Monday, February 24, 2014

The Samsung Galaxy S5 builds on the success of the GS4, but is it enough?

As expected, Samsung unveiled its next flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S5, at Mobile World Congress 2014, at its Unpacked 5 event. As well as on various live video feeds (example, The Verge), Samsung also sent an email to journalists timed for the exact moment when the briefing began, at 10:00 a.m. PST.

Samsung called the changes to the Galaxy S5 "refinements," and they are.  The Galaxy S5 is mostly an interative upgrade, a la the iPhone 5s. Gregory Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Telecommunications America and Samsung Electronics North America Headquarters said:
Samsung continues to lead and define the direction of mobile technology with unmatched innovation. We listened to consumers and the Galaxy S5 and new Gears bring enhancements that give consumers meaningful and inspiring experiences they can use every day.
The device is only slightly upsized, from the GS4's 5.0-inches to 5.1-inches. Samsung has added a USB 3.0 port to the device, a la the Galaxy Note 3, but that is now protected with integrated port cover, as the S5 is IP67-rated for water and dust resistance.

It can therefore be submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes at a time. This should prove a boon to many, as 20 percent of those who damaged their phone admitted to a toilet dunking.

The S4's somewhat cheap-looking glossy plastic battery cover has been replaced with a look Samsung called "modern glam": a dimpled soft-touch finish. The S5 will ship in four different colors: black, white, blue, and gold.

Despite earlier reports that said that Google had forced Samsung to back off some of its Android customizations, there are S-branded apps a-plenty on the device. Among them is S Health, which will leverage a and heart-rate sensor on the GS5's back.

The sensor is located just below the device's rear camera and reads your pulse from your fingertip; it can give users a reading in only a few seconds.

Another sensor was nearly required as a result of the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s. The Galaxy S5 includes a fingerprint reader in its home button, but due to the narrow and horizontal home button on Galaxy devices, it requires users to swipe their finger downward to read the digit.

Anyone who has used a similar sensor on a laptop will know this system is often rife with errors, and the GS5 appears to have the same issues, with the device being very picky about unlocking.

Internally, the device sports a faster, 2.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a larger battery with 20 percent better battery life. The rear camera has been upgraded to 16MP with 4K video functionality; it also supports real-time HDR processing for better results in mixed lighting.

We're expecting, as in past years, that the processor will vary from region to region based on LTE requirements. We figure North America to get a Qualcomm processor, while the rest of the world -- or at least part of it -- gets a Samsung Exynos processor.

The device will ship alongside Samsung's new Gear 2s in April, with Android 4.4.2 onboard.

Some were disappointed -- already -- with the relatively minor changes from the GSIII to the GS4. We'll see if the Galaxy S series has the same amount of oomph as the iPhone does, and still gets tens of millions of people to upgrade.

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