It is now all but confirmed that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will be unveiled on 24 February at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Earlier this week, Samsung sent out invites to an “Unpacked 5” event, and in the last few days various insiders have leaked information about the event itself. While the S4 was released at a glitzy soiree in New York City, insiders say that the S5 will have a more reserved, business-like introduction in Barcelona. Another insider says that Samsung won’t be putting quite so much emphasis on gimmicky features, such as the S4’s Air View, with the S5 – instead, we should expect gentler, more mature innovation.
The Galaxy S5, according to the rumour mill at least, is expected to have a high-resolution screen (possibly 2560 x 1440), an all-new aluminium chassis that finally does away with Samsung’s love affair for plastic, and a fingerprint or retina scanner. If the Galaxy S5 is unveiled in Barcelona, it will probably be released at some point in March.
Read more: Samsung to launch Galaxy S5 at MWC?
Let’s dive into everything that we know about the Galaxy S5’s hardware, software, release date, and price.
Galaxy S5 release date
First off, we should note that Unpacked 5 isn’t guaranteed to be the launch of the Galaxy S5. Previously, it was rumoured that Samsung’s MWC event would focus on software and its Tizen phones, with the Galaxy S5 receiving its own separate event in the following weeks.
Given the invitation’s prominent use of the number 5, though, it would be very sneaky if Samsung didn’t unveil the Galaxy S5 at MWC. Samsung tends to release its flagship Galaxy phones about a month after their unveiling – so expect a Galaxy S5 release date around the end of March, or perhaps the beginning of April.
Galaxy S5 hardware specs
Rather unusually for a smartphone, the Galaxy S5’s hardware spec is still quite nebulous. Most reports agree that the Galaxy S5 will receive a higher-res screen – possibly as high as 2560 x 1440 (560 ppi, if the screen size remains at 5in). Others have suggested a more run-of-the-mill (ahem) 1080p display. The S5 will almost certainly have a beefy SoC – but odds are it probably won’t be a 64-bit chip (except for Apple’s A7, there simply aren’t any 64-bit ARM chips ready to go). RAM-wise, there are a few reports that the Galaxy S5 might be the first smartphone with 4GB of RAM, but a lesser amount seems more likely. A 16-megapixel rear camera has also been mentioned.
There are also fairly solid rumours that the Galaxy S5 will have some kind of biometric sensor – either a fingerprint or retina scanner. Evleaks, a fairly renowned leaker with a good track record, says the S5 will have a fingerprint scanner.
One of the strongest rumours about the Galaxy S5 is that it will have a chassis that is significantly different from its predecessors – i.e. it won’t be plastic. The general consensus is that the S5 will have a metal body and back, to give it the same premium look and feel as the iPhone 5S or HTC One. This would be fairly new ground for Samsung, which has nearly always produced plastic-backed smartphones. If the company does produce a metal smartphone (probably aluminium – see the above image for a purported chassis), the S5 may look very different indeed.
It’s also possible that the Galaxy S5 will be curved, like the special edition Galaxy Note 3, but we think it’s probably too soon for that technology to hit the mainstream – especially if the S5 also has a super-high-res display.
Galaxy S5 software
Given that Android 4.4 KitKat was released in October last year, it’s a fairly good bet that the Galaxy S5 will run Android 4.4. When it comes to the user experience, it’s not clear whether the Galaxy S5 will feature TouchWiz, the new Magazine UI, or something else entirely. Following the Motorola Mobility sale, Google and Samsung cosied up by signing a global patent cross-licensing deal. There was also some kind of spat between Google and Samsung over the latter’s new Magazine UI, which made Android look uncomfortably like Microsoft’s Metro UI (see the image above, showing the Magazine UI on top, and the Metro interface underneath). It is believed that Samsung has agreed to downplay TouchWiz and the Magazine UI in favour of a closer-to-stock Android UX (user experience).
It’s entirely possible that these agreements weren’t reached in time for the launch of the S5, though. Samsung has probably been working on the S5's software and interface for the better part of a year. We might be waiting until the S6 for a Samsung phone without TouchWiz/Magazine.
As far as apps go, we can probably expect to see the usual slew of Samsung own-brand apps. Hopefully they’ll be better than what we’ve come to expect over the last few years.
Galaxy S5 price
The Galaxy S5 will almost certainly be priced equivalently to the Galaxy S4 – though if manufacturing costs go up due to the higher-res screen and aluminium chassis, there could be a small price increase. We would expect a launch price, off-contract, of around £550 or $650 in the US.