Samsung Galaxy S4: HD-res screen and eye-tracking tech expected

The Samsung Galaxy S4 will apparently look a lot like the SIII shown here, but will be slightly larger and include eye-tracking tech.

Samsung's next-generation Galaxy S4 smartphone, to be unveiled tomorrow night in New York City, will reportedly have a larger display with ultra-high resolution, a faster processor and trademark Eye Scroll software that tracks a user's eyes to determine when to scroll through pages on the display.

Amid widespread pre-launch excitement over the device, Samsung has also hinted that the S4 will still have a plastic body and will not be upgraded to aluminum as was done with the recently announced HTC One.

According to various sources, the GS4 will have:

  • A 5-inch display
  • Android 4.2
  • Screen resolution of 1080 x 1920 with 440 pixels per inch (PPI)
  • A quad-core processor clocked at 1.7 Ghz or faster
  • A 13-megapixel rear camera and a 2.2 megapixel front camera
  • 4G LTE
  • 802.11 ac, a faster Wi-Fi spec.

The resolution means that the S4 will be capable of displaying full HD video – but mobile websites and Android apps for will need to be adjusted to accomodate an even higher resolution and pixel density than was available previously.

While Samsung used the roman numeral III in naming its current Galaxy S III smartphone, it seems to favor the Arabic numeral 4 for the next generation, using the figure in an invitation to the event that reads, "Ready 4 the show -- come and meet the next Galaxy."

Regarding that eye-tracking software, an unnamed Samsung employee told The New York Times that S4 users will be able to read articles on the display and when their eyes reach the bottom of the page, the software will automatically scroll down to reveal the next text passages.

The technology behind the eye-tracking isn't known, although Samsung has filed for trademarks to call it "Eye Scroll" in both Europe and the US. The SIII today has Smart Stay, a software feature that uses the front-facing camera to keep the screen lit up when a person is looking at it, instead of dimming after awhile to save power.

Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst, warned: "Eye-tracking needs to work flawlessly in order not to annoy users. It also might come across as a gimmick versus a real benefit."

Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst, said he didn't think he would use a feature like Eye Scroll, but he predicted the technology would introduce a whole series of facial and hand-gesture tracking innovations from Samsung.

"If Samsung is using the front-facing camera to track your eyes to scroll through an article, that's a pretty neat thing," Llamas said. "The front-facing camera is underused."

He also foresees a time that a user will make a gesture with a hand left to right in front of a smartphone to answer a call, with the reverse gesture indicating the call should go to voice mail.

Too hi-res?

While the S4's screen resolution is expected to be 440 PPI (or higher), according to various reports, Llamas questioned how important that would be, although it seems impressive when compared to the SIII and the iPhone 5, both at above 300 PPI. (The GSIII has 306 PPI, while the iPhone 5 has 326 PPI.)

"The human eye is only capable of detecting 340 PPI," Llamas said. "Will people notice?"

Much the same can be said for whether the GS4 has a quad-core or an eight-core processor. "Aside from the actual specs, will people even notice?" Llamas said.

Some reports have said the GS4 will have Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa eight-core processor , although some analysts are wondering if that processor might run too hot and burn up battery life too quickly.

A Japanese blog, RBMen, suggested the processor could be clocked at 1.9 GHz, possibly running a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Either processor would probably require boosting the 2100 mAh battery seen in today's GSIII.

The GSIII runs a Samsung Exynos 4 quad-core processor outside of North America, clocked at 1.4 GHz, and a Snapdragon S4 dual core clocked at 1.5 GHz in the U.S. Apple's iPhone 5 runs an A6 dual core, bench-tested by third parties at 1.02 GHz. At 4.99-in. or 5-in., depending on the report, the GS4's display would be a tiny bit bigger than the GSIII at 4.8 inches but noticeably bigger than the 4-in. iPhone 5.

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