I've been using the Samsung Galaxy S4 as my main mobile device for just about a year now (it launched in March 2013 and was made publically available in April 2013) and I like it – but to be as honest as possible, I don't love it. My main issues with the S4 have to do with the camera, battery life, ergonomics and undeletable Samsung bloatware, but the list is much longer. So, I was very, very excited to get my hands on the new, improved Samsung Galaxy S5. Sadly, my excitement quickly turned to ambivalence. Alas, the S5 only offers small improvements over the S4. It is iterative, not innovative. In other words, if you don't need a new phone, you don't need an S5. It's not a phone you break your existing contract to purchase and there are no good reasons to purchase the phone at full retail price.
Here's What You Get
- A plastic phone with a removable back that runs Android 4.4 KitKat and features a very peppy 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor.
- A 16 megapixel rear facing camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus that, by the numbers, looks like it will be the best smart phone camera ever. In practice, it is a minor improvement over the camera in the S4 and it still does not take better pictures (qualitatively, subjectively, ergonomically, or as quickly) as an iPhone 5s.
- A 5.1” Full HD Super AMOLED® display, wide viewing angles and Multi Window capability that is absolutely best in class.
The rest of the technical specifications will not materially impact your experience with the device, but if you really need to see them, click here.
New Hardware and Features
The S5 has a built-in fingerprint sensor that can be used to unlock the phone and to authenticate and authorize PayPal payments. Interesting, but not awesome.
The 4K video feature is just a parlor trick, and a vicious one at that. 4K (or UltraHD) video has about 4.26 times the resolution of 2K (or HD) video. 4K files are massive, and there is very little chance that you will have anything (like a 75"+ UHD Video Monitor) to play it back on. Unless you are playing 4K back on a monitor over 75" in size, there's no point in viewing content in 4K.
Another parlor trick is the Baby Monitor feature. If you also have a Galaxy Gear smartwatch, you can use your phone as a baby monitor, which detects sounds and alerts your Gear that you should check on your child. It's not the best use of either device – get an actual baby monitor for $30 at Walmart and use your smart phone to play Candy Crush.
I'm a big fan of S Health™4 and the newly integrated platform that lets you track nutrition, fitness and wellness, and includes the world’s first Heart Rate Sensor integrated into a smartphone. But, as you know, there are better dedicated devices, apps and wearables currently available – visit smartphonediet.info for more details.
The Bottom Line
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a very nice smart phone with excellent features. It is more like an enhanced version of the S4 than a new "rock the house" device. That said, if you need a new phone or if you've been waiting for a best-in-class Android 4.4 "plastic" five-incher to come out, you should seriously consider the S5. Why call out "plastic?" Because if you want a metal case, killer speakers and a better camera all wrapped up in an elegant package, you really want an HTC One M8. The S5 wins the plastic phone with a removable back contest, but if you're an Android person and your "camera" is your primary "smart phone," the HTC One M8 is the current leader of the pack.
I'm really looking forward to the Samsung Galaxy S6... at least, I think I am.