Samsung is back once again with a new flagship smartphone, you've guess it, the Galaxy S5 We've taken a look at the new iPhone 5s rival in Barcelona so here's our Samsung Galaxy S5 hands-on review.
Instead of announcing the Galaxy S5 at an event away from the hustle and bustle of MWC, Samsung has unveiled the smartphone on the first night. The name of the event, Unpacked 5, sort of gave away the fact the Galaxy S5 would be confirmed. Well it has and we've taken a look at it.
The Galaxy S5 retains that recognisable Samsung look. This means not much has changed compared to previous generations and other Galaxy devices. The S5 looks a lot like the Galaxy Note 3 which is a shame because it really requires its own style as a flagship device. Unfortunately it's bigger, squarer and more boring than the Galaxy S5. See all our MWC Live: Reviews and news and new products from Mobile World Congress 2014.
It also doesn't feel like a premium smartphone in the hand. A perforated rear cover supposedly makes it feel more natural but we just don't see the benefit here, perhaps we need to live with the device for longer.
A huge design change is that Samsung has added dust and water resistant credentials. That's something which Sony has been offering for a while now in its Xperia range. The Galaxy S5 has an IP67 rating which means it will happily get wet without frazzling inside. However, you'll need to make doubly sure that the port covers is on and the rear cover is perfectly clipped into place. I'm sure a number of users will get an unwanted surprise when the gaps aren't completely covered.
Despite numerous rumours of a 5.25in screen, the Galaxy S5's display is only marginally larger than the Galaxy S4's. It's 5.1in and if you were hoping for a new crazy high resolution then you might be disappointed to find out that the Galaxy S5 has a now very standard Full HD display. Of course, it's still Super AMOLED as you would expect from Samsung. The screen looks good but we were expected the next generation of technology so we can't help but feel disappointed.
Samsung does say that the screen automatically adjust elements like colour gamut, white tone and contrast but we'll have to wait for our review unit to test this out properly.
Galaxy S5: Hardware
Inside the Galaxy S5 is the kind of high-end specs you'd want to find in a flagship. A 2.5GHz quad-core processor (Qualcomm Krait) is accompanied by 2GB of RAM and the phone will come in either 16- or 32GB capacities. A microSD card supporting up to 64GB is almost a given nowadays.During our hands-on time with the device, performance is extremely smooth and nippy.
Wireless connectivity is all up-to-date with 11ac Wi-Fi (MIMO), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an infrared transmitter, and the latest 4G technology. Samsung has fitted the Galaxy S5 with Cat 4 LTE supporting eight bands and a download booster which uses your Wi-Fi connection to give you a theoretical max download speed of 400Mbps.
Galaxy S5: Fingerprint scanner
A key hardware addition is a fingerprint scanner. Well Samsung kinda had to since the iPhone 5s has one. The Galaxy S5's is also built into the home button but you have to swipe your finger across it. I tried this a good 20 times and the scanner failed not once. It can be used to unlock the screen, launch a private mode or authorise mobile payments.
Galaxy S5: Camera
The camera has reached a decent 16Mp and has a few new features which catch the eye. Super-fast auto focus means you can take a photo in 0.3 seconds, according to Samsung. We couldn't exactly time this but it does seem to be very nippy. A selective focus mode allows you to choose from three different focal points after you've taken a photo – near, far and pan. This didn't work amazingly well in our hands-on but the conditions weren't exactly ideal so we'll test this out, and the other features when we get our review unit. Video shoots in 4k resolution like the Galaxy Note 3 which is impressive.
Below the camera is a flash but also a heartrate monitor, making the Galaxy S5 the first smartphone to come with the feature. Place your finger on the sensor and it can read your heartrate in a matter of seconds. This is built into the S Health app and a cool feature for those into fitness. It didn't work first time for me but I think I was pressing too hard.
Galaxy S5: Battery
We can't test out the battery life of the Galaxy S5 properly here in Barcelona but Samsung says that things have been significantly improved. The device has a reasonably large 2,800mAh battery inside. Although that's certainly not the biggest we've seen, it's about how you use and manage that power which potentially matters more.
The Galaxy S5 hsas an Ultra Power Saving mode which helps avoid the handset dying. When the battery level hits a low percentage this will kick in, switching the screen completely to black and white and switching off all unnecessary functions, leaving you with just the basics like SMS messaging and calls. Samsung says that in this mode, the Galaxy S5 can last for 24 hours in standby on 10 percent. In normal use, the Galaxy S5 will last 10 hours of web browsing and 12 hours of video playback, according to the firm.
Galaxy S5: Software
At first glance and going by the main homescreen, Samsung hasn't done much to the software despite it being Android 4.4 KitKat. However, things have been tidied up quite a lot. Round icons grace the drop down notification bar and settings menu which by the way is huge. Similar to BlinkFeed, Samsung's Magazine interface is placed to the left of the main homescreen and we couldn't find a way to remove it for anyone who dislikes it. See also: Samsung Galaxy S5: new features and software.
New features include a Kid's mode which allows the own to restrict the content and play time of a younger users. The interface is fun, colourful and the child can't exit back to the main phone without knowing the PIN number. There's also a private mode which we mentioned earlier when talking about the fingerprint scanner. This allows you to, surprisingly, store private content such as photos and videos which you don't want anyone to be able to access.
We're waiting for a price but the Galaxy S5 will launch on 11 April. Look out for a full review soon.
Buying Advice Unfortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy S5 just isn't a new smartphone to get excited about. It has the same old design albeit with waterproof credentials but that's nothing new. A fingerprint scanner is cool but again not something new. The only new element, the heartrate monitor, will only be useful for some users. The rest is essentially standard.