Samsung is aiming high with the Galaxy S5. In our earlier article we took a detailed look at the design of the new handset along with an analysis of the new 5.1inch Super AMOLED HD screen. Here we review two more important features of any modern day smartphone, the camera and software.
The S5 comes pre installed with the latest version 4.4.2 (codename KitKat) of the Android operating system over which runs Samsung’s own TouchWiz software.
TouchWiz is Samsungs in-house software that is overlaid on top of the Android system with the aim of adding features and improving usability. On previous generations the software has altered the standard software quite dramatically, a practice that often draws criticism from users.
The implementation on the S5 is different. It is clear that Samsung have spent much more time and effort to get the software to integrate more seamlessly into Android. The improved icons look simple and fresh while apps such as the S Planner calendar have been redesigned to look clean compared next to their S4 counterparts. The overall effect is more integrated
Another bugbear of modern smartphones is the amount of unnecessary additional apps and software installed from the factory, often designed to push certain smartphone deals direct from the manufacturer involved. It really tends to spoil the new gadget experience. Thankfully Samsung have realised this and now such items are tidied away in the Galaxy Essentials and Galaxy Gifts widgets where the user can then choose what to install. This is an excellent move which will hopefully catch on amongst the other three main smartphone manufacturers.
Despite this pushing of potentially unwanted software, Samsung has thankfully bundled some very useful apps with the S5.
One of the standout preloaded apps is My Magazine, where a stream of images links to news articles from Flipboard, similar in implementation to HTC’s BlinkFeed. My Magazine can be turned off in the settings as there’s nothing worse than trying to avoid a sports result when your smartphones automatic news app ends up spoiling it for you anyway!
Another worthy software mention goes to Samsung Smart Switch. It aims to simplify the process of swapping data, contacts and media from your old phone to your new one and best of all it works with Android and iOS. Simply enter your iCloud details and it downloads everything you need to your new handset.
Improvements have also been made to Samsung’s S Health app which now features a heart rate monitor to complement the existing pedometer, exercise and food-tracking sections. Readings are taken by pressing a finger against the sensor below the rear camera which can then be used within the app to achieve more focused training.
Samsung are also taking the fight to Apple with the inclusion of Fingerprint scanning. To use it you have to swipe down from the screen and over the oval button, which is a little more difficult to use than the Apple iPhone system where you simply place a figure on the home button. We’d expect to see further refinements to the usability of the Samsung system in future implementations.
The camera statistics are a 16MP sensor with 4K video capability.
First impressions are that the autofocus is seriously quick, with Samsung reckoning it’s as fast as 0.3s between pressing the button and achieving focus. We can’t verify that figure but it certainly feels one of the quickest out there.
The 16MP sensor captures pictures with accurate colours, excellent contrast and plenty of detail without too much noise, often a problem with high mega pixel hardware. It also has an excellent HDR mode which has been improved a great deal over its predecessor. In fact it is one of the best we’ve seen on any smartphone. The speed at which it processes images is particularly impressive.
If the S5’s camera struggles anywhere it is in low light conditions where it falls behind rivals the HTC One (M8) and LG G3. Colours remain accurate but noise levels increase dramatically with some pictures looking too grainy to be usable.
Selective focus is Samsung’s name for its post shot variable focus technology, a variation of which is available on most high end handsets right now. It is similar to rivals although one noticeable disadvantage is that the mode has to be selected before the picture is taken, unlike that of the HTC M8. Overall though it works well and is certainly a feature worth having.
With regards to video, the S5 joins the Galaxy Note 3 (along with a few other high end smartphones) in having a 4K recording resolution. Footage is smooth and looks super sharp. The only problem with 4K is the lack of suitable displays on which to show the footage. In most cases the regular 1080p footage is perfectly acceptable.