So obviously they are doing something right, which I think marketing plays a huge part. Just last month, Samsung rebranded one of the world’s busiest airports – Heathrow’s Terminal 5 to “Terminal Samsung Galaxy S5” for a two week period. From what I read online, it was a once-off deal for Heathrow.
But my personal experiences thus far when visiting Cape Town for a Samsung device launch – they usually take over the airport with advertising, which is really in your face. Obviously it is working.
So what’s different on the S5, from the S4? This is what I will focus on in this review. But before that, the basics is that it runs on two quad-core processors (1.9GHz + 1.3GHz), 2GB of RAM, 32GB storage (expandable via microSD), Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, USB 3.0. Its dimensions are 142×72.5×8.1mm at 145g. It runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The model I have on review is the G900H.
The S5 has a 0.1-inch larger screen at 5.1-inches, which is 129.4mm. It has a full HD resolution of 1920×1080 and pixel density of 432ppi (without trying to go into everything on the spec sheet, which you can find online). Gone is that cheap plastic back cover, replaced with a textured/perforated pattern that feels better in the hand. It gives it a grip also, so shouldn’t slip out of your hands.
Once I switched the handset on, the first thing I kept hitting by accident, which I immediately disliked, was the My Magazine feature. New on the S5, it’s just like HTC’s BlinkFeed, that pulls all your feeds, social and news on one screen. When you are on the main home screen, a left swipe inward will activate it. It’s great if you like seeing all your feeds in one screen. I find it too messy, reading news and social all in one. I use Flipboard for news and keep the rest separate. But on the upside, it can be disabled.
Also new on the S5 is the finger print reader. Setting it up took a few tries; the process wasn’t as smooth as on the iPhone 5S. However, the fingerprint reader works really well when you unlock the handset, considering you swipe your print on the narrow flat home button, in a sliding motion from top to bottom. Thus far, every time I used it, it recognised on the first try. It could be because I registered one fingerprint out of the maximum three.
The S5 also has a heart rate monitor built into S Health. While some may appreciate every feature thrown into a smartphone, I don’t understand this one. I set up my profile and tried it out. The sensor sits at the back of the handset, below the camera lens. You position your finger over it to read. It took me 5 tries before it worked. But this isn’t a feature that’s going to get people purchasing the handset.
The camera on the S4 was slightly different (13MP Sony sensor) and the S5 now has a 16MP ISOCELL sensor. It has most of the same modes and options like the S4 with option to download more. Don’t overlook the HDR mode as it makes a huge improvement on both indoor and outdoor photos. The camera isn’t as quick as the iPhone 5S, there is a slight delay when taking rapid photos. Selective focus lets you choose your main subject and blurs out the rest. The 2MP front camera is wide angle and for better selfies, there’s a beauty mode (like you saw in the Huawei P6). Basically the beauty mode is like digital foundation. I do not approve (pics only cropped):
The handset is capable of shooting UHD 4K video (3840×2160). A 30 second clip on regular 1080p HD is 60MB while 30 seconds in UHD is more than double, at 176MB. You can turn on effects before shooting with built-in ones (black and white, vintage, cartoon, etc). The front camera shoots in 1080p HD.
The handset is now dust and water resistant, not water proof. So it you’re using it in the gym, outdoor activities/when it’s drizzling, or find yourself in the desert, it will be fine. It’s resistant to rain, liquids, sand, dust and sweat.
The battery capacity is 2800mAh, not as good as other handsets that came out in 2014. It does have an ‘ultra power saving mode’ for extended battery life. I find some handsets work better with this mode (or something similar) if used permanently.
In a nutshell, if you’re tied to the Samsung ecosystem, you will probably want the S5. It is impressive on the hardware front (it’s difficult to fault this these days), and Samsung has thrown in extras like DStv BoxOffice (for non DStv subscribers too) and ADH premium (2 claims for screen and water damage in 24 months). If you’re looking for a new Android premium smartphone, take a look at the Sony Xperia Z2 and LG G3 (coming in August) before making a decision.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. I’m usually unashamedly taking food photos (@nafisaeats on IG).