AT&T is creeping up the price on what is expected to be Samsung's next blockbuster device, just as T-Mobile is marketing itself as the "un-carrier" and announcing it no longer cares to play by the old rules.
AT&T announced March 28 that it will sell the Galaxy S 4 for $249—$50 more than the industry standard for high-end devices like the iPhone 5 and the S 4's predecessor—and will begin accepting orders April 16.
It didn't say when the phones will ship or become available in stores.
Verizon Wireless and Sprint have also committed to selling the S 4, though neither has shared availability or pricing.
T-Mobile, however, announced this week that it will begin selling the Galaxy S 4 May 1 for $99 down and 20 payments of $20. T-Mobile is disconnecting device sales from service plans, so that pricing is without a service contract. Its new Simple Choice Plan comes in $50, $60 and $70 monthly options, with $70 including unlimited high-speed data, texting and talking.
T-Mobile will begin selling the Apple iPhone 5 under the same terms beginning April 12. According to T-Mobile, an iPhone 5 on a $50 Simple Plan (which includes unlimited talking and texting and 500MB of high-speed data) would save a consumer more than $1,000 over two years, compared with the same device on a comparable plan from AT&T.
At a March 26 press event, T-Mobile CEO John Legere mocked executives at competing carriers who have insisted that no one would ever "pay full price" for a smartphone.
"It would be a great day if all you paid was full price," Legere told the press, compressing his stance and slowing his speech in a way that suggested how very understated his sentence was.
AT&T, and likely Samsung, seems to believe that for more phone, users should pay more. And the Galaxy S 4 is a lot more phone.
The S 4 features a larger, richer display than the Galaxy S III—5 inches and a resolution of 1080p by 1920—as well as an eight-core processor and a 13-megapixel camera.
Samsung dialed-up the software features as well. The Galaxy S III had loads of camera options, but with the Galaxy S 4, users can, among other things, add snippets of sound to still images. And while the latter's sensors can watch a user's eyes to know when it's appropriate to let the screen dim, those sensors can now scroll a page as needed, without a user lifting a finger.
Still, analyst Ken Hyers, with Technology Business Research, characterized it as "nice and innovative, but not as nice and innovative as it could have been."
Nonetheless, "the Galaxy S 4 will sell incredibly well, and backed by Samsung's marketing might, will shatter sales figures set by the S III," he told eWEEK. "Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on one, because it's a genuine upgrade from the Galaxy S III—but I'm already looking forward to the S 5."