Hyers explained via email:
The display is larger and more brilliant—the 5-inch display has as many pixels as an iPhone 5. ... But, it's not the flexible display everyone was hoping for. It has an 8-core processor, but it runs an Android OS that will be outdated only a month after carriers begin selling the phone, when Google introduces Android 5.0 in May. It is packed with immense amounts of unique software and features, but there's not really any coherent plan integrating the software—it's almost as if Samsung told its engineers to just pack everything new they had into the device, and let the consumers figure it out later. Certain features like eye-scrolling work on some applications but not others. The design of the handset itself is nice—skinnier and with a little metal band running around the edge, but it's still made of plastic and doesn't really have a premium feel. In summary, it's really nice and innovative, but not as nice and innovative as it could have been.
The reason for those disconnects, he added, is that Samsung needs to differentiate itself from other Android supports, and that since it doesn't control the OS, it can't fully integrate its new features, making for a result that's more of a grab-bag than a coherent design.
"They will really need to focus on improving this, hopefully before they introduce the next Note," said Hyers.
Forrester Principal Analyst Charles Golvin was impressed by all the software advances Samsung packed into the S 4 to complement its hardware, he blogged March 14, calling these Samsung's real differentiator.
"From the ability to composite images from both cameras simultaneously, to compositing sound with still images, to embedded language translation integrated with voice to text and text to voice, Samsung's much-improved software skills translate to a wealth of new experiences for their customers," Golvin wrote.
Among the handful of media outlets that received a review device in advance of its unveiling was the Associated Press. In a review following the night's events, AP's Peter Svensson wrote that the S 4 has a "grab-bag of features that don't come together as a pleasing whole," and that it "doesn't really advance the aesthetics of its predecessor the way competitors Apple, Sony and HTC have done with their latest phones."
He also unflatteringly compared it to another flagship device, the BlackBerry Z10.
While the BlackBerry Z10's hardware isn't as impressive as the Galaxy S 4's, Svensson wrote, the Z10's "software is easy to use, and it's based on a strong idea: taking the pain out of communicating across email, text messaging and social networks." The S4, he concluded, "doesn't have the same clarity of purpose."