The smartphone market is one of the most hotly contested technology battles. Market leaders Apple and Samsung are in constant legal wrangles, Nokia handsets are flying out the door thanks to new owner Microsoft, while HTC and Sony are earning their own respectable piece of market share with equally impressive handsets. And then there’s LG who has just announced the first phone (G3) to include a QHD screen, in addition to Huawei who continually impresses with feature-packed handsets at low prices. The choice has never been so great – or confusing.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 (£569 SIM free) is more of an evolution than revolution, but it’ll please power-hungry users looking for a top-end Android smartphone. Available in a range of colours – Charcoal Black, Copper Gold, Electric Blue, Shimmery White – and running the latest version of Android, v4.4.2 (KitKat), the Galaxy S5 (142×72.5×8.1mm, 245g) makes it a joy to explore the best of Google Play apps without the hassle of syncing to a computer.
Running Android also means you get the best experience of running Google applications, including the pre-installed Google+, Search, Drive, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Hangouts, and Picasa. This makes the Galaxy S5 a superb choice if your company runs the cloud-based Google Apps for Business suite instead of Microsoft Office 365.
Samsung is always a market leader when it comes packing in the latest technology, and we’re very seldom left for wanting. The Galaxy S5 is no different and it powers through everything you can throw at it. It sports a top-of-the-line 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 16/32GB storage (microSD slot further supports up to 128GB cards) and a 16MP camera with LED flash that also supports 1080p video recording at 60fps (or 2160p at 30fps). There’s also the obligatory front-facing 2MP camera for videocalls (and selfies!).
Samsung even crams in a fingerprint sensor (PayPal certified) for locking/unlocking the phone, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor, compass, and heart rate monitor. The latter works by lighting up your finger with a red/IR light and monitoring the visual changes caused by the circulation of your blood. A dual microphone is ideal for 2-way conversation recording, and the TV remote app will be exploited by those with compatible Samsung TVs.
The Li-Ion 2800-mAh battery (up from 2,600-mAh in the Galaxy S4) is good for a full day’s operation, which is great considering the brightness of the gorgeous 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display (1080×1920 pixels, 432-ppi pixel density). The screen is tough, too, thanks to Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 technology, and the Galaxy S5 is even impervious to dust and can be submerged in water for up to half an hour.
Similar to previous Galaxy S models, the Galaxy S5 fashions an ultra-thin removable plastic back cover that hides the SIM slot, microSD memory card slot, and removable battery. All types of the latest connectivity of covered, including 4G, dual band Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth v4.0, NFC, and microUSB v3.0. There’s also a new technology mode that lets the handset use your Wi-Fi and mobile Internet connections simultaneously for faster download.
Raising The Bar
The Galaxy S5 is Samsung’s flagship handset and is probably the best Android smartphone on the market right now. HTC’s One (M8) is a great looking phone let down by its camera, while Sony’s Xperia Z2 is a touch on the big side. If size doesn’t bother you, the Xperia X2 reportedly boasts the best camera and video performance of any waterproof smartphone.
The Galaxy S5 brings plenty of upgrades over its predecessor, including a much-improved screen, redesigned software and a slightly better camera. The downside is that the Galaxy S5’s plastic finish is practical but uninspiring (at least you don’t need to rush out and buy a case), the heart rate sensor is a gimmick, and the fingerprint scanner is fiddly.
It’s a shame Samsung had to have the camera lens protruding at the rear too, as this makes it more prone to scratches and less visually appealing than a flush one. Frustratingly, it’s also really easy to inadvertently press the hyper-sensitive buttons below the screen when holding the phone to take a picture.
All things considered, the Galaxy S5 is probably the best overall Android smartphone you can buy today. Just bear in mind before you sign a lengthy mobile contract that there are some big hitters on the way later this year including Apple’s iPhone 6 (iOS), Sony’s Xperia Z3 (Android) and Nokia’s Lumia 930 (Windows Phone), all of which will raise the bar again.