Samsung Galaxy S5 launches: 16MP camera, 5.1-inch full HD display, heart rate monitor

Meet the Galaxy S5, a mild upgrade destined for a million and one pockets and handbags. It’s the “new” new life companion, and it’s coming to you at the power of five. After an endless, and needless symphony which played the familiar Samsung tunes, the show began (there were two orchestral encores. Seriously? The hubris at play here was insane). Here’s what the S5’s all about:

More of the same

First off, it’s difficult to even tell the difference between the S4 and the S5. Samsung has chosen its vanilla design, and is sticking with it.

The screen is 5.1-inches, 1080p SuperAMOLED and undoubtedly diamond-sharp, as it was with the S4.

It’s a sturdy phone as Samsung is going the way of the Xperia, by delivering an IP67, water and dust-proof Galaxy experience. This water-proofing extends to the new USB 3.0 charging port, which has a flap to protect it from immersion in liquids.

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The camera, like with the S4, received the biggest upgrade. It’s 16MP now, with an HDR preview mode that lets us see what our HDR images look like before the picture is snapped. Samsung’s calling the camera “powerful” and includes fast auto-focus, rich-tone HDR, and an “improved user experience”. The Galaxy S5’s camera also records 4K video. In a fairly cool move, camera effects can be applied to images and video after the image has been taken. Below the camera is a heart-rate monitor which I’m dying to test, to see if the darned thing actually works.

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Where the S5 thankfully differs is when it comes to the back, which is now dimpled and looks like the rear of the Nexus 7 or Nexus 5 devices. Samsung’s calling this “modern glam” but we’re happy nonetheless that it’s decided to ape the excellent look and feel of LG’s Google phones. For those who want colour options, the S5 comes in gold, blue, white and black. By the looks of things, the dimpled cover is going to lessen the “cheap” factor plagued by the design of the S4.

There are newer connectivity options as well: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, a download booster and LTE category 4.

Finger food

One of the more important features of the S5 is the fingerprint reader, built directly into the Home button, just like with the 5s. S5, 5s, if there was ever an original thought, it never crossed the minds of Apple or Samsung at this point. Next to the Home button are the ever-present Menu and Return capacitive keys.

Regardless, the fingerprint reader can register eight fingers and perform miracles such as authorising payments with PayPal, with only a quick swipe. Sadly, The Verge — who were lucky enough to get a hands on with the S5 — say that the fingerprint reader is “quite unreliable and virtually impossible to activate when holding the phone in one hand.” That’s Samsung’s bright idea scuppered then.

Driving the fingerprint reader is a much faster CPU. The 2.5Ghz CPU (we expected 64-bit) joins with 2GB RAM to provide an exceptionally nippy experience. Most likely the S5 will be as beefy as the S4, which is still one of the fastest phones in the world.

Samsung also unveiled the Gear Fit, a (most likely expensive) bracelet that works with the S5 to count steps and keep our behinds from getting too large and cosy. The screen has also been designed to “fit perfectly on your wrist”. The guided coaching and custom feedback is a cool addition, at least. It’s the worlds first, curved, SuperAMOLED touchscreen on a fitness device, says Samsung excitedly.

A slice of KitKat

The Galaxy S5 comes standard with Android 4.4.2 or KitKat and just by staring at the screenshots, I can see that the look of the OS hasn’t changed since the S4. I really need a hands on with this beast to see how it truly differs from last year’s model, in OS terms at least.

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“A smartphone has never felt better” are the words which echo in my mind. “A smartphone which looks and feels almost exactly like the S4” are others (made up by myself). As I said earlier, the S5 will sell in the millions and Samsung knows this, as the latest Galaxy is nothing more than the S4 with better hardware, slicker software and familiar feelings all round. Samsung never mentioned a price, but expect it to fetch between US$650-900 when it launches April in the US.

You may have noticed a tinge of blasé towards the S5. That’s because it’s unimpressive. Samsung’s played it safe and by refusing to innovate, it merely clutters the mobile landscape with “another” slick-looking, ultra-fast, yet boring smartphone. Let’s hope that HTC, Sony, Apple or anyone can deliver innovation in the near future.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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