Samsung has a big job on its hands -- improving on the Galaxy S4, a device that to date has sold over 40 million units. It seems that the company is on the right track with the Galaxy S5. There are a few aesthetic improvements, such as a bigger display and a new soft-touch finish, but the device is also packing quite a few hardware and feature updates. From a new fingerprint scanner to a redesigned user interface, the Galaxy S5 may be the smartphone to watch in 2014.
Samsung has applied some of its more general design language to the S5 such as the rounded corners, the chrome lining the sides and the large rectangonal home button. There are some noteworthy differences, however. After enduring a barrage of complaints about the inherent slickness and cheapness of the S4 plastic back cover, Samsung has whipped up a functional, yet attractive solution.
The S5 rear panel is swathed in a luxurious soft-touch finish dotted with tiny perforations to ensure a steady grip. It's not the aluminum chassis critics have been clamoring for, but its a nice improvement. When the phone debuts, consumers will have a few color options to choose from such as charcoal black, shimmery white and electric blue. In a deliberate nod to the iPhone 5S, Samsung can also pick up an S5 in copper gold. But the S5 will be more than a pretty face. Similar to the Galaxy S4 Active, the S5 is dust and water resistant according to IP67 standards.
Measuring 5.6 x 2.85 x 0.32 inches, the Galaxy S5 is noticeably larger than the S4 (5.31 x 2.69 x 0.25 inches). Despite the larger profile, Samsung managed to keep the S5 reasonably light weight 5.1 ounces compared to the 4.6-ounce S4.
Larger body, larger display. The Galaxy is S5 is outfitted with a 5.1-inch display, up from the S4's 5-inches. Like it's predecessor, the S5 features a 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED display. The S5 however, comes with an ambient light sensor that adjusts screen brightness as well as the contrast ratio and color gamut to make the screen look great in direct sunlight. This is similar to the Sunlight readability feature found in Windows Phone like the the Nokia Lumia 928 and the Nokia Lumia Icon. However, Samsung has taken things a bit further, stating the display uses object recognition to adjust its settings based on the content on screen, not just the ambient light hitting it.
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A new flagship devices means bigger, better specs and Samsung does not disappoint. When it launches, the Galaxy S5 will be powered by a 2.5-GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with 2GB of RAM. Compare that to the 1.9-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU on the S4.
Battery size has been slightly increased from 2600mAH to 2800mAh. During the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing via 4G LTE with the display brightness set to 40 percent), the Galaxy S4 lasted 5 hours and 13 minutes in regular mode and 5:54 in Power Saving mode. We're looking forward to putting the S5 through its paces when it arrives.
Speaking of Power Saving mode, Samsung has been bumped up to Ultra Power Saving mode which will turn the display to black and white and closes any unnecessary features to cut down on power consumption. The S5 will also ship with Android 4.4.2 (KitKat).
Samsung's TouchWiz interface has gotten a slight makeover sporting a flatter interface with revamped icons. The touch capacitive buttons for Back and Menu have returned along side of the physical button for Home. In another obvious Apple grab, the Home button now doubles as a fingerprint scanner for biometric unlocking. However, this sesnore can also be used for mobile payments.
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For example, the button can be used to log into PayPal. Not content to be another Apple copycat, the company added Private Mode, a special area that houses your most private documents, emails and other data. The iPhone 5S' Touch ID sensor can only log into the device and be used to authenticate iTunes purchases.
S Health, has gotten an overhaul, adding a heart monitor that measures heart rate via a monitor that sits next to the LED flash on the back of the phone. The software will also tender workout advice, telling users to raise or lower their heart rate at different points. S Health will also sync with your Gear 2, Gear Neo watch or Gear Fit band, each of which has its own heart rate monitor.
Other new features include Kids Corner and Quick Connect. The company's Download Booster, a Wi-Fi technology that combines LTE and Wi-Fi connections to boost data speed ensuring users have the fastest possible connection.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is jam-packed with a slew of new camera features. The S5 boasts a 16-MP camera, up from 13-MP on the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 so we're definitely expecting sharper, cleaner images. The smartphone now has the ability to autofocus and shoot in 0.3 seconds, a big improvement over the 1-2 second lag we've experienced on previous Galaxy phones.
While we're fans of Samsung's ever-growing list of camera features, it can be overwhelming for some users. To cut their users a break, the company has tapered down the initial modes, providing photographers with a download button in the app for a more a la carte experience. For example, Animated Mode (gif creator) is missing from the initial feature offering, but can be downloaded at the users' leisure.
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That doesn't mean, however, that Samsung could resist adding a couple of new modes. The Shot & More mode shoots for a few seconds then allows you to activate other modes for your photo, such as Drama Shot, Eraser Mode or Best Face mode after the fact. On previous Samsung phones, you had to guess in advance that a stranger might walk through your photo so you could choose eraser mode. But with Shot & More, you can determine that afterwards. The software even shows which modes your photo is eligible for, based on its content.
The Galaxy S5 also provides real-time HDR for photo and video shooting for more vivid images. According to Samsung, the HDR is based on a single image, not multiple shots. There's also a new Virtual tour mode for creating walk-throughs of buildings, which is particularly useful for selling a home.
Samsung has done a masterful job of addressing its critics while keeping the innovation flowing. By knowing where to tweak and where to completely overhaul, the Galaxy S5 greatly improves upon the successes of the S4. The device comes with a slightly larger, brighter display, a faster processor and camera and a mildly revamped TouchWiz UI. The phone is also water and dustproof and sports a stylish, yet functional rear panel. The addition of the fingerprint scanner will help to create a more secure user experience. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is an exciting addition to the Galaxy line that we're looking forward to reviewing in the near future.