After all the rumours and hype, Samsung revealed the Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress. And although the design may have a left a few fans disappointed, Samsung have once again made up with it’s long line of bells and whistles giving us a flagship smartphone that will end up somewhere near the top of the Smartphone list.
It has a fingerprint scanner, and a heart rate sensor, not to mention Android 4.4 KitKat and a roster of muscular specs. From what we’ve seen, the Galaxy S5 shapes up to be an excellent device. Yet the been-there, done-that design isn’t novel enough to trample rivals the way Samsung might hope.
The Galaxy S5’s design is a minor evolution of the Galaxy S4 — in fact, the two are almost indistinguishable from the front. The S5’s display is ever so slightly larger at 5.1 inches, but it’s still a 1080p, Super AMOLED panel that doesn’t look very different from the S4’s screen. Below the display is a new home key with integrated fingerprint scanner and capacitive keys for multitasking and Android’s back button.
Samsung has retained the familiar metal-looking plastic surround on the S5, though the charging port (now USB 3.0) comes with an integrated port cover for waterproofing. The S5 is IP67-rated for water and dust resistance, meaning it can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes at a time.
We’d heard rumours that Samsung was overhauling the TouchWiz interface that rides over Android, something I’ve been wanting for a long time now. While the changes aren’t sweeping, there are some tweaks that freshen up the look and feel, and it’s the one area that gets a complete visual redo.
Samsung has blessed its GS5 with top-of-the-line specs befitting a flagship device. There’s the 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chipset for a start, a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera (up from 13 megapixels), and a 2-megapixel sensor on the front.
A 2,800mAh battery may not be the largest in all of smartphonedom, but it’s a little larger than the Galaxy S4’s 2,600mAh ticker. Then again, the new phone is a bit bigger, too. Samsung says that its Ultra Power Saving Mode will double battery life when you’re running low. It also promises 21 hours of talk time and over 16 days of standby time on a single charge.
Following in the footsteps of Apple, HTC, and Motorola (the way distant footsteps), the Samsung Galaxy S5 has its own fingerprint scanner for unlocking privileges and mobile payments.
The scanner integrates into the screen above the home button, so that you swipe your finger down half over the bottom portion of the display and home button. You can add profiles for three fingerprints, and you get a backup password in case the identification fails. The fingerprint reader scans your finger eight times before crystallizing your profile.
Samsung’s cameras are typically very good, especially for outdoor shots. Most notably is the split autofocus in just 0.3 seconds, which Samsung cites as being three times faster than autofocus on the Galaxy S4. This is due to the addition of what Samsung calls Phase Detection autofocus, a feature usually found in DSLR cameras making its first appearance in a smartphone. That means you’ll have a higher success rate capturing the moment with squirmy dogs and kids.
There’s also a new tool called Virtual Tour, which cobbles together a 360-degree view. It isn’t clear yet how this might differ from Google’s Photo Sphere. It looks like Samsung took a hint from Windows Phone OS with this last highlight, the ability to download other modes to and through the native camera app.
It may not be the most exciting new smartphone there is, but the Galaxy S5 earns keeps Samsung’s legacy of high-end Samsung smartphones strong. The specs are high end, and enough has changed on the hardware and software fronts to seem worthy of an upgrade when your contract runs its course.
However, those tiring of Samsung design sameness and looking for a radical new look and feel don’t have as many reasons to stay if they aren’t moved by the phone’s fingerprint scanner or heart monitor. Samsung, perhaps a victim of its own hype machine, opens the door for phone buyers to hold off making plans until HTC announces its One 2, or Apple comes out with the iPhone 6.