The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is available as of yesterday, so that means it's time to move on to Samsung's next flagship smartphone, right? I'm only kidding. The Galaxy Note 3 is a great phone and deserves its day in the sun. We'll have a review unit shortly and we'll be bringing you all the latest on the Note 3. But seriously, let's take a look at the Galaxy S5.
The Galaxy S4 was announced last March and released the following month. Some carriers launched it before others. It has been one of Samsung's best selling smartphones to date. The Galaxy S5 has some big shoes to fill, but just like the Galaxy S4 was a solid follow up to the Galaxy S3, we are pretty sure Samsung is up to the challenge. We actually are expecting to see more improvements in the Galaxy S5. We understand that it's very early and nothing has been confirmed, but we're already starting to hear some rumors about the GS5. Here's a preview of what we expect.
Galaxy S5 Design
Most of the rumors that we have heard about the Galaxy S5 so far have been about the design changes that Samsung might be making. Samsung has held fast to their love of slick plastic devices, but consumers are clamoring for something different. The brushed aluminum of the HTC One and iPhone 5 are very popular. While some Samsung enthusiasts do enjoyo the plastic design of current Galaxy devices, other users are begging for an upgrade. The Galaxy Note 3 saw a switch to a faux-leather back, with bright colors and heavy stitching. The Galaxy S5 could get an even more drastic change.
Rumors of a new line of devices, dubbed "Project F," may mark a shift in the material Samsung uses for its smartphones and tablets. We're hearing that the new Galaxy F line is separate from the Galaxy S series, but we don't think Samsung will be one-upping its wildly successful Galaxy S brand devices with something else. Samsung may be working on a new Galaxy F line of phones, but not at the expense of the Galaxy S line. They have too much invested in making the Galaxy S brand a household name.
What we can expect, though, is that the Galaxy S5 could have a metal chassis. Samsung was rumored to be testing a metal material for the Note 3 before scrapping it and going with the plastic-that-looks-leather backing. If they do move to a metal chassis design like the Project F rumors are saying, it may mean a move away from removable backs and microSD card support. Those are two things that Samsung has not given up, even as other OEMs follow Google's design guidelines from the Nexus series and take them out. Samsung may finally have to give these up, too. The answer, if they have to get rid of microSD support and removable backs, is to just increase internal storage and battery size.
Galaxy S5 Display
The display is one of the most important parts of a smartphone. It's what users look at and interact with all day. While we haven't heard any specific rumors about the Galaxy S5 display yet, we do know what Samsung has been working on and the direction they plan to take their future devices with regards to screen technology.
Samsung demoed its flexible display technology at CES 2013 back in January, but we haven't seen it in a device yet. They're calling the technology Youm. While no one actually wants a bendable display on their smartphone, this flexible display could provide the nearly unbreakable screen that companies have been looking for. We've heard rumors that there may be a Galaxy Note 3 that comes out with this flexible display tech, and the Galaxy S5 will almost surely have it as well.
We can also expect a full HD, 1080p resolution with an insanely high pixel density that iterates on current generation high-end smartphone displays. We expect the display to stay around 5-inches, with a really small bezel to keep the overall device size down. The big difference should be that flexible screen.
Galaxy S5 Camera
No surprise, but the camera on the Galaxy S5 will be an improvement over the Galaxy S4 and other current generation smartphone cameras. The camera on the GS4 is good but hasn't really "wowed" us. Motorola included its Clear Pixel technology in the Moto X, the LG G2 has Optical Image Stabilization, and the iPhone 5s has dual-flash technology that might make the flash on your smartphone actually useable. Expect the GS5 to have some combination of these technologies.
Specifically, we're hearing that the Galaxy S5 may come with a 16 megapixel rear camera with OIS. Optical Image Stabilization will help to cut down on the shakiness and blur of photos and video. The LG G2 has one of the best cameras on any smartphone, ever, and it's largely due to the OIS that it ships with.
We should also see improvements in the camera software suite that Samsung packs with its TouchWiz UI. We'll get in to that a little more, later on.
Galaxy S5 Internals
The Galaxy S5 internal specs will also see a bump up. Just like the camera spec, this is no surprise. That's how it works, right? But what can we expect to change?
Like I mentioned before, if Samsung moves to a metal chassis for the Galaxy S5, they may have to remove microSD card support and make the phone with a non-removable back. Some users would be very unhappy about that, but Samsung can appease most consumers by simply increasing battery size and the amount of internal storage that the phone ship with. The Note 3 is not available with less than 32 GB of internal storage, mostly because TouchWiz is such a bloated overlay. We assume that this will be the standard, moving forward. If they make the GS5 in 32 GB and 64 GB variants, most users won't need to increase storage with a microSD card.
The removable back is the other thing that Samsung has refused to give up. Some users like to purchase extended batteries or replacement batteries to make sure they have enough juice for the day. Samsung could put a huge battery in the GS5, 3,200 mAh or even bigger, and this would be a non-issue for most people. Most of us have chargers at home, at work, and in the car already. And you can always pick up a universal battery pack or something like a PowerBag as backup if needed.
We can expect to see at least 3 GB of RAM in the Galaxy S5. The Note 3 is shipping with 3 GB of RAM, and with TouchWiz being such a heavy UI overlay, it's necessary. As for processor, it's hard to guess at this point. Smartphone chip technology changes very quickly. We will probably see new chipsets at CES 2014, and the Galaxy S5 could be powered by one of those. Whether it's a Qualcomm chip or one of Samsung's own chipsets under the hood, you can expect the GS5 to have the latest, most powerful chips available.
Samsung is preparing a version of the GS4 that has LTE-Advanced connectivity and we expect to see that packed in to the GS5 too.
Galaxy S5 Software
Samsung's TouchWiz UI could use a major overhaul. It's bloated and slows down even the Snapdragon 600 SoC in the Galaxy S4. That's saying something. Some users love TouchWiz, but pretty much everyone can agree that it's due for a visual refresh. We haven't heard any rumors about this yet, but we sure hope Samsung cleans up the design of TouchWiz for launch with the Galaxy S5.
What we can expect is for Samsung to fine tune some of the software offerings that come with TouchWiz, probably adding additional S Pen and camera features. They'll likely roll out a few new gimmicky features as well. They will continue to tweak and improve existing apps like Air View functionality that comes on the S4. We can also expect the Galaxy S5 to be running Android 4.4 Kit Kat, or maybe Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. It depends on when Kit Kat is released, but my bet is on 4.4 and not 4.3.
There may also be a Tizen-based OS version of the Galaxy S5. Samsung has been tinkering with Tizen but does not seem serious about it, and has not released their in-house OS on a flagship smartphone yet.
Galaxy S5 Release Date
There are a couple of things we can look at to get a solid estimate of the Galaxy S5 release date. It's definitely not launching until next year. Based on the past couple of years, we can expect the GS5 to launch in the spring of 2014. The Galaxy S3 was announced at the beginning of April and released about a month later. The GS4 was announced at an Unpacked Event in New York City last March. Again, it was available about a month later. Rumors suggest that Samsung is looking at a March 2014 announcement for the GS5, with a release within a month or maybe two months after that.
Samsung is on a predictable release cycle for their flagship smartphones. They have been announcing a new Galaxy S flagship in the spring, and then a new Note smartphone in the fall. We can expect Samsung to skip right over CES in January and MWC in February. They will likely hold their own Unpacked Event announcement in the spring of next year to announce the Galaxy S5.
Galaxy S5 Pricing
We can also look at Samsung's history over the past few years to predict a price point for the GS5. The GS3 and GS4 were $199 on contract when they launched. The original Note, Note 2, and Note 3 were $299 on contract when released. Samsung and the smartphone market in general has hit on a sweet spot of $199 with a new two year contract. The Galaxy S5 should fall right in line with that.
We may see variants of the GS5 with different amounts internal storage and different pricing to match. The 32 GB model should be priced at $199, while a 64 GB version might be $249.
Galaxy S5 Carriers
Samsung has been smart about the release of their Galaxy flagship smartphones. Within a month or so of each other, all 4 major U.S. wireless carriers have released the previous Galaxy S flagships, and the GS5 should be no different. We can throw U.S. Cellular into the mix here too. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular will almost certainly sell the Galaxy S5. Being that it should ship with LTE-Advanced, we expect that carriers that have LTE-A networks will support it in the GS5.
I know it's a good six months away, but we'll start hearing more about the Galaxy S5 as the time approaches. What do you expect? What do you hope that Samsung includes this time around? Will there be a Google Edition Galaxy S5? Let us know in the comments.