Out of all the major manufacturers presenting new products at Mobile World Congress this week, no keynote was more highly anticipated than Samsung’s Unpacked 5 event. The South Korean company is the hottest name in Android right now, and it was expected to unveil its latest flagship smartphone.
And it delivered. This afternoon, Samsung introduced the new Galaxy S5 handset to a packed auditorium in Barcelona, Spain. There were no paid TV hosts or Broadway dancers this time around, just Samsung leadership up on stage talking about the smartphone they built for the year 2014 and beyond…
The Galaxy S5’s design is a minor evolution of the Galaxy S4—in fact, it’s nearly impossible to tell the two apart from the front. The back looks fairly different though, as Samsung has replaced the S4’s glossy plastic battery cover with a soft, dimpled, foamy-type finish. They call it the “modern glam” look.
The S5’s display is a little bit larger than its predecessor at 5.1-inches, but it’s still a Super AMOLED panel rated at 1080p, so it doesn’t look much different. The processor is quad-core, 2.5GHz, and there’s 2GB of RAM. There’s also a larger battery and a 16MP rear camera capable of shooting 4K video.
Samsung is saying that the device is IP67-rated for water and dust resistance, meaning it can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes at a time—though we wouldn’t recommend trying it. It also packs a host of sensors including gyro, barometer, gesture(IR), finger scanner and heart rate sensor.
The S5 is launching with Android 4.4.2 KitKat with Samsung’s user interface fully intact. Despite reports that Google asked Samsung to tamp down its bloatware, S-branded apps and UI elements are present everywhere. There’s also a new S Health app that takes advantage of the phone’s new heart rate sensor.
From what we’ve gathered from initial hands-on experiences, the heart sensor works well, but the fingerprint reader built into the Home button is terrible. Unlike the 5s, it requires the user to swipe across vertically, and The Verge found it to be “quite unreliable and virtually impossible to activate one-handed.”
Other software features include a Kids Mode, which will include apps and games tailored toward children, a Private Mode, which will shut down access to various aspects of the S5, and a Power Saving Mode. The camera app has also been updated with a surprisingly fast Auto Focus, which takes just 0.3 seconds.
Samsung says it will begin selling the Galaxy S5 on April 11 in over 150 countries. In the US, it’ll be available on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, as well as a handful of regional carriers. You should be able to pick one up at your local electronics dealer—Best Buy, RadioShack, etc.—but there’s been no word on pricing yet.
So, what do you think of the new Galaxy S5?
Photos via The Verge