Mobile // Mobile Devices
09:35 AM
Connect Directly

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.

Engage with Oracle president Mark Hurd, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, General Motors CIO Randy Mott, Box founder Aaron Levie, UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh, GE Power CIO Jim Fowler, and other leaders of the Digital Business movement at the InformationWeek Conference and Elite 100 Awards Ceremony, to be held in conjunction with Interop in Las Vegas, March 31 to April 1, 2014. See the full agenda here.

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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Jaden Ckast
Jaden Ckast,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:03:17 AM
Agree with 95%
So I agree with everything this article states except for a few things. First off I own an iphone 5 and in samsungs defense maybe they are borrowing more than just a page from apple in the fact they they made a minor update to the S5 just like apple does with the "s". Also as far as things plateauing in reference to the iphone 5s not being a giant leap from the 5, this has been standard with what apple does. If you follow their trend you will see that since the 3G they add incremental updates to their devices. From the 3G to 3GS or the 4 to the 4s and finally the 5 to 5s. This is just what apple does so I don't think they are plateauing just because they added an incremental update. Other than that it's a good article.
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:06:33 AM
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.
Nathan Gomes
Nathan Gomes,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/25/2014 | 10:24:11 AM
Nexus 5 owner

Will not consider S5 or any other phone unless it's Nexus or Google Play Edition
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.
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?  :)



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?
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
2/25/2014 | 11:23:03 AM
Re: What did you expect?

"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. 

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.
Thomas Claburn
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.
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.   



Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Government Tech Digest Oct. 27, 2014
To meet obligations -- and avoid accusations of cover-up and incompetence -- federal agencies must get serious about digitizing records.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A roundup of the top stories and community news at
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.