Samsung, you've done it again! You've managed to once again wow the crowds with a new, premium Android device, and we're glad that we had the opportunity to take it for a spin here at MWC. The device we're talking about is, of course, the highly-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S5. Without a doubt, we're dealing with a handset that will grab the attention of anyone looking for a high-end, no-compromise Android smartphone. What we're also sure about, however, that Samsung's competitors won't just give up without a fight. In fact, the Galaxy S5 will be racing against a number of other top-notch handsets, one of them being the LG G2.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Samsung has chosen to stick with plastic for the construction of its Galaxy S5 smartphone. That's not a choice we're completely disappointed by, however. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is actually attractive visually in its own way – it has its magical aura around it, if you will. We are quite fond of the finish and texture choices chosen for the model, and the selection of colors is also something we're excited about. The LG G2, on the other hand, doesn't quite reach the level of "premium" achieved by the S5. It is not a bad-looking phone, of course, but with its plasticky feel and build, it can't quite grab our attention as much as the Galaxy S5 does.
Size-wise, the LG G2 stands out with being more compact than the Samsung Galaxy S5. That's quite an engineering feat considering that the former packs a slightly larger screen. Still, the size difference between the two is negligible – both smartphones are of adequate size for a flagship.
Being water-resistant (IP67 is the rating, in case you're wondering) is a significant advantage for the Samsung Galaxy S5 over the LG G2 and a rarely seen attribute of an Android high-end phone. As Samsung says, you should be able to even take the S5 with you in the shower and let it play your favorite tunes as you're freshening up. The LG G2 doesn't have any water-resistant properties, so it would be wise to keep it away from liquids.
One peculiar thing about the LG G2 is that its power and volume buttons are placed on the back. We've said numerous times that this design feature isn't for everyone – you'll either like it once you get used to the keys' placement, or you won't. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is playing it safe by leaving the power and volume buttons in the places where they're usually located, at least as far as Samsung smartphones are concerned. On the left side of the Galaxy S5 is its volume rocker, while the power key is on the right.
Below the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S5 we find a set of Android navigation keys – a large, easy-to-press "Home" button is in the middle, while the "Back" button is on its right side. Interestingly, instead of a "Menu" button we find one that lists our recent applications. On the LG G2 we see only on-screen navigation keys.
It is really hard to say which one of these two phones' screens is better. That's because both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G2 are equipped with lovely 1080 by 1920 pixel displays. Samsung's flagship has gone for a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display, while LG has graced the front of its flagship with an even slightly larger IPS panel of 5.2 inches. With these figures in mind, it comes as no surprise that the two displays produce excellent details. Color representation, as well as viewing angles, are also acceptable and our eyes definitely like the hues that they see. Operating these two touchscreens can be challenging if one hand is all you have available, so chances are whichever of these phones you're holding, you'll resort to reaching out with your other finger every once in a while.
Interface and functionality
Android 4.4 KitKat is what the Samsung Galaxy S5 will ship with. The LG G2 has received the newest Android experience as well as an update has already begun rolling out. These phones' UIs, however, look nothing like stock Android as both manufacturers have treated their flagships to an extensive UI overhaul.
Samsung's TouchWiz UI in its latest form is available on the Galaxy S5. As a whole, it is flatter when it comes to graphics and less flashy compared to previous iterations, yet it is also loaded with minor and not so minor enhancements. Among the extras offered by the S5 is S Health 3.0, which is fitness application for tracking your exercise regime and habits. In fact, the feature can generate a fitness routine tailored to the user's needs and preferences. How does that work? Well, through putting all of the S5's sensors to good use. These track the user's movements during exercise, and the data is used to calculate the amount of calories being burned. What's more, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a heart rate monitor built in and it is used to feed even more data to S Health for even better results.
LG's custom user interface is flashier and more colorful, with fancy transitions and exploding screen unlock effects. Feature-wise, multitasking has clearly been a key focus point during the UI's development, judging by the presence of a number of multitasking-friendly extras. For example, certain pre-loaded apps can be launched in their own hovering window. For example, you can take down a note without closing the web page you have open. And with slide aside, you can save up to 3 apps in their current state for later use and then bring them forth again with a 3-finger sideward swipe. That's far from all, of course, but this comparison would grow quite large should we choose to comment on all of the goodies packed in LG's custom UI.
As rumored, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner built into the home screen button. It is of the swipe variety, used primarily instead of a PIN or a pattern for unlocking the phone. However, you're also free to hide photos in your gallery – the hidden images can be accessed only after a fingerprint authorisation. Furthermore, we may be able to authorize payments via PayPal one day using the S5's scanner, although Samsung is still working with the money transfer service on bringing this feature to its phone.
No fingerprint scanner is available on the LG G2. What is to be made available after a software update, however, is LG's KnockCode feature. It is used as an unlock pattern that consists of up to 8 taps. Each tap is made at a particular area of the screen, and only those who know the exact pattern can unlock the handset.
Processor and memory
With its 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 SoC, the LG G2 is one pretty darn fast phone. The Samsung Galaxy S5, however, is even faster, or at least it is when it comes to raw power. That's due to the fact that a Snapdragon 801 beats under its hood at a rate of 2.5GHz. Therefore, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is expected to perform better while running heavy games or applications. Interestingly, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has "only" 2GB of RAM even though phones with 3GB of RAM have been on sale for months. Why Samsung has decided to not put 3 gigs in its flagship is beyond us. Not that we're complaining – the Galaxy S5 is very responsive as it is. 2GB of RAM are present on the LG G2 as well.
You can add the availability of a microSD card slot to the list of advantages that the Samsung Galaxy S5 has over the LG G2. The latter lacks one, which means that there's no way of augmenting its on-board storage capacity.
The LG G2 has proven itself as a very capable shooter – both when it comes to taking photos and for taking video, for that matter. Its 13MP camera has built-in optical image stabilization, which, when combined with the snapper's 60fps recording capabilities, produces excellent video recordings. However, we have a feeling that the Samsung Galaxy S5 might be able to outpace its rival. The 16MP camera on the latter stands out with its super-fast auto-focus. In fact, Samsung claims that 0.3 seconds are enough for the S5's camera to focus on its object. Speaking of focusing, the camera app comes with a special mode allowing the photographer to add shallow depth of field effect to their photos. Simply put, the photographed object will be in focus while the background will be blurred when the feature is enabled. Moreover, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is capable of recording video in HDR, as well as video in stunning 4K resolution, while the G2 has neither of these tricks up its sleeve.
If we were in LG's shoes, we'd be at least a little bit worried about the upcoming launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5. Samsung's new flagship is outstanding in many ways, and as a whole, it could be seen as superior to the LG G2. We can't be 100% sure about that, of course, since we've not yet had the chance to test the Galaxy S5 thoroughly, but judging by what we've seen so far, we'd say that Samsung's new flagship is indeed the next big thing. The Samsung Galaxy S5, however, will not be launching anytime soon. This could give LG enough precious time to examine its competition and to come up with an adequate, equally impressive answer to Samsung's offering.