Samsung Galaxy S 4 Is Imperfect, Will Sell Like Hotcakes

Analysts and early reviewers of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 have mixed feelings about the smartphone. But no one doubts that it's going to sell.

Samsung, the world's top-selling smartphone maker and leading Apple irritant, introduced the follow-up device to the first smartphone in recent memory to have outsold the iPhone.

The Galaxy S 4 is small where it matters—it's thinner and lighter than its predecessor—and bigger where it counts. The display is now 5 inches and holds as many pixels per inch (441) as the human eye can discern, the processor is an octa-core and the camera is 13 megapixels.

And still, early feedback is a rather interesting mix.

"I tried to use some of the features but have to admit it was not so straightforward. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to get to it. The hover did not seem to work, either," Carolina Milanesi, Gartner research vice president of consumer devices, told eWEEK via email. "The risk with these features is that they need to work flawlessly, and even then, users might see the wow factor for a few times but not go back to them."

Milanesi also questioned Samsung's message beyond the S 4.

"The big thing to me was the show Samsung put on, reflecting how they think of themselves as being bigger than Android, building an ecosystem of services and apps—some of which replicate what Google has to offer. The question then is," she asked, "are they doing this to lay the foundation to an ecosystem [when] they want to move to Tizen?"

Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston found the features to work but the experience not to be seamless from the start.

"In our hands-on trial of the S 4, all the features we used worked as described. However, while many of the features are cool, some of them can be a little complex to use the first time," Mawston told eWEEK.

"For example," he continued, "Smart Pause, where your eyes stop and start videos, needs to be turned on or off manually by clicking through various sub-menus in the software that can be difficult to locate. Samsung will need good point-of-sales training for staff and shoppers in retail stores to make sure some potential buyers are not scared off by the S4's huge array of choice of features and services."

In a blog post offering his first impressions immediately after the show, Mawston wrote that, barring any hidden bugs, "we forecast tens of millions of units to be shipped worldwide this year."

Apple, LG, Sony, HTC, BlackBerry, Nokia, Huawei, ZTE and Motorola, he added, "will all be getting some sleepless nights in the next few weeks."

Ken Hyers, senior analyst with Technology Business Research, said the S 4 will be a "homerun" for Samsung and "shatter sales figures set by the S III," while at the same time "disappointing everyone who expected a revolutionary new experience from the device. In effect, it's the Galaxy S 3.5, not the Galaxy S 4 that everyone was hoping for."