Samsung took a big step into the health and fitness market with its Galaxy S5. One of the device’s main selling points is its built-in heart rate sensor. This new feature allows users to check their heart rate using the preinstalled S Health app, but the truth is, nothing special is happening here. According to Samsung’s official Galaxy S5 page, it’s the first smartphone with a built-in heart rate sensor, but technically almost any device with a camera and flash is capable of providing this functionality. The same sensor is found on Samsung’s new Gear smart watch lineup and certainly makes more sense ona wearable device, but unfortunately it’s nothing more than a gimmick on the Galaxy S5.
The heart rate sensor found on the back is no different than what many third party apps have offered for quite some time. Runtastic’s Heart Rate Monitor app is a perfect example. This app uses the LED flash and camera on almost any smartphone to read your heart rate, and it works surprisingly well.
As shown in the video above, Runtastic’s app can deliver near identical results when compared to the Galaxy S5′s built in heart rate sensor. This video proves the app’s accuracy by putting it up against the Galaxy S5′s sensor and comparing the results to other smartphones running Runtastic’s app such as the Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5s.
There’s no way to determine the accuracy of either method, but between the three different tests shown in the video, there’s never a difference greater than 5 BPM on any device. Unfortunately, these tests make it very clear that one of Samsung’s flagship features on the S5 isn’t very special.
Runtastic’s app is available as a free and paid app in the Play Store. It’s a very simple app to use. Once installed, you’ll have the option to create an account and instantly start checking your heart rate. The free version of the app only allows three heart rate tests a day, while the paid version ($1.99) allows unlimited tests.