While Samsung switched from a smooth, glossy plastic back to a dimpled one, we didn't get aluminum, titanium, magnesium, or some other exotic metal. Nor did we get a curved display. In fact, the S5 isn't so different from the S4. Sure, the screen's a touch larger and the processor, battery life, and camera have been slightly upgraded while a fingerprint sensor and some water resistance have been added.
As bland as that sounds, it's not a bad thing, especially when you consider that the removable plastic back is one of the Galaxy line's important selling points and one of the biggest reasons to buy a Galaxy instead of an iPhone.
For starters, the removable back gives you access to the battery, so you can replace it when it stops holding its charge like it used to. Or you can carry around an extra battery to swap in case you run out of juice.
The other plus to the S5's removable back is the ability to access the memory expansion slot and add memory. As people use their phones to shoot more video -- and watch more of it -- your storage can dry up pretty quickly, especially if you have a bunch of games and photos on your device. There are plenty of cloud archiving options available, but I know plenty of frequent travelers who store dozens of movies on their phone's memory card (don't ask me where they get those movies).
Yes, HTC smartly added an \"external\" memory expansion slot to the One M8 (you could say it was really stupid not to have the slot in the original HTC One). In some ways, I prefer that easy-access design, but with the S5's waterproofing feature, keeping the expansion slot tucked behind the removable back is the way to go.
With previous Galaxy phones, the removable back also tied into other accessories. You could swap in backs with integrated front covers, backs that left room for extended batteries, and a back that allowed for wireless Qi charging -- to name a few. For most people, those options aren't much of a selling point, but I expect we'll see similar accessories for the S5.
AT&T has brought back its fan-favorite Samsung Galaxy S22 trade-in deal for Mother's Day. That means you can trade in any Galaxy S, Note, or Z phone (as well as plenty of other models from LG, Google, OnePlus, or Motorola) and get a \"free\" Galaxy S22 via $800 in bill credits. If the S22 isn't your style, you can apply that to the Galaxy Z Flip, Z Fold3, or even a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro.
The list of eligible trade-in devices includes plenty of relatively recent models, like Pixels going back to the now-end-of-life Pixel 3, some OnePlus phones, and iPhones back to the 7, but it's an even better deal if you've got an antique Galaxy phone hanging around somewhere. AT&T will take any Galaxy S device back to the original model, as well as any Note. That means you can get a 128GB Galaxy S22 for \"free\" or a juicy discount on any of the more expensive models when trading in a phone that's nearly worthless.
If you've kept one of those old dinosaurs in a drawer as backup, and it's still capable of turning on, the carrier will gladly take it from you and give you a fiery new flagship in exchange. I booted up my own Gingerbread-powered OG Galaxy S, and even though now too old to render the Android Police website properly, it's still capable of getting me a massive discount on one of this year's best phones.
Physical FeaturesThe Galaxy S5 still has an uncomfortable relationship with its own materials. At 5.85 by 2.85 by .31 inches (HWD) and 5.1 ounces, it's a big phone, but that's par for the course nowadays. It's all plastic. The back is a stippled, textured faux-leather, borrowed from the Galaxy Note series, which is a major step up from the slick, fingerprint-collecting casing on the Galaxy S4. The back comes in black, blue, gold, or white. The design is almost ruined, in my mind, by a cheap chromed-plastic bezel. You'll learn to live with it, but I didn't learn to love it. Near the top, a useful colored LED blinks blue when you have a new message. On the bottom, a large micro USB 3.0 port promises fast charging and fast data transfer in exchange for needing to be covered by a silver plastic door. A physical Home button with dedicated, light-up back and multitasking buttons are a little more convenient than the purely virtual buttons on the HTC One.
Call Quality and BatteryThe Galaxy S series have always been excellent voice phones and this model is no exception. The earpiece here gets really loud. If you need volume, you'll be happy. The earpiece tone can also be tuned to your specific hearing profile, just like on the Galaxy S4. Do that if calls sound a little muddy, which they might on the default setting. Transmissions in normal call settings come through clearly. The phone cancelled street and car noise very well, although some background chatter from a Starbucks came through under my voice.
The single, small, back-ported speakerphone performs perfectly adequately, but it's nowhere near as clear and powerful as the HTC One's front-ported BoomSound speakers. Transmissions through the speakerphone mic, on the other hand, are excellent thanks to Samsung's top-notch noise cancellation. I also had no problems with Bluetooth headsets.
Camera and MultimediaThe camera is one big reason why this phone is an Editors' Choice. The 16MP shooter's UI marks an important step back towards simplicity from the GS4's ridiculous array of camera modes; all the ones you won't want to use are buried under \"Shot & More,\" and you won't have to see them again. Rather, a few important tricks (most notably, the excellent live HDR) sit on the camera app's main screen, and there are a half-dozen, rather than 30, modes to choose from.
Multimedia playback won't disappoint, but it doesn't quite match up to the HTC's level; those big Boomsound speakers and overpowered headphone amp play in a league that the GS5 decided not to enter. Music on the GS5 is treblier and more midrange-focused than on the HTC, which really bumps up the bass.
ConclusionsThe Samsung Galaxy S5 is the fastest, most functional smartphone available today. It has the best screen, the best Wi-Fi performance, and the best camera for an Android phone (outpaced only by the Nokia PureView camera). Samsung dialed back its software excesses to produce a lively phone that's more fun to use than the previous model.
Design snoots like me constantly criticize Samsung for making its premium devices out of cheap-feeling plastic versus metal or a denser material like the thick plastic used on Nokia's phones or the iPhone 5C. It's the same story with the Galaxy S5. The phone is covered in the same bendy plastic as before, but this time Samsung added a textured backing that makes the phone feel a little better when you hold it. The back cover doesn't look very good on the blue and gold versions of the Galaxy S5 (the gold version looks kind of like a Band-Aid), but I didn't really mind it on the black and white models.
A few more leaked photos of the Samsung Galaxy S5 Active surfaced today, again thanks to @evleaks. The press images are of the AT&T version of the phone and show not only the front, but also the back of the device and a view under the back cover exposing its details for everyone to see.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active keeps the design language of its predecessor and features bolt-like elements on the four corners as well as a thicker plastic on the sides that ought to protect it from unexpected gravity lessons. And just as the Galaxy S4 Active, the back is removable we get to see the user-replaceable battery as well as the microSD and microSIM card slots.
However, keep in mind that next week's announcement might not signal a time to buy just yet. Thus, selling now will only really work if you have a back up phone to use until the Galaxy S5 officially ships. Alternatively, some sites like Gazelle offer up to a 30-day holding period wherein you can secure a buying rate and continue using your old phone until your new one arrives.
Aesthetically, choosing between the two handsets depends on your tastes. The Note 3's faux-leather back panel is the softer of the two, though the Galaxy S5's textured plastic rear still provides a decent grip while giving the phone a more cohesive look and feel.
The S5 stands out with its Selective Focus feature, which lets you easily add a professional touch to your pictures. Choosing near focus puts the emphasis on your subject while blurring the background, and far focus does the opposite. There's also Virtual Tour, which lets you digitally walk a friend through your house.
For our final outdoor test, we photographed a brown-haired woman wearing a gray shirt in front of Union Square Park. While colors looked slightly more accurate in the Note 3 photo, we noticed significantly better detail in both the background and our subject's face in the S5 version.
Both Galaxy phones sport a power-saving mode for when you're low on juice, but the S5's Ultra Power Saving mode takes the cake. This setting strips your display down to grayscale, limits your app selection to the essentials and automatically turns off data usage when your phone is asleep. By comparison, the Note 3's power-saving mode can limit CPU performance, lower brightness and turn off haptic feedback.
The heart rate monitor is next to the LED camera flash on the back of the phone - it works by illuminating your finger with red/infra-red light, and monitoring the changing reflection as your finger pulses with your heartbeat. Some set-up is required to define a baseline, but after that it seems to work fine (at least according to the video reviews). We had several inquiries as to who can claim to have won the pulse socket. We were not sure as there were no package markings on the device. All that was visible were the emitter and the detector. Our lab went to work last Friday on the module and we were very surprised to see a CSP device from Maxim. The Maxim web site speaks to Pulse Oximeter solutions and the die mark on this device carries Maxim die marks. That is 3 devices so far for Maxim inside this GS5 model. 59ce067264