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Samsung Galaxy S5: Everything you need to know

Mobile World Congres Jessica Dolcourt 2014-02-27 21:24:41 

BARCELONA, Spain -- Unless you were dead-set on a metal design and futuristic features, then Samsung's Galaxy S5 is a worthy successor in the evolving Galaxy S line.

Here at Mobile World Congress, where Samsung introduced its marquee phone to the world, I dove deep into the phone's new fingerprint scanner and heart-rate monitor, tested out the new 16-minute camera, and uncovered a few new features of our own.

I know you still have questions, so I've put together a list of some answers. If you've got more, shout them out in the comments below.


The fundamentals


When and where does it go on sale?
Samsung will sell the Galaxy S5 on April 11 in over 150 countries. Samsung's US PR outfit told us that it will come to these carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS, and U.S. Cellular. You'll also be able to pick it up at these retail stores: Best Buy, Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart.

How much will it cost?
Individual carriers and stores will announce pricing on their own, but look for the handset to cost the same amount as the Galaxy S4 did last year. In the U.S., this should be about $200 with a carrier contract and around $600 to $700 unlocked.




Why isn't it made of metal?
Rumors that the Galaxy S5 would be made of metal, or that there would be a metal variant, picked up steam in the run-up to the big unveiling. So you may be a bit disappointed to learn that the GS5's body is all plastic. In the past, Samsung has used reasons of durability, weight, and price to defend its decision.

What's up with the fingerprint scanner?
The Galaxy S5's fingerprint scanner is an optional biometric measure you can use to unlock your phone, and also to pay for services through PayPal. You can log up to three fingerprints.

The swipe zone sits above the phone's home button, and you pull straight down to unlock the phone, which I found easiest to do with my index finger. For even more, check out the photos, video, and extra details here.

Why did Samsung add a heart-rate monitor?
We've seen Samsung update its S Health app, release various fitness bands, and integrate a heart-rate monitor in to the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit band. They're clearly banking on the growing convergence of personal health and personal technology.

Galaxy S5: Check out Samsung's new superphone (photos)

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A clever little sensor on the back of the phone is what logs your vitals, which you can track over time. Samsung isn't trying to replace medical equipment, so the feature is more of a niche one. It doesn't get in the way, and it may give the company a slight competitive advantage over fitness buffs, though I'd think the market for fitness bands and other small wearables is where they'll make the most impact there. (Read more about the heart-rate monitor here.)

Why did Samsung make the phone water- and dust-resistant?
Waterproofing the Galaxy S5 was a bit of a no-brainer, really. The Galaxy S4 Active variant proved that Samsung could make a phone like this, which only raised the question: why not just implement this in the first place? And so Samsung did.

So what does water-resistant really mean?
Military spec IP67 means that the phone is rated to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter, or about 3 feet. You'd better make sure your important ports are sealed, too. Some phones can spend more time under the surface without damage, but the standards are there as legal protections and guidelines. (Here's a cool little tidbit on the future of device waterproofing, by the way, with a neat little demo to go with it.)

Does it have wireless charging

There's no wireless charging integrated into the phone, but you can buy an accessory.





Is there anything new to the interface?
Yes! Some details are more subtle than others, but Samsung has sprinkled refreshed bits of its TouchWiz interface throughout. You'll notice this most in the camera app, the notifications tray, and the Settings menu. The virtual keyboard also gets a tweak, and there's some good-looking new wallpaper. You'll also notice that Samsung renamed an app or two, and pulled the Samsung Hub completely. I'm largely a fan of these changes.

Is the Samsung Hub gone for good?
Yes and no. It won't come preloaded on the phone, but you can still download plenty of Samsung apps yourself. The company said it's making a concerted effort to reduce bloatware right out of the gate, so removing the Hub as a preinstallation is a small concession to balance out all of the other space-hungry features that Samsung includes as part of the S5's ouvre.

Samsung Galaxy S5 (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Is the camera really as fast as Samsung claims?
Samsung claims that the Galaxy S5 performs feats of autofocus in 0.3-second. I didn't notice much lag with autofocus, but I can't say that I was cognizant of lightning-fast performance when I tested the camera. It just didn't stand out for me. This is a feature I'll definitely revisit when my review unit comes in.

What does the Ultra Power Saving Mode do?
Samsung claims that its new Ultra Power Saving Mode can keep the phone running 24 hours on 10 percent battery. That's a huge claim, and one I'll have to test over the course of a couple days when the device comes in. A software feature, this works by changing the display color to grayscale, limiting the processor, cutting off GPS, turning off Wi-Fi when the screen goes dark, and putting the kibosh on most of your extraneous apps.

Will Ultra Power Saving Mode come to other Samsung phones?
Samsung is at least considering releasing a software update to give other Samsung phones Ultra Power Saving Mode, and S Health 3.0 as well -- though you wouldn't get the Galaxy S5's baked-in heart rate monitor.


Versus other phones


Is the Galaxy S5 better than the iPhone 5S?
I really don't like answering this question, because "better" is so very subjective. Instead, let me say that I do think the Galaxy S5 is shaping up to be a really excellent smartphone -- though I'm withholding final judgment for the full review. Until then, you can compare the specs, along with the LG G Pro 2, in this detailed comparison chart.

Will there be other GS5 variations?
Samsung hasn't said for certain that it will introduce other phones in the Galaxy S5 family, but history indicates yes. This would be the third generation of a scaled-back Mini, and the second generation of both the niche Zoom and Active -- though the GS5's built-in water-resistance makes that Active seem less likely. Look for variants several months after the flagship hits stores.

Shooting with the Samsung Galaxy S5's 16-megapixel camera (pictures)

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Do you have any more questions about the Samsung Galaxy S5? This FAQ will likely expand, so pitch in your own in the comments below.