Samsung’s latest flagship has been revealed, and while it’s not on sale until April, you might well be pondering your purchase ahead of time. Choosing your next phone is often a complicated process, and while the Galaxy S5 is full of shiny newness and a fun new UI to explore, it might not be the phone for you.
How do you determine what your next phone is going to be? Do you rely on what the guy in the store has to say? Do you look at which phone gets the best reviews? Do you rely on side-by-side comparisons, benchmarks, or photography contests to choose which phone will be your next?
At any rate, there’s a good chance you do just a little bit of homework before shelling out for your next smartphone. If you’re hung up on the Galaxy S5 as your potential new phone, there are a few things you should bear in mind before you leap for Samsung’s latest Android darling. (Note that we've already covered 5 things to look forward to with Samsung's upcoming flagship, but in the interests of balance, we're looking at the other side of the coin in this article).
You might be happier with a Galaxy Note instead
With the display on the Galaxy S line increasing in size with each version, there’s not much of difference now between the Galaxy Note 3 and the Galaxy S5. In fact, the original Galaxy Note only had a 5.3in screen, though that has now grown a bit as well. The Galaxy Note line has a well-documented history of offering a significantly larger battery, too, which might make it even more worthwhile to you.
The Note line is typically updated in the second half of the year, so if the Note 3 isn’t exactly what you want, it might be worth waiting for the update if you don’t need a phone right now. If history is any indication, the new Note will be more powerful with a larger screen and significantly better battery life than the Galaxy S5. The S Pen stylus is a lot of fun as well, if you’re the type to care about that sort of thing.
Updates are still going to be slow with the S5
Android 4.4 was announced back in November, with the Nexus 5 as the reference device to carry the features KitKat made available into the world. The same week that Samsung announced the Galaxy S5 in Barcelona is the same week that some versions of the Galaxy S4 started getting updates to this most recent version of Android. This is not a new problem for Samsung, and while they have gotten a little better at it, the Galaxy S line has always struggled with timely updates.
If you’re interested in immediate updates but still want the Samsung Galaxy S5 hardware, it’s possible that if you wait a bit, Google will announce a Google Play Edition Galaxy S5 like they did for the previous version of this line. And we can but hope that this time round, the UK gets in on the Play Edition action. The Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition is a great US phone, and it was updated two weeks after the Nexus 5 was released. You’ll lose Samsung’s software in exchange for the Google Experience user interface, but you may like that even better.
Snapdragon 805 devices are right around the corner
In the unlikely event that you are the type of person who honestly makes a phone purchase based on what is under the screen, and not how well it performs when you actually use it, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is using a processor that is only going to be the top of the line for another month at best. This isn’t a negative thing, because the Snapdragon 801 inside the Galaxy S5 screams, and the phone is not laggy or sluggish in any way. If, however, you’re looking to make a single purchase and have it last as long as possible, you might consider waiting for the Snapdragon 805 devices.
The 805 is an all-round improvement on the 800, and while that may only matter to the geeks in the room buying something for the sake of longevity, it is something to consider. Snapdragon 805 devices will have a superior GPU, and bandwidth speeds that are nearly double what that 800 is capable of. It’s also capable of processing twice the amount of data, so as your Internet connection improves over time your phone will be able to keep up with no problems.
There’s a good chance you won’t be able to safely modify the software
Samsung has taken great leaps forward in making their devices more secure, and that’s a hugely positive thing for users who need security in their work and home lives. Unfortunately, it also makes things like installing third-party ROMs on those phones a lot more difficult. If you’re looking for a phone that you can play around with and explore the Android developer community, the Galaxy S5 might not be the handset for you.
This is another one of those situations where it’s likely that a Google Play Edition variant of the phone might be what you are actually looking for. Or you could just get a Nexus phone, of course. There are plenty of options available if what you want to do is play around. If you’re looking for a phone where you have limited control over the OS, the Galaxy S5 is for you. If you are looking to install CyanogenMod as soon as you take it out of the box, you probably want something that doesn’t have Samsung Knox security on board.
It’s still a plastic phone
Samsung phones get a bad rap for being plastic, as though this implies that they are more fragile. The truth is that Samsung phones are quite durable, and the Galaxy S5 is likely to be even more durable that its predecessors. That’s all well and good, but the simple fact is that the S5 doesn’t feel like it’s a £500-plus premium smartphone when you pick it up, and that can be a problem for some people.
The Galaxy S4 and the HTC One were released at almost the same time last year, and one of the key factors when comparing those handsets was the dramatic difference in the look and feel of the two phones. The HTC One’s aluminium casing just plain felt like a high-end smartphone, and the Galaxy S4 didn’t. The Galaxy S5 feels a great deal sturdier than the S4, especially with the highly textured back, but with the new HTC One right around the corner, it might be worth waiting to see if you prefer that aluminium body again.
For more on the Galaxy S5, check out the feature in which we answer your Galaxy S5 questions, and our hands-on with the S5 at MWC. We've also got spec comparisons pitting the S5 against the Sony Xperia Z2, LG G Pro 2 and Google Nexus 5.