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Samsung's Galaxy S4 Will Be the World's Fastest Smartphone, but Does That Really Matter?


Smartphone users might care more about wireless speeds, battery life, and software features.

In the inevitable Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) versus Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) war that breaks out each time either company releases a new smartphone, Samsung has a big advantage with the Galaxy S4: It's much, much faster than the iPhone 5.

The new Galaxy S4 had its processing speed put to the test by benchmark specialists Primate Labs, who compared the phone to several other latest-generation devices.

The result? The Galaxy S4 topped a list of seven smartphones with an impressive 3,163 score on the GeekBench 2 speed test, almost doubling the iPhone 5's score of 1,596. In fact, the iPhone 5 -- which was ranked fifth -- was found to be slower than an iteration of the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Coming in second behind the Galaxy S4 was the upcoming HTC (TPE:2498) One, while another Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) device, the LG (PINK:LGEAF) Nexus 4, was third. The BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) was sixth.

While its score is impressive already, the Galaxy S4 actually could be even faster. The US model used for this benchmarking test featured the Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 600 processor. For the international market, the Galaxy S4 comes with the octa-core Exynos chipset, which is likely to provide a significant performance boost.

(See also: Can the Samsung Galaxy S4 Break the BlackBerry-Apple Stranglehold on Business Customers?)

However, while Samsung can rightfully be proud of the blazing performance of its flagship device, some argue that in reality, smartphone processing speed is not that important of a feature. For one, besides the Galaxy Note 2, smartphones do not have user interfaces that allow multitasking, which is where faster speeds would really come in handy. The Galaxy S4, however, will also have multi-window functionality.

Additionally, users are ultimately at the mercy of mobile networks like AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) since much of what they want to do requires a wireless connection.

"Clearly if you have higher processing speed and more memory, your phone can do things. But no matter how fast your device is, when you're accessing the Internet, you're still constrained by your network and by how many people are in your area," Jim Machi, VP of Product Management at mobile network solutions firm Dialogic, tells Minyanville.

The Galaxy S4's faster speeds could also mean a shorter battery life, especially with its new bigger screen.

"Speed is always important, but there does come a point where speed, or any other feature becomes moot," says Chicago-based securities trader Clayton Cohn, via email. "If the phone is lightening fast but barely holds a charge, what's the point of having a fast phone? If you have a fast phone with an unresponsive touchscreen, then the phone being fast is equally trivial."

(See also: Meow! HTC Unleashes No-Holds-Barred Twitter Snark on Samsung's Galaxy S4)

Cohn, who owns both an iPhone and an Android device, says, "I like my iPhone for personal use because it is sleek, user-friendly, and offers a very easy-to-use platform with decent battery life. I like my Droid for business, however, because of its speed, the option of choosing between different manufacturers, and the unlocked Android OS. I am able to do much more on my Droid than I am on my iPhone because of it." Cohn adds, "[So] everything depends on the user's need."

(See also: Despite Android's Rise, the iPad Remains the Undisputed Top Tablet Among Business Users)

Instead of its super-fast processor, what could attract more customers to the Galaxy S4 might be its user experience-enhancing software features, says Bryan Leeds, co-founder of Xsync, a mobile apps startup that offers phone-to-phone file sharing services via QR codes.

"It's very easy for users to change devices and so device makers must continually be innovating and differentiating their products in order to stay relevant," Leeds tells Minyanville by email. "Software like S Beam (a phone-to-phone content sharing feature) and S Health (a fitness and health app) differentiate Samsung but also make their products sticky. If I have all my health data in S Health, it's really going to be a pain for me to export all that data onto a different platform, so I've got a strong incentive to stay with Samsung."

Leeds believes that the Galaxy S4 is setting the standard for smartphones. "Right now, the Galaxy S4 has better features than any of its competitors. It has a strong edge over the competition, and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), HTC, BlackBerry, and Apple will need to catch up if they don't want to lose market share."

(See also: The Apple iWatch Is a Stunning, Beautiful, and Revolutionary Figment of Your Imagination)

[This article was edited to add that the Galaxy S4 has multi-window functionality.]

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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