The Galaxy S4 sees Samsung re-thinking the way in which users interact with their smartphone, introducing new ways of controlling a mobile device. These developments were hinted at with earlier handsets such as the Note 2 and Galaxy S III but they have been expanded upon with the Galaxy S4 and now encompass a wide set of features for users to play with. Two of them, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause, employ facial recognition to detect when you are looking directly at the handset and alter the way it operates accordingly.
Let’s start with Smart Scroll, a feature that allows the browsing of web pages without the need to physically touch the display. The Galaxy S4’s front-facing camera can detect when you are facing the device and will activate the function, meaning that you can simply tilt the handset up or down to scroll through the page you are viewing.
While doing this with your finger has never been something that we’ve found particularly taxing there is an added level of convenience that this feature brings about. If you’re being especially lazy, say if you’re lying on your sofa with a cup of tea in your hand, you won’t have to put your brew down every time you want to move the page.
There are some downsides with Smart Scroll though, most notably that it only works with the handset’s native browser. As good as Android’s web portal is we, like many others, prefer to use Chrome and doing so means missing out on the added functionality.
In the same vein, it’s disappointing that Smart Scroll doesn’t work with third party reading apps such as Pocket. Since there are many such apps which reduce web-based content to a simplified form so that it’s easier to digest, it would be great if Samsung’s scrolling feature could be employed by them. Hopefully a development like this may turn up in the future.
The second feature, Smart Pause, is an innovation which does one thing and does it well. Should you look away from the handset when watching a movie the device will pause the film, meaning you don’t miss any of it while your attention is elsewhere.
We’ve tested Smart Pause extensively and it really does work well, accurately reading the way in which you move your head. One especially impressive aspect of how the function works is that you have to look away for almost a second before the film stops; while this may give the impression that it isn’t responding quickly enough what it actually does is ensure that the film isn’t constantly starting and stopping should you glance away for a few milliseconds.
A movie will only pause if you make a longer movement away, with the handset understanding that it is only then that you are not paying attention to what’s on screen and making sure that the feature doesn’t become irritating.
When you first try out Smart Scroll and Smart Pause you will likely find yourself tilting your head into some very unusual positions as you learn to use the features. Once you get used to them though, they will begin to feel more natural, although we haven’t found that they completely replace the act of actually touching the screen. It’s a shame that Smart Scroll is limited to just the native browser but Smart Pause is a simple and intuitive feature which we can imagine using extensively in everyday life.