Samsung Galaxy S4 mini preview: First look
Air and Motion gestures, and Smart Screen
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini comes with most of the advanced gestures and features the original Galaxy S4 introduced, complete with the relevant sensors.
The first is Air View - the phone can detect your finger hovering over the screen. This enables information preview (e.g. SMS text, calendar entry text and so on), previewing videos just by pointing to a spot in the timeline, the next track in the music player by hovering over the next button (works with previous button too), previewing folders, speed dial contacts, and magnifying links in web pages. Air view detects fingers 1cm / 0.5" away from the screen, so there's no danger of accidentally tapping the screen when you wanted to use Air View instead.
Another set of "air" features are the Air Gestures. Quick Glance is one of them, but there's more. The rest of the air commands are triggered by waving your hand over the Galaxy S4 mini.
You can use this to scroll web pages in the browser (vertical waves), switch between tabs (horizontal waves), skip tracks in the music player and browse photos in the gallery, accept a call and move app shortcuts and S Planner events.
Air Gestures can detect your hand from up to 7cm (just under 3") and might prove useful in some situations. Note that only the native apps support them, they won't work with third party apps (even Chrome that comes preinstalled).
The familiar Smart Stay and Smart Rotation features are enabled too. Stay prevents the screen from locking as long as the front-facing camera can see your face (great for reading) and Rotate uses the orientation of your face rather than accelerometer feedback to decide how to rotate the screen.
What's missing is Smart Scroll and Smart Pause, but it's questionable how much those will be missed. Sure the two features have their appeal to some, but their implementation isn't perfectly smooth just yet and would have probably behaved even worse on the less capable hardware of the Galaxy S4 mini.
There are a number of motion gestures too, which are not exactly new. There's direct call (dial the contact whose info you're currently viewing by lifting the phone up to your ear), smart alert (makes the phone vibrate when you pick it up if there are missed events), zooming and panning in the gallery, a shake of the phone to refresh the list of Bluetooth devices and muting alarms or pausing music playback by turning the phone face down.
You can also pause the music player by putting your palm on the screen. A swipe with the palm takes a screenshot.
The Air View-enabled gallery makes it to the S4 mini
The gallery on the Galaxy S4 mini is the same as the flagship's. It can be sorted into albums, all photos and videos, time, location, etc. There's also a spiral option, which revamps the gallery into a Scalado-like spiral of images and video, which after a while gets really nauseating.
You can pinch to zoom in the gallery and thus manage the size of the thumbnails. Air view works in the gallery as well. You can hover your finger above an image and you'll get a bigger thumbnail overview or you can use it to peek inside folders.
When viewing an album's contents, a right swipe will reveal a bar with the rest of the albums available. In this mode you can browse images in a dual-screen mode.
Upon a press and hold on a picture, the gallery gives you the option to select multiple images, which you can then mass delete, share, copy or move.
Viewing photos on the Galaxy S4 mini is a nice experience. The screen is ample and Super AMOLED treats you to very pleasant colors. The gallery naturally supports full-res images. You can enable the Adobe RGB screen mode for accurate color rendering.
When viewing a single photo, you'll find several sharing shortcuts and a delete button above the photo, while below is a line of small thumbnails of all other photos in the album. You can tap those small thumbnails to move to other images or you can just swipe to the side.
You can easily edit photos right in the Gallery itself. The photo editor gives you options like crop, rotate, color and effects. You can also put down a note over the picture.
The Gallery supports highly customizable slideshows, too, with several effects to choose from, customizable music and speed. You can also highlight specific images to be included in the slideshow.
TouchWiz music player
The TouchWiz music player on the Galaxy S4 mini is the same as the one on the Galaxy S4. It is jam-packed with features and supports a wide variety of file formats, including FLAC, Wave, etc.
Music is sorted by the usual Artist, Album, Playlist, etc. but there's also Folder support (which is more often found on third party players) - it's quite handy as it saves you the need to sort songs into playlists like on so many other players.
Music square is quite similar to the SensMe feature of Sony smartphones. It automatically rates a song as exciting or calm, passionate or joyful and lets you build playlists matching your mood.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 mini can also search for content on third party players like PCs on the same network.
Samsung has enabled equalizer presets (including a custom one with 7 bands) along with the sound-enhancing SoundAlive technology, which features 7.1 channel virtualization. Samsung uses SoundAlive in some of their MP3 and Android-powered media players.
The Now playing screen gives you the usual options: a timeline, play/pause and skip controls, repeat and shuffle, volume control but it also adds lyrics support, an AllShare shortcut and a direct sound settings shortcut.
While listening to a song you can find music controls in the notification area and the lockscreen.
The Galaxy S4 mini has a couple of features that will further improve your listening experience. One is Smart Sound, which equalizes the volume between tracks. The other is Adapt Sound - an audio calibration tool that tries to combine the most comfortable highs and lows for the best audio in calls and music. This way the phone can map the capacity of your specific headset and fine-tune its output for optimal sonic experience.
After the calibration is complete, the Galaxy S4 mini shows you the kind of gain you're receiving by keeping Adapt Sound on.