Korean electronics giant Samsung is expected to unveil the next version of its popular Galaxy S series smartphone, the GS5, next Monday at media events in Barcelona and New York City. The company sent invites two weeks ago to the main Mobile World Congress event in Spain, and the smaller Manhattan simulcast event, and though it did not expressly state that the Galaxy S5 will be announced, the company's use of the number 5 on the invites seems to point to the GS5. Rumors also suggest the "Galaxy Gear 2" smartwatch -- or whatever Samsung decides to call its next-generation watch -- will also make an appearance. See our: Samsung Unpacked 5: Galaxy S5 launch live.
The Internet saw no shortage of speculation around the new Galaxy S5 during the past weeks and months, particularly after Samsung's invites were distributed. (Check out this GS5 rumor roundup for a quick look at the ones that seem most likely.)
Ever since I received my invite to the "Samsung Unpacked 2014 Episode 1" event, I've been looking closely at my Galaxy S4 smartphone, trying to identify the features and functionality -- or lack thereof -- that bother me the most, that I want to see improved in the GS5. I came up with the following list.
1) Big Improvements Over the Galaxy S4 Camera
My biggest complaint about the Galaxy S4 is that its camera pales in comparison to other high-end devices on the market today. It's not the worst smartphone camera, but it's a far cry from the best.
I carry a minimum of two phones, and I switch devices fairly often. The devices I use most frequently are the Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S. If I have both devices on me and I want to capture an image, I always grab the iPhone. I've had a lot of time to compare the two, and though the Galaxy S4 has many more extraneous camera features and "modes," the iPhone 5s consistently captures better images, due largely to its superior light sensor. The Galaxy S4 camera actually captures more megapixels (13MP) than the iPhone (8MP), which just goes to show that more megapixels do not a better camera make.
The good news is that rumors suggest the GS5 should have a much better camera with a brand new ISOCELL sensor, which Samsung itself reportedly mentioned in the past. There's a ton of room for improvement in the GS4's camera, and I'll be disappointed if the GS5 doesn't significant step up the Galaxy S game.
2) New and Improved Galaxy S5 Design and Build Quality
The Galaxy S4 isn't bad looking. In fact, it's quite sleek, and the fact that it looks very similar to its GS3 predecessor device never really bothered me as it did some critics. The device is slim and light, with an easy-to-remove battery cover and convenient access to all your ports.
After using other high-end smartphones during the year following the GS4's release, including the iPhone 5S, HTC One and Lumia 1020, the GS4 feels kind of "flimsy." That's due largely to its plastic bezel and back cover. Samsung recently addressed the issue (sort of) by releasing a new "Black Edition" version of the GS4, with a faux leather back cover. It looks like a step in the right direction, but that plastic bezel still bugs me.
Samsung would do well to use some more "premium" materials -- including, you know, real metal for the bezel instead of plastic painted to look like steel. The inclusion of the "high-quality leather-like textured black back cover" on the Black Edition GS4 could suggest we'll see a similar textured cover on the GS5. I'd be OK with that -- I always liked the leather-ish covers on BlackBerry's Bold devices.
3) A Slimmer, Trimmer TouchWiz and Android 4.4
Earlier this week, I asked my Twitter and Facebook followers what they like least about the Galaxy S4. The most-common answer: Samsung's TouchWiz and the random "crapware" that comes along with it. I honestly don't have strong feelings for or against the TouchWiz UI, though I will say I prefer the stock Android experience on my Nexus devices. But I agree that Samsung really needs to cut back on the random apps, services and features it packs into TouchWiz.
The Galaxy S4 still runs Android v4.2, at least officially on most U.S. carriers, even though Google released Android v4.4 KitKat last year. It seems like a no-brainer that the GS5 will run Android KitKat, and it would be a major disappointment if not. It's less clear just what TouchWiz will look like, though, given Samsung's recent statement suggesting it will reduce its Android customizations, as well as some images of new and different app icons released by Samsung. Personally, I hope the company does away with some of the cool-but-I'll-never-actually-use-them navigation gestures in its version of Android.
A Galaxy S5 with Android 4.4 KitKat and a toned-down version of TouchWiz could be a huge improvement.
4) Galaxy S5 and Wireless Charging with No Compromises
You can buy a "Galaxy S4 Wireless Charging Kit," but the overall experience is quite lacking. For example, you need to use a separate back cover to enable wireless charging, and the cover is bulky enough that many -- maybe even most -- GS4 cases won't fit on the device when it's equipped with the special cover. That largely defeats the purpose and greatly diminishes the overall value.
Samsung could set its GS5 apart from the pack with a seamless wireless charging experience. None of the smartphone OEMs have really done wireless charging right yet, and the opportunity is there for someone to step up to the plate. I'd love to see the GS5 come with all of the necessary wireless-charging components so you wouldn't have to buy anything else. But that's extremely unlikely. I'd be pleased if the cover that ships with the device is wireless ready and standards-based, isn't bulky and fits well, with the charging pad sold separately.
5) 64GB Galaxy S5
When Samsung first released the GS4 in the United States, it was initially available with only 16GB of storage space. Eventually, a 32GB version was released by select carriers. And the company apparently makes a 64GB Galaxy S4. It's just not available through any U.S. carrier and appears to be rather difficult to find.
Yes, the Galaxy S4 has a microSD memory card slot that supports cards up to 64GB. If I had to pick between 64GB of built-in storage and no card slot, or 32GB and support for memory cards, I'd pick the latter option every time.
But why should I have to choose? The more total storage, the better. On that note, I hope Samsung makes a 64GB version of the GS5 widely available at launch.
Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.