Living with the Samsung Galaxy S5, week 1: handshake


We had the Samsung Galaxy S5 jump through hoops during our review process, and it turned out great. Excellent even. It satisfied pretty much every major aspect of said process. Almost as if designed to. Of course, the scope of even the most thorough reviews is impossibly small when compared to the many nuances, foibles, and sometimes great annoyances that one stumbles upon when actually living with a device.

We've done this before with the LG G2, and we learned a lot. The depths at which we plunged into the last LG flagship package revealed some annoyances, a few manufacturer peculiarities that left us puzzled, and, seldomly, some small disasters. We also got to know the many stronger points of the G2. Best of all, through that process, we were able to pass those insights onto you. Which is exactly what we're trying to repeat here.

Of course, before we dive into the details, a disclaimer of sorts is required. Like before, idiosyncrasy is not just a by-product of this piece. Rather, it's a sought-after effect. This is an important clarification, as this sets this format apart from our typical reviewing process, which aims to reduce bias by following objective guidelines that can't be circumvented unnoticed. In other words, this is one of those rare occasions in which you can rightfully go ahead and call me subjective or partisan and expect no retort. That's by definition. 

Admittedly, this will worry some. What if I, who's been given a mandate to take the Galaxy S5 through its paces, and I mean truly through its paces, am prejudiced against Samsung for this or that reason? Well, that'll be up to you to decide, and there's only one way to find out. To minimize the possibility of an ensuing off-topic, here's a full disclosure that I have, for the longest time, felt has a part as a disclaimer in any professional review: device history. Indeed, that may sound like an unimportant factor to some, but it's vital to understanding the platform atop of which one issues verdicts. Or where one's coming from, so to speak.

It's fair to say I've been around the block. In recent history, I've gone through devices like the Nokia E72, the iPhone 3GS, the Nexus 4, and the Xiaomi Mi3 (which has now been replaced by the S5 as my current daily driver for the purposes of this long-term review). I also consider myself very well-versed in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4LG G2, the LG G Pro 2, the Oppo Find 7a, the Sony Xperia Z1, and the Nexus 5. In addition, I've had the luxury of messing around with just about every flagship on the planet from the last year, and I've also had my fair share of hands-on time with quite a few low-to-mid range devices. Those are the devices that, often without my explicit consent, my brain naturally uses for a benchmark whenever something new comes along. 

Lastly, and on a much brighter note, this is the first and only time you'll have to go through the above, lengthy disclaimer.

Living with the Samsung Galaxy S5, week 1

To say that I wasn't well-acquainted with the Galaxy S5 before I took it in my keep would be incorrect. Regardless of where your allegiances lie, there's no denying facts -- and those paint an unambiguous picture -- Samsung's flagship is the king of the hill in Android land, and this meant we had to prepare a ton of content around it. This allowed me to get some hands-on time with it, but it wasn't my daily driver. Not until exactly a week ago. 

It is now, and the first set of discrepancies between my initial impressions and the reality that constant usage has forced onto me, is hard to ignore. Indeed, the idea of this format is that we'll give every built-in feature of a device (especially the ones the vendor markets excessively) a chance and a good, long look. As some of you may have guessed, the first two on that list are the new, refreshed TouchWiz software, and the fingerprint scanner.

TouchWiz is in a dire need of a... redesign. Again.

What is the first thing you do when you pull out your brand new phone out of its shiny box? Check out what it can do, of course. This almost surely means going through its settings menu, and checking out the different features. That's exactly how I approached the Galaxy S5. As mentioned, I was already well-aware of what to expect there, but I never imagined I'll end up so disappointed with TouchWiz in the longer term, at least in certain regards.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely like the latest, mostly-visual redesign of Samsung's skin -- it certainly is far more attractive than previous versions. Unfortunately, what it needs is an overhaul, and I don't mean just prettier graphics. Rather, Samsung needs to take a good, long look at its overlay from an ease-of-use standpoint, and tweak accordingly. Going back to the settings menu, the best word to describe it is "anarchy". A raging one. Again, don't get me wrong. As an Android modder myself, I love having control over as much of the system as humanly possible, but at the same time I also value uniformity and quick access.

The settings menu on the S5 is neither uniform, nor allows for a very quick access. By default, it is arranged in "Grid" mode, which means you have a super-long, vertical menu with a crazy amount of options, which, in turn, hide even more options within. Arrangement in "List" mode is similar to Grid mode, and also similar to how this essential menu looks on stock Android, except it's about 5 times as long. Lastly, "Tab" mode, which I settled for as the most organized, is a return to the typical TouchWiz menu of old, with different tabs containing different sets of options. There are 6 whole tabs in this particular view, so even a week into using the Galaxy S5 as a daily driver, I still get lost often, and occasionally can't locate a particular option for over a few minutes. 

For example, I wondered if the awfully-gimmicky Smart Scroll (built-in browser and e-mail apps can be scrolled by tilting the device or nodding with your head awkwardly) and the somewhat nice Air Wake Up (wake the device by waving above the proximity sensor) finally saw their demise in the transition to a cleaner-looking TouchWiz. Alas, they have not. Samsung has simply hidden them 3 layers down, and in the least expected place. See, there's a specific "Controls" tab in the settings, that contains the various motion, gesture, and Air view features. You'd guess that this is a logical place for the former two to be found (them being motion gestures), but that's not where the company put them. Instead, you have to go to Accessibility > Dexterity and interaction and dig them out from there. 

But it gets worse. Despite the mind-boggling performance muscle that the most powerful bin of the Snapdragon 801 chip offers, along with the healthy 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM, the S5 stutters consistently when browsing the settings in grid and tabbed arrangement. Heck, even the app drawer shows signs of lag, and the Dialer continues building upon its legacy of high response times. The rest of the interface handles itself well, though, at least from what I've seen so far.

The horrors of the embedded fingerprint scanner

In a not so random happenstance, I'll come right forward and feed you my final verdict before I get into details. The fingerprint scanner on the Samsung Galaxy S5 is bad news. It frankly doesn't live up to the standard that a company of Samsung's stature should be putting in front of itself. In fact, and in complete honesty, I couldn't wait until the end of the first week so that I could rightfully say I've given it a chance, it did not stick, and disable it in favor of a simple swipe unlock.

"So what's the issue?", you ask. As most of you will have guessed, it is its poor accuracy that makes it an outright annoyance to use. Simply put, on average it takes me some 3 attempts to get in, and I can't tell you how many times I've been locked out for the 30-second quarantine period. Quite frankly, this prompted me to just use the alternative, written password I chose during setup, bypassing the sensor altogether when I needed to quickly access something on the phone. In fact, if you're big on one-handed usage like I am, you'll be disappointed to know that getting your fingerprint recognized whilst holding the S5 with one hand is nothing short of a commendable feat. That's true even if you specifically register your fingerprint sideways in order to increase the odds of the scanner picking it up like I did. 

In conclusion, even if you focus each and every time you need to unlock your device (of course you won't do that), there's still a decent chance that every other attempt will be a failed one. 

The TouchWiz goodies

A few days ago, an earthquake with a 6.8-magnitude hit the Aegean Sea, and the shock was felt in my area. Since I was driving at that exact moment, I felt nothing, but shortly after I noticed that my Galaxy S5 had sent me a notification through the built-in Geo News feature, warning me of the earthquake. Geo News also provided me with quick access to tips on how to deal with an emergency of that type, and to my contacts, to whom I could send a pre-defined text message that I'm either okay or in need of help. That's the type of functionality that a sane person can't say no to, and, thus, the type that Samsung should target.

I also quite appreciate the unique Ultra Power Saving Mode, as I've already come to depend on its promise once, and it sure delivered. In one scenario, I activated the feature at 10% remaining charge, and the phone lost just 1% in the next 8 to 10 hours or so. Granted, I wasn't really using it much during that time, but it did give me some peace of mind, both then and for the future.

Speaking of longevity, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Galaxy S5 is a real trooper in this regard. On average, so far, I only charge the S5 every other night, and I've never been in danger of losing power. That's with 3G and Wi-Fi constantly on, and with me using the phone for browsing, chat, and even some light reading. Lastly, I also appreciate the relative speediness with which the battery regains charge when plugged into the wall -- it's not quite as fast as the Oppo Find 7a I reviewed a while ago, but it's definitely faster than some of the S5's main Android rivals.

We measure battery life by running a custom web-script, designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage. All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness.

hours Higher is better
HTC One (M8)
7h 12 min (Good)
Sony Xperia Z2
8h 10 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S5
7h 38 min (Good)
minutes Lower is better
HTC One (M8)
Sony Xperia Z2
Samsung Galaxy S5
OPPO Find 7a

What lies ahead

A single week is too little of a time window to really get to know a device, meaning that we're not nearly done with the Samsung Galaxy S5. In the coming week, I plan on thoroughly testing a much wider selection of features found within the never-ending abyss that is the TouchWiz software on board the company's new flagship, and, then, report back to you folks. Until then!

Related phones

Galaxy S5
  • Display 5.1" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2800 mAh(21h 3G talk time)



1. enthasuium

Posts: 150; Member since: Nov 21, 2013

The author came here to actually to talk bad of s5. He is shy of telling good side of this phone. He didnt talk about even how good is the battery time and just leaves a chart. If you dont use smart scroll , then off it. No one forcing you. i am afraid The class standard to reviewing phone of phonerena is going doing and down. God bless them

3. spasticpat

Posts: 110; Member since: Dec 18, 2012

Actually, he did say that he never came in danger of losing power at all and also commented on how quickly the battery recharges, if you actually read the full article: "Speaking of longevity, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Galaxy S5 is a real trooper in this regard. On average, so far, I only charge the S5 every other night, and I've never been in danger of losing power. That's with 3G and Wi-Fi constantly on, and with me using the phone for browsing, chat, and even some light reading. Lastly, I also appreciate the relative speediness with which the battery regains charge when plugged into the wall -- it's not quite as fast as the Oppo Find 7a I reviewed a while ago, but it's definitely faster than some of the S5's main Android rivals."

17. jdoee100

Posts: 334; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

Like many people I couldn't finish the article, this is a article only hardened Samsung haters can love. Let the Samsung bashing begin... (I would think, BGR would be proud to have this article at their site. LOL)

36. enthasuium

Posts: 150; Member since: Nov 21, 2013

If you count All tech site BGR is not even among 100 site of Alexa ratings. GSMARENA & CNET are number 1 . We should not count BGR

37. jdoee100

Posts: 334; Member since: Jun 04, 2013

In terms of Samsung bashing, BGR is close to #1. I visit BGR to get a good laugh, but PA is starting to replace BGR in terms of ridiculousness and idiocity. LOL.

46. sgodsell

Posts: 7368; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

So many things are left out. I am surprised you used it for a week. There is no mention of the one handed mode. You talk about the settings needing a revamp. The S5 gives you control over everything, besides there is quick settings. You never mention anything about the multitasking and multi-window support. A whole week of use and no mention of any of that. Well so far you proved to me how much you don't use an S5 as your daily driver.

5. Sauce unregistered

We all know the good sides. We all know the S5 is a great phone. He mentioned some pros, and also mentioned his battery experience. Could he have included all the pros in his week 1 review? Yes. The only reason the "class standard of reviews" are going down in your eyes is because you have a bias mind set. By the way: Battery life solely depends on the user. Your S5, Note3, 5s, M8, etc all can either last a very long time, or a very short time. Something you should consider, instead of being a numbers-on-paper fool. One last thing. If you don't like his review, then move on to the next article or another website. "No one forcing you" to read it, agree with it, and judge the S5s aura on it. God bless you, and your bias brain.

59. crazzyd77

Posts: 36; Member since: May 07, 2014

Well said.

7. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Edit: Oh cool, somebody already responded with this quote. Well, here it is again I guess, because comments can't effing be deleted (unless some white-knight mod comes to my aid and takes if off for me): "Speaking of longevity, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Galaxy S5 is a real trooper in this regard. On average, so far, I only charge the S5 every other night, and I've never been in danger of losing power. That's with 3G and Wi-Fi constantly on, and with me using the phone for browsing, chat, and even some light reading. Lastly, I also appreciate the relative speediness with which the battery regains charge when plugged into the wall -- it's not quite as fast as the Oppo Find 7a I reviewed a while ago, but it's definitely faster than some of the S5's main Android rivals."

9. farhad_per

Posts: 128; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

The class is very low ...! I only come here for good news coverage but reviews are simply awfull and so childish. ?!

29. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Like your comments are awesome and really mature, right?

12. maherk

Posts: 6879; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

As an owner of the S5, I found his criticism for touchwiz's system menu and the fingerprint scanner are accurate. I gave the fingerprint scanner many tries and everytime I ended up turning it off, I guess I ll wait for t-mobile to offer the update that Samsung offered for international users that fixes this problem, until then I am not going to use it again. As for the system menu, Samsung should've kept the same menu that was found on the S4 and Note 3, it was more refined and didn't look like the menu of a kid's tablet.

25. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

My fingerprint scanner works spot on 9/10 times on the first try lol. It takes about 75-80 minutes for my phone to charge to 100%.

33. maherk

Posts: 6879; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I don't know about the charging because I honestly never charge it, I bought 2 batteries on day one and I replace them whenever they are about to die. As for the scanner, it is pain in the butt for one handed operations, it might get better after the update, but till then I am not gonna even think about giving it another try.

47. zuckerboy

Posts: 898; Member since: Dec 22, 2011

do you turn on the airplane mod bfore charging it ?

32. The13thKing

Posts: 849; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

I know tons of people who use the GS5 none of them ever said the fingerprint scanner is a problem .. or the settings menu .. lmao he got lost in the settings menu.

45. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

I just read the whole review, it's not as harsh as you are claiming it is. Also I have to agree with the finger print scanner. I am a die hard Android fan but I can admit that the finger print scanner on the GS5 is indeed lacking. My boy has a hard time using it in real life scenarios. We can be at the club & it won't work properly. I mean if he takes a second to do it 100% perfectly he can get it. After a couple of drinks it gets too fussy for him so he turns it off. The iPhone's finger print scanner I hate to say is better than the GS5's. My other friend who has an iPhone, no matter how many drinks he has it works 9 out of 10 times. Of course in a sober environment with no one bumping into you like in a club or bar the GS5 works decently well, but again under a controlled environment.

60. cheeseycheeser

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 24, 2011

Am I the only one who has no problems with the scanner? Sure, it's annoying to position it, but other than that it works just about 100% of the time for me.

51. Epicness1o1

Posts: 305; Member since: May 30, 2013

Lol everybody wants to know whats bad in a phone,if u want to buy a phone u want to see what is he having or not having.Everybody knows what are the good things imo

53. fzacek

Posts: 2486; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

Read the disclaimer. I don't see anything wrong with the accurate and honest information that he is giving us...

2. hakoreh

Posts: 5; Member since: May 09, 2014

So what case are you using?

4. NokiaFTW

Posts: 2072; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

I like this "living with the' series from PA. Its good to hear the pros and the cons of a phone from a tech reviewer when he's using it for a long period of time, and then it helps us make an informed decision of purchasing the phone. Keep it up PA!

6. Sauce unregistered

For once I like what you said. +1. I agree. Definitely looking forward to more living-with series updates!

27. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Aaron from Phonedog had the best and was unbiased.

54. Arte-8800

Posts: 4562; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Wisely said +1

8. farhad_per

Posts: 128; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

Hehe...totally disagree because I have S5 for 2 weeks and I'm a very heavy user...! I have never experienced what this guy saying...! Specially about fingerprint I really surprised because it works really well ifffffff you follow the direction and sweep your finger rightly.... in my experience it works above 90% of times..! Dont try to sweep another way and say it's incorrect stupily..! I'm very surprised by this site because they trying very hard to bash S5 and only S5 very day...very funny and totally wrong...! Try to be fair in your work dude if you don't like any brand...! I saying that because I'm working with it right now and totally disagree with this bullsh..t article..! What a anti-sammy site...please grow up boys learn some from GSMarena...!

11. jellmoo

Posts: 2588; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Dude, an exclamation mark is used to convey emphasis, a higher degree of volume, or a strong feeling. When you use at the end of every single sentence, not only does it lose all effect, it also makes you appear to be yelling like a lunatic. Less is more. Use it to add extra emphasis to an important point. It will have way more impact that way.

13. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Isn't being a lunatic prerequisite for commenting here anyways...!?

20. farhad_per

Posts: 128; Member since: Mar 26, 2014

Go back and see your re not invited..!

14. The13thKing

Posts: 849; Member since: Feb 26, 2014

what if he used 1000 exclamation marks? makes you hurt? do you think the guy will not sleep at night and think about your comment about the exclamation marks? who cares?

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