All eyes were on Samsung’s Unpacked 5 event very early this morning, as the Korean electronics giant unveiled its highly anticipated flagship smartphone – the GALAXY S5. Packing the latest hardware including Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 801 processor, a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner, the GALAXY S5 also sports a new dust- and water-resistant shell.
The “modern glam” GALAXY
At first glance it would be difficult to differentiate the GALAXY S5 from the GALAXY S4 if they were lined up side by side. Samsung has chosen to play it safe and has retained pretty much the same form factor as its predecessor aside from its shiny dimpled back panel. Some members of the media have called it “golf ball” and “band-aid” texture. The new “modern glam” does look less tacky than the faux leather on the GALAXY Note 3, and will be available in black, white, blue and gold colour choices.
The rumour mills were busy predicting an all-new form factor with a metal enclosure, but it was not to be. At least not yet. It’s again, well, unapologetically plastic.
The “Active” GALAXY
The big news is of course that the GALAXY S5 is dust- and water-resistant, certified to IP67 specifications. Which means your favourite GALAXY device can be immersed in water up to 3 feet in depth for 30 minutes. The Xperia Z2 in comparison is resistant to IP58 spec.
A multi-sensory workout
Following Apple’s foray into fingerprint scanning technology, Samsung has also integrated a fingerprint scanner into the device’s home button. Its execution and tech is different from Apple’s TouchID, though. A user needs to swipe vertically over the button to scan. The scanner can be used to unlock the device, launch apps and confirm payments via PayPal.
The other unexpected addition to the GALAXY S5 is the built-in heart rate monitor. Taking health monitoring and the wearables trend seriously, Samsung has placed a heart rate sensor on the back to determine blood flow in your finger. The bundled S Health app interfaces with the new sensor.
Note: even without a built-in heart rate sensor, smartphones in the market today can make heart rate readings (with questionable accuracy) with its own camera, built-in flash and a free app. A little gimmicky on Samsung’s part, but heck, at least it’s not AirView.
And where would a flagship GALAXY device be without top-of-the-line specs, eh? The GALAXY S5 doesn’t disappoint in this regard, packing a quad-core 2.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB RAM. As rumoured, Samsung will have another variant of the GALAXY S5 baring its own octa-core 2.1Ghz Exynos processor. This follows the same path as the GALAXY S4 last year.
The GALAXY S5 features 16 or 32GB storage with support for microSD expansion of up to 128GB. Samsung also claims that the GALAXY S5 offers “the most advanced LTE experience and Wi-Fi performance” with support of fifth generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac and 2×2 MiMO, as well as LTE with Category 4.
A new featured called Download Booster claims to boost download speeds by bonding Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity side-by-side.
The GALAXY S5’s display remains wholly unchanged, with a 5.1-inch 1080p (@ 432PPI) Super AMOLED HD display, enclosed in a slightly bigger body than the GALAXY S4.
New optics with 4K video
What really is likely to impress is the uprated 16MP main shooter with 4K video recording and real-time HDR processing capabilities. Samsung has included a new selective focus feature that can create images with shallow depth of field or “bokeh”.
Same old TouchWIZ
Disappointingly, Samsung’s aging TouchWIZ interface remains pretty much the same aside from redesigned ‘flat design’ circular icons for its drop down control panel and the My Magazine feature – a Flipboard-like news reader also found on the GALAXY Note 3.
The buffet of Samsung-branded apps (read: bloatware) still exist although reported pressure from Google to tone these down recently. And they do still take up 8GB of storage space. Boo. The GALAXY S5 comes with Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat out of the box.
Reigning King of Android
Undeniably, Samsung is the running King of the Hill for smartphones and a leader in the Android race, pushing some 200 million GALAXY S phones since the product range entered the market in 2010. Samsung sold over 40 million GALAXY S4s as of last year.
The GALAXY S5 doesn’t look like the game-changer it was anticipated to be. It’s not a revolution if you expected one, but an evolution of a successful formula. Nonetheless, it does look like Samsung has done ‘enough’ to satisfy not only the tech-heads but the general consumer at large. And needless to say, the GALAXY S5 will sell millions.
Pricing and availability
The Samsung GALAXY S5 will be available starting 11 April in 150 countries. No pricing has been revealed yet.
Image credit: Samsung