March 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM ET
Most people have at least one piece of old technology they use, despite more advanced alternatives. Many still like shooting pictures with film cameras and, the other day, I saw a hipster sitting in the park clacking away on a manual typewriter. If you’re into nostalgia tech or just fear new things, Apple’s iPhone 5 is a great choice, because its user interface harkens back to 2007, while its hardware offers the best features of 2011.
If you want the latest and greatest that the mobile technology industry has to offer, on the other hand, get a high-end Android phone like the just-announced Samsung Galaxy S 4. Moving from an iPhone 5 to a Galaxy S4 in 2013 is like the improvement my family experienced going from a rotary princess phone to a wireless handset in 1983. Here are five ways that the Galaxy S 4 makes the iPhone 5 look years out of date.
Bigger, fuller HD screen
Imagine if Sony continued selling 20-inch Trinitron TVs under the mistaken belief that users don't want anything larger than that. While Apple pats itself on the back for finally offering a 4-inch, 1136 x 640 (326 PPI) display on the iPhone 5 after using 3.5-inch panels on earlier models, Samsung's Galaxy S 4 has a 5-inch, 1080p Super AMOLED screen with a whopping 441 pixels per inch.
What can you do with a larger, higher-res screen? How about view full-HD movies at their native 1920 x 1080 size, or use larger, easier-to-hit keys on your virtual keyboard? Of course, you can always get an iPhone 5 and practice squinting and pinky typing.
Samsung's Galaxy S 4 can shoot photos and videos with both its back-facing 13-MP camera and front-facing 2-MP cam. The iPhone 5 can merely simulate dual-camera still shooting, and only by quickly switching between cameras with apps like DuoCam, because it can't actually record from both lenses at the same time.
Samsung's dual camera allows you to record your reaction to the events taking place in front of you, and even put an attractive template around the image of your face or use a split-screen view. Perhaps Apple will get around to adding dual-camera support in a year or two after Samsung adds a third or fourth camera.
Gesture and eye control
From video game systems to smart TVs and laptops, it seems like everywhere I turn there's another device using gesture control. The iPhone doesn't work with gestures at all, but Samsung's Galaxy S 4 takes gesture control to another level, adding eye control for good measure. By waving your hands in the air like you really do care, you can answer calls, switch songs in the music player or switch tabs in the browser, all while your phone sits on top of your desk or car dashboard.
The Galaxy S 4's Smart Pause feature watches your eyes and recognizes when you're paying attention to video content on the screen; when you've averted your gaze, Smart Pause stops the playback until you look again. The phone's Smart Scroll feature lets you move up and down a Web page by staring at the screen and tilting the phone.
As people use their smartphones more and more for productivity tasks, the ability to do more than one thing at a time becomes paramount. On Apple's iPhone 5, multitasking consists of simply switching tasks and hoping your visual memory is good enough to recall what you'd seen in one app after you move on to work in another.
Samsung takes a different approach, allowing you to have a more desktop-like multitasking experience on its flagship phone. The Galaxy S 4's dual-view feature lets you run two apps side-by-side so you can, for example, compose an email to your wife about the house you want to buy while looking at its real estate listing page in the browser. Using the S 4's Pop Up Play feature, you can watch a video on part of the screen while you keep working on your business presentation in a layer beneath it.
I suppose we should send Tim Cook a "thank you" letter for not forcing us to use a 1990s-era serial cable to transfer files between iPhones. However, Apple doesn't believe in NFC or Wi-Fi– direct standards, so forget about transferring files across devices with a tap or activating your stereo by rubbing your iPhone 5 against it.
Like most Android phones, the Galaxy S 4 comes with an NFC chip that lets you transfer dataor interact or interact with an entire ecosystem of peripherals just by tapping. Samsung's S Beam is by far the fastest and easiest way to transfer data between two phones, as it immediately establishes a Wi-Fi–direct connection between devices.
With NFC, the Galaxy S 4 can also connect to Samsung's HomeSync media center and start copying files from your phone. Hold the phone briefly against one of Sony's NFC-enabled stereos or headphones, and music that's playing on your Galaxy S 4 will magically start playing on the external device. With NFC, you can even take advantage of mobile-payment services like ISIS (provided carriers get their acts in gear).
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