As the world smartphone market leaders, what do the head-honchos at Samsung do when it’s the annual time to update their flagship? Stuff with more features that may or may not be useful at all.
Meet the Samsung Galaxy S5. Truth be told, this is a really minor improvement over the Galaxy S4, especially considering that Samsung had begun retailing the S4 LTE+ (aka S4 LTE-A and S4 Advanced) with the Snapdragon 800.
The display has been slightly increased from 5 inches to 5.1, but the resolution (1080p) and display tech (AMOLED) have remained unchanged.
Let’s have a look at how it stacks up against all the 2013 Samsung flagships.
Galaxy S4 LTE+ (aka S4 LTE-A and S4 Advanced)
Galaxy Note 3
|Display||5″ 1080p Super AMOLED display||5″ 1080p Super AMOLED display||5.7″ 1080p Super AMOLED display||5.1″ 1080p Super AMOLED display|
|Camera||13 MP||13 MP||13 MP||16 MP|
|Processor||1.9 GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600||2.3 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800||2.3 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800||2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|RAM||2 GB||2 GB||3 GB||2 GB|
|Battery||2600 mAh||2600 mAh||3200 mAh||2800 mAh|
Looking at the S5 compared to the Note 3 and S4 LTE+, it begins to lose it’s ‘new-device’ sheen. For starters, the processor difference is only so that the device could push 2.5 GHz clock speeds, which in reality is not much as the Snapdragon 800 already had it at 2.3 GHz. The battery has also seen just a 200 mAh increase, and even then it lags behind the 3200 mAh offered by the Note 3 and Xperia Z2 (read our MWC coverage of it here).
The S5 will come in two variants, one with the above mentioned 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip, and another with a 2.1GHz octo-core Exynos 5 processor. Samsung did the same with the Galaxy S4 last year, but we didn’t pick up any huge differences in performance when we compared the two phones. The LTE-capable S4s never left Korea, however, so we’d predict a similarly limited roll-out for any Exynos-powered S5s.
The display also has not seen any changes – it is still using AMOLED tech, which means oversaturated (and hence unrealistic) colour reproduction. The resolution can be forgiven – 432 ppi (pixels per inch) is still a ridiculous statistic of pixel density. Also, while the camera has seen a 3 MP resolution jump, the sensor size has been increased only slightly (1/3 to 1/2.5 inches), meaning that the gains will actually be very little. This is not considering the Z2’s (and Z1’s) larger 1/2.3 inch sensor and 20.7 MP resolution, which is a guaranteed boost from the Z1. Also, while we are happy to see an IP67 rating (shared by the Z2), we are still sceptical, especially since the S4 Active shared the same rating but was far from submersible.
What has really left us scratching our heads is the RAM choice by Samsung. Due to the ridiculous amount of bloat on Samsung devices, even 2 GB is something that feels inadequate (while the LG G2, Nexus 5, HTC One and Xperia Z1 can make do with that amount). 3 GB seemed to be the ideal spot (until more bloat makes its way onto Samsung devices) with the Note 3, but the reduction of the RAM to 2 GB is inexplicable.
The design of the new Samsung flagship is still uninspiring, but it become even worse compared to the Note 3 and S4. Neither the Note 3’s faux-leather backing nor the S4’s metallic looking plastic backing. The design is reminiscent of the Nexus 7 2012 model which, even as a Google device, looked terrible. The problem is exacerbated with the S5 – any colour other than black looks horrible and gives off an even cheaper vibe than the S4 or Note 3.
They have also included a fingerprint sensor integrated into the physical home button, modelled after the iPhone 5s. Except Apple makes it work. It works as both a device authentication and online payment option (the latter is thanks to a partnership with PayPal). According to The Verge, it was really picky in unlocking the device.
[The fingerprint scanner] requires a vertical swipe over the home button to activate the scanner, and we found it to be quite unreliable and virtually impossible to activate when holding the phone in one hand. It can store up to three different digits, but it was very particular about the speed and orientation of the swiping motion used — if we weren’t doing a perfectly straight swipe down, it would refuse to unlock the phone.
One of the things that did please us was the Samsung has finally got rid of the menu button on their smartphones (they did it with their tablets with the Note/Tab Pro earlier), and replaced it with a task-switcher key. Not only does this indicate on-screen clearly about the availability of a menu, it also gives the home button less to do.
On the software side, it was also surprising not to see the rumoured ‘shake-up’ of TouchWiz, especially considering that their tablets had moved on to the new magazine UX. What still has not changed is the ridiculously bloated UI. The device only comes with 8 GB free out of the total 16 or 32 GB, which is a major annoyance. The story was similar with the S4, which only had 8.6 GB free storage. You can compare the percentage of free space available with other devices here.
Samsung had a well selling formula with the Galaxy S4, and for the most part, it looks like it has retained that with the S5. As poor as the device is, it will still sell due to top-drawer marketing. It’s still a Samsung smartphone through and through, and will likely be just as successful if not more so than its predecessor.
The Galaxy S5 is scheduled to launch globally on April 11th and will be available on all major US carriers, though Samsung isn’t yet ready to talk pricing. Chances are, the price won’t matter — Samsung has built a very recognizable and successful brand with its Galaxy smartphones, and there’s no reason the S5 won’t continue the company’s success.