Samsung Galaxy S4 Reactions Range From ‘Meh’ to ‘Apocalypse Now’ Comparisons

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Samsung spent millions developing the new Galaxy S4 smartphone (released just nine months after the S3), and it also spent what appeared to be millions on the device’s debut Thursday night in New York City.

The boundless reserves of money and availability of resources prompted, for one media outlet, recollections of Francis Ford Coppola’s thoughts on filming “Apocalypse Now”: There were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.”

Indeed, many a reporter is baffled this morning at the ostentatious and out-of-place antics Samsung staged at Radio City as it released the latest version of the Galaxy. The event came complete with Broadway musical star Will Chase as emcee, full orchestra and numbers that, according to BusinessWeek, did “less to show off the new phones features than they remind people of (rest in peace, Allan Carr) Oscar-show sketches gone horribly awry … ”

Fortune experienced a similar feeling, dubbing its impressions of both Samsung’s launch party and the S4 as “meh.” The Associated Press called the S4’s ability to shoot photo and video using the front and back cameras at the same time “cute,”  but said that was the extent of the new phone’s appealing features.

Of course, the Galaxy S4 comes with a bigger screen (five inches) and faster processor, just as one would expect of a new smartphone. It also can translate languages while someone is speaking. And if you’re watching a video and look away, the phone is supposed to pause (AP says this did not work in the unit the reporter tested, “but it’s hard to imagine that this is a feature to die for.”).

Overall, the S4 is being billed as just a bigger successor to the S3, and one that isn’t so much about being awesome in its own right, but about trying once again to beat iPhone behemoth Apple. And if that’s true, then BusinessWeek nailed the reality of Samsung’s situation. When a “towheaded tyke” came on stage, “dancing as fast as he could, with a bright smile for everyone,” the metaphor for Samsung’s race against the iPhone rang clear.

“He was doing anything, everything he could to get us to like him,” BusinessWeek wrote. “And thats the thing about Samsung: It can be bigger than U.S. Steel, but its still dancing as fast as it can.”

All major U.S. carriers, plus Cricket and U.S. Cellular, are among those expected to carry the device when it goes on sale next month.

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