Like movies, sequels to smash-hit smartphones aren't likely to impress as much as the original.
We've seen that repeated with the "S" versions of Apple's iPhone.
Samsung's Galaxy S IV, the follow-up to last year's Galaxy S III blockbuster, fits a similar mold. The big exception is that the S4 does not feature the exact form factor as its predecessor, unlike the iPhone 4 and 4S.
The latest Galaxy is a bit sleeker while sporting a slightly bigger screen than the S3 (5 inches vs 4.8 inches). While not a major redesign, the difference is noticeable and an improvement over last year's model.
Other upgrades include a faster processor and a battery with about 20 percent more capacity, which is impressive because the S4 is a touch lighter than the S3. The S4 also has a higher-resolution, 13-megapixel rear camera.
Thanks to Samsung's endless commercials, most consumers are aware of features such as wave-to-answer and eye-movement-tracking to the S4.
Unfortunately for Samsung, some of the features are gimmicky and more annoying than helpful.
For example, while reading an article with "smart scroll" activated, the screen occasionally advanced before I was ready for it. And when I scrolled back up, the screen would move back down again. Smart scroll "works" by detecting your eyes and tracking the angle at which your head or the device tilts. If I actually owned the S4 I reviewed, which was provided by Samsung, I would leave the feature off.
The motion controls are cool — the first couple of times you use them. Waving over the phone to wake it from sleep is neat, as is scrolling up and down a Web page with hand gestures.
There is absolutely no harm in including these features because they can be turned off. Just don't expect them to be life-changing, or even game-changing, as the commercials would suggest.
Samsung fitted the S4 with the plastic backplate that's found on many of its devices. The design makes it extremely easy to remove the backing to swap in a microSD card but may feel cheap to some users.
If you're in the market for a new Android smartphone, the S4 is a better option than the S3 even though you obviously will have to shell out a bit more for the newer device.
But an alternative I prefer to the S4 is the HTC One, which carries the same $200, two-year-contract price tag from most major carriers.
Yet another option would be to wait for the release of the Galaxy S4 zoom, a new device announced last week that's expected to hit the U.S. in the fourth quarter. Unlike the S4, the S4 zoom could be a game-changer as it truly marries a phone with a digital camera, with Samsung billing it as the first smartphone to offer 10x optical zoom.
Andy Vuong : 303-954-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org or fb.com/byandyvuong.