NEW YORK — Buzz about the new Galaxy S4 has reached galactic levels.
Samsung’s latest high-tech smartphone — announced Thursday evening and due to hit stores in the second quarter — is a hot topic on Twitter, has reaped more than 500,000 related Google searches and has grabbed front-page newspaper headlines.
“Coveting the #Samsung Galaxy S4,” tweeted @candice Friday afternoon.
“The Samsung Galaxy is LOADED with the goods,” tweeted @Johanna_Cho on Friday as well.
The new gadget has a 5-inch full HD screen and is slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III. But it also has some gee-whiz elements that are driving buzz, such as:
- Dual camera technology, which allows users to capture photos and videos with both a front and rear camera at the same time.
- A function for speech-to-text and text-to-speech translation of several languages.
- The ability to respond to some eye movements. For instance, its “smart pause” feature stops playing video when it detects that a user has looked away. The video will play again when it senses that the user has looked back.
“Everyone wants the newest and best thing,” says Omar Flores, a manager at the AT&T kiosk in the Tyson’s Corner mall in McLean, Va., adding that there was a similar clamor around the iPhone 5.
As for the S4, “people seem to think it’s going to be the best phone ever,” he says.
Across the country, at an Emeryville, Calif., AT&T store, there was also consumer interest in the new device. One employee there said there was a rise in customer inquiries about the S4 smartphone.
In front of a nearby Apple store, Jason Reed, 28, of Richmond, Calif., said he will likely get the S4 once his iPhone contract expires. “I liked the Galaxy III but heard about the S4 and just waited,” he says
The idea that Samsung is taking on tech kingpin Apple — and the iPhone — has increased the S4 chatter.
“Everyone loves the challenger brand… Everybody loves the underdog,” says David Bryant, chief creative officer at digital marketing agency Organic and a former creative strategist at Google.
It used to be that Apple was the challenger brand — taking on the powerful PC, he says. But now Samsung is the one going after the dominant player.
Samsung has come out strong against the iPhone, using marketing such as a Super Bowl ad that pokes fun of the folks who line up outside Apple’s stores in anticipation of the latest device launch. Samsung has painted the iPhone as a device that older parents, rather than cool younger folks, would use.
“Samsung has poked Apple majorly in the eye,” says Mediapost.com advertising columnist Barbara Lippert. Samsung has done “an amazing job” at becoming part of the pop culture conversation, she says.
Samsung was a client of Organic’s Bryant when he worked at marketing firm Digitas in 2007, and he’s amazed at how much its phone brand recognition has grown. Back then, Nokia was king of the hill, and Motorola’s Razr was also of note. But then the iPhone came out and changed everything, he says. And now, Samsung “is playing Apple’s game better than Apple,” he says.
Also adding to the buzz: tech fans like to talk about new technology, via technology — so technophiles are ramping up the conversations about the S4 by blogging and tweeting about the new device, he says.
One key question for Samsung will be whether the user experience will match the S4’s hardware upgrades.
Early reaction was mixed. An Associated Press review said “it’s hard to point to anything that will set the world on fire.” Despite a number of user interface innovations, “they don’t amount to a coherent new way of interacting with the phone,” the AP said.
And while buzz is building for the new S4, some folks don’t want to part with their iPhone.
“I’m looking to upgrade a (iPhone) 4S to a 5,” says Eddy Hueso, 36, of El Cerrito, Calif., adding that there’s “no way” he’s switch away from the Apple device.
On Thursday night, Samsung took a page from Apple’s marketing playbook to hype the phone — hosting a big, glitzy event at Radio City Music Hall to introduce the S4. More than 3,000 people were at the event. Attendees included journalists, employees and technology-enthusiast customers.