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Preview: The New Android Flagship Smartphone – Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung unveiled its new flagship smartphone to the world - the Galaxy S5 - at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, which was held in Spain this year. As successful as the Galaxy S4 was, the highly anticipated Galaxy S5 certainly takes things a few steps further by improving upon many of the features that made the S4 a fan favorite. Along with the new flagship handset, Samsung also revealed two smart wearables to accompany it – the Galaxy Gear 2 and the Galaxy Gear Fit. Both devices are worn on the wrist. The Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch improves upon the original Galaxy Gear in a number of ways. This includes a more comfortable design due to fixed “pain points”, a thinner device with a 2 megapixel camera on its face instead of on the strap, and more functionality due to a greater selection of apps available for use. The other wearable unveiled, The Galaxy Gear Fit, marks Samsung’s entrance into the mobile fitness market. It features a 1.84 inch curved AMOLED display and is able to monitor your heart rate and the steps you take. And like the Galaxy Gear 2, it will give you notifications for incoming emails, calls, and text messages.

Samsung Galaxy S5

These are nice accessories, but the core product of Samsung’s mobile product strategy is undoubtedly its flagship handset. Samsung will officially roll out and sell the Galaxy S5 on April 11 in over 150 countries. It will retail for about $200 with a 2 year contract commitment with one of the major phone carriers. Without a contract, it should sell somewhere between the $600 to $700 range. The Galaxy S5 comes equipped with the updated KitKat (4.4) version of the Android operating system, a step up from its predecessor - the S4 - which had the Android 4.3 “JellyBean” OS. One of the numerous benefits of this upgrade is a touchscreen that will respond faster and more accurately to your touch commands. The S5 also comes with the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz quad-core processor, faster than the 1.9 GHz of the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S5 will have 4 colors to choose from: blue, gold, black and white. It has a somewhat sleeker and more refined design compared to the S4, with the back of the phone having a soft-touch ‘dotted’ rubberized texture to it. It comes with a 5.1 inch 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED display (the S4 was slightly smaller). The S5 physically looks similar to the S4, but is actually a bit bulkier – albeit only by a few millimeters in dimension and about 15 grams in weight.

New Features

Some of the standout features that come with the Galaxy S5:

  • One of the biggest differences between the S4 and S5 is that the S5, like the iPhone 5s, comes with a fingerprint sensor included. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the home button below the screen of the phone, which is also where the iPhone 5s has it. This is definitely useful as it obviously adds an extra security layer when it comes to verifying your identity, and protecting your phone from unwanted use. This feature can be used to facilitate PayPal payments, unlock your phone, or to verify your Samsung account. The sensor is activated by simply pressing a single finger against the home button.
  • The S5 is both waterproof and dustproof, following the example of the Galaxy S4 Active. Samsung claims that the phone can withstand being underwater for up to 30 minutes. A protective inner seal has been added to prevent water from seeping into the phone, and a small rubber flap protects the connecting ports on the bottom of the phone.
  • Apparently, Samsung is trying to both promote a healthy lifestyle and cater to those who are already health conscious. A heart rate sensor has been built in to the back of the S5, activated by placing your finger just under the rear facing camera, next to the LED flash for 5 to 10 seconds. The data collected here can be synced with the included S-Health fitness application, which also monitors your steps via motion sensors. You can track your approximate daily fitness activities and get an estimate of calories you’ve burned.
  • upgraded 16 Megapixel rear-facing camera, compared to the 13 MP of the S4. The added resolution comes with added software features like real-time HDR (High Dynamic Range) and faster phase detection auto-focus, which makes for more vibrant and realistic photos. There’s also a selective focus mode, which allows you to creatively blur parts of your photos. The S5 can also now shoot video in 4K resolution, which can be seen by those with Ultra High Definition televisions.

What’s missing?

Rumors were rampant that the Galaxy S5 would come with an all-metal design, or that the display would be innovatively curved. To our dismay, neither of these rumors proved to be true. The edges of the S5 appear to be metallic, but is actually made of polycarbonate. There is still a possibility that at least one or both of these rumored features will be included in future variants of the Galaxy S5, but that remains to be seen.

Another rumored feature was that the GS5 would have an upgraded rapid-charging battery. This also is not the case, as the battery for the GS5 is only a modest upgrade from 2600mAh to 2800mAh.

Early Verdict

If you are in the market for a new smartphone, the new GS5 is definitely a worthy choice. However, we highly recommend a side by side comparison with the new HTC One (M8) before making a final decision. The HTC One (M8) is widely considered the closest rival, and biggest competitor, to the Galaxy S5 in the Android smartphone market. It has the same speedy CPU processor and HD display resolution as the GS5. It also has a sleeker, mostly metal build alongside other features which users may prefer over the Galaxy S5. The HTC One (M8) does have a noticeably lower quality rear facing camera though, as well as a bulkier/ heavier design.

If you already own the Galaxy S4, however, you should probably save your money. Unless you feel an overwhelming need for a fingerprint reader or throwing your phone into the swimming pool, the modest updates and new features in the latest version do not justify spending the money. If you are in the market for a larger “phablet” size phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - with a more powerful 3200mAh battery, a stylus pen, and bigger 5.7 inch screen - would be a good choice over the new GS5.

So, the new Samsung flagship smartphone Galaxy S5 shows a lot of promise for enhanced user experience as we prepare for its market debut here in the United States. All signs point to the GS5 being the best, and best selling, Galaxy phone to date. Whether the reality will live up to the hype when it actually reaches the hands of the consumer, only time will tell.

If it comes even close to matching the impact and sales that its predecessor had, it will be another victory for Samsung indeed.

by Felix Mok for Cmple

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