Samsung tonight unveiled the Galaxy S5 just as expected. It’s a fairly major upgrade, although you wouldn’t necessarily know from looking at it.
Galaxy S5 new features: Screen
The main point of contact of any smartphone is the screen. The Galaxy S5 gets a 5.1in Super AMOLED display (0.1in bigger than the S4’s), although the resolution sticks at Full HD (1920x1080) rather than jump to a higher pixel count. Read: Galaxy S5 price and where to buy in the UK.
It makes for a slightly lower pixel density of 430ppi against 441ppi, but in truth, you’re not going to notice.
Usually, you wouldn’t boast about a screen being extremely dim, but the new Super Dimming mode allows the screen to produce as little as 2cd/m2 which – if you’re not familiar with such nomenclature – means it really is dark. One of the problems with most LED screens is that you can’t dim them enough: they’re too bright when you’re using them in complete darkness. That’s a problem fixed by the S5.
In terms of new software features, Adaptive Display alters gamut and brightness based on the current ambient light to optimise the image. What this means is that whites shouldn’t look blue at night when under artificial lighting. It’s yet another problem that would appear to have been fixed. We’ll let you know when we’ve tested it.
Samsung Galaxy S5: water and dust resistant
Similar to Sony’s Xperia Z1, the S5 is more rugged than most smartphones. The IP67 certification means that you can happily take it out running in the rain with no adverse consequences. It isn’t waterproof, however, so you can’t use it as an underwater camera. Watching YouTube videos in the bath, however, shouldn’t get you into any trouble –as far as the electronics are concerned.
Samsung Galaxy S5: Fingerprint scanner
As predicted, the S5 gets a fingerprint scanner. It's built into the home button and, just like the iPhone 5S, you can use your fingers instead of entering passwords, or swipe to make mobile payments. PayPal, among other services, say it will begin accepting payments from S5 owners as of April 2014.
Software-wise, there’s a new Private Mode which works with the fingerprint scanner to prevent unauthorised access to files, such as a copy of your passport.
Similar to Windows Phone 8, there’s also a Kids Mode; with one click you can make your smartphone kid friendly, yet again protecting your data.
HDR camera: stills and video
The Galaxy S4 has a great camera, but the S5’s is better still. It ups the pixel count from 13Mp to 16Mp, and has a physically larger sensor. It’s paired with a dedicated image processor that makes everything considerably faster.
For a start, Samsung claims the fastest autofocus of any smartphone at 0.3 seconds, which helps you capture moving objects such as kids and pets.
There’s also what Samsung is calling ‘real-time’ HDR. It means you don’t have to keep the camera steady for ages while you wait for it to take several photos and combine them into a single High Dynamic Range shot (the purpose being to produce better shots when there’s high contrast).
The good news is that the image processor is quick enough to handle HDR video as well, so we’re looking forward to testing out the S5’s video mode to see how much of a difference HDR makes on what should be a cracking camera.
Added to the camera app is ‘Selective Focus’. This allows you to pick an area in the photo - near, far or pan - and defocus everything else. The idea is to produce a shallow depth of field effect, mimicking a DSLR and enhancing portrait pictures in particular by having the face in sharp focus, but the background blurry.
Galaxy S5 features: Heart rate sensor
An LED below the rear camera isn’t a flash or torch. It’s actually a heart rate sensor. It records your pulse on demand when you place your finger over it. It isn’t a heart rate monitor which tracks your pulse in real-time; you have to pause your workout to check how your heart rate has changed.
It’s the first smartphone we know of to have this feature. Previously, we’ve seen it only on activity trackers such as the Withings Pulse, but Samsung has also added a sensor to the new Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear Fit smartwatches.
Galaxy S5 features: Performance
Samsung made no mention of the processor during the S5’s launch, which suggests there’s nothing special about the quad-core 2.5GHz chip.
Instead, much was made of the new Wi-Fi capabilities, thanks to the 802.11ac radio plus a MIMO antenna setup. This should make it extremely quick for downloading large files, but only if you’re connected to a compatible 802.11ac router of course.
Download Booster claims to make it possible to download 1GB in just 30 seconds. As with most of the other features, we’ll have to test this out before making any judgements.
Samsung Galaxy S5: Battery life
The battery has been upgraded to a 2,800mAh unit. Samsung say this is good for 10 hours of internet browsing via LTE. If you’re merely watching videos, then you can expect 12 hours.
A new Ultra Power Saving Mode turns the display to black and white and shuts off all features except SMS and calls. With 10% remaining, the battery can last another 24 hours in standby in the new mode.