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Published: Saturday, 5/3/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Review: Samsung's Galaxy S5 flagship phone loaded with new features

BY JIM ROSSMAN
DALLAS MORNING NEWS

It’s interesting to see how differently Apple and Samsung respond to their customers.

Apple Inc. releases a new iPhone every year, and even though customers clamor for features like bigger screens and removable storage, Apple has taken a fairly conservative approach.

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., on the other hand, releases its flagship phone the Galaxy S every year and seems set on including as many new features as it can cram inside the ever-growing phone.

Bigger screen? Sure, why not.

Increased capacity for external memory cards? All righty.

Plain-old 1080p video isn’t good enough? OK, how about we throw in 4K video capture even if most of the world doesn’t have the ability to play it back at full resolution.

Apple seems content to roll out new phone features that are more “under the hood,” like faster processors. Samsung is probably looking for a way to include an actual kitchen sink in its next model.

I think the iPhone is as popular as it is because of its iOS operating system instead of dazzling new hardware.

Samsung does have its own skin, called TouchWiz, running on top of the Android operating system, but people are buying the new Galaxy S5 because of the hardware — plain and simple.

I had just finished reviewing the HTC One M8 when my AT&T PR rep called to say she was dropping off the Galaxy S5. Perfect timing.

The M8 and S5 are the two most anticipated Android phones coming out this year, and I was eager to make a head-to-head comparison.

The S5 is a great-looking phone. It’s big but not too big.

The display is a stunning 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (432 pixels per inch).

The processor is a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 with two gigabytes of RAM, 16 or 32 gigabytes of onboard storage, and a microSD card slot that can hold up to 128 gigabytes of extra storage.

Physically, it’s 5.6 by 2.85 inches and 0.31 inch thick and weighs 5.11 ounces. The S5 runs Android 4.4.2 (KitKat).

The two touch buttons on either side of the home button are a traditional back button and a multitasking button, which replaces the menu button.

Pressing the multitasking button brings up a grid of recently used apps for quick switching among tasks.

Samsung CEO J.K. Shin presents the new Samsung Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress mobile phone trade show in Barcelona. The S5 is 5.6 by 2.85 inches and weighs 5.11 ounces. Samsung CEO J.K. Shin presents the new Samsung Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress mobile phone trade show in Barcelona. The S5 is 5.6 by 2.85 inches and weighs 5.11 ounces.
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Unlike the iPhone 5S and HTC One M8, the Galaxy S5 has a plastic rear cover. Some on the Internet have called it cheap-looking, but it serves two purposes.

It allows for a removable battery, and its built-in gasket helps the S5 attain IP67 status, which means dust-resistant and water-resistant.

The S5 can survive a dunk in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

I couldn’t resist giving my test phone a good dunking, and it came through entirely unscathed.

Water resistance, to me, is the killer feature. You never think you’re going to drop your phone into the pool or the toilet or a puddle, but it happens.

The rear of the phone sports a few new features, like a heart-rate sensor that works with Samsung’s S Health app, and the rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor. The camera has a new HDR (high dynamic range) mode with a live preview, selective focus (which lets you choose a focus point after shooting), and all-around faster autofocus.

The S5 can use its 4G LTE and Wi-Fi radios at the same time to speed up file downloads. It also uses 802.11ac and MIMO (multi-input, multi-output) to utilize two Wi-Fi antennas to increase throughput speeds.

The home button conceals a fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone or even help secure PayPal payments. But unlike the iPhone, it requires you to press a button to wake the S5 before you can scan your fingerprint.

Also new is Ultra Power Saving Mode, which you can turn on when battery power is dangerously low.

The mode changes the screen to black and white and turns off or changes many of the phones features to “dramatically minimize battery consumption.”

A new “Kids” mode allows the user to flag apps as “kid-friendly” and keeps your apps and data safe, so you don’t have to worry about handing off the S5 to your toddlers when you need to keep them quiet while you’re at dinner.

The S5 also has a “Private” mode that allows the user to lock certain content (files, photos, videos) from others by protecting it with a PIN or fingerprint.

An IR blaster on top means the S5 can be programmed to control just about any device that has a remote control.

Samsung offers its own Flipboard-like aggregator of information and a news reader called My Magazine that is accessed by swiping from left to right on the home screen.

I like the S5 as a day-to-day phone. It’s the right size; it has almost every feature I could want, including a first-rate screen that even works with gloves; and it’s priced right. I’m not sure the heart rate monitor and fingerprint sensor are enough of a reason to upgrade if you already have a Galaxy S4, but if your contract is up, the S5 is a solid choice.

The S5 costs about $200 with a two-year contract and $650 with no contract at AT&T. Other carriers are pricing similarly, although Verizon is running a buy-one, get-one offer for $199 if both phones are on new two-year contracts. Target is offering an S5 for $99 if you trade in a qualifying smart phone and sign a new two-year contract.

The phone comes in black, white, blue, and gold.



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