What I want to see in the Samsung Galaxy S4

As rumors swirl about the Samsung Galaxy S4, I throw my own dream features into the pot.

Will the Galaxy S4 look all that different from its predecessor (pictured)? Will consumers care either way? CNET

Perhaps the most anticipated smartphone of the year, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be here in a matter of months. So far, rumors and concept videos suggest it could be extremely thin with a laser keyboard and a very strong, or perhaps bendable, display -- and it could arrive as soon as April.

So as long as we're speculating about the fanciful tricks that Samsung packs into its next flagship phone, I'll add my wish list as well. Samsung has a tendency to throw a bucket of features at a phone (that I'd wager most people don't even use), but what I want isn't as fancy; I just want a solid, top-tier device that does what it promises very well.

Android 4.3
Support for the latest version of Android OS is a must-have detail, and Samsung will need to come to market with at least 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. But since this is my wish list, I'd rather wait until just after Google I/O in May and get the brand-spanking-new Android 4.3.

More realistically, we'll see the GS4 come with Android 4.2 .

Premium design across carriers
If there is one thing I am pulling for above all others, it is one single, actually premium form factor across carriers and countries.

Samsung has gotten to a place with carriers where it can now offer the same design -- the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, for example, looks the same with Verizon and AT&T as it does in other countries. I'd like to see Samsung keep that going, but in addition, deliver up a really great design that wows.

Samsung has been knocked in the past for making devices that felt cheap or plastic compared with other handset makers. However, the company has also been able to make its large phones feel thin and light. The Galaxy S4 doesn't need a ceramic backside or aluminum unibody design to make me happy, but I would like Samsung to make it feel more "premium" than previous models.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 looks the same everywhere. Josh Miller/CNET

I could also go for a color refresh in the Galaxy S4, especially since the white shade doesn't feel so exclusive any longer -- it's be nice to have more choices than two shades (a nice mossy green comes to mind).

5-inch display The smartphone rage in 2013 is all about squeezing a 5-inch 1080p HD display into your top-of-the-line Android handset without making it too massive. Samsung should have no problem finding a way to tack on an extra 0.2 inch in the Galaxy S4 screen, compared with the GS3.

While rumors suggest that Samsung may be readying a flexible or unbreakable screen for this year's edition, I think we're still a year or more away from that particular feature.

If I had my druthers, I would love to see Samsung do something fun and daring with the display. By that I mean an edge-to-edge screen that wraps over the bottom of the phone. Not only would this provide a way of differentiating from the competition, it could lead to enhanced notifications or alerts the way we saw at CES. Imagine seeing your tweets or messages scroll across the lip of your handset!

We have seen this technology demonstrated a number of times over the last few years so it is about time it becomes a reality. I cannot think of a better model to introduce the Youm display than Samsung's own flagship smartphone.

Quad-core processor
This is practically a given. As to whether that quad-core CPU belongs to Samsung or longtime partner Qualcomm remains unimportant to me, and I expect, to the millions of typical buyers. However, I would like to see a its clock speed reach 1.8GHz or 2GHz.

Nokia Lumia 920
Samsung could learn from Nokia, whose Lumia 920 takes strong low-light pictures. Josh Miller/CNET

Better camera
Smartphone users are slowly beginning to understand that more megapixels does not mean a better image .

While some handset makers are heading into the deeper 13-megapixel waters, I would be content with an 8-megapixel shooter that just takes flawless photos. HTC does a great job of pushing forward with bigger and better sensors so I would like to see Samsung keep pace. I call for better HDR images, a wider front-facing camera angle, and better low-light images without going into ISO settings.

More NFC
Samsung was the first to expand Android Beam so it can share photos and video over NFC. Its work with TecTiles (basically just NFC stickers) suggests that Samsung has something more in mind for NFC.

Last week, Samsung announce a partnership with Caesars Entertainment to bring more than 4,000 interactive TecTile NFC tags to eight Las Vegas casinos. My gut tells me that this is one of the first of other such deals and that the Galaxy S4 may be the device to usher in big announcements.

Perhaps we'll see some noise in the auto industry with NFC features built into a new line of cars. It is not much of a stretch to picture a carmaker building a tag into the dash or a car mount that enables Bluetooth, GPS, and music sharing, and turns up volume.

Another area that I can see TecTile tags taking off is at theater or restaurant chains. Tap your phone to place an order, buy tickets, or reserve your spot in line. A big release like the Samsung Galaxy S4 is how you introduce a bunch of partnerships. Maybe this is the year that mobile payments really take off?

Samsung Galaxy S3
S Beam on the Samsung Galaxy S3 makes terrific use of NFC. Josh Miller/CNET

4G LTE connectivity
With each of the major carriers pushing forward with 4G LTE build outs, 4G is an absolute necessity. In the off-chance that Samsung releases different models for select wireless providers, we should still expect support for 4G LTE.

Battery life
With today's top Android handsets routinely turning in at least 2,000mAh batteries, I expect nothing less for the Galaxy S4. I would love to see something that rivals the Droid Razr Maxx HD's 3,300mAh workhorse.

Samsung is one of the few companies that hasn't employed embedded batteries for smartphones so I don't see the Galaxy S4 going that route. Having said that, I hope to see a battery in the vicinity of 2,500mAh or higher and would gladly accept another millimeter or two thickness in exchange.

LED notifications
A small but useful feature, Samsung added LED notifications in the GS3 and I hope it returns for the next model. However, I would like to see Samsung provide more flexibility and customization right out of the box in terms of the light's color and duration for signaling different meanings.

Internal memory
Although the Galaxy S3 was offered in 16GB and 32GB editions, I would like to see 32GB and 64GB models for the Galaxy S4. Yes, we're learning to live in the cloud a little more each year but that doesn't mean we can't have some breathing room. Seeing as how photos and videos are getting incrementally larger, we'll need to keep pace with storage.

External memory card
Thus far Samsung has included support for microSD expansion so the Galaxy S4 should be no exception. That said, we ought to look for allowance up to 64GB microSD, a current standard.

What else would you like to see on the Samsung Galaxy S4? Was there something I missed? Let me know in the comments.

 

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