Samsung's Galaxy S4 is a superphone worthy of the title. The marquee handset fires it up with top-notch hardware specs and a dizzying number of software features besides Google's Android essentials.
The Galaxy S4 boasts a large 5-inch HD Super AMOLED panel with a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution; that works out to a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch. Colors are rich and bright, though the handset doesn't seem to shine quite as luminously as some LCD displays.
The Galaxy S4's rectangular home button does triple duty: depending on how you press it, it can take you to your start screen, launch your list of recent apps, and start up the S Voice assistant.
In addition to the ambient light and proximity sensors, the Galaxy S4 also has an infrared sensor up top, and temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors.
The infrared sensor picks up on gestures, like waving your hand in front of the screen to switch among tabs, advance music on your playlist, and answer a phone call.
The highly sensitive screen lets you navigate with long fingernails or even gloves (a must for cold-weather climates).
From the outside, the Galaxy S4 (left) and S3 look nearly identical. Apart from slight differences in the body color, accents, and shape, there's a lot more going on belowdecks.
For starters, the Galaxy S4 (still on the left) has a 1.9GHz quad-core chipset rather than the GS3's still-fast dual-core processor.
Samsung's new model may be slightly longer, but it's also a hair thinner than the GS3. You can also see here the Galaxy S4's bolder, squarer metallic-looking trim.
Since it has roughly the same dimensions as the Galaxy S3, the S4 should fit into pockets and handbags about the same.
The infrared, or IR, blaster is what turns the GS4 into a remote control.
A slightly slimmer, more rectangular Galaxy S4 design gives the phone a slightly boxier, sturdier profile. The GS4's controls, while still made of polycarbonate plastic, have been designed to appear more premium than the S3's rounded bubble buttons.
We're not huge fans of the placement of the power/lock button. On the side like that, it's more likely to hit other objects in purses and pockets and light up on its own.
In addition to the IR blaster (right), the top edge houses a standard 3.5mm headset jack.
The Micro-USB charging jack is the only outlet you'll find on the handset's southern edge.
If you were hoping that the Samsung Galaxy S4 would use more premium materials than plastic, you're out of luck. The phone's battery cover is fairly mundane, stippled cover design notwithstanding.
A large removable battery is a claim to fame over the rival HTC One, and the GS4's microSD slot is another. The battery pack is higher-capacity than the Galaxy S3's, being 2,600mAh compared with the S3's 2,100mAh.
Samsung jumps on the 13-megapixel camera trend, and also places a 2-megapixel lens up front.
Onboard the new Galaxy S4 is an enhanced 13-megapixel camera that's chock-full of features, starting with some onscreen controls borrowed from the Galaxy Camera interface.
There are a heap of new settings and modes as well, including dual-shot mode, which uses images from the front and rear cameras and works with still photos or video.
Sound and shot, Drama, Animated Mode, and Eraser are also new additions. See them in action here.
Another interesting new feature of the Galaxy S4 is especially handy when you're watching a video. Namely, the screen can interpret eye movements to pause a video when you look away and resume playback when you start paying attention again.
Remember that IR blaster up top? Like the HTC One, the Galaxy S4 uses that component to control your TV, DVR, and set-top box.
Using the Watch On app, you can easily set up the device to work with your entertainment center, changing the channel and volume and even recording new shows.
Like its predecessor, the phone features Samsung's home-grown S Voice vocal search feature, which you activate by holding down the home button. Driving mode is a new addition you can activate through the app's context menu.
Samsung's favoring neutral shades for its Galaxy S4 so far. The handset will come in white frost and black mist.
For a window to the GS4, Samsung has added a clear pane to its new S View Flip Cover. In addition to sending the phone to sleep, the cover also reformats the device's clock and shows incoming calls.
S View covers come in a spectrum of shades, including pink, yellow, orange, green, and blue.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is without a doubt one of the elite. Here, it's flanked by the HTC One on the (our) left and by the iPhone 5 on the right.
Samsung has poured a lot of hardware and software effort into creating a different, yet utterly familiar phone to carry on its Galaxy S line. This fourth installment is a sure-fire hit. Don't forget to check out CNET's video tour, and all the pros and cons in this full Galaxy S4 review.