Now that the Galaxy S 4 has finally landed and the Android blogosphere collectively cries out for something else to obsess over, it's interesting to look at what the reaction to the official unveiling of The Next Big Thing"©® has been like.
The least surprising part of media reaction to the Galaxy S 4 has been its positivity. One of the only actual negative reviews I could find comes from a website whose name begins with "Cult of" - again, not a humongous surprise.
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But while there are plenty of posts and news articles breathlessly detailing the Galaxy S 4's frankly absurd range of new features, the only slightly less common hands-on and review pieces have tended to be startlingly muted in their praise. The phrase "evolutionary, not revolutionary" crops up time and again.
Slashgear's Vincent Nguyen says "it's clear that Samsung hasn't strayed too far from the formula that made the Galaxy S III so successful." Engadget writes that "we get the sense Samsung could've called this device the GS III Plus."
That's not to say, of course, that there haven't been some raves. BGR says "the Galaxy S 4 the Android smartphone by which all others will be judged in 2013," and Android Central asserts that "it's easily the best all-around smartphone money can buy."
Perhaps the most interesting opinion so far comes from CNET, which calls the Galaxy S 4 "the Gap clothing of smartphones. While you may not use or even like every item on display, it's long on basics, represents a certain high standard, and you'll be able to get it anywhere."
It's important to remember that many of these are preliminary reviews based on limited actual use of the phone - not final judgments. Android Central might decide that, actually, it's not so sure about yet another top-end Samsung flagship being made out of plastic, and Slashgear might realize that some particular combination of goofy new software features actually is revolutionary.
For the moment, though, it's beginning to look like the Galaxy S 4 was a little overhyped. It's a problem that even Apple has had to deal with lately, given that its last two iPhone announcements haven't managed to combine the company's usual deafening level of pre-launch hype with fulsome, messianic critical reviews.
Of course, the iPhone 5 and 4S were still both very good phones, and have sold approximately a bazillion units each, so it's fair to question whether the critics not being as wowed as they could possibly be actually matters that much. However, I'm seeing more and more pieces like this one from the WSJ's tech blog asking whether the pace of innovation is dropping a little in the mobile sector.
I'd put it like this - Apple set the bar incredibly high when it fired the starting gun on the modern smartphone marketplace in 2007, and we got used to each new release actually being revolutionary. Once the Android world got itself sorted out and competitive, we got used to those OEMs consistently turning out something genuinely new and different, as well.
Big, ultra-hyped events are still the norm for market leaders like Apple and Samsung - but that market is a lot more mature and competitive than it's ever been. The pretense that every big new release from a major player is totally revolutionary and will change the way everyone thinks about everything is beginning to look more than a little silly.
Speaking of looking silly, I present to you the full video of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 launch event. (SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Protective headgear advised - eyes may roll out of face.)
I was prepared for something fairly silly and twee, thanks to those preview ads with the kid Jeremy, but I had no notion of how completely over the top Samsung would go. Nor how long. It was like the Seth McFarlane Oscar show - juvenile and awkward to watch.
Rumors about the next Nexus phone are starting to simmer, and one of the most interesting was turned up by Android and Me last weekend. While the site was careful to note that there are doubts about the legitimacy of its source - which says this is the LG "Megalodon" - the photo and list of potential specs is pretty exciting:
Oh yes, those specs - a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800, 3GB of RAM, 5.2-inch 1080p screen, gesture controls and a beefy 3300mAh battery.
Sadly, I have to give a tentative rating of "probably not" to this one - while Google's partnership with LG was successful in that the Nexus 4 was a pretty great phone, there was some clear friction between the two companies regarding supply issues. My gut feeling is that if Google doesn't go with Motorola for its next Nexus, it'll be Samsung, Sony or HTC.
We're apparently still no closer to knowing whether the Motorola X Phone exists - Kevin Purdy writes for sister publication ITWorld that speculation about the device has dried up since Google publicly described Motorola's in-the-pipeline projects as being kind of "blah." (N.B. that I'm paraphrasing here.)
Digitimes, citing the usual anonymous supply chain sources, says that Google I/O might see an updated version of the Nexus 7 released, featuring a Qualcomm chipset rather than the Nvidia Tegra line that had been used. It's certainly possible, but I hope for Google's sake that that's not their big device news for the show.
Take heart, if you're one of the many people angry with Google for knocking ad blocking apps out of the Play Store - AdBlock Plus is available directly from the manufacturers, though you'll have to install it manually.
Email Jon Gold at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.
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