S4 is expected to be shipped with a quad-core processor in the United States. An enterprising reporter ran a test on the processor during his demo time (not me, and I did not get his name) and confirmed that the test devices at Radio City were running quad-core processors. When putting that processor to the test, we looked at the Fast & Furious 6 game coming to the phone from Kabam. It played smooth and fast.

But what about the phone itself?

First Impressions

  • The body of the Galaxy S4 is thin and light. If you are familiar with a Galaxy S3, that light, almost cheap-feeling plastic body, is reprised in the S4. 
  • From a shape perspective, the S4 is more squared-off (like the Galaxy S2) than rounded (like the Galaxy S3). It is thinner than both.
  • The screen is totally beautiful, at least from my initial look, and highly responsive. This matches what users have come to expect from Galaxy S devices - the S3 was an extremely smooth touchscreen.
  • It is bloated with all the "S" apps and everything else that Samsung has thrown into its new flagship smartphone. On the one hand, all the new and unique features Samsung definitely bring some real benefits. On the other hand, the "S" apps and all the stuff in the S4 add up to a very busy user experience.
(See also Samsung Galaxy 4S Unveiled: Spectacular Specs & Innovative Features.)

President Samsung Mobile JK Shin rises from the floor at Radio City President Samsung Mobile JK Shin rises from the floor at Radio City

Overall, it is hard to tell with a just quick impression exactly what the experience of using the Galaxy S4 will be like. There are so many new features that could be terrific - if they actually work as advertised. The danger is that Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone could turn out to resemble its own launch event: overblown, overproduced and visually appealing - but more annoying than pleasant.

Photos by Dan Rowinski.