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2/25/2014
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Samsung Galaxy S5 Fails To Wow

Samsung's new Galaxy 5S flagship smartphone has a fingerprint sensor, improved camera, and Download Booster, but it is evolutionary -- not revolutionary.

Mobile World Congress: 5 Hot Gadgets
Mobile World Congress: 5 Hot Gadgets
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Samsung executives say the Galaxy S5 is all about getting back to basics. The world's largest supplier of mobile phones took the stage in Barcelona this week and talked about delivering the features consumers really care about. Like the subdued event itself, however, the Galaxy S5 is short on pizazz.

The Galaxy S5 is more or less everything it was expected to be: a more powerful smartphone for average users who are less interested in gimmicky features than they are in something that is easy to use. Samsung toned down the wow factor in its new smartphone, which -- while impressive in its own right -- doesn't blaze any new trials.

The GS5 adopts the classy design language from the larger Galaxy Note 3. It has a finely textured back surface, an audacious chrome band, and a lot of glass. It is a conservative phone that doesn't look all that much different from the Galaxy S4 or the Galaxy S III. Samsung carried over the water resistance feature from the GS4 Active, which means the GS5 can be splashed and even submerged in liquid briefly. This should help reduce the number of phones that need replacing due to an unplanned bath.

The Super AMOLED screen measures 5.1 inches and sticks to 1080p HD resolution. The device is powered by a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm, which is matched with 2 GB of RAM and either 16 or 32 GB of storage. The device is among the first to support microSD cards up to 128 GB. (Coincidentally, SanDisk announced the world's first 128 GB microSD card during Mobile World Congress. It costs $200.)

[And where will all the bandwidth come from? Read Artemis Networks Calls For Wireless Revolution.]

Samsung stuffed nearly every type of radio into the GS5, including Category 4 LTE, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, NFC, GPS, and GLONASS. Samsung claims the GS5 supports more LTE networks around the world than any other phone. The GS5 offers one neat networking trick called Download Booster. It can use the LTE and WiFi radios simultaneously to download files in the blink of an eye.

Imaging is one of the core features re-tooled by Samsung. The camera sensor has been improved to 16 megapixels and is capable of capturing 4K (Ultra HD) video. Samsung pared down the number of shooting modes in the camera software, though, and simplified the user interface. The camera has its own companion chip, and the auto-focus can dial in details in 0.3 seconds. Samsung also added a feature called Selective Focus, which can be used to alter the depth of field (read: blur the background or foreground) after the picture has been taken.

Samsung borrowed a page from Apple and added a fingerprint sensor to the GS5. The sensor is built into the home button, just like that of the iPhone 5s. Samsung bills the sensor as an added layer of protection and security for business users. The sensor can be used to make swipe-and-pay purchases with Paypal, and can even be used to lock select files or folders on the device that the owner wants kept private.

The Galaxy S5 is certainly superior to its four predecessors, but not by all that much. It signals a disconcerting stage of smartphone development: Hardware innovation is beginning to plateau. Apple barely changed the iPhone 5s when compared to the iPhone 5. LG's G Pro 2 is an iterative update to the G Pro. Nokia's Lumia devices are all slight variations on a theme. No hardware maker has delivered a truly stunning, eye-popping piece of technology for perhaps the last 12 months -- if not longer. Hardware innovation isn't everything. There's only so much that can be stuffed into a 6x3-inch slab. That's why Samsung and others are turning to developers to help differentiate their products. Even in that respect, though, the Galaxy S5 does little to impress. While the new features are indeed attractive and will surely please owners, we've seen it all before.

The Galaxy S5 will hit US wireless network operators in April. Pricing of the device was not announced.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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anon1513471341
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anon1513471341,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2014 | 6:25:17 PM
Expectations
I think as our smartphones become more and more important to us, the expectations - particularly with Apple and Samsung - have become unrealistic. This is also fueled by the technoblogs, whose writers IMO become bored easily nowadays because they see and use so many phones. This leads to articles about "lacking innovation", etc. 

Smartphones do have room for some innovation I think, but it seems clear to me that the mobile phone industry is becoming a mature platform, and that it is just is not realistic to expect completely re-designed phones with incredible innovations every year anymore. Also, Apple and Samsung have unbelievably successful phones, so it is logical that they would want to somewhat continue the model that made their phones successful in the first place and not change their flagships TOO much. They have to walk a fine line too between alienating some current users of their wildly successful phones by changing too much and not updating enough so they get chastised for "lacking innovation". It is not an easy thing.

For me, most modern smartphones are very very good. I don't NEED them to do much more then they currently do. I WANT better battery life, I WANT more storage built in sometimes, etc. But with all the choices out there, I think both Apple and Samsung are doing a fine job of providing great phones that their users want. With the GS5, I am looking forward to the better camera, better battery life, better screen, faster processor, better feeling back, and I will see about the other added features.

There is always going to be the hyperbole, the silly "TOTAL FAIL" , "EPIC LETDOWN" even though everyone knows Samsung will sell another 50-70 million GS5's . Most folks who are objective can read past hyperbole and process things as "I wish is did <this better>" , and still thoroughly enjoy these great smartphones. I know I will.
anon1513471341
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anon1513471341,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/28/2014 | 6:23:35 PM
Re: What did you expect?
Where can I buy aa Tango enabled phone?  Oh, nowhere.    This is silly.   

 

 

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 7:53:03 PM
Re: What did you expect?
Check out Google's Project Tango. That's pretty revolutionary.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
2/25/2014 | 1:03:34 PM
Re: What did you expect?
Ditto.  You can't engineer ground-breaing new stuff into every new release of every product.


On top of that, though, I don't want a paradigm shift every time I buy a phone.  Maybe for an 18 year-old hipster that's desirable,  but I don't want or need to spend weeks learning a new UI (which of course isn't really all that intuitive and at best could be described as 'ill-documented') every time I buy a new phone.  Sometimes, just making a product better is enough.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2014 | 11:23:03 AM
Re: What did you expect?
avovk, 

"The smart phone market has stablized already. what revolutionary features can you possibly expect?" 

As I was reading I was thinking exactly the same. You can even talk with your smartphone! Maybe some people expect their phone to wake them up with a ready cup of coffee, read the news, and get the shower ready while they finish their coffee. 

The only innovation that can possibly occur for some time is in apps. And even there there is an app for almost everything you can possibly imagine. 

People have been complaining about every smartphone that has been launched lately disregarding the manufacturer. For quite some time I have been saying that announcing a new phone twice a year is too much. 

-Susan
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 10:54:59 AM
water resistance
I wonder when the water-resistant design will become more common on many phones, eliminating the need for expensive waterproof cases. Others on display at MWC?
plogpower
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plogpower,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:41:04 AM
It is an ugly phone
This is an ugly phone.  The back is just awful.  Also the Gold color looks so cheap.  Just take a look at the Sony Z2 or the Nexus 5.  But what got me is how ugly Android is.  I can't believe after all these years and Android icons still look like back in the Windows 3.1 day.

Name brand aside, can you folks see how nice the iOS icons look?  I have seen the Xiaomi phone and their own UI that goes ontop of Android and it looks really nice, though not iOS quality but close.

For me, Apple wins in both design and quality.  I just think no one can come close to Apple design.  Specs means nothing when how things are being used daily suck.  

It is ALL about the "HOW" to me and not the "WHAT".  So far, I am sticking with my iPhone 5S, my first Apple product and I am truly impressed.  Guess who I am going to go to for the next phone?  :)

 

 

 
avovk
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avovk,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:31:37 AM
What did you expect?
The smart phone market has stablized already. what revolutionary features can you possibly expect? Do you want the phone to grow legs and walk around on it's own? It's already an insanely powerful computer and a really nice camera. You can watch movies on it and run pretty much any application your heart desires. I'm not sure what people expect to see from a new phone... This goes for the iphone too. Don't expect to see something completely different because these companies already built a great product.
Nathan Gomes
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Nathan Gomes,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:24:11 AM
Nexus
Nexus 5 owner

Will not consider S5 or any other phone unless it's Nexus or Google Play Edition
DonS166
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DonS166,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:06:33 AM
THE WOW IS GONE
The WoW is Gone, but not Samsung Ability to Steal (Back Engineer other companies Technology) What's Amazing is the Thieves are allowed to make Billions off of stolen tech and get fined pennies, I would take that trade any day. I'm disappointed I thought by now they would have a 21" display and a battery that lasted more than 45 minutes. Grand Example, the Crap called Galaxy Gear Smart Watch will get a Unbelievable upgrade right after Apple releases it's first Smart Watch.
<<   <   Page 2 / 3   >   >>
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