So what to make of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch last night? Here are five initial thoughts covering the launch, the Galaxy S4 itself, what it says about where Samsung is right now, and the kind of challenge it lays down for its smartphone rivals.
Mega launch Samsung style: a deeply strange experience
As Lewis already mentioned, the launch event itself was deeply surreal. The presentation was a cross between an infomercial and a B-list award ceremony, the little acted sketches felt like Whose Line Is It Anyway with more expensive props, young Jeremy was... well, best you go with your own thoughts cos mine could get me in trouble.
In all, it was an exercise in unabashed glam-kitsch, albeit a slick, professional and well produced one. In all, HTC's tweeted reaction probably nailed it best: “So... how off-Broadway is this production?”
Samsung doesn't need to talk about being the next big thing any more
Samsung's whole approach to launching the Galaxy S4 has indicated a significant change to how it's going about the smartphone business these days. It doesn't have to bow to anyone these days – it calls the shots, it dictates the terms, and you will like what it has to offer.
The Galaxy S II was launched at Mobile World Congress, with the Galaxy S III Samsung took a chance and launched it on its own at Earls Court last May. But with the Galaxy S4, we're in the heart of New York City, at a time that was majorly inconvenient for everyone else in the world, and instead of a tech launch we had a show. The message to the tech geeks who were the leading evangelists for the likes of the GS3: we don't need you any more.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a very good phone
Look, the Galaxy S III was good, and 11 months after it went on sale in the UK you'll be able to pick up its successor. No, it's not a great leap forward but it didn't have to be, and arguably couldn't be considering how far forward the GS3 already was and how little time has actually passed since it touched down.
Of course it could be better, no question about it. But just like with the GS3 and pretty much every iPhone since the first one, maybe people are saying it's not as good as they were expecting because thanks to ridiculous levels of hype what they were expecting was more than was realistically possible.
A lot of people will be getting one
However long Samsung holds sway as the world's leading mobile superpower (which it now unquestionably is), the Galaxy S4 is the first flagship release of that reign, and it can't fail to sell by the bucketload. It's got everything going for it: quality, specs, hype, and above all mainstream appeal.
That's why so much of last night's launch event was devoted to software features rather than hardware capabilities – software features that were largely (but by no means all) gimmicks too. Everyone is going to want one of these, not just phone enthusiasts, so Samsung has moved away from focusing on specs appeal (even while talking about being “designed by humans”) to giving you a “life companion”.
Apple's response will be really interesting
The HTC tweet mentioned further up was just one of many the company fired out last night, all ridiculing the Galaxy S4 and bigging up the HTC One. And it wasn't the only one. But the reaction we're all waiting for is Apple's, and we're not talking words, we're talking the next iPhone.
Surely only the most blinkered of Apple fans still believes the company is still in the position of strength it was two years ago. And that's completely fine, too. Apple grew so fast for so long that it simply had to slow down, and once you've started slowing down it's hard to stop.
So the next iPhone release will truly be an interesting moment in Apple's history. Regardless of the details of whether it's one model or more, big-screened or otherwise, budget or premium or both, the point is this is one of those times where according to myth and legend, Apple will blow us all away by going in an unexpected direction, redefining our concept of good and evil and everything in between with a perfect fusion of form, function and above all innovation. Will the real Apple live up to its own self-promoted legend? We'll know within the next few months.