Now that the "Who owns the glass rectangle" smartphone wars are thankfully fading into the background of the news cycle, competition in interaction designs is coming to the forefront. Apple arguably kicked it off in '11 by integrating Siri, introducing voice control; as we saw yesterday, Google may push into backside touch; and now Samsung is introducing a host of different interaction designs with their latest model.
Unveiled last night, Samsung's new Galaxy S4 has "Smart Pause," which stops and starts videos depending on whether your eyes are looking at the screen (they are presumably tracked by the camera). "Smart Scroll" advances screen content when the user tilts the phone to one side or the other. "Air Gesture" allows users to manipulate the phone without actually touching it, but rather by hovering a finger over the screen, or using a broader gesture like a hand wave to advance photographs. (And it works while wearing gloves.) Lastly, "S Translator" enables you to speak one language into the phone, and have the phone speak back a translation into a different language.
While none of these features are a magic bullet that will instantly win the smartphone war, that's not the relevant point, to us. What we're glad of is that heated competition is producing a range of experimental ways that we can interact with devices. Apple's steady, measured development process is very different from Samsung's "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach, with Google somewhere in the middle, and we can't say which methodolody is superior; but either way it's an exciting time for interaction design, and it is the end user who stands to win from all of these companies duking it out.