Samsung Galaxy S5 release date, news and features
3rd Mar 2014 | 15:44
Samsung's next flagship smartphone has arrived
Release date and design
The Samsung Galaxy S5 was launched at MWC 2014, with Samsung's fifth Unpacked conference packed with journalists looking to see what the latest Galaxy device holds.
- Read our hands on: Samsung Galaxy S5 review
While it was never in doubt that the tech giant would deviate from the highly lucrative Galaxy S prefix, given what happened with the Samsung Gear – anything could have happened.
It launched, though, with the GS5 moniker but is it the best phone in the world? Read on where we reveal all the specs you need to know and what we thought of the device.
What is it? The sequel to the Galaxy S4 - a more refined phone with fewer gimmicks
When is it out? The Samsung Galaxy S5 is available globally from April
What will it cost? The Galaxy S5 will cost £599 in the UK, and around $650 / AU$700 elsewhere
Samsung Galaxy S5 release date and price
All the big smartphone manufacturers are relatively entrenched in annual product cycles now, which means we can usually predict when they will launch their headlining products.
A 'toned down' launch was likely after the New York Times reported that Samsung was going to lose the theatrics for the next launch of its handset - something which would have made a lot of us very happy after the awful 'Broadway' unveil for the S4.
But we did have to sit through at least two songs by an orchestra, which was lovely but seemed to take forever.
And you will be waiting a little bit for the Galaxy S5 too. Samsung isn't doing an Apple-style one week turnaround, as the official Samsung Galaxy S5 release date is actually April.
In terms of price there's no point hoping that Samsung might offer the Galaxy S5 at a more competitive rate than its predecessors, coming in at £599 in the UK with other regions still to set their own prices.
The Galaxy S5 is crammed full of new tech and thus the price tag makes a certain degree of sense - we're still waiting to see where it will land when it comes to contracts, but it will be at the higher end.
Samsung Galaxy S5 design
There was talk of a whole new design language for the Galaxy S5 with some hoping that Samsung would break away from the similar styling of the Galaxy S3 and S4.
This hasn't happened as such. Design wise, well you can't call the Samsung Galaxy S5 ugly, because Samsung does know how to put a phone together well.
But at the same time it's the same tired story on the design front: taking some elements from the predecessor, adding in some bits from the current Note and calling it all new.
The 'metal' surround is almost identical to the Note 3, to the point we were looking for an S Pen to start poking out in the hands on review. But the back is the main change and we would go as far to say that it is lovely.
No more shiny plastic or laughable attempts to make it look like a leather notebook – while it is still plastic, it's a lot more grippable and feels a lot, lot nicer in the hand.
The overall construction is again more solid, but the device is markedly bigger compared to the Galaxy S3 and S4. There's a lot more Note DNA in the Galaxy S5 than ever before, that's for sure.
And then there is the little fact that it is waterproof. Last year we saw the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active turn up after the S4, adding a rugged dust and waterproof body to the design, and the Galaxy S5 has come with these features as standard - bringing it inline with the likes of the Sony Xperia Z1.
Screen and processor
Samsung Galaxy S5 64-bit CPU?
There was a lot of buzz around the 64-bit A7 processor which Apple stuffed inside the iPhone 5S what with it blowing up benchmark tests left right and centre, and it was thought that Samsung may want a bit of the action.
Well 64-bit was certainly not set in stone and what we have instead is a 2.5GHz quad-core processor.
Considering the Galaxy Note 3 launched with a mighty 2.3GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM we'd have expected the Galaxy S5 to at least match it, if not beat it. And while it does this in processing power, the RAM is just 2GB.
Samsung Galaxy S5 screen
Samsung already had a display that's sharper than the human eye can detect, so why and how would it go any sharper?
With the screen on the Galaxy S5 - which is now 5.1 inches up from 5 inches - once again Samsung was a victim of its own hype. We were all expecting a grand step forward, the first manufacturer to bring a 2K screen to the masses.
There were loads of rumors about this. With numerous outlets saying that it would be possibly bringing the S5 with a 2K QHD display - that would have been a dizzying 560ppi for screens as small as five inches.
But what we have is just a Full HD Super AMOLED version, one that's actually a little less sharp in theory than before as it's now 5.1- rather than 5-inches, meaning it's down from a 441ppi to 432ppi on the new version.
It's not massive, but it is a drop when we were expecting something higher-res.
The color reproduction does seem to be more impressive on the Samsung Galaxy S5, however, with movies looking much better on the device.
Given Samsung wants to go 4K for its 2015 smartphones, the halfway resolution did make sense for this device but we will have to wait.
In the end what we got was a 5.1-inch FHD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) that is IP67 Dust and water Resistant.
Android KitKat ahoy
All previous headlining Galaxy S handsets have sported the Android operating system and we didn't expect that to change with the Galaxy S5. And quite right we were - the Samsung Galaxy S5 will come with Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat).
Of course it won't be the pure Android experience you get on the Galaxy S5, as Samsung has slapped its re-tooled TouchWiz interface over the top.
And that skin is a big jump forward. The notification bar is the biggest change that we could see, with the whole area looking a lot different to the standard version Samsung has employed with TouchWiz over the years.
There are now quick links to the likes of S Finder and Quick Connect, which allow you to theoretically move through the phone at greater speed.
The former is the same thing as Google Search, it seems, with more information drawn in from the web. It's the kind of thing you'd need to spend more time with to see if it fits in with your lifestyle, as it could either be a really quick way of flicking around or a waste of valuable screen space.
Another thing that has been upgraded is Quick Connect. This seems to now make a little more sense, as it takes the best of things like AirDrop and AirPlay from Apple and moves them all into one place. You can also DLNA stream from here, and makes the Galaxy S5 a really connected hub of the home.
Camera, battery and fingerprint scanner
What kind of camera?
And this is indeed the case. The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes equipped with a 16MP rear camera and 2MP front camera. It shoots 4K at 30fps and there's a whole host of image functionality new in the Galaxy S5. This includes video stabilisation - similar to the LG G2 - HDR and selective focus, the latter allowing you to change the focus of your snaps after the event, although it takes many seconds to process.
While most of the camera details were kept until the official announcement, Samsung did let us in on one thing before the show confirming that the flagship smartphone will feature a new "reflector-integrated flash LED." And this, surprise surprise, is on the device.
So what does that actually mean? Well Samsung claims it will allow for a wider field of view, better daylight and nighttime photos and it will ensure everyone in a photo is illuminated by the flash (not just those in the center).
It sounds great, but we're reserving judgement until we've actually put it through its paces.
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner
Samsung looked certain to eschew the fingerprint scanner on the Samsung Galaxy S5, but because biometrics seem to be the in thing we now have a fingerprint scanner on the S5.
It's an accurate scanner that works only after you wake the phone - an extra step Apple doesn't make you go through - and scan you finger down from the screen to the bottom of the home key.
A better battery
Whenever a new flagship handset is launched you can almost guarantee that the manufacturer will spend a least a couple of minutes explaining how it's improved battery life to ensure your phone just keeps on going and going.
Recent leaked packaging showed the battery coming in at 3000mAh, but this was a little off of the mark, with the actual battery power coming in at 2800mAh. This is still impressive, though, with Samsung quoting standby time of 390 hrs / talk time: 21 hrs.
It also features an ultra low power mode, which Samsung reckons can last you 24 hours with only 10% of you battery left. It does this by turning the screen black and white, severely limiting the apps you can use and generally turning the wick down on everything it can.
It looks like a novel idea and one we're keen to really push during our in-depth testing.
Samsung Galaxy S5: what we wanted to see
So you have read all about the Galaxy S5. Impressed? Non-plussed? Well here are the things we really wanted to see on the new handset...
Word is that Samsung is already hard at work on the design of the new range of devices: simply codenamed 'Design 3.0' top level meetings have already begun in Seoul to make sure the new Galaxy range is more revolutionary.
So check out our run down of the rumors we've heard so far, and then once that's done, check out the results of us putting our thinking caps on and doing the work for the South Korean firm, divining the things that we simply must have on the Samsung S5 to make it a success and beat the new HTC One:
A sleeker system
One of the things we've always liked about Samsung is that it pushed the envelope in terms of what its phones could do. It added innovation, it did things nobody else did, and then it worked out how to package it in a way that made things simple and looked half decent.
In this respect, its nadir was the Samsung Galaxy S3. Yes, it felt too cheap, but it had tonnes of innovation under the hood (Smart Stay, for instance, wasn't a total waste of time).
The problem was it went overboard with the Galaxy S4. Smart Scroll, Smart Pause and more all added complexity to a system that was already close to the limit, so all those selling points became annoyances and were quickly turned off.
Samsung, you're great at one thing: making innovation usable. With the Samsung Galaxy S5 think about that and make sure that if you add in flexible screens or eye tracking technology to create auto-3D images, you do it in a way that genuinely adds something to our lives, not just innovation for the sake of it.
If you need to make some space, get rid of that front and back cameras dual-recording feature. Nobody is ever going to use that.
We're not sure how the new Galaxy S5 will look when it comes to raw power, as Samsung has traditionally gone big - however, the octa-core phone that never really made it to many shores, and that was sad for the spec-fans.
Samsung has already developed a new 3GB RAM chip that could easily work in the lower-power phone design, so fingers crossed we see the next iteration with so much RAM we can't even begin to use it...and hey, maybe a more intelligent CPU that isn't all about power and works harder on doing the things we want.
The Moto X might be a little underpowered, but we like that there's a chip in there dedicated to just listening to your voice. That, Samsung.
We always ask for these and the S4 has graced us with a larger power pack than the S3 – it's up from 2,100 to 2,600mAh. It's a fairly decent jump – but still likely to just give a day of moderate use thanks to that huge, sharp screen.
Just look at the HTC One – that has a 2,300mAh power pack yet struggles to exceed the 1,440mAh battery of the iPhone 5 in daily usage. The fact of the matter is that the OS has a huge part to play – so upping the mAh count doesn't necessarily mean a revolution in terms of endurance.
The Motorola RAZR Maxx has been out since last summer and manages to pack in a 3,300mAh battery, which genuinely puts the hours in.
Since Samsung is such a technologically advanced company, if it were to come up with something huge like a 4,000mAh pack that's slim to boot, it would nail the Android market (even more.) Come on boys – you have a year to do this.
Some sources have stated that Samsung might be moving to a unibody design, complete with a sealed in battery... this would be a bold move for the South Korean firm as it would be giving up one of its big advantages.
But with a wrapped in design comes the freedom to make even sleeker phones, and with the new move to unique battery shapes that can fill any nook or cranny, this could see an even bigger power pack on offer. Which would you prefer?
Again we're drawing a comparison with the HTC One here but that's to be expected; especially since said device will be its main Android competitor (along with the Sony Xperia Z, of course, which we mustn't forget.) But there is something unique here.
See, HTC has raised the bar here – the sound bar, that is. Some assumed it would be a gimmick, putting two speakers on the front of the phone and calling it BoomSound. But here's the thing: it does sound amazing. To the extent that we often leave calls ringing longer than we need to so that we can enjoy the ringtone.
The Galaxy S4 doesn't go for anything so lavish – offering a mere grill on the back with a small speaker we fully expect to be loud, yet tinny. Sure, there may be limited call for deep surround sound or anything as elaborate, but why scrimp on features when including so much in other areas?
We imagine Group Play will be Samsung's answer – but considering that requires other Galaxy owners, it's a bit of a faff.
Samsung could really pull something unique out the bag here – especially considering it's got a proven relationship with audio extradordinaires Bang and Olufsen. Even the iPhone 5 speaker is fairly decent – so come on Sammy.. finger out, please.
Odd one this, but the S4 is the first Galaxy device to not ship with an FM radio. It's a bit of an add-on that many don't use, but others (especially commuters) are very attached to their FM radio feature on their phones.
Samsung's already stated that it left the S4 FM radio out not through any technical issue, but because more people are now streaming their music through YouTube and online services. Which is true. Apps like TuneIn Radio do offer a great service.
The problem is that you're reliant on a good web connection for this – at the very least, 3G, and even then, there can be problems with buffering. The majority of journeys will pass through different signal strengths and types and this just means that you'll have to stop listening to the radio whether you want to or not.
Sure, we know that firm decisions lead to progress (look at Steve Jobs refusing to fit a floppy drive on the original iMac) but this just smacks of silliness since it would have made absolutely no difference to Samsung. We're even thinking of writing to our local MP about it.
Beam it up, Sammy
We'll lay this on the line before we start: this is one of our more fanciful wishes, given the technology (and desire from many consumers) is a long way away. But we'd love to see a projector built into the S5. Samsung managed it already with the Galaxy Beam last year, even though that was a bit of a niche device. But it makes perfect sense.
Forget AllShare (or maybe not 'forget' but at least run it alongside) and turn the S5 into something that everybody can enjoy. The problem is now that if you want to share your photos/videos etc, you either have to buy a dongle or have a Smart TV. It's very niche.
Apple has managed to do well with marketing its AirPlay so you can stream YouTube etc to Apple TV but again, you have to fork out for an Apple TV to do it, then turn the thing on, change your TV input source and so forth.
Wouldn't it be great if you could just stream everything using a projector to a wall? Obviously, there are issues with light interference, but we're sure Samsung could invent something that overcomes that problem.
And with those amazing stereo speakers we're lobbying for, it would also sort out the audio problem. Hey, it could even lead to more uptake of things like WatchON, with people buying movies and then streaming them straight to the wall when friends are round. There's an incentive for you there, Samsung.
Speaking of WatchON, this would be something we'd like to see sorted: a true partnership with Google. Sure, we realise that hell is more likely to see temperatures drop below freezing before then, but the issue is that there is just too much choice.
We're all for freedom – but when you have both Google and Samsung trying to sell you songs, movies, books, apps and magazines at the same time, through competing apps, it gets a little tiring.
The app drawer is littered with more options than you can shake a stick at and for those who aren't completely au-fait with smartphone tech, it's a little confusing and intimidating.
Apple makes so much of the whole fact that it is just one company providing everything – the next best thing would be for Samsung to work out with Google a common strategy for sharing revenue here and at least streamlining it for the consumer.
We know it's not going to happen because Google won't want to favour Samsung – and also there is the matter of Samsung wanting to end its dependence on Google (hence the Tizen revolution we're not really expecting), but it's nice to dream of one, unified store.
We've left this one to last as this probably sounds the most ridiculous – but it's worth giving it a moment's thought. See, screen resolutions have hit the ceiling now. Back when Nokia invented the 7650 with its tiny colour palette, we cooed.
When the 7210 came along with a square screen rocking 4096 hues, we gasped. And when the iPhone 4 launched with the famous Retina branding, it really was revolutionary.
But phones like the S4 and HTC One now have PPIs that destroy home flatscreen TVs. There isn't any point in making them sharper, because the eye can't discern any difference. We have, pretty much, reached a plateau.
3D's not taken off as well as it could have with TV's. Yeah, it's great to play with, but it's hardly making the waves that the HD revolution did. And it has been tried before with LG. Remember the Optimus 3D?
We only gave it 3.5 stars when it came out the best part of two years ago and there was a reason: glasses-free 3D just wasn't there. As we'd seen with the Nintendo 3DS, it tired the eyes very quickly, it had to be viewed at exactly the right angle and was pretty much just a fad.
Bearing in mind how much Samsung really wants to get one over on LG here (only recently, we looked at the intense competition between the two firms in Seoul), just think how much this could motivate Samsung to pull out a really decent solution.
There's a glimmer of hope here: Samsung has already patented the idea to use dual camera to track your eye direction, which would mean the 3D image would follow your eyes and would completely negate the need to keep your head in the 'sweet spot'.
App makers are more likely to make 3D apps for the Galaxy range because it is not an also-ran Android line but (at least some would say) the Android iteration to go for. And Samsung could sponsor these apps to get them in the Google Play store (or Samsung's own). Movies, the camera, games, even the OS, could be transformed with the right technique.
And there concludes our wish list. Sure, it's elaborate. And we'll be surprised if the less obvious points above make the final build of the S5. But there is no doubt that Samsung will already be hard at work on planning the S4's successor – and we'd love to see some really unique features introduced.
A year's a long time in mobile life. And we've seen just how much a company can go from HTC Hero to zero (OK, HTC wasn't quite at the lowest level – but don't ruin our analogy). HTC was the Android maker for a time and has been usurped by Samsung.
It may be on the up with the HTC One again – it certainly stands a chance – but the competition is fiercer than it's ever been. And it'll get uglier before it gets better. Samsung will need to work hard to keep its Android crown.
Samsung Galaxy S5 rumor roundup
Samsung Galaxy S5 to finally go all metal?
Here are numerous rumors that didn't quite get it right...
A lot of the early rumors appear to be focussing on the chassis of the Samsung Galaxy S5, with various sources claiming the S5 will be the handset where the Korean firm finally breaks is polycarbonate relationship in favour of a full metal jacket - although there are conflicting reports here.
Smartphones such as the iPhone 5S and HTC One have shown up the Galaxy S4 since launch in terms of design, offering a far superior look and feel and it's an area Samsung needs to work on with the Galaxy S5.
An "inside source" apparently confirmed to Android Geeks that the Galaxy S5 will arrive with a fully aluminium chassis and a new look dubbed "Design 3.0", something backed up by other rumors in the last few months.
Further fuel was then added to the all-metal fire when analysts claimed that Catcher Technology Co had taken an order to make the metal chassis for Samsung's Galaxy series.
The problem here is there appear to be many versions of the Galaxy S5 going through various levels of prototyping. Samsung, like most manufacturers, will issue a number prototypes before going to final spec, and that could include a scenario where the metal chassis was tested but not found fit for purpose.
A patent application unearthed by Patent Bolt might shed some light on this, with a couple of images cropping up showing a squarer Galaxy S5 design.
Samsung may be about to finally ditch the physical home button which currently adorns all its handsets, and another patent design has also hinted at a lack of a home button for the Galaxy S5.
A flexible design
Anyone using an HTC One will know that the reaction it inspires really is immense.
It's no exaggeration to say that more often than not, people will say: 'Wow, what's that?'. The sad fact is that we just don't get the same reaction from the S4, with most people just actually thinking it's the Galaxy S3.
One of its predecessor's main criticisms was that the use of plastic made it look and feel cheap (that even applies to the Galaxy S2 from a few years back – though not the Galaxy S, since few people took any real notice of the first iteration.)
When the S4 was announced, it didn't even need to be felt – people instantly criticised how cheap that all-plastic façade is going to feel.
Sure, it keeps the phone light (in fairness, the HTC One weighs a fair bit in the hand, by comparison) but Apple's managed to pull off glass and metal and lightness with the iPhone 5 so surely Samsung can manage the same. If only to annoy Apple even more.
The other ideal would be to utilise its flexible display technology - Youm - to bring some new techology to the new design. We're not talking a completely bendy phone (that would actually be rubbish right now) but how about the designs shown off at trade shows recently? That would be amazing.
The current news seems to be that at the very least things might move away from the boredom of plastic to a more aluminium design, thanks to the aforementioned 'Design 3.0' meetings. However, there may be a slight issue in that it's much harder to produce a high volume of metal-based phones, so fingers crossed that high level design meetup is going to solve that problem too.
This uncovered patent also hints at a phone redesign for the Galaxy S5, but the presence of a screw could either mean a unibody design, another rugged phone, or just a nonsense patent from 2012. It's probably the latter...