It’s that time of year again. Mobile World Congress comes to a close and we are in the beginning of Android flagship phone season.
Samsung is first out the gate with the announcement of the Galaxy S5, the long awaited—much rumored—flagship smartphone for Samsung. Although the device won’t be available for consumers until April 11th, many reviewers were able to get a first look at the Samsung Unpacked 5 event.
There arent many surprises with the phone this year, which is both good and bad as many of Samsung’s previous phones have been packed full of surprise new “features,” which many consider unnecessary and bloated, but at the same time, everyone does want to see technology leap forward when new devices are launched.
The device appears to be a design improvement, after the last two iterations have been nearly indistinguishable with a casual glance. The back cover favors a pock marked soft touch plastic over the high gloss plastic of previous models. This will go a long way to giving the device a more “premium feel” in hand. The phone is launching in Black, White, Blue, and Gold, but don’t be surprised to see additional colors (and carrier exclusives) offered later this year. The edges of the phone are still wrapped by a “chromed plastic” accent, which typically doesn’t look so good towards the end of a two year contract, but it will definitely be shiny out of the box.
The front of the phone doesn’t vary from its predecessor much, other than being a little more squared off in the corners. It sports a 5.1” 1080P Super AMOLED display, which is nearly identical to the screen found on the S4, but any significant improvement there wouldn’t be noticeable by most human eyes anyway.
Samsung has also finally brought itself more in-line with the Android guidelines by forgoing the capacitive menu button, so the front of the phone now sports a physical home button (now a calling card for the Galaxy S brand) with capacitive back and multi-tasking buttons on the right and left, respectively. The home button has a finger print scanner built in as well. Early reports suggest functionality of the scanner leaves much to be desired, but with over a month before the official device launch, any judgment should be reserved for a few weeks.
The insides are an expected step forward, with a 2.5GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Previous iterations have launched several models, such as the octa-core Galaxy S4 last year, but it looks like there will only be one variant this year, likely because of better LTE support in newer chipsets, so one set of hardware can support a much broader range of cellular infrastructures.
The Battery has been upgraded to a 2,800mAh battery, which will provides a little more juice than the Galaxy S4’s 2,600mAh battery. Combined with software improvements, the battery promises 20% more battery life, or double battery life if the new “Ultra Power Saving Mode” is activated.
Samsung’s camera technology has always been right there at the front of the pack and the Galaxy S5 keeps that trend, with a 16MP camera sensor that supports 4K video capture and real-time HDR processing to better handle varying light conditions. The camera interface is greatly scaled back and any after effects—including a new post photo selective refocusing feature—can now be applied at any time (instead of being designated strictly prior to shooting) so the new camera features should be more accessible to all owners, not just the more technically inclined.
The phone will launch with Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung’s mostly unchanged TouchWiz interface. The overly colorful and cartoony elements appear to have been flattened some and it looks a little more modern, but any rumors of a drastically scaled back version of the software were greatly exaggerated.
One new feature not seen on any other phone is a heart rate monitor built into the back of the phone next to the camera flash. This goes hand-in-hand with Samsung’s S Health app and a pedometer and exercise tracker. This duplicates a lot of featuers available through current fitness trackers (including Samsung’s own Gear Fit), so it remains to be seen how actively these features will be used.
All in all, the Galaxy S5 is a much more polished smartphone when compared to its predecessors, but doesn’t bring much to the table that will get many people to upgrade out of their Galaxy S4. All the Galaxy S III (yes, they used to use roman numerals previous to the S4) owners just coming out of contract will be happy to upgrade to an S5, but may decide to go with an S4 pending a price announcement by Samsung.
The Galaxy S5 will be available April 11th for most major carriers. We will be sure to keep you updated with any major new developments.