It has been five years since Samsung executives first held aloft a device they thought would change the way people used phones. In those five years since, their prophecy has come true, and hundreds of millions of devices have been sold worldwide bearing the “Galaxy” moniker simultaneously making Samsung one of the most popular smartphone manufacturer in the world. Now we have the Galaxy S5 in our gadget-loving hands, and it’s the manufacturer’s best work yet.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 will run a Qualcomm 2.5GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB and 32GB storage variants (expandable with MicroSD). Keeping it alive is a 2800mAh battery. That dwarves the power offered by the already blistering Galaxy S4, which only had a 1.9GHz processor. The screen itself is a 5.1-inch Full HD SuperAMOLED, with a resolution of 1920×1080. Only 0.1 inches bigger than the S4, but it feels wider thanks to a smaller bezel on either side.
On top of the Galaxy S5 is Android 4.4 (thank the Lord) with Samsung TouchWiz (sigh), which thankfully feels less intrusive than ever. It’s about time that Samsung stopped fighting Google, and it’s certainly the least it can do before it bails on the platform altogether.
The Galaxy S5 is also packing a larger camera than ever, with a 16-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1-megapixel front facing camera for video calls. There’s also a USB 3.0 charging port which is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports.
On the camera front, the new quad-core processor means that the software can process a live preview of HDR renderings before you capture, rather than making you wait. That’s really awesome, and will let people choose which one they want pre-shutter actuation. Nice one, Samsung.
The images it captures are a tad yellow before the HDR mode is applied. The feature seems to straighten out the white balance a great deal. We’ll be able to see if that’s a real problem in the full review.
The Galaxy S5 also has the ability to refocus an image after you’ve captured it. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s the same as a Lytro light-field camera, however: it’s more like the Nokia Refocus app in the way it works.
The phone captures between three and four images and combines them into a single file. The Album app then allows you to “edit” the photo and select between Close, Near and Far focus presets. Because the Selective Focus images are four photos large, the file sizes range between 14MB and 20MB each shot.
The camera also has the ability to shoot 4K/UHD video at 30 frames per second. We can’t see any support for the H.265 compression codec, however, meaning that these file sizes will also likely be massive.
The only fault we noticed while using the camera was that the phone gets oddly warm after a few minutes, but it’s still prototype hardware and software at this stage, so we can’t hold that against the S5.
As we expected, the S5 follows the same design language as the Galaxy Note 3, instead now giving it a name: “Modern Flash”.
Gone are the nature-inspired finishes, sounds and imagery. Basically it’s an attempt at fusing technology with high-street glamour with shiny finishes, bright colours and unique textures. The S5 will come in four colours, branded as Charcoal Black, Shimmery White, Electric Blue and Copper Gold. It feels thicker than the S4, but not so much that it’s distracting.
That gold though. That leaves a lot to be desired…
The real innovations aren’t in how it looks though: it’s how it connects. It’s great to see the S5 supporting new connectivity options, including MiMo technology, Category 4 LTE for 150Mbps speeds, 802.11ac Wi-Fi for super-fast connections, and a weird hybrid technology that supposedly fuses speeds from your Wi-Fi connection and your 4G LTE connection to gerner massive speed boosts. We’re a little skeptical on that one, and will have to wait for the review to see if it yields any benefit.
New security options have been introduced into the handset, with the S5 packing a biometric fingerprint scanner under the home button.
We found it can only store up to three fingerprints rather than the iPhone 5s’ five and the HTC One Max’s four, so don’t go getting all your primary digits chopped off in some industrial accident if you want to keep using it. Not that you would. But you might. Anyway.
After stroking the fingerprint scanner about thirty times in a row while alternating between fingers, we couldn’t fault it. No idea whether it will erode over time, but it’s pretty goddamn impressive out of the box.
The S5 also has a bigger focus on fitting in to your fitness regime, with a new version of S-Health pre-loaded, with an optical heart rate sensor on the back of the device. I found it worked brilliantly at figuring out my heart rate.
Best of all, the S4 is now waterproof and dustproof, so you won’t get done for dropping your phone in the toilet now. We can’t wait to hose it down in the review.
Pricing And Release Date
Pricing information for the Galaxy S5 has finally been released. It’ll be available on Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin, as well as outright through various online and bricks-and-mortar retailers. You can find all the pricing and availability info for Samsung’s latest flagship in our dedicated post.