After much speculation, Samsung finally announced the Galaxy S5 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The smartphone has not yet landed in the UK – we’ll have to wait until 11 April before it hits the shelves. In the meantime, some of you might be wondering if the Galaxy S5 is the device for you.
That’s why we’ve put together this article, which hopefully answers all the questions you might have about Samsung’s new phone – including whether it’s worth upgrading from the Galaxy S4, or indeed switching from an iPhone.
Okay, on with the questions and answers…
How is the Galaxy S5 different from the S4? Though early rumours tipped a radical departure from the Galaxy S4 with the S5, the new smartphone looks pretty similar to the S4, save for the textured plastic back with a stipple pattern. As is usually the case with many smartphone upgrades, the real differences are on the inside. With the Galaxy S5, those upgrades include a better camera, a more stunning display, and that rumoured fingerprint sensor. For a full breakdown of the differences, see our Galaxy S5 versus Galaxy S4 spec comparison.
Is the fingerprint sensor like the one on the iPhone 5S? Yes, like the iPhone 5S, the Galaxy S5’s sensor is housed in the home button, and you can use it to unlock your device. But the GS5 sensor also allows for secure payments via PayPal and other mobile wallets like Isis and Google Wallet. Samsung will also have an SDK so third parties can use it for authentication, so expect its functionality to expand. However, we’ve one note of caution here – in his closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sebastian Anthony wasn’t too impressed with the sensor’s implementation (as you can see in the video in his article). We’ll reserve full judgement for our review, of course.
What type of camera upgrades are we talking about? The Galaxy S5 features a 16-megapixel camera, compared to the 13-megapixel affair in the S4, though the 2-megapixel front-facing camera remains the same. During his hands on with the S5, Sascha Segan found the camera to be “very fast,” and mentioned the 0.3-second autofocus, which makes “sharp pictures feel instant.” It also includes live high-dynamic range (HDR) preview, the first time Segan had seen that in a phone, so you can see what the popular HDR effect will do to your images and video. It also records 4K video at 30 frames per second, though you’ll need a 4K display to view your 4K content, of course. Meanwhile, Samsung has consolidated its countless camera “modes” to make it easier to find one that works for you.
And the display is better? It’s not much bigger than the S4 (5.1in plays 5in), but Samsung has included a custom image chip that dynamically adjusts the colour gamut and contrast based on ambient light. “It’s a big step up from the standard automatic brightness control, and it makes the colours really pop under different lighting conditions,” Segan found.
So should I get this if I have an S4? If your contract is up and you don’t mind putting down the doubtless fairly hefty up-front fee on a new one, by all means go for it. But the upgrades are not really significant enough to warrant paying a large early termination fee if you’re only one year into a two year contract. Unless you’re really serious about having the latest and greatest smartphone, it might be best to wait for the Galaxy S6.
If I’m on iOS, is this worth making the switch to Android? In our experience, people are usually solidly in Camp Android or Camp iOS. But switches have been known to happen; my colleague Eugene Kim gave up his iPhone for Android just last year. However, while the S5 is a lovely phone, it’s not such a huge step forward in smartphone innovation that it would warrant ditching your iPhone 5S, for example, which already has a nice camera, brilliant screen, and a fingerprint sensor. If you’re undecided, though, you can check out our spec comparison between the Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S.
When can I buy it? Er, we already mentioned that back in the intro. Pencil 11 April in your diary. And pay attention!
How do the new Gear smartwatches fit into this? Samsung was also at MWC to unveil its next-gen Gear smartwatches, the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit. The big news? The devices ditch Android (and the Galaxy moniker) to go with Tizen. But unlike the Galaxy Gear, which only worked with the Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) at launch, the new Gear devices will work with “dozens” of Samsung Galaxy smartphones when they arrive this spring – including your new Galaxy S5. Functionality is similar, though, offering alerts and the ability to complete certain smartphone functions on your wrist.
Do I need a Gear smartwatch? If you’re thinking of using the Gear as a fitness device, the Galaxy S5 actually includes a few health-related features on its own – including a built-in sensor that lets you measure your heart rate by placing a finger on the back of the phone. The S5 also doubles as a fitness tracker, though it might be easier to keep track of your progress on a wrist-based Gear rather than a 5.1in smartphone. If you’re eyeing a smartwatch as a way to keep track of alerts without pulling out your phone, though, the Gear could be a nice addition to your gadget line-up. At any rate, we’ll have a full review soon, so stay tuned.
Do you have any other burning questions about the S5? Let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, you might want to check out our other spec comparisons where the Galaxy S5 takes on various Android heavyweights, namely: