A Phone Built For Real Life

Samsung S5 Angle ViewThe Samsung S5 is the latest release from Samsung in their Smartphone lineup. I had a chance to check out a Verizon model recently. The S5 is basically an incremental improvement over the S4 with some new and useful features added. This helps the Samsung continue their technological edge over the competition.

New and Interesting

One of the most useful new features is the phone’s IP 67 rating which is just a fancy way of saying that it is water and dust resistant. Of course, some testers have had to push this to the limit and have submerged the phone in water for great lengths of time, and amazingly, the phone was still functional. While I would highly advise against using your phone in the shower, or swimming with it, it does provide some comfort to those that are prone to dropping their phone in the sink or a puddle of water. I gave no thought at all to pulling out the phone in the rain to look up some information on how long the storm was going to last. The feature does certainly add a level of comfort to the average user.

Samsung S5 Hinge DoorOne drawback to the water resistant rating is that it does require the use of a small charging port door. This door has a rubber hinge to attach it, and requires a useable fingernail to pop it open. The hinge seems to be a weak point of the design. The door on the test device I received already had detached from the rubber hinge. A quick search online revealed others having run into the same issue. Designers seem to have anticipated this issue however because there seems to be a small retainer piece for the hinge that can be accessed with a single screw. If you do end up breaking the hinge, you may want to order a few as replacements.

Another new and useful feature is the fingerprint scanner. This adds another layer of security that I found to be almost as easy as simply swiping the screen. The sensor is built into the single “multifunction” buttoning the bottom center of the face of the phone. You can program up to 3 fingerprints into the device, plus there is a backup password as a recovery feature. You do have to make sure your finger tip is centered on the button as you swipe across. You also have to make sure you start with your finger pad entirely above the button as the screen hints indicate so that your entire finger pad gets swiped across the sensor. I found it to be a very short learning curve and I can quickly access the phone with a single swipe across the button. This is significantly easier than typing in a passcode or pattern to unlock it.

Samsung S5 Front ViewOne feature I didn’t find much use for is the full hand gesture. There are added sensors up near the top of the phone that are there to sense when you wave your full hand either up and down or side to side across the screen. This is supposed to help you scroll up and down or turn pages. Not only is it easier to simply swipe with your finger, but few apps even supported this extra gesture anyway. I did like the fact that you can take a screen capture by swiping the edge of your hand from right to left across the screen while maintaining contact with the screen. This is a very handy and intuitive gesture.

The built in pulse sensor is an interesting idea, but perhaps superfluous as well. It resides next to the flash on the back of the camera and you simply place your finger over top of it after initiating the appropriate task in the built in S Health app. The sensor also supposedly will measure your stress level. The S Health app also will count your steps and track other health related metrics either manually or by coupling with other connected electronic devices.

The new phone also makes use of the USB 3.0 standard which makes use of a larger port with a faster charging capability. Due to the design of the connection though, a standard micro-USB charger can still be plugged in at a lower charge rate.

More Improvements

Samsung S5 Back ViewThe S5 is only slightly larger than the S4, adding an additional 0.1” to the 5.0” of the older model’s screen. The screen resolution is actually the same which results in a slightly lower pixels per inch, but modern screens are so packed with pixels that the change is effectively unnoticeable to the human eye. It still yields a bright and crisp image on the screen that can even be seen in bright sunlight.

Most stats such as processor speed, battery power, camera resolution (16MP vs 13MP), camcorder resolution, as well as others are slightly improved on the latest release of the Galaxy phone. The battery remains replaceable and the battery cover has been slightly improved. The S4 had a plastic-y black back with a screen printed pattern on it that made it look cheap and was finger print prone. The new back is dimpled and has a leather/vinyl look and a soft touch giving a much improved impression and feel. The chrome metal looking band around the phone is still plastic however, so the phone does still have a lower quality overall feel compared to other high end smart phones.

Samsung S5 ScreenshotThe standard Android KitKat OS has been Samsung-ized as are the other Android devices in Samsung’s lineup. It has a much less sterile feel to it and has many automated and improved features that come standard with the phone. In fact, there are so many features and options, that it can be a bit overwhelming to someone like me who is used to a more stock installation of Android. I’m sure that over time one would be able to learn and experiment with all of the features, and for those that are upgrading from a prior S series, it probably seems like old hat. If you are easily overwhelmed though, I advise not using the two finger gesture to pull down the options menu.

If battery life is important to you in certain situations, then one of these new software features is for you. It is Ultra-Power Saving Mode. In this mode, the phone switches to black and white, disables many functions, and displays an alternate menu that limits app options. Basic communications such as phone, text, email, and your web browser are all that remain. This is obviously an extreme measure, but if you occasionally find yourself in situations where you need to keep contact with someone, and you get caught in a situation where you do not have access to a charger, then this could be a life saver.

When you get your hands on the Samsung S5 smartphone, you will definitely see why Samsung continues to dominate the Android market when it comes to hardware. They continue to refine and improve their flagship phone. There may be certain aspects that other phones can claim are better, but when it comes to the whole package, this phone has it all.

This phone was provided as a demo for my evaluation by Verizon and Kyle Communications. I was in no way compensated for a positive review of this device. These are my unbiased and personal views.

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