independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Some nice features – but new S5 won't set the world on fire

The Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit fitness band are displayed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit fitness band are displayed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Another season, another hyped-up smartphone launch. Is Samsung's Galaxy S5 worth all the brouhaha?

In a nutshell, it's mildly impressive. To be fair, the 5.1-inch device has a few new features that are worth mentioning.

First, it adds a fingerprint sensor on the phone's home button. This can be used to unlock the phone and also to purchase items available using PayPal.

I tried this feature and it mostly worked fine. But is it a marquee function? Maybe not if you ask iPhone 5S users.

The smartphone also includes a heart-rate monitor sensor placed underneath the camera lens that can measure the pulse rate of a finger. The function is designed to work in tandem with the phone's reworked S-Health suite of apps, which include a pedometer, heart-rate monitor and other fitness apps.

The S5's 16-megapixel camera is marginally more powerful than that of the S4 or the Note 3. One of its more notable features allows you to choose which part of a photo you want to be clearest after the picture is taken. I used this a few times with mixed results (it only works properly if you focus on the near item rather than the far item). Still, it's an impressive feature.

The S5's power comes courtesy of a quad-core 2.5Ghz chip and 2GB of Ram supporting Android 4.4. There's a choice of 16GB or 32GB of storage, while the large 2,800mAh battery promises to comfortably see a user through until the end of a day.

Aesthetically, the phone is very similar to its predecessor, the Galaxy S4, with the exception of a more tactile back cover (which strongly resembles the Note 3). Although Samsung has added four colours, the device has not been significantly altered in look and feel. I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad thing: there's nothing wrong with the look of the S4, but when a 'new' phone looks overwhelmingly like the old model, there's a niggling sense of being deprived of a 'show-off' factor.

There is no doubt the S5 is going to sell well. This is not only down to the general decent functionality of high-end Samsung devices, but because of its unrivalled pot of advertising cash: everyone will probably know about the S5 soon.

But I would still hesitate to recommend it over the 5.7-inch Note 3, a phone I still regard as the finest overall smartphone on the market.

Irish Independent

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