Samsung dropped a bombshell recently, announcing that its long-awaited Galaxy S5 flagship will be unveiled at a fairly low-key Unpacked event, during the MWC expo in Barcelona. That was a radical departure from the glitzy dedicated presentations that the previous two editions of the Galaxy S line warranted, and maybe hints that Samsung has more in store for this year, than simply the S5.
Looking at the design and specs of the new Samsung finest, that might very well turn out to be true, as the handset's specifications don't differ much, and even give way to other newly-announced flagships, like the Xperia Z2. Instead, Samsung chose to set it apart with the new Finger Scanner, integrated in the home key, as well as the innovative S Health 3.0 features, like the built-in heartbeat sensor. Let's recap what the Koreans just announced.
Note 3, or the PRO tablet line of Samsung. The company calls this a "modern glam look," and we can't disagree with the "glam" part, especially when it comes to the new Copper Gold color option. Besides the Charcoal Black and Shimmery White, the Galaxy S5 will arrive with two extra colors at launch - Electric Blue, and the aforementioned Copper Gold that you can see in the pictures.
Despite almost the same screen size, The Galaxy S5 sports a more elongated body than the S4. At 142.0 x 72.5 x 8.1mm, against the 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches (136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm) of the Galaxy S4, it is much taller and a tad wider. The embedded Finger Scanner might be the culprit here, requiring a thicker bottom bezel, just like the Touch ID solution on the iPhone 5s demands. At 145 grams, it is also heavier than the 130 gram Galaxy S4, so it bucks the "thinner and lighter" trend, that occurred between the Galaxy S III and the S4.
The phone, however, carries IP67 rating, just like the Galaxy S4 Active, which might have warranted a grander physique. This certification means that it is completely sealed from dust, and will remain functional even after you dunk it in up to three feet (1m) of water, for as long as half an hour. Last, but not least, the mentioned swipe Finger Scanner is embedded in the home key, and provides biometric authentication for unlocking the phone, or for secure mobile payments transactions.
The S5 uses a 5.1" Super AMOLED display with 1080x1920 pixels of resolution, raking in a tad lower pixel density than its S4 predecessor, but still more than enough for each purpose you might throw at it. Those rumors for a Quad HD display didn't pan out, unless Samsung has other aces up its sleeve this year, between the S5 and the Note 4 announcements.
The newly-coined quad-core Snapdragon 801 (Qualcomm's MSM8974-AC chipset), clocked at 2.5 GHz, is what's powering the Galaxy S5. That's a bit higher than the 2.3 GHz MSM8974-AB processor in the Xperia Z2, but it is paired with 2 GB of RAM in the S5, unlike Sony's new flagship, that comes with 3 GB of RAM. Samsung will ship the S5 with 16 GB or 32 GB of internal memory, depending on the version, and also provides a microSD card slot for storage expansion.
The Snapdragon 801 processor is just a step below Qualcomm's fastest Snapdragon 805, which won't be in devices before the summer, so the S5 won't feel underpowered for the foreseeable future. In comparison with Snapdragon 800, the new 801 comes with 14% faster Krait 400 processor cores, 28% faster Adreno 330 graphics, and the whole reason for the 801 being - a 45% improvement in camera sensor processing speed.
Snapdragon 801 also introduces hardware support for dual SIM/dual Active devices, so perhaps a dual SIM version of the Galaxy S5 won't be far behind. The new chipset supports 150 Mbps LTE-A download speeds, and Samsung has put an innovative feature in the handset, called Download Booster, which speeds them up by combining the Wi-Fi/ac and LTE-Advanced connectivity. The phone also sports NFC radio, and an IR blaster, while wired connectivity is supplied via the USB 3.0 port at the bottom, covered with a protective flap. Of note is the Wi-Fi 2x2 Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) setup on a phone, too.
Samsung plastered a new TouchWiz user interface on top of the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat in the Galaxy S5. It introduces flatter, round icons, reworked menus, and a plethora of new features. There is a new Ultra Power Saving Mode, for instance, that makes the display show images in black and white, shutting down all processes and connections it deems unneccessary, which should make the phone last quite the time in that state.
An improved S Health 3.0 app makes a cameo with the new Galaxy S5. Besides the usual pedometer, diet and exercise recordings, it is now also paired with something really interesting - a built-in heart rate monitor, located next to the LED flash. The sensor probably works on the same principle that the optical one on the Gear 2 smartwatch does, and you can further customize the experience with an abundance of third party apps that take advantage of the combined health and fitness trackers on the phone.
A brand new, 16 MP camera sensor, is what Samsung used for the Galaxy S5. The company claims that the camera unit now provides the fastest, 0.3 seconds autofocus times - a feat made possible by the dedicated image signal processors in the Snapdragon 801 chipset. Besides 4K video recording at 30fps, the processor also allows for a few extra camera tricks, too. Selective Focus allows users to tap on objects they want to look sharp, and the rest of the background gets blurred, achieving a shallow depth of field (DOF) effect without special lenses. Sony bragged with the same thing for the Z2, so we'd imagine that the new image processing capabilities in Snapdragon 801 are what makes 4K video recording and Selective Focus possible, rather than some homebrew ISPs from Samsung or Sony. Samsung also touts that an advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography will be in store with the Galaxy S5, that lets you "reproduce natural light and color with striking intensity at any circumstances".
Samsung announced that the Galaxy S5 will be available globally on April 11th - not really shortly after the official unveiling. Pricing will inevitably vary from one region and carrier to another, and is likely to hit the expected flagship range of $200 or EUR on contract, and $600 or EUR without carrier shackles.
To recap the Galaxy S5 announcement - with the implemented biometric security, and the addition of a heart rate sensor, it seems geared towards aiding the average user, rather than the geeky crowd. The latter would likely scoff at the lack of specs that set the Galaxy S5 apart from the spring season competition, but most users that would consider it, will likely only notice the new looks, color options, unique heart rate sensor, and the increased camera resolution. What do you think?