Samsung Galaxy S5: Everything you need to know (FAQ)

We've peered deep within the Galaxy S5 to answer your burning questions about Samsung's next superphone.

samsung-galaxy-s5-7221-001.jpg
The Samsung Galaxy S5 bumps up the Galaxy S4 on almost every front and includes a fingerprint scanner. Josh Miller/CNET

Unless you were dead-set on a metal chassis and futuristic features, then Samsung's Galaxy S5 is an excellent successor to the Galaxy S4 in the evolving Galaxy S line.

We've taken a close look at phone's new fingerprint scanner and heart-rate monitor, tested out the new 16-megapixel camera, and uncovered a few other new features besides.

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

Samsung's Galaxy S5 officially goes on sale April 11 in over 150 countries, but if you've pre-ordered the device, you may find it arrive on your doorstep a day or two earlier. In the US specifically, it'll come to 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?
Prices vary widely by country and wireless provider. In the US, that's $200 with a carrier contract and around $650 off-contract. To offer a few more waypoints, the Galaxy S5 costs about £570 in the UK, and will sell for close to €700 in Europe.

Design

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. This is entirely fitting with Samsung's mode of operation, though. In the past, Samsung has used reasons of durability, weight, and price to defend its decision to go plastic.

Now, the back plate may be hewn of a similar slim sheet of plastic that you saw with the Galaxy S4, but Samsung has made some alterations that really improve the physical design. The dimpled panel is matte for once, which significantly cuts down on pesky reflections and deflects grimy fingerprint buildup. It sounds like a dish soap commercial, but it's true.

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 authenticate payments through PayPal. You can log up to three fingerprints, which isn't a lot, but it is enough for a small family, or for an individual who wants to unlock the phone with fingers on either hand.

The swipe zone sits above the phone's home button, but here's the trick -- you pull straight down over the home button to unlock the phone. I found it easiest to do with my index finger than with my thumb, which I had to drag down in a precise arc every time if I wanted to make that work. It didn't work well. 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. Samsung is clearly banking on the growing convergence of personal health and personal technology.

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 an outlier. It doesn't get in the way, and it may give the company a slight competitive advantage when it comes to fitness buffs, though I'd think the market for fitness bands and other small wearables is where they'll make the most impact. (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.

Note, though, that Samsung isn't claiming true waterproofing. It is, however, backing IP67 military spec, which means that the phone can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter, or about 3 feet. You'd better make sure that the back panel and your important ports are sealed, though.

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.

Features

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 much more organized 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. Samsung has made 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 still includes as part of the S5's ouvre.

Samsung Galaxy S5
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. Focusing is exceedingly rapid, which helps you get a few shots you may not otherwise have caught. Still, the camera, though excellent in automatic mode, still didn't struggled with high-speed subject, as all cameras do.

Did Samsung improve low-light imaging?
I'm happy to say that it has. Samsung phones used to consistently thud when it came to taking pictures in darker conditions on automatic mode. Now, instead of processing a dark, featureless photo, Samsung has let a little light shine through.

What does the Ultra Power Saving Mode do?
Power-saving mode existed before, but the new Ultra Power Saving Mode can keep the phone running 24 hours on 10 percent battery, according to Samsung's claim. We'll get back to this over the course of a couple days. A software feature, ultra power-saving mode 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.

samsung-galaxy-s5-6979-015.jpg
Samsung's Galaxy S5 smartphone wields a sharp-shooting 16-megapixel camera. Josh Miller/CNET

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 an 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.

Do you have any more questions about the phone? Read my full Samsung Galaxy S5 review here.

Editors' Note: This article was updated at 9:01 p.m. PT, April 7, 2014.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Looking for an affordable tablet?

CNET rounds up high-quality tablets that won't break your wallet.