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The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the world’s first peripatetic computer: You walk, you work and you thrive.

You walk, you work – and you get the job done.

I was walking around the house Saturday — busily working away, headset in my ear, making phone calls and dealing with emails — when it hit me:

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is the world’s first peripatetic computer.

It’s easy and natural to work — to do real work — while walking. Salesmaniacs know that you work better on the phone when you’re walking and talking, but that’s just one aspect of the the sheer utility of doing the desk work where the work is, instead of trying to disgarble the mangled reports of intermediaries.

Comprehensive reviews of the S4 abound, pick your poison. I’m Apple to the core since 1985, so this was a big move for me. I have zero doubt that all smartphones are rip-offs of Apple, that without the iPhone, cell phones would still look and disappoint like the the Nokias and Motorolas of yore. But Samsung is number two and it is trying harder than Apple is now — a lot harder.

The unique features of the phone are gee-whiz and boy-howdy both, doubt you nothing, but that’s all just geekery (and the whole Android universe is rife with the kind of self-satisfied jargonistic needlessly-arcane asshattery that made normal people shun Unix (Eunichs?) geeks even before they made DOS for the dumb ones). What makes the S4 work is the way it’s made for work.

Like this:

* Size: Nice in my hand, maybe just a touch big for the wimminz, but very pocketable, unlike the largely-comparable Galaxy Note 2. (Between the lines: Leaving the phone out of the iPad and iPad Mini was an unforced error on Apple’s part.)

* Weight: That plastic shell feels cheesy, but it makes the phone super-light. I can hold it stationary in one hand indefinitely, easily, without rest or stress. I sold my iPad 2 because the weight of the thing made it, de facto, a crippled laptop, not a usefully-mobile computing solution.

* Software: This is still the weakest link for true peripateticism, computing while ambulating, working while you walk, but we’re getting there. The whole “app” diversion has been a disaster, with millions of people possessed of dozens of one-off (cr)apps, each one of which is really just a showy database client. But because Google is (dimly, slowly) catching onto the idea that the essential component in computing is not the device, not the code and not the data but the end-user, device-irrelevant computing gets better and better. As it does, the amount of work you can get done wherever you are grows dramatically.
 

This is my notifications screen, with my TV remote always ready to hand. Note that the phone is aware that earbuds are plugged in. The software suggestions it makes are all useless, but at least it's trying. Note to Google: Heuristics. You know how to do it.

This is my notifications screen, with my TV remote always ready to hand. Note that the phone is aware that earbuds are plugged in. The software suggestions it makes are all useless, but at least it’s trying. Note to Google: Heuristics. You know how to do it.

* Hardware: Beyond cool, so go read those reviews. There’s built-in biometric stuff and — soup to nuts — an IR blaster. I have a remote for our TV “widgeted” into my lock screen. Best news of all: A user-accessible micro-SD slot. I have the 16GB phone, augmented by a 64GB memory card for, I kid you not, fifty-six bucks. I have 80 gigs of static ram on my phone!

* Camera: Better than my point-and-shoot — by a lot. The sharing support everywhere is first rate, but it’s easy to move photos or videos wherever you want them.

* Battery: It’s a slow charge for a long life, a good trade-off. Much better, the battery is user-swappable, so dedicated road warriors can keep a spare or two fully-charged.

But wait. There’s more.

I can have a desk when I sit down, yet the computer comes with me when I move.

Take a look at this docking station. Power, monitor, hard-disk, keyboard, mouse — desktop. The S4 and this dock are, as of now, the perfect solution for working a conference: The workstation stays at your seat as you, the phone and your headset work the breaks, then everything is back to a desktop/laptop-like solution when you sit back down.

Invite me to your show. I want to prove this will work beautifully!

I’ll have more to say about the S4 as I have more time with it. But so far it’s doing for me what my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and my erstwhile iPad could not do: Giving me a way to work when the only flat surface available to me is my left hand.

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  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Al Lorenz April 29th, 2013 10:01 am

      Fantastic Greg! It is getting better. We have the fledgling beginnings of 4G service in my little town. When it gets working better, that will be a big help as well since 3G is just too trying for my patience.

    2. Greg Swann April 29th, 2013 10:17 am

      Coming on two years ago, I wrote a series of posts on what operating systems could and should be doing by now. Here’s one that’s apposite to the S4:

      http://www.bloodhoundrealty.com/BloodhoundBlog/?p=15603

      The S4 doesn’t do much of my stuff, but at least it’s doing some of it. For example, you can make your face the password to unlock the phone.

    3. Scott Cowan April 30th, 2013 9:51 am

      Greg,

      I have an S3 and I love it. The S4 appears to have a few more features but I am not certain that I would find use for them.

      If I had to replace my phone right now I would want an iPad mini with a top end bluetooth earpiece. Too bad as you stated the lack of this product is an unforced error on the part of Apple. I truly think there is a market for a tablet with phone functions built in. Apple needs to build one and market it to professionals who don’t want to carry as many devices with them.

    4. Greg Swann April 30th, 2013 12:24 pm

      > I would want an iPad mini with a top end bluetooth earpiece

      With a headset, the ungainliness of a tablet is less of a problem. The Galaxy Note II hits that niche pretty pretty squarely.

      > Apple needs to build one and market it to professionals who don’t want to carry as many devices with them.

      Yup. It may be interesting for you, if you switch back to iPhone, to get used to the iOS workflow. Android’s style of daisy-chaining applications is a nice solution to the multi-tasking problem. You’ll miss it when you go back.

    5. Scott Cowan April 30th, 2013 3:18 pm

      Yes the Galaxy Note II does seem like it has potential. I use my iPad all day for just about everything so I am not as concerned about going all in with Apple if they ever deliver on the phone/tablet combo.

      Overall the direction we are going is exciting and I am looking forward to the next generation from both Samsung and Apple. Should be some good things coming.

    6. Thomas Johnson May 1st, 2013 6:29 am

      (Between the lines: Leaving the phone out of the iPad and iPad Mini was an unforced error on Apple’s part.)

      I’ve been yelling for a cellphone radio in an iPad mini for a year. The LTE versions already talk to the cell towers. How hard would this be? The carriers could subsidize the purchase with the voice plan. For that matter, why not put a cellphone and LTE functionality in the whole laptop range?

      It also seems to me that iPads have a longer useful life than cell phones. Our iPad 2 is fully functional and sells houses daily. The current iPhone at the time was either the 3GS or the 4. Apple killed the category, but the tablets’ longevity may be contributing to their woes at the moment.

      If the Galaxy S4 has an IR beam, that means we could open Supra boxes without buying a dongle, right? I won’t hold by breath. I can’t imagine the MLS oligarchs giving up their dongles without a fight.

    7. Greg Swann May 1st, 2013 12:44 pm

      > If the Galaxy S4 has an IR beam, that means we could open Supra boxes without buying a dongle, right? I won’t hold by breath. I can’t imagine the MLS oligarchs giving up their dongles without a fight.

      I’ve asked them, no reply so far. It’s a rent-seeker’s monopoly, so all they have to do is make the software contingent upon paid-up dues or whatever. I’m sure they would love to be out of the hardware business.

    8. ryan hartman May 11th, 2013 5:26 pm

      Thinking a lot of the same things about my nexus 4. Really enjoying it.

      Your point about “craps” was also a lot of fun. I have a few craps in the android store myself and can’t understand why a mobile web app usually doesn’t make more sense.

    9. Carole Ramirez-Hansen May 16th, 2013 11:47 am

      You make a very compelling argument to drop my iPhone and move over the the Galaxy S4. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that just yet. I will wait for the iPhone 5s to come out and do some more comparing at that time. Hopefully they won’t push the release date too much further. I have several colleagues with Samsung phones and they swear by them. Samsung does seem to be innovating at a faster pace than Apple though. Apple is just not very compatible with the MLS unfortunately.

    10. Greg Swann May 16th, 2013 11:59 am

      If you go Android, you’re necessarily going Google. G-in-the-cloud is doing a lot of my kind of smart-integration stuff (I search for an address from my iMac, a map and driving directions show up in the notifications on my phone), and the API integration among apps is incredible, far beyond anything in the iOS world. Apple risks becoming like the Macintosh in the 1990s — fanboy favorite self-eradicating by way of me-too technology. Samsung and Google ripped off Apple, for sure, but they did a fuck of a lot better job of it than Microsoft did aping the Mac OS, and for now all the forward motion seems to be coming from the “try harder” sector of the mobile universe.