What Samsung’s Galaxy S4 needs to offer to challenge iPhone 6

Ever since Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007 (yes, the ancient, 3G-less iPhone, with its 412 MHz processor and its HVGA display), the term “iPhone killer” has been used almost a million times. I’m not kidding: at the moment there are about 800,000 results for “iPhone killer” on Google Search alone.

Many – from Samsung and Nokia, to shady Chinese manufacturers – have tried to make a smartphone which would convince the world that the iPhone doesn’t deserve to be bought, but their product does. Samsung is the only one to have actually succeeded here – thanks to its Galaxy S line, and culminating with the Galaxy S III, sold in 40 million units across the globe as of now (seven months from launch).

Meanwhile, Apple may have sold about 48 million iPhones in Q4 2012 (older models included). By the looks of it, the Cupertino company probably managed to sell around 30 million new smartphones (hence iPhone 5 units) in just three months. So the iPhone 5 is likely still selling better than the S III, despite a rumored weak demand.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not eulogizing Apple, and neither the iPhone. I am an Android user. From where I’m standing, if all the iPhones in the world would suddenly disappear (and Apple wouldn’t make new ones), I wouldn’t care. But then again, competition wouldn’t be as fierce in this case, and, as a result, maybe innovation would stagnate. So things are what they are: Apple has managed to put together a smartphone that simply lures throngs of customers, generation after generation. And, thus far, it has been really hard for other companies to challenge its supremacy.

Still, looking at the Galaxy S series’ success, I’m confident that Samsung’s next Android flagship smartphone – possibly called Galaxy S4, or S IV – can do way better than the S III, and truly become what you’d call an iPhone killer. The best part is that, to achieve this, Samsung doesn’t have to stray too much from what the S III already is. It just has to improve on that.

One of the things Samsung needs to do is take a hint from Sony’s latest flagship, the Xperia Z, and make the S4 waterproof. This could be a major selling point for the device – and, if the next-generation iPhone won’t be waterproof, it would also give Samsung a new reason to bash Apple. The S4 should be also more durable (drop tests have showed that the S III breaks easier than the iPhone 5). That rumored “unbreakable screen” would be downright awesome.

The Galaxy S4 must come with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display. Anything lower than that doesn’t make sense. I’m not expecting Apple to go beyond Full HD with its 2013 smartphone (probably called iPhone 6, or iPhone 5S), so the Cupertino giant will have little to brag about here.

A quad-core Exynos processor is a no brainer for the S4 – although it remains to be seen if it’s going to be a 2GHz one. In the RAM department, I don’t think more than 2GB is needed. In any case, Sammy’s next flagship will be a speedy device, capable of standing next to any other high-end smartphone.

Unlike the iPhone 5, the current Galaxy S III offers stuff like NFC, micro USB port, MicroSD card slot. I don’t believe Samsung will give up on any of these with the S4, but it remains to be seen if Apple’s iPhone 6 is going to have them.

Photography-wise, Samsung knows how to make users happy, and we will definitely see a top-notch rear camera on the S4. It would be good for Samsung to try and develop a technology similar to Nokia’s PureView, but I don’t see how this can happen any time soon. Or ever.

On the software side, the new Galaxy is probably going to run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean at launch, since it’s unlikely that Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie will be out before the handset. Paired with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, Jelly Bean has already proved itself to be a great OS.

Rumors have it that the S4 will be available for purchase starting May. Some analysts expect Apple to introduce its 2013 iPhone as early as June, so the S4 would still have a considerable advantage. If Samsung manages to launch the S4 on all major US carriers a month ahead of Apple, it will undoubtedly eat up iPhone sales.

To recap, the Samsung Galaxy S4 needs to:

  • be similar to the S III, but improved at the same time
  • be waterproof, and have a more solid construction than the S III
  • be launched as soon as possible (earlier than May would do wonders sales-wise)
  • feature a 1080p display (not larger than 5 inches)
  • come with all the standards the S III has – micro USB port, MicroSD card slot, removable battery

If all the things listed above become reality, Samsung should have nothing to fear when Apple’s new iPhone is released – even if we’ll see two new iPhones, including a QWERTY one (although I seriously doubt this will happen).

Needless to say, the Galaxy S4 will also have to compete with all the current and upcoming 1080p Android smartphones, as well as with Windows Phone 8 flagship devices. RIM’s BlackBerry 10 handsets could be a threat, too.

It’s definitely going to be an interesting year, and only January 2014 will allow us to confidently point out the winners and the losers. While neither Samsung, nor Apple is going to be in the latter category, Apple really needs to be careful with the new iPhone(s), because its glory days may be over soon.

Author: Florin

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  • eeteet

    You mean what Galaxy 4 needs to challenge Lumia 920?

  • eric

    Good article. Good points you raise.

  • (anon)

    Oh please, get that Kool Aid out of your system. The 920 will be obsolete come the time the S4 is released, it’s not the same market it was 10 years ago when Nokia had it all very rosy by releasing 20 different phones a month. They don’t have that clout anymore and their pull isn’t as big as it used to be, more innovative devices in the form of the Ipad 5/iphone 5s/GS4/Note 3/Nexus 5/ etc etc are overly aggressive in the consumer market, today it’s about which dog has the loudest bark, latest mind bending features and biggest pull of consumers, something which Nokia lacks whilst under Elop and under Windows Phone. it is inevitable they will be bought out by Microsoft for their patents.

    So the question is not what GS4 needs to challenge Nokia Lumia 920. It’s what should Nokia do to stay relevant in a market dominated by IOS and Android?

  • Dumag

    Do you mean what iPhone 6 needs to offer to challenge Galaxy S3???

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Atty-Halmágyi/100001770630008 Atty Halmágyi

    I think Samsung GS4 will beat every other smart phone this year, and probably only the Motorola X phone will be it’s closest rival.

  • Kevin Wu

    I don’t believe that having waterproof phones will make any significant impact. How often does your phone even contact liquid? Almost none.

  • sj586

    Except he twice says it has a USB port. It does not. It has a micro USB port. That’s like saying the iPhone has a USB port.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841467181 Fshumayrqan MacDonald


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1841467181 Fshumayrqan MacDonald

    S4 needs to be not plasticky, awesome specs, screen and 5-5 and half inches would be awesome. if not then xperia z rules. iPhone 6 needs to be 5-5 and half inches nfc shit and bonus add something different.like Siri its not new but its significant now in mobile world. Samsung made it clear bigger is better. i hope apple got its message if not me myself and i will buy either sony,s4 or note 3 in 2013.

  • zeth006

    It’s mostly marketing really. Most people won’t drop their phones into water, but imagine the hype Samsung would create by releasing a commercial showing some joe dropping his phone into the ocean and discovering it washed up months later and doing fine.

  • Kiranbhola

    Very Big competition in the Mobile Industries.

  • http://twitter.com/zabihjan Zabih

    the authors in this website are all Apple Puppets, iphone 5 is still not comparable to Galaxy S2 forget S3 or S4. Most apps on iphone 5 are not even made for iphone 5 they look silly on iphone 5 and wifi issues apple cant fix. when i hold my partner’s iphone 5 in my hand and my Nexus 4, iphone 5 feels like Sony Ericsson K750 vs Nokia N80. get a life or be sucked, you articles are disgusting

  • Warcen

    Where did you get 30million iphone 5 sold in just 3 months ?

  • surethom

    This is the proper title not the one on the top of this article.

  • Florin

    It’s an assumption based on analysts expectations (48 million iPhones sold in Q4 2012). A big chunk of that 48 million have to be iPhone 5 models. That’s why I said Apple “probably managed to sell around 30 million” iPhone 5 units.

  • Florin

    If you seriously believe the iPhone 5 is not comparable to the 2011 Galaxy S2, then you have major issues in understanding what a smartphone should be. I’m not an Apple fan, not even an Apple user. I don’t understand why you can’t see that my article actually encourages Samsung to do better than Apple. How could an “Apple Puppet” want that?

  • Florin

    I wanted to say “standard micro USB” from the beginning. Sorry for the confusion.

  • lekguan

    It wont be that significant, but it’s gonna be a convenience in some ways, especially being able to just run the phone under water when dirty.

  • sameer somu

    it wont be significant but for those stuck on deciding among the near identical devices in the market, waterproofing it will just add a little benefit and ppl see that and buy .

  • ???

    theres a leaked benchmark identifying the s4 having a 4.99 in 1080p screen with the new Exynos 5 octa 8 core processor so basically the iphone is on its last life support.

  • tonkotsu

    I feel that samsung’s hardware upgrades are rarely an issue. Now that their chips are both fast and evergy efficient, camera’s have plateaued, and universal LTE chips are present, they should invest more time into TouchWiz. Why? well the most important thing is that TouchWiz is still the most hated UI ever.

    Also, before I continue, if you complain about UI’s, then root or get a nexus. Seriously. The most annoying thing is when people complain about UI’s, yet are too scared to root.

    Anyways, HTC’s sense is heavy, but it has always proven beneficial to users, especially new ones. LG’s UI used to suck, but since 4.0, they have heavily revamped it, and it offers a level of customization that even HTC can’t meet, it is also now the most fluid UI, even using old hardware. Sony’s UI is not too different from stock android, mostly upgrading it to match better with sony’s other software offerings (like upgrading the camera app and music app).

    Samsung on the other hand, up until 4.0, had the worst UI ever. I still remember being absolutely dumbfounded when I got my galaxy s3 and the icons would not auto swap if the page was full. Back then, the keyboard was trash, and any fast typing, using both htc sense 4 and touchwiz yielded more errors on the samsung. They have fixed a lot in touchwiz 4.1, but it’s really not enough. This is what I think they should be doing for the next upgrade to touchwiz:

    #1 Customization – Unlike htc or lg, samsung offers pretty much no customization. Nope, you cannot change the notification toggles like LG, you cannot change the way the you are able to swipe through home screens like LG, you don’t have themes like HTC, touchwiz widgets are trash, in fact you don’t even have a task manager app… I had to download one myself……

    Also there’s a lack of different fonts, wallpapers, live wallpapers, customizable menu colors, etc etc etc. Basically, the phone feels too barebones. People that buy androids like to customize, but don’t always have the technical knowledge to be able to root or download launchers.

    #2 Battery Optimization – On my HTC one X, leaving the phone on overnight only takes about 2-3% of the battery. On my galaxy s3 and note 2, they both take anywhere from 5-30%. Now… Why is that? Why can’t samsung figure out how to optimize the battery? Well, FIGURE IT OUT samsung, i’m tired of needing to charge my phone unnecessarily just because you guys were too lazy.

    In addition, it needs a better “battery saver” mode. honestly, the current battery saver doesn’t seem to help at all. I get about the same battery life with it on or off. Battery saver should have options to completely disable background processes, change or turn off data radios, turn off sync (without needing to go to the sync page). I think of all the manufacturers “battery saver” modes, samsung’s is the most useless.

    #3 Improve Stock Camera App / Picture Processing – Since the samsung camera app is so generic, they should improve this the most. If it’s the stock app, it should be able to adjust manual controls on the specific camera phone. This would instantly turn any samsung phone into a camera-oriented phone. Being able to adjust manual settings would yield better pictures overall. Also, work on picture processing like apple. Many of my s3 and note 2 pictures have a high noise and are plain horrible in low light. Can’t say the same for my ipad.

    #4 Improve Music Player – I know samsung doesn’t make as many dedicated music players like sony or apple, but they should spend time to make it more useable compared to its current music player. htc and lg have the same problem.

    #5 Make Kies more user friendly

    #6 Touch Gestures – This is androids biggest problem compared to apple. Thumb rejection? nope. Pinch out of apps/pictures? nope. Swipe to change apps? nope. Compared to ios, android is a small baby when it comes to gestures. I want to be able to make specific simple gestures that will actually make my phone usage easier. get it done. The only manufacturer I see even coming close is LG, and honestly, many of those were taken directly from apples playbook.


    As for hardware, they should focus on things that matter. Realistically, 1080 screens and waterproofing are marketing BS. No one cares about that except a few vocal people online. My note 2 is proof they can make amazing 720 screens.

    What they SHOULD concentrate on are things like:

    #1 Batteries – 3000mAh standard, and 6000mAh extended. Make a case for the extended one.

    #2 Camera sensor – Low light camera sensor. Forget the megapixel war, seriously. Focus on a better camera sensor, go with sony. Stop using your sensor, it’s really not that good. You continually get beat by sony and its embarrassing.

    #3 Dedicated 2 Stage Camera Button – like sony, make a dedicated camera button that can wake the phone to take a picture in about 2 seconds. It takes me too long to unlock and wake my phone, then turn on the photo app. A dedicated camera button will not only add a 3rd button to wake the phone, but provide a very simple way to take pics.

    #4 More genuine cases and accesories – Hey samsung, you started this! you made the flip cases! now we want more more more! make glossy ones, glass ones, metal ones, matte ones, rubber ones, transparent ones. People are willing to pay for genuine accessories. Sure the $2 ones from china will take a big chunk away from you, but if you make more accessories, the chinese companies will also fight back with more options. win win

    #5 Enable wireless charging – While I know there are the wireless charging pins on my note 2….. there isn’t a genuine wireless charging case.. why hold back? With Kies Air, I don’t even need to plug my phone in unless I charge it. Now take it one more step with wireless charging.

    #6 32gb default internal storage + microsd. It cost you pretty much nothing to double the capacity. Trust me, a little goodwill goes a long way. People will love your company and phones more when we realize you’re giving us more for the money and not just relentlessly milking us for little things like that (AHEM APPLE)

    #7 Keep the Home Button – Simply put, Googles idea for soft buttons is wrong. It takes up precious screen area all the time, and when it doesn’t, we need to tap to make it show up, then tap again to use the button. How about just keep the buttons the way they are, physical home button + 2 capacitive buttons. Waking the device with the home button is much easier than using the power button.

    anyways, that’s all I can think of at the moment!

  • http://twitter.com/zabihjan Zabih

    not really, all your articles in this website is always yes for Apple and No for anything else. you always discourage users from buying any other an brand.

    i have my hubby’s iphone 5 and my galaxy s2 next to me now and i can surely confirm that Galaxy S2 is 100 times better.

    Open your eyes and heart and be open minded.

  • yanassi

    android’s too hot to be waterproof, needing vents. a longer battery life is needed. the s4 specs i’m hearing puts iphone 8 in the ball park. iphone6 will need to be a free hotspot with glarefree full phone face screen (no border, just great edge design)

  • amirali