Hooray, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is official! It's real! It's here! For those of us that are enthusiastic, even perhaps somewhat obsessed with mobile technology, this is one of our favorite times of the year. The big names announce their big device(s) of the year, and we get to review them, compare them, contrast them — everything one could want to do with a device that promises to be one of the biggest sellers of the year. We'll talk about hardware, software, firmware and more, and we'll even tell you how many gigahertz your phone's processor has. Sound exciting? For some, it might. Others? Not so much.
Something we too often forget in this business is that the majority of people buying these devices aren't interested in what we have to say when we tell them "the brand new Snapdragon 805 combines four Krait 450 CPU cores with a brand new Adreno 420 GPU, all behind a 128-bit wide memory interface". What they're interested in hearing is that they can play candy crush, text, use twitter and call their significant other all without having to charge their phone for an entire day and then some.
As a student at a Music Conservatory in the middle of Boston, I find myself exposed to all sorts of people – young people. The phone that they carry is a means to an end, and not part of the excitement (not after they get used to it after first buying it, that is). As a result, it really starts to irk me when I see all of these websites bashing Samsung's newest iteration of their Galaxy phone series as a meaningless incremental update, or a stepping stone that won't matter. It's neither of those, there's a couple good reasons why.
10) It's Dust-proof and Water Resistant
I was genuinely surprised when I went to my local Best Buy and saw people flocking to the Galaxy S4 Active. I didn't think that so many people valued water resistance so much as to choose a phone that had lower / different (depending on your opinion in some cases) specifications than the actual Galaxy S4. But then I had to tell myself what I just said above: People don't care about an LCD versus AMOLED display – they care about being able to take their phone out in the rain or spill water on it without getting worried that they just lost two-hundred dollars. Sure, competitors like Sony have been doing this for years, but never has such built-in damage resistance come to a Galaxy smartphone while not sacrificing anything. That's a big deal.
9) Some of the New Wearables are Actually Kind of Cool
This doesn't necessarily pertain to the S5 specifically, because the new Gear options are compatible with many already existing devices. However, when the Galaxy S5 goes on sale, retailers and carriers alike will be trying very hard to sell the new Gear wearables that Samsung unveiled alongside the S5 with some sort of discount. The one that everyone is talking about is the Gear Fit, which takes advantage of curved screen technology to make an arm-band that can measure your heart rate and more. I'm predicting that it'll sell better than the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, but we'll see how that goes.
8) It's going to be Available nearly Everywhere
We've already received word that the Galaxy S5 will be available on the major U.S. carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile) as well as MetroPCS, Canada and much of Europe and Asia. That not only means that you're going to be able to find the device nearly everywhere you go, but you will also have your choice of carrier. This is particularly useful for people who live in certain locations in the country where one service isn't as good as another.
You can also expect carriers to be competing quite a bit with each other to try and persuade you to switch / start a contract with them over their competition. I can see T-Mobile in particular driving a hard bargain for new smartphone users or soon-to-be-upgrading customers. Keep an eye out for these sorts of deals, as they can really make the device appeal much more down the line.
7) Another three Megapixels isn't only Improvement for the Camera
When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S4 last year, the S3 already held the title of being an extremely impressive shooter. The 13-megapixel camera on the Galaxy S4 was – while a technical improvement over the S3 – rather unimpressive in terms of an improvement. Not only were 13-megapixel shots in a 4:3 aspect ratio, but the camera interface was absolutely overrun with a UI that bogged down nearly every single action, from snapping a shot to switching modes.
Now Samsung has upped the ante to 16-megapixels, putting it ahead of the iPhone's 8-megapixel camera twice over on paper. But, there's more to it than that: Samsung has organized the less useful features into smaller hubs (Dual Shot is now in the shooting modes menu, just as an example) and hides the finer controls in the Settings. If It's a shame it took the company so rectify the clutter of its viewfinder (which was beginning to look more like the old Touchwiz than anything else – more on that coming up)but I have a feeling that now it will lend itself to a much more user-friendly shooting experience – especially if the autofocus time is .3 seconds, as Samsung claims.
6) Meaningful, Useful Features
Remember the advertisements for the Galaxy S4? A man waving his greasy hand over the phone to answer a call? Smart-pause in the airport? Those, along with similar gimmicks such as Air-Gesture, Smart-Stay and the like were unfortunate additions to the S4; meaningless software additions that took up more space on the phone's internal storage than they were worth. Sure, waving my hand over the screen of my phone to go through pictures still makes my friend's faces light up, but we all end up touching the screen afterward – that's what is natural. Thankfully, Samsung has elected to move away from the 'show-stopping' features of the S4 and onto usable, helpful and appropriate additions to the software.
Now the newly renovated S Health App (which ties into the Heartbeat monitor that works well from what we've gathered) makes sense, is easier to use and is definitely more appealing to users. Samsung Knox has become more safe, and more secure, and they've even added a finger scanner in their home button. These are changes that people expect, and changes that I have no doubt people will use. If I pick one up, I'll definitely be grabbing a Gear Fit and doing some more running around Boston.
5) Accessories, Accessories and more Accessories!
The iPhone and even iPad have become big hits for small-time kiosk owners in malls: Rubber cases with bunny ears and faux-leather stand-up cases for the iPad are abound, and nearly endless in quantity. Thankfully, however, Samsung's Galaxy line is right behind them in terms of accessories. The S-View Cover is coming again to the S5 in a new iteration that resembles the Note 3's more than it does the S4's, but it proves that there is a sizable and substantial demand for items like that. Wireless charging docks, replaceable batteries, micro-SDs, otterboxes, silicon shells – you name it, the S5 is going to get it.
You will not be at a lack of accessories to choose from, and Samsung's official choices will get supplemented in force by the incredible amounts of third-party cases and the like for you to choose from. Your phone won't go naked for very long if you don't want it to.
4) Samsung, Google and Service Providers will need to Support this Device well into the Future
I wouldn't be surprised if this one slipped through the cracks with a lot of people, but it's a big one. We've all been there at one point: Either we picked a really awesome device that got bad later on or even broke, and we couldn't get our carrier to replace it with a better one, or Google Play only had an App that was available for more popular devices, OR a device manufacturer stopped supporting a device out of the blue, with little to no responsiveness about updates and patches (cough HTC in 2010 cough). That simply cannot and will not happen with the Samsung Galaxy S5.
Samsung knows what they have with the Galaxy lineup. It's the most successful Android phone by far, and carriers know it too. Sure, my Galaxy S4 on Verizon is still on Android 4.3, but I know for a fact that it is getting 4.4 — there is simply no other option. If Samsung starts ignoring the millions of customers who bought their most popular device, they will lose their patronage to another OEM. If Verizon doesn't push out this update eventually, it's a likely possibility that I and thousands of others will switch to another carrier when our service contract is up. And being the most popular phone to be using Google Play means that most Apps will be made sure to run properly on the S5. It is simply too risky to not support these devices, and everyone knows it. Patience is a virtue, but at least S5 owners can know that they won't be left hanging.
3) It Doesn't Push Boundaries for the Sake of Pushing Them
Competition is good. It's important. So is innovation and pushing the bar as far as it can go. But unlike yesteryear, when the best Android phone was the one with the first Quad-Core Processor and a whopping two gigabytes of RAM, OEMs are making their devices prettier, easier to hold, simpler to use. The focus has shifted from brute strength to finesse and detail. Samsung's formula, like Apple's, works for them and what they want to do. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that the Galaxy Note 3 wasn't a six-inch phone so the S5 could be 5.5-inches and get away with it. We're not slowly getting bigger, and larger, and more muscular anymore. We're dotting our I's and crossing our T's, and Samsung finally gets that.
The S5 is definitely not a ground-breaking phone, but it is going to be noticeably better than the Galaxy S4. It doesn't need to break some sort of record for it to be, even though it's bound to. Despite that, I guarantee that user experience will be much improved.
2) The Battery is Bigger but the Screen is nearly the Same
A lot of you are probably curious as to why I've saved this so close to last. Again, this is a list for those readers who aren't nerds and who don't care about numbers past what it immediately means for them. I can safely say that the 5-inch screen on my Galaxy S4 is plenty substantial for me. And 1080p looks sharp as can be. I really can't complain about the screen when it comes to my phone, especially when it comes to resolution, size and usability. Samsung was wise to only up the size by a tenth of an inch, as I think that any larger would really risk alienating a lot of potential buyers. And while the device is definitely taller and somewhat wider than its counterpart from past year, it maintains a slim and pocket-able (for men) form-factor that allows for great media-consumption, gaming and general usability. And while I know a lot of us were waiting to see that 2k UHD screen, I am so thankful that they kept the resolution of 1080p for this device.
1) The Screen Will Trump The Competition
I already know that at 5-inches, my phone's display blows the iPhone's and many others out of the water. Crisp text, gorgeous colors (I'm a sucker for saturated images), and a size that makes Youtube videos easy to enjoy. What would happen if I packed a 2k display into nearly the same form-factor? I don't know what my viewing experience would be like, but I could tell you what my overall experience would be horrible, because of two words: Battery life. Samsung knows rightly that long-term usage is one of the most paramount features a phone needs these days, and by increasing the battery's size by 200mAh's (albeit not a big difference) and incorporating Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 which is incredibly efficient in terms of power usage, all while not exacerbating the single largest drain of battery on the device, they've ensured a much longer battery life for their phone. Tack on a super-power saver mode that can apparently make a battery at ten percent last a whole twenty-four hours, and I'm very encouraged to see more.