Samsung has built several gesture-based controls into the Galaxy S4 that allow users to operate the handset without even touching it. Air View and Air Gesture in particular are worthy of note, each of which will see people waving their hands in front of the device to take control of various aspects of its functionality.
Air View works in a similar way to the function of the same name that appeared on the Galaxy Note 2. On that device, the handset’s stylus could be hovered over certain parts of the UI to bring up a small preview window; here it can be used by simply holding a finger over the display.
Placing your fingertip roughly a centimetre above the screen will open a preview window, giving you a glimpse of what will be shown should you tap on it. We found this came in particularly useful with messages, photos and web-links, enabling a quick look at things without having to skip in and out of various parts of the UI.
When you have your text message inbox open, the content of a long message can previewed without opening it. Intuitively, the function doesn’t work if the entire message is short enough to be shown in the inbox window and only comes into play with lengthier messages.
Air View is useful when looking through photos in a gallery, bringing up a larger preview of an image and saving the effort of having to click on it and then skip back to the main gallery to select another. The function works in a similar way with links on webpages; floating over one brings up a glimpse of the webpage the link directs to, although this only comes intyo play when surfing the web via the device’s native browser.
Air View is a great way of previewing content without having to constantly skip in and out of various photos, messages and web pages. The only two criticisms are that it can sometimes be quite easy to inadvertently tap on the screen when you merely want to see a preview and that the window itself can sometimes be obscured by your finger as it hovers over the screen.
Beyond Air View there is Air Gesture, a simpler feature which in practice has two main uses; flicking through a photo gallery and answering calls, each without the requirement to touch the handset.
When a gallery is open, a swiping gesture a few inches from the device’s screen moves it along to the next image, something which allows you to move through photos more fluidly. Also, tapping on any image can mean accidentally bringing up editing options or zooming in on the photo, something which you can avoid with Air Gesture.
Lastly, answering calls is swiftly done by waving a hand across the display. This might sound like a pointless addition when described here, but there are some situations where this functionality comes in especially handy, namely when your hands are dirty and when you are driving. In particular, clipping the device into a dashboard-mounted, hands-free kit and operating it without having to touch the display could add an extra level of safety to using the device in a car.