The Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone is bigger and packs more features than last year’s Galaxy S4, including a waterproof frame and fingerprint sensor. We go hands-on at MWC 2014.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is one of the most anticipated MWC 2014 launches, and also one with the most to prove, with last year’s Galaxy S4 having more than its fair share of sceptics. The Galaxy S5 aims to impress with improved camera features (including 4k and HDR modes), a fingerprint scanner that can be used with PayPal and a new soft-touch waterproof design.
From the front, the Galaxy S5 doesn’t look like too much of a leap from previous Galaxy flagships, with a glossy rounded appearance. Turn it over and you’ll notice a change, though, with the cheap plastic backing gone. The rear is strangely soft-touch despite looking solid, with none of the leathery look of the Galaxy Note 3. The back pops off easily, revealing the SIM slot and elongated 2,800mAh battery (a little larger than the S4’s 2,600mAh battery).
The rim of the Galaxy S5 is made of crinkle-cut plastic with a metallic sheen. The power button is housed on the right edge, with the USB port on the bottom covered by a solid flap. The reason for this is simple: Samsung has taken a leaf from Sony’s waterproof book, with full IP67 water and dust resistance, so you can fully submerge the phone in water, beer and whatever liquid floats your boat.
Samsung Galaxy S5 (left) and last year’s Galaxy S4 (right) compared
Compare the Samsung Galaxy S5 with the Galaxy S4 and you’ll notice the Galaxy S5 is clearly bigger. At 8.1mm it’s a slice chunkier, while the 145g weight is a step up from the Galaxy S4’s 132g frame.
The Galaxy S5 (bottom) is clarly bigger than the Galaxy S4
Despite this, the Galaxy S5’s 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen is just a gnat’s chuff bigger than the Galaxy S4’s, and packs much the same technology. We were really impressed by the wide viewing angles, with next to no loss in colour or brightness as you tilt the screen to near-90 degrees. It’s powerfully bright and colourful and we’re told you’ll be able to use it while wearing gloves, as you can boost sensitivity in the options.
Beneath the screen you have light-up buttons for back and apps, plus a hard home button that now doubles as a swipey fingerprint scanner. We had a quick play, registering our fingerprint in eight swipes, before using it to unlock the phone. It seemed to work fine during our brief test, although we get the feeling it won’t be as consistently accurate as Apple’s iPhone 5S’s scanner, thanks to the necessary swiping motion.
You can use the Galaxy S5’s scanner not only to unlock the phone, but also to pay for goods via PayPal, rather than using a PIN or password. We saw a transaction via Abercrombie & Fitch’s retail website, where checkout only took a few seconds. Impressive stuff, and a great extension of this technology.
Android 4.4 KitKat is overlaid by Samsung’s TouchWiz as usual, and the main change is the new Magazine UI desktop. Similar to HTC’s BlinkFeed page, the Magazine UI collects your news and social streams into one place, allowing you to customise exactly what pops up and scroll through the latest headlines. Check out our Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 review for more info.
Packed away inside the Galaxy S5 is a quad-core Krait 2.5GHz processor, with 2GB of RAM. It’s a respectable upgrade over the Galaxy S4’s quad-core 1.9GHz chip. We didn’t see TouchWiz struggle too much this time – just a brief stutter when backing out of the settings, which hopefully will be ironed out in the final model.
The 16-megapixel camera (a jump up from the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel snapper) now autofocuses in up to 0.3 seconds, giving a sharp shot almost instantly. All-important when capturing impromptu action shots. You even get a Selective Focus mode which can be used to focus a shot after it’s been taken, thus allowing you to take photos even faster.
Real Time HDR (rich tone) helps to keep images bright and colourful even in dark or high-contrast environments such as nightclubs. This feature works in video mode too. You also get 4k video mode, like the Galaxy Note 3 and Sony Xperia Z2, and some interesting tools such as the Virtual Tour mode, which allows you to take a series of 360-degree panoramas and stitch them together.
The Galaxy S5 packs your own personal fitness tracker in S Health 3.0, which puts essential info such as steps taken and calories consumed right onto the desktop, as a widget – no more messing around opening up apps. It’ll also link up with your Samsung Gear to provide an all-round fitness assessment, something we’re already dreading.
Once again you get 4G LTE, plus 802.11ac Wi-Fi which is stable, fast and battery-friendly. You can even combine the two in a feature called ‘Download Booster’, which allows you to download files over 30MB using both 4G and WiFi simultaneously, promising lightning-quick download speeds.
Old features such as Smart Stay, Smart Pause, Air View and Daydream are all present and correct, so Galaxy S4 fans shouldn’t feel put out. Ultra Power Saving Mode is your typical battery-extender, which turns off lots of your phones features to keep you going a bit longer.
Expect to see the Samsung Galaxy S5 hitting stores in the next month or so, price to be revealed very soon. We’ll bring you a full review as soon as we sneak off with one of these bad boys. In the meantime, what do you think? Enough of an upgrade over the Galaxy S4 to tempt you? Let us know as always in the comments and on Twitter.