Galaxy S5: advances but no revolution
By Arshad Pathan Samsung Galaxy S5 (rating 4/5)Despite some cool new features that deserve a warm welcome, Samsung’s new handset demonstrates how smartphone manufacturers are finding it harder to introduce radical design changes. As a group, Galaxy phones form the main challenge to Apple’s iPhones. Are the S5’s updates enough to maintain the rivalry?Unveiling the Samsung Galaxy S5 this week at the annual Mobile World Congress shindig in Barcelona, the company claimed consumers are no longer interested in “eye-popping” technology. Instead, said Samsung’s head of mobile business JK Shin in his presentation, they want “meaningful innovation” in the core features they use every day.Actually, I want both. The Galaxy S5 delivers just enough on each count to keep me interested, but users generally may not be clamouring for an upgrade if they already own its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, or its big brother – and my personal favourite – the Galaxy Note 3.It will go on sale at the beginning of April but the price has yet to be announced.The Galaxy S5 is basically the Galaxy S4 with some new and updated features including a faster processor, an improved camera that can also record ultra high-definition video, and a larger battery that should deliver about 20 per cent more running time than the S4. There was not enough time at the show to test the battery fully but Samsung says the handset will allow up to 21 hours of talk time and last up to 390 hours in standby.It has added a mode that powers down all except the most necessary features and turns the screen black and white if your battery is about to run out. As I am often on the brink of running out of battery, that feature particularly appeals.Cool new features include a scanner (just below the 16 megapixel camera on the back) that takes your pulse, a fingerprint scanner that – like the one on Apple’s iPhone 5s – can unlock the phone, and some clever technology that constantly adjusts the S5’s screen settings to compensate for lighting conditions to ensure the best image at all times.The S5 feels sturdy but lacks the iPhone-style metal case that some had hoped for. Instead it comes with a sleek, soft-touch, leather-feel back. It is waterproof down to 1 metre in freshwater for 30 mins, which means you can drop it in the sink and be sure it will still work.Like the S4, I found the new handset comfortable to hold and it seems to strike the right balance between screen size and being able to fit in a pocket.The front looks almost identical to its predecessor, with a marginally larger 5.1-inch screen. But start using it and the impact of the smartscreen technology is soon apparent. The S5 delivers superbly crisp, bright colours in most lighting conditions including bright sunlight.Inside, it boasts the most powerful processor currently available – a 2.5 gigahertz quadcore Qualcomm – and runs the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, known as KitKat. It comes with 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage and users can add up to another 128Gb via a microSD card slot.For users lucky enough to live in an area with the latest LTE wireless technology, the S5 will deliver higher download and upload speeds.Samsung also introduced two new wearables: an updated smartwatch, the Gear 2, and a fitness wristband with a cool curved OLED display – the Gear Fit. Both display fitness statistics as well as any messages and alerts sent to your smartphone, which can then remain in your pocket or bag.I particularly like the Gear Fit because of its size and stylish design and because it includes a heart rate sensor, making it an ideal add-on purchase for fitness buffs. However, as with the smartphone, its value to the user will depend on price, and that has yet to be announced.Overall I like the Samsung Galaxy S5 a lot. But I’m not sure it delivers enough to persuade existing S4 owners to upgrade, or how it will stack up against Apple’s next generation iPhone, which is expected to be launched this year.