I have to be honest and make a complete disclosure. I must confess that I was a happy Samsung Galaxy Note 2 user and currently an ecstatic Galaxy Note 3 user – I LOVE my Note 3, as I simply do not believe there is a device out there at this time that has the same combination of size, features, or the usefulness that the S-Pen provides to me. I have always felt like a Samsung cheerleader, not a groupie (way too old for that), but I have always wanted them to succeed so that my next Galaxy Note will be even more awesome – however, I have to admit that what seems so obvious to me and others, seems to have escaped the eyes of a powerful company like Samsung.
When there is this much expectation for a new product, any product, there is bound to somewhat of a let down – most new products can never stand up to what we were personally hoping for – the newest Samsung Galaxy S5 is one such product. I was hoping for so much more than a small upgrade, especially when Samsung themselves were disappointed in the sales of its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, as well as the criticism it received. Knowing what the competition is bringing to the plate, I really thought that Samsung would take heed and really blow us away with a brand new Galaxy S5 device, but that did not happen and I am afraid that Samsung will be very disappointed in the results – we are hearing the sounds of disappointment already on the internet blogs. We expect to hear bad things from the haters and naysayers, but even the Samsung supporters are expressing their let down – it's like when a city goes on to cheer their favorite sports team on to victory, only to sustain a loss…you still love them, but we all play Monday morning quarterback – if I could of, would of.
Let us look at the some areas of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and discuss the pluses and minuses…
This is the most obvious omission – Samsung has been criticized for using polycarbonate (high-grade of plastic) on its flagship devices, when others like Apple, HTC and Sony were using a metal or a metal and glass combination. Samsung finally broke ranks and used the faux leather on the back of its Galaxy Note 3 – a small but welcomed step in the right direction. We assumed that for the next Galaxy S5 they would take that next step to the next level and really up the design, especially based on how well the HTC One looked and was received by the public. Instead, Samsung took what they did with the Note 3, made it ugly, and slapped it on the back of the S5. We had so many beautiful conceptual drawings like this:
The above concept is a winner in my book and I believe it would have been a huge hit for Samsung and the Galaxy S5 – nice touches of metal, yet still retaining a plastic back for a replaceable battery and microSD card, as well as helping your grip on the device.
The only thing missing on the above concept design is a large grill at the bottom for a decent speaker like the HTC. Let's face it, we still use our smartphone as a true "phone," but more and more people use the speakerphone for conversations, especially with the ease in which we can video chat. Many users are taking videos with their devices and want to play them back for others to enjoy…which is a little hard to do when you can barely understand the audio from two little slits in the back or on the bottom (in the case of the Note 3). And yes, it would be nice to enjoy music from your smartphone without the necessity of earbuds – is it really too much to ask for, Samsung?
Screen / Processor / Memory
The display stayed the same as on the Galaxy S4, although some improvements in the brightness were made. I am not saying this is a bad thing as a Full HD display on a 5-inch smartphone is already insanely sharp, however, there was so much talk about the next QHD displays that anything less was going to be a disappointment. At the very least, it does not elevate the Galaxy S5 over its competition as the QHD displays are surely coming to devices this year.
The processor is certainly an upgrade from the year old S4, however, it keeps the devices specs right there with LG, HTC, and Sony. The Galaxy S5 will work fine with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 or 801 quad-core clocked at 2.5GHz, but it makes the device equal to all others.
The same with the 2GB of RAM – it should run great with 2GB of RAM, however, everybody was expecting 3GB and then expecting the jump to 4GB when the 64-bit processors start arriving. The new Sony Z2 and LG G Pro 2 both have 3GB of RAM and people will compare these flagship devices against one another and that extra 1GB means a lot to a lot of people.
Here is an area where the only thing you can argue is that maybe Samsung should be using an OIS by now in their cameras, but they have certainly upgraded the camera on the Galaxy S5. Not so much because it jumped from 13MP to 16MP and added 4K video, but because the Image Sensor was increased in size which should allow for better low-light pictures, and the focus speed was increased to 3/10 of a second and the software/features of the camera were truly improved, not gimmickry options like "Golf Swing." We should be very happy with Samsung's efforts in the picture-taking department.
Software and Features
Critics have been criticizing TouchWiz for its lagginess and layers and layers of UI over the pure Google experience. You will be happy to hear that progress has been made in that area…from the videos and comments that we have seen of the Galaxy S5 in action, it looks smooth and fast as can be and yes, there is still a heavy layer of TouchWiz, but that layer adds MANY options not available with pure Android. I know that I will upset many Nexus users, but you can have your pure Android and I will take my TouchWiz any day, even with its faults. I want to be able to add colors and use the "bubble" effect when I use the standard SMS app…it is simply easier to distinguish my conversation from my friend's. Pure Android users will say that you can download an app for that – but if I do that then I am not really using the pure Android experience, am I?
Samsung added a fingerprint scanner this time around and I am sure it was only out of duress and pressure to stay in line with the iPhone – or was it a way to keep the home button and quiet the critics that hate it. Personally, I have no complaints about a physical home key and I have to tell you that I thought that I would really dislike it, but now that I have it, I enjoy pressing it and jumping to the home screen or holding it down to open up my apps – a real convenience in my book, and now because of the fingerprint scanner it looks like it is going to stay a while longer, or at least until they develop their iris scanner. One good thing out of this is that Verizon will not be able to put their name on the home button, via their Galaxy Note 2.
The Heart Rate Sensor is a waste to someone like myself whose health has long since past them by, but many younger users are into health, fitness, and exercise so it may prove to be of value to them, but even so, I would not count this a plus.
Water and dust resistant, IP67 certified, is certainly a nice feature and one to be proud of and keeps it in line with Sony's new smartphones and also allows Samsung to make one model rather than having to add an Active version later down the road.
Adding USB 3.0 is also a nice feature – easier to plug-in, faster charge times, and certainly faster data transfer from your Galaxy S5 to your laptop or PC. I love this addition on my Galaxy Note 3.
Sum It All Up
Am I saying that the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a big disappointment or not worthy of the S5 title – certainly not. Am I saying that I am disappointed that Samsung did not have the "junk" to step out of their comfort zone when they designed the new S5 – certainly yes. Look at the concept phone and compare it to the actual Galaxy S5 and tell me which one makes you want to run out and buy one…certain niceties were out of Samsung's hands, but not the design.
Many of the specifications that would make this Galaxy S5 really stand out are just not available at this time – the quantity of QHD displays needed was just not possible to manufacture and the next generation 64-bit processor is not ready, although one could question why Samsung's own Exynos Octa-core processor is not ready after all of this time. They certainly could have added 3GB of RAM to keep up with other 2014 flagships. The fingerprint sensor is like throwing us a bone to keep quiet until they can accomplish what they really would like to add – the iris scanner. The upgraded camera is always a welcomed addition, although the S4 camera took great pictures already.
For Samsung, they took a big step in upgrading their TouchWiz and including more useful or important features, such as KNOX, rather than adding more gimmicky features, a lot that nobody uses. It seems extremely fast and smooth in the demonstrations that we have seen and we cannot wait until Alex gets his hands on one for his own full test of the S5.
Samsung was determined to bring out the Galaxy S5 at this time and used the best that was available at the time of construction – other than the outward design. Why is it that LG, that still uses and an all plastic body getting so much applause for its G Flex with only a 720p display or even the G Pro 2, which other than the extra 1GB of RAM has the same specs as the S5 getting such kudos from LG lovers but throwing hate Samsung's way. Is it that we somehow expect more from Samsung so if they do not hit a home run, it is a piece of crap? I am disappointed in the overall design – shape, all plastic and no upgraded speaker – but overall, the new Galaxy S5 should be a solid and capable smartphone and I will be very curious to see how sales are, once the reviews are done and the device is actually available to purchase.
Give us a holler on our Google+ Page and let us know what you think about the new Galaxy S5 – we would love to hear your opinions.