updated 07:56 pm EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Android flagship gets marginal enhancements
Following a steady stream of rumors, Samsung finally unveiled its new Android flagship at a Mobile World Congress event. The Galaxy S5 brings marginal improvements over its predecessor, adding a fingerprint sensor and a 16-megapixel camera, though it does not bring any revolutionary new features that were hinted at in early speculation. Electronista checked out the new phone to see if it still delivers.
Contradicting earlier rumors--bad news, or good news, depending on personal preferences--the S5 doesn't have an aluminum housing, an ultra-think bezel around the screen, QHD display resolution, screen-wide fingerprint recognition, or Tizen as a new operating system.
Samsung has slowed its progression toward larger screens, stretching the Galaxy S4's 4.8-inch panel just a bit to reach 5.1 inches from corner to corner. It maintains 1920x1080 resolution, which is perfect for this size screen; anything larger would be a waste of pixel density for all but the most hawk-eyed users.
The company also chose to follow the same design principles of the S5 lineage. When we first approached the S5 on display, it was not glaringly recognizable as a different phone from the S4 until we took a closer look. The build has been refreshed with a new texture on the battery cover, along with new choices for metallic accents. Our favorite new feature, IP67-rated water resistance down to depths of a meter, is something we feel should be standard on all high-end mobile devices.
We appreciate that Samsung didn't add a huge list of half-baked features to its Android skin, though the phone does bring some new features. Like the Galaxy Fit watch, the S5 integrates a heartbeat sensor that is a necessary component for many fitness apps. It also brings a fingerprint sensor, built into the home button in a similar configuration to the iPhone 5S, however we couldn't put this feature through any real tests during our brief trials.
The S5's camera steps up from a 13-megapixel sensor to a 16-megapixel component. Generally we believe companies should be spending more on quality optics rather than pushing pixel counts to new heights. The company may have upgraded both, but this is something we can only determine through objective tests in a full review.
After achieving dominance with the Galaxy S3 and S4, Samsung appears to be following the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra. The S5 does not bring any radical changes to the software or hardware, but it does upgrade nearly all of the core specs from the S4. This reflects the current state of the smartphone industry as it continues to mature; the jump from the S3 to the S4 was much wider than the transition from the S4 to the S5, just like the 5S was an incremental upgrade over the iPhone 5.
Samsung already feels the pressure to introduce something vastly different, but it isn't the S5. Nonetheless, it is clearly a better phone than the S4 and competitive in the smartphone market against other Android handsets and the iPhone.