One of the star attractions of the Mobile World Congress was Samsung’s unveiling of its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5.
The fate of many businesses in the tech and mobile sector, from other smartphone manufacturers to mobile carriers, will be shaped by how well this device performs in the market place.
For millions of existing Samsung consumers, opting to “get another Samsung” when their contracts expire will mean upgrading to the GS5.
And that’s before Samsung’s multi-million dollar hype machine really kicks into gear.
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So what kind of impression did this new smartphone make on visitors to the MWC? It’s time to find out.
Hardware and features
The Galaxy S5 is built on a 2.5GHz quad-core processor, up from 2.3 GHz quad-core processor in its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, and runs Google Android 4.2.2 KitKat.
The GS5 includes a 5.1-inch full HD AMOLED display with a display resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, again slightly larger than the 4.8-inch display on its predecessor.
A key area of improvement is in the camera, which Samsung had bumped up from 13-megapixels to 16 megapixels, with the device claiming the industry’s faster autofocus speed of up to 0.3 seconds.
The GS5 also features a removable 2800 mAh battery, a capacity increase from the 2600 mAh batter in the GS4 and 2100 mAh in the GS3.
In terms of memory, it includes 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of internal memory, which can be upgraded using microSD cards.
The device is also larger in all dimensions than its predecessor, measuring at 142mm by 72.5mm by 8.1 mm, compared to 138.6mm by 69.8mm by 7.9 mm for its predecessor.
What’s the consensus?
Esat Dedezade from PC Authority is impressed with the physical appearance and feel of the GS5, even if it still doesn’t match rivals such as HTC and Apple:
Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first; the Galaxy S5 isn’t crafted from metal like the Apple iPhone 5s or HTC One.
It is however the nicest, most premium Galaxy device we’ve seen yet, and it’s all down to its matte soft-touch dimpled back, which almost feels like rubber.
It’s actually made from polycarbonate, and it offers plenty of grip without feeling or looking as tacky as the fake leather rear of the Galaxy Note 3.
It’s solidly put together too and feels comfortable to hold in the hands.
Another impressive feature for Dedezade was the fact that the new device, like Sony’s Xperia smartphones, is waterproof:
The extra durability offered by Xperia phones when it comes to wet environments has made them stand out from the fierce competition for a long time, but Samsung has finally decided to crash the Xperia’s pool party.
The Galaxy S5 has undergone a few modifications to help it win the fight against water. For starters, its removable back cover now has a rubber seal surrounding it to prevent any leakages, though you’ll want to ensure that all the edges click into place before tapping away on the S5 while you’re soaking in the tub.
Over at DigitalSpy, Hunter Skipworth is impressed by both the large display and the camera:
The screen, which is a 5.1-inch Full HD Super AMOLED display, is very impressive. It uses an intelligent dimming system that analyses the surrounding environment to create exact brightness setups for the conditions. In the bright lit room Samsung used to demo the device, it was rather beautiful indeed.
What we immediately noticed was how fast [the camera] was. Everything from focus, to boot, to the amount of time it took for photos to store and save, was lightning quick. Functions like background defocus after you take a photo are nice, but Samsung has focused on quality here rather than unnecessary features.
Gizmodo’s Luke Hopewell notes that there is a small limitation to how Samsung implemented its fingerprint sensor:
We found it can only store up to three fingerprints rather than the iPhone 5s’ five and the HTC One Max’s four, so don’t go getting all your primary digits chopped off in some industrial accident if you want to keep using it. Not that you would. But you might. Anyway.
After stroking the fingerprint scanner about thirty times in a row while alternating between fingers, we couldn’t fault it. No idea whether it will erode over time, but it’s pretty goddamn impressive out of the box.
Finally, BGR’s Zach Epstein notes that the GS5, while the best in its class, is still more of an upgrade than a revolution:
Like the Galaxy S4, however, this is an incremental update. It’s not a game-changer by any means. It also doesn’t push into quad HD territory, and from what I hear that is largely due to yield issues. One of my sources has said that Samsung still plans to launch devices with quad HD displays this year, however, so early Galaxy S5 adopters should expect to have a bit of envy when that happens.
Should I get one?
Anyone looking to get a new phone in the next couple of months – especially if you’re already a Samsung or Android user and happy with the experience – should probably hold off until the GS5 hits the market.
While there are some obvious shortcomings – a better finish would be nice – key new features such as waterproofing and the improved camera mean the GS5 is a major improvement on its predecessor.