This past Monday, Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S5. It brings with it a slight redesign, better hardware, a heart-rate monitor, a fingerprint scanner and more. Weâ€™re going to delve into all the details of the new S5 to see just how good it is and whatâ€™s new.
Samsung has opted to largely keep the design of the S5 the same as the the S4. The S5 is taller, thicker, wider, and heavier than the S4. It sports a 5.1â€³ Super AMOLED display. The former capacitive menu button has been replaced by the Google preferred multitasking button. The front of the phone is about the same, because itâ€™s basically dominated by the screen. The bezels are also basically the same silver painted plastic that we saw in the Note 3. The big change is the back of the phone.
The S5 now has a dimpled faux-leather plastic back that, while it does make the phone easier to grip, makes it look and feel incredibly cheap. I donâ€™t know about you, but when I look at a phone that is considered to be in the high end range of smartphones, I donâ€™t expect to see cheap quality materials. Besides that, many, including myself, feel that it looks tacky and just ugly. The phone comes in 4 colors. Black, Pearly White, Electric Blue, and Copper Gold. To me, the White version looks the least bad, and can even look good at times.
Besides the look of the device, the reason for the increase in size and weight is that it now is Dust and Water Proof with an Ingress Protection rating of IP67. This is why the MicroUSB port on the bottom of the phone (which is now MicroUSB 3.0, yay for speed!) is covered. So go ahead and take your phone with you in the shower if you want, itâ€™ll be just fine.
The Galaxy S5 sports a brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz (MSM8974AC) processor. This is pretty close to the processor seen in the Nexus 5, Galaxy Note 3, Xperia Z1, and LG G2. The difference is that this version is slightly faster and supports a faster storage standard. Suffice it to say, this phone is going to be fast, but maybe not that you could tell the difference between it and the phones of the end of last year. In addition, it sports the same 2GB of RAM that was present in the Galaxy S4. Strange, as we believed it would have upgraded to the more desirable 3 GB of RAM as we saw in the Note 3. Despite this, 2 GB of RAM should be plenty to handle most of your multitasking needs. To power all of this performance, they have a slightly bigger 2,800 mAh battery. As of this writing, the Galaxy S5 is likely the most powerful smartphone on the market, but not by much.
Samsung upgraded the camera on the S5 to a 16 Megapixel ISOCELL sensor, but they didnâ€™t stop there. They took Â a step further in improving what can arguably be one of the more important aspects of mobile photography. Speed. Samsung added something called Hybrid AutoFocus which is a mixture of Contrast Detection and Phase Detection to determine the focus points. This is a technology typically only seen in DSLRs and more recently in Interchangeable Mirrorless Cameras like the Sony NEX-5R or later. This new technology claims to be able to focus on subjects in 0.3 seconds. That is a huge advantage for people who need to pull out their phones for a picture as fast as possible. Without the speed, you donâ€™t get that precious shot. Quality-wise, we should see roughly the same if not slightly better as we saw in the Galaxy Note 3, which was definitely great. Samsung has done well here.
Samsung didnâ€™t change too much as we thought they would, but what they did change is most definitely welcome, for the most part. Mostly, the TouchWiz UX looks about the same. The icons are a little flatter, a lot of the bloat that was present in previous versions is gone, and in general it just feels like it was cleaned up a bit. The Quick Settings toggles now sport a significantly flatter look, while still bringing it much closer to stock Androidâ€™s implementation. When on the home screen, you are given the ability to say â€œOK Googleâ€ to bring up Google Search/Now. This feature was previously only seen in the Google Now Launcher, and is a welcome addition to TouchWiz. Swipe right on the homescreen and you are greeted with a â€œMy Magazinesâ€ section that resembles HTCâ€™s Blinkfeed feature that aggregates different news sources. Overall, Samsung has toned down and simplified TouchWiz and that should make for a significantly better experience on the S5.
The S5 comes with several new features that stand out. The first is the Fingerprint Scanner in the Home Button. An obvious take from Apple, Samsung has included a fingerprint scanner in the home button of the S5 for the purpose of security. Interestingly, they took it a step further and added the ability to make payments via PayPal using the Fingerprint scanner. Weâ€™ll see just how useful this proves to be.
Theyâ€™ve also added a Heart-rate Monitor to the back of the phone. Sitting right next to the flash module of the rear camera, is a heart rate monitor that you can press your finger to when in the S Health application. This allows S Health to measure your heart-rate and add to the list of tracked statistics of your health. Personally, I do not see the benefit of this feature to the every day user, and even the slightly more health-conscious every day user, but thatâ€™s just me.
Samsung has also added the capability for WiFi MIMO (Multiple-input Multiple-output). This allows the S5 to have a more stable and potentially faster internet connection. A welcome addition. They added a software feature they are calling â€œDownload Boosterâ€ that essentially combines the bandwidth of your WiFi together with your 4G LTE to increase download speeds. Samsung likes to mention that they have Category 4 LTE (which supports faster LTE speeds and better energy efficiency), but to be honest, any smartphone with a Snapdragon 800 or higher has this feature so that was an obvious marketing pull.
Lastly, theyâ€™ve also included an Ultra Power Saving Mode, which turns off all but the essential functions on your device, and even turns the colors off on your phone, to save battery life and push hours of more juice out of your phone.
Overall, the S5 is more of a basic evolution than anything else. It feels more like a Galaxy S4 S than an S5. It bumps specs up to the level of current flagships to merely compete, changes the design of the back to something that is not better but not worse either, brings in dust and waterproofing, and adds a few welcome changes in the camera and sensors. All in all, itâ€™s a good phone, but Iâ€™m left a little disappointed by the minimum effort Samsung seems to have put in upgrading this phone. I wish it had more premium materials, a Snapdragon 805, 3 GB of RAM, a better front-facing camera, and front-facing stereo speakers. Perhaps weâ€™ll see some of these features in an upcoming version of the phone in May.
Availability is worldwide on April 11th, 2014.
Subscribe to The Thoughts of Stefan Kamer
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox