First Samsung came for Apple's interface design, then it came for Apple's philosophy

Galaxy S4, the phone we didn't know we wanted until they showed it to us.

Samsung rolled out its all-new GalaxyS4 on Thursday night and its decision to launch its latest smart phone in New York is a clear sign that the South Korean technology giant isn't afraid of the Big Apple. 

The Galaxy S4 comes with enhanced software and hardware features, just ten months after the launch of its highly successful predecessor. According to excited reviews and tweets, the new S4 has miraculous qualities: it responds to body movements, switching songs or pictures at the wave of a hand. And thanks to a special camera, it can also pause a video whenever the user stops looking at the screen. It is slimmer than its predecessor, but has a 5-inch touch screen and a 20 per cent longer-lasting battery.

So, the Galaxy S4 - daughter of the S3 and already-expecting mother of S5, has done what Apple has singularly failed to do since the invention of the iPad - it created something the we never knew we wanted. Or, in Steve Jobs’ words: “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

In other words, the S4 is an innovative product, but it’s mainly an excuse to launch a good marketing campaign

After filing a complaint in April 2011, Apple has famously won a lawsuit against Samsung over design user interface and style characteristics patented by Apple for the iPhone and iPad.

However, what Samsung is managing to steal now is the entire philosophy behind Apple’s extraordinary success. And this is not exactly the sort of issue you can appeal against in a tribunal.

Former Apple creative director Ken Segalls, says that, through its advertising, Samsung has succeeded in reinforcing a point (whether it’s true or not): that it has successfully positioned itself as the company delivering innovation, “striking a nerve, and stoking the anti-Apple flames.”

Segalls quotes several figures to back up his opinion. Samsung outspent Apple on marketing last year, and telecoms industry insiders say the S4 launch is setting a new high water mark for smartphone ad spend.  Marketing budgets in some countries will run into tens of millions of dollars, with Samsung’s total spend on the S4 expected to exceed $150m globally. That compares with $108m spent by Apple on marketing the iPhone 5 last year, according to Kantar media monitoring.

Despite the Broadway-style launch, investors gave the launch a chilly welcome, sending Samsung shares down, up to 2 per cent. On the other hand, financial markets follow the same rule: it’s not about what you sell, but what you think you are buying.

The Galaxy S4. Photograph: Getty Images

Sara Perria is the Assistant Editor for Banking and Payments, VRL Financial News

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.