"The Samsung Galaxy S5 is one of the biggest smartphone launches 2014 will see, and with good reason"
Samsung is the global market leader as far as smartphones are concerned, and it's to the Korean company's credit that it has been able to amass a loyal fan following and garner huge user interest in its premium devices – more specifically, the S series and the S Pen-toting Note portfolio. Even in the mid-range, its offerings in the Grand and Tab range are quite popular. The Galaxy S5 is the latest and the greatest from the brand currently, and we've been spending some quality time with it to evaluate how it fares. Right after getting it out of its box, we've been checking out some of its headlining features, including the fingerprint scanner, the integrated heart rate monitor, the Ultra Power Saving Mode, shooting pictures using its 16-megapixel snapper, and even dunking it into a bowl full of water to see if it survives submersion. So far so good. A full review will be up shortly, but before that, here are a few FAQs which we hope should address any doubts you may have regarding the flagship's specs, features and capabilities.
Absolutely. We've covered them before, but here's a quick recap. Encased in a svelte plastic body that features a dimpled design on the rear and comes in black, white, blue or gold, the Galaxy S5 peers at the world through its 5.1-inch full HD Super AMOLED display.
Horsepower is provided by an octa-core Exynos 5 SoC that utilises two quad-core clusters clocked at 1.9 and 1.3GHz respectively, mated to 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The back panel is removable, and there's a microSD card slot underneath that can accept cards up to 128GB in capacity if you'd like more storage. Additionally, the S5 supports USB On-the-Go, so you can also connect an external flash drive to the smartphone using an adapter. The single-SIM device offers a 16-megapixel camera at the rear, while the front shooter is a more humble 2MP affair. It's loaded on the connectivity front too, with the likes of microUSB 3.0, NFC, DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct thrown in. Powering the show is a 2,800mAh battery, which is user replaceable if the need arises.
Your wish is our command. The S5 does boast some very interesting features. Not only does it feature a fingerprint scanner built into the home button just the Apple iPhone 5s, it also sports an heart rate monitor that can measure how fast your ticker is beating and sync the reading with the preloaded S Health app. Then there's the Ultra Power Saving Mode that switches the display to black and white, and turns off power-hungry features to extend the standby time significantly.
The Galaxy S5 is IP67-certified, meaning it's waterproof and can be submerged in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes without the risk of damaging the smartphone. However, apart from the flap-covered microUSB port, there are no other apparent changes to the build or the design – even the 3.5mm audio socket has been left open. If you do look hard enough, you can find a few things that help make it waterproof. Hint: open the battery cover and check out the rubber gasket underneath. The device even warns you to close the tab covering the microUSB port after you remove the charger to ensure the device stays impervious to water. Just like its predecessor, and rivals like the LG G2 and the HTC One, the S5 can also be used as a universal remote thanks to an infrared transmitter placed on the top, working in conjunction with the preloaded Smart Remote app.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 runs the latest build of Android, i.e, KitKat 4.4.2. As usual, it's layered with Samsung's TouchWiz UI, but this time, the vendor has chosen to go for a flatter, toned-down look. Most of the staple software features are there of course, including Multi Window, S Voice, Direct Call, Smart Alert and Smart Pause, but some, like additional modes for the camera and add-ons for the S Health app are now available as optional downloads.
Samsung's My Magazine news feed is available too, cooked up in collaboration with Flipboard. The app drawer lets you categorise your apps into custom folders, and you can also choose to hide apps if you wish. An Easy Mode that switches to a simpler UI, and Blocking Mode that blocks incoming calls and notifications except for a preset whitelisted set of contacts are also available. Safety Assistance is feature for use in emergencies, providing a few capabilities, including sending SOS alerts to a set of primary contacts previously specified by you. After it has been set up, an SOS alert can be sent quickly by pressing the power key thrice in quick succession. Then there's the Toolbox that provides you with a tiny floating button atop the screen, giving you quick access to some of your commonly-used apps. You can customise which apps appear on the shortcut menu too.
In case you find the smartphone too big, there's a one-handed operation mode that shrinks the display size and docks viewable content to one side of the screen so you can use the S5 easily with a single hand. However, it's largely meant for specific situations when you'd prefer one-handed use, rather than using this feature full time. Also on offer is Air View, a feature that gives you a look at message previews and larger images in the gallery by just hovering your finger a little distance away from the screen. And yeah, if you reside in colder environs, the Galaxy S5 also has a high screen sensitivity mode so you can use the touchscreen with gloved hands. It's not the Moto X, but the S5's default Google search widget supports the 'Ok Google' hotword for voice-activated searches. This works when you're on the homescreen with the Google search widget.
There are a few additional calling-related features available in call settings too. By enabling appropriate settings, you can choose to accept incoming calls by pressing the home key, waving your hand over the device, or just uttering the word 'answer'. You can also reject calls by saying 'reject'. Additionally, the calling window can also be set to display communication history and recent social activity of the caller.
The Galaxy S5's primary 16-megapixel snapper features extremely fast autofocus speeds, which is one of the USPs of the device.
Another key feature offered by the camera is selective focus to capture images with bokeh. This means you can selectively choose to keep a certain area of the image in focus, and blur out the rest.
The camera also offers the usual modes such as burst, HDR and panorama, along with extensive creative control by letting you tweak settings such as ISO, metering, white balance and exposure. The camera can be triggered by voice, and you can even shoot pictures by using the screen of another compatible device connected over Wi-Fi Direct as viewfinder. Some of the default modes offered by the camera include beauty face, virtual tour (interactive tours of surroundings), and dual camera (for getting the user into the same frame as the subject by using both the front and the rear cameras). Modes like animated photo, sports shot, surround shot and sound & shot are available as downloadable add-ons via the Samsung app store, much like the camera 'lenses' on Windows Phone. Here's a look at some image samples shot using the Galaxy S5 to get a taste of how it fares.
While the above should give you a lot of useful info regarding the features and capabilities of the Galaxy S5, there's a lot more to the device, especially when it comes to real world usage. Jump to our review in pictures for a quick dekko, and keep an eye out for a full review coming up shortly.