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4/19/2014
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Samsung Galaxy S5: My First Week

Samsung's latest Android smartphone proves an all-around solid performer -- and can survive a 30-minute dunk in liquid.

Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

The Samsung Galaxy S5 doesn't rock the boat. It doesn't make waves.

Instead, it just wants to fit in. Samsung wants the Galaxy S5 to appeal to the widest audience possible, and perhaps that's why it's a bit, well, boring. Samsung didn't take any risks in designing the GS5. It's the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord of smartphones -- ideal for most average users.

After spending a week with Samsung's 2014 flagship smartphone, I better understand the thought process behind some of the choices the company made in creating it. The Galaxy S5 is packed with features, but not to the point of distraction. It is an evolutionary step, but the phone does nearly everything well, and it should be a big seller for Samsung.

Samsung has always been somewhat conservative with its design choices, and that is evident with the Galaxy S5. The device closely resembles the GS4, which in turn resembles the GS III. Samsung is known to use cheap-feeling materials with even its high-end devices, but that changes a bit with the GS5: The device is more firmly put together than previous models, and the quality of the plastics is stepped up.

Samsung was smart to make the GS5 water- and dust-resistant. As long as all the hatches are closed and the battery cover is firmly in place, the GS5 can survive a 30-minute dunk in the liquid of your choice. This feature alone will make Asurion and other phone insurance providers happy.

Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S5

As far as the hardware goes, there's no question that the GS5 outclasses its predecessors. It is a step above Samsung's other devices, but some might say it's a step behind competitors Apple, HTC, and Nokia.

[Now you can control your desktop PC from your Android mobile device. Read Chrome Remote Desktop For Android: First Look.]

The GS5's screen is glorious, boasting 5.1 pixel-rich inches of bright, colorful goodness. I tested the AT&T version of the Galaxy S5, and it performed very well on AT&T's network. Phone calls sounded good and data speeds were quick. The 2,800mAh battery is the longest-lasting of any Galaxy device, and the extreme power savings mode breathes extra days of life into the phone.

Samsung was highly selective about changes to the device's software and feature list. The Galaxy S5 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and uses Samsung's TouchWiz user interface overlay. It stripped out a lot of the Samsung-branded apps that were crammed into the GS4 and put them in Samsung's curated app store, where users can choose to add them or not. The processor and memory combination make for wildly fast performance. The GS5 didn't blink when multitasking or running graphics-intensive games. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 is a heck of a chip.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is the camera application. Samsung dramatically reduced the clutter, and the result is a really good app. It's significantly easier to use and understand all the camera's features thanks to streamlined menus and helpful icons that explain everything. The 16-megapixel sensor is capable of taking great pictures and is one of the best available on a phone.

Business users will appreciate the S5's Private Mode. This password-protected mode can be used to store sensitive files -- including photos, videos, and confidential business documents -- and keep them locked away.

Like the Apple iPhone 5s and HTC One max before it, the Galaxy S5 features a fingerprint sensor built into the home button. The software walks users through training the sensor and saving fingerprints. I found the sensor worked better over time. It failed to register swipes fairly often during the first few days of use but eventually accepted most swipes on the first pass. Users can select to use their fingerprint to lock the phone, lock Private Mode, lock individual files, and make mobile payments via PayPal.

One of the GS5's more novel features is the heart rate monitor. The sensor on the back of the phone can detect your pulse -- as long as you're quiet and not moving around. The sensor fits in perfectly with Samsung's S Health application, which can be used to track exercise and map fitness. The S Health software has been updated and is easier to use, offering a knowledgeable calorie counter and tips for improving health.

In short, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a safe choice. It covers all the bases offered by the competition and in many cases outperforms them. It's easily a top pick if you're in the market for an Android smartphone.

Far from fading away in the face of consumer-class competition from Google, Skype, LinkedIn and others, unified communications is enjoying new relevance in enterprises – there's even an SDN connector for UC. To reflect these updates, InformationWeek revamped its UC survey for 2014. Take part in the InformationWeek 2014 Unified Communications Survey and be eligible to win a great prize. Survey ends April 18.

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

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JeffT543
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JeffT543,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2014 | 10:37:55 AM
I love my S5
Love my Galaxy S5 I received my 5 about a week ago after using an HTC One for several years. I think the best thing I can say is there isn't one thing that bugs me about the phone. It's screen and UI are fantastic. The battery life is great. The UX / Flow of how things work on the phone are just so much nicer. Many of the reasons I love it are very subtle, but I guess the bottom line for me is that it's just "right". I basically couldn't ask for anything more (at least for now).
mrbofus
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mrbofus,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2014 | 10:57:34 AM
Re: I love my S5
How could you have been using an HTC One for several years?!?  It came out in March 2013, 13 months ago.  Even if you're talking about the HTC One series (HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC One V, etc...) those first came out in 2012.  
sirdevan
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sirdevan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2014 | 5:31:05 PM
Great phone but battery still not enough.
I went from the S3 to the S5 and was so tired of the battery dying 4 hours before bed. I thought with the s4 being 20% better battery and the S5 being 30% I would be very happy. Nope still dies about the same time with my usage. Granted yes I know I can turn off bluetooth and WiFi and GPS but I want all of those features on. Why would I buy a phone with tons of features just to disable them? So I am happy. Even typing I'm happier. It's easier to type, I think the battery is the only thing I'm disappointed in?
MarkO329
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MarkO329,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/20/2014 | 6:11:06 AM
Re: Great phone but battery still not enough.
My S5 went 1 day 4 hours the other day before i put it on charge and even then it had 12% battery to go, i don't know what you're doing wrong.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2014 | 5:53:47 PM
Re: I love my S5
Seems like a good solid phone all-around with a massive camera. I wonder why the phone can only remain waterproof for 30-minutes. Either way, even a 1 minute window of water resistances can save many beloved phones and users from problems. 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2014 | 6:13:16 PM
Re: Great phone but battery still not enough.
Data (from Settings>More>Battery) might prove valuable and could help determine which app or function is not allowing the phone to last a complete day's work. At the end of the day, a battery cannot exceed its mAh and I guess we all are waiting for better battery technology that makes our mobile devices a bit more mobile.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
4/21/2014 | 1:47:51 AM
Waterproof: Why only 30 minutes?
Brian, 

"I wonder why the phone can only remain waterproof for 30-minutes."

I would like to know more details about this, too. Although as you said, even a one minute window to let you rescue your phone is enough. 

-Susan
Eric Zeman
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Eric Zeman,
User Rank: Strategist
4/21/2014 | 8:44:01 AM
Re: Waterproof: Why only 30 minutes?
It has to do with how the "IP" system works. The Galaxy S5 has an IP (ingress protection) rating of 67. The first number applies to protection from solid objects, including dust and dirt. The second number applies to protection from liquid or water. The higher the number, the better the protection. The "6" in the GS5's IP rating means it is totally protected from invasion by solid objects. The "7" in the GS5's IP rating is the second highest, and means it can withstand up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. The variables are based on the pressure of the water at that depth. The longer and deeper the device is submerged, the more likely water is to seep in. An IP rating of 68 (the highest possible) would mean the device could withstand much longer submersion times at much greater depths. in order to earn that rating, however, Samsung would need to build a more ruggedized housing that can be entirely sealed. 
JayD973
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JayD973,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/21/2014 | 4:05:58 PM
Re: Great phone but battery still not enough.
I would venture to guess that 90% of people do not leave GPS running all day. If you turn just this feature off when you are not navigating, you will be very happy with the battery. Google and apps can still get your location using wifi or verizon location. 
anon9114714640
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anon9114714640,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/21/2014 | 5:27:36 PM
Re: Great phone but battery still not enough.
44% of my battery usage appears to be Android itself. The screen was actually only doing 11%. I am not sure why the Android OS (3 different apps together) are using up so much. I will say, the past 2 days it has been lasting longer, but then again I wasnt getting up at 6am every morning either.
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