Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport review: A more stylish Galaxy S5 for Sprint subscribers

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The Good Samsung's Galaxy S5 Sport has a grippy backing and responsive physical controls, and it comes in vibrant colors. It has nearly all of the Samsung Galaxy S5's software and specs.

The Bad Data is slow if you aren't in Sprint's LTE data footprint. The Sport lacks the convenience key of AT&T's S5 Active. A mountain of preloaded apps makes setup a drag.

The Bottom Line Sprint's Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport inches ahead of the original S5 by combining identical performance in a slightly more polished package.

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9.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9

What's the difference between the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sprint's exclusive Galaxy S5 Sport? Mostly the bright blue or red paint job; the slightly rubberized design with physical rather than touch-sensitive controls; and preloaded fitness-related apps, like Sprint Fit Live, that wrap in some limited-time subscriptions to various services.

That's about it. You still get the 5.1-inch 1080p display, an excellent 16-megapixel camera, a 2.5GHz quad-core processor, a heart-rate monitor, and Android 4.4 OS with Samsung's OS on top. The only thing you lack is a fingerprint scanner, which I personally don't miss. Pricing remains identical to the Galaxy S5: $200 on contract, and $27.09 per month for 24 months, or $650 all-in.

For my money, even if I never intend to dive into the fitness features, I'd buy the Sport over the regular S5 for the looks alone.

Design and build

I like everything about the way that the Galaxy S5 Sport looks, from the rich blue or red shade (I reviewed it in red) to the row of physical navigation buttons below the screen, to the dimpled, slightly rubberized back plate that makes it grippier than the original. I raked my nails all over the backing without leaving a dent, though the combination matte-and-shiny corners seem as scuffable as most phones.

Compared to the Galaxy S5, the Sport looks edgier and feels more secure in the hand. Its volume and power buttons rise higher from the surface and are easier to press, and it does all this while sacrificing only one feature, the S5's fingerprint scanner (which I was never enamored with in the first place).

Physical controls and vibrant red or blue coloring distinguish the Sport from other S5 variants. Josh Miller/CNET

One other tiny difference is that the S5 Sport, like AT&T's S5 Active, has a single Micro-USB charging port rather than the S5's double-barrel USB/MHL combo port. My one disappointment is that the Sport lacks the Active's programmable convenience key on the left edge, which pulls up the camera and Activity Zone app when you give it a long or short press, respectively.

Like the standard S5, the Sport has a crisp, colorful 5.1-inch 1080p HD AMOLED display, a 16-megapixel camera on the back and 2-megapixel camera on the front, LED flash, an IR blaster, a heart-rate monitor, and a 3.5 millimeter headset jack.

You won't find the reinforced plastic corners of the Galaxy S5 Active on the Sport, but the combination of matte and shiny here looks pretty darn cool. Josh Miller/CNET

At 5.67 inches tall by 2.91 inches wide by 0.35-inch thick, the Sport is ever-so-slightly shorter and ever-so-slightly wider than the Active. At 5.57 ounces, it's also a tad lighter than the Active's 6-ounce weight. Both fitness-focused variants measure a bit bulkier than the S5 original (5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32-inches and 5.11 ounces).

Also like both those models, the Sport's IP67 rating makes it resistant to shock, dust, and submersion for 30 minutes in a meter of water; about 3 feet.

OS and apps

Samsung's TouchWiz interface rides on top of Android 4.4, bringing a host of settings and software options to the S5 Sport. In addition to Samsung's caboodle, which you can read about in my S5 review , Sprint has absolutely stuffed the Sport with partner apps, including a few aimed at "people with active lifestyles."

Sprint Fit Live is at the forefront of the mix, a carrier-branded hub to showcase partners Under Armour, Spotify, and MapMyFitness. The app, which you open in full or as a widget, contains two parts. The first section amalgamates Samsung's S Health app, Spotify (for workout mixes), and MapMyFitness into a dashboard. The second portion, Smart Health, spoons out articles related to human health.

Partnerships are at the app's core. You'll get a free year of MapMyFitness MVP, owned by Under Armour. You'll also get 6 months of Spotify's premium service for free, if you're on a Framily plan, or 3 months if you're not. These "deals" don't impress me much, since their objective is so clearly to convert you into a yearly paid subscriber. There's nothing wrong with companies trying to run a business; it just adds little value for me personally.

This dimpled backing gets a rubberized treatment that resisted my fingernail scratches. Josh Miller/CNET

If you are interested in any of these tools, good news. You won't have to download Sprint Fit Live, but here's the catch. If you want to use it, you're tied to the default Under Armour wallpaper that comes preloaded on the phone. Yes, you can toggle the cheesy "inspirational" messages on and off, and use your own Gallery photos instead of images of athletes being sporty, but it seems like Sprint would want to make the download of a standalone app an option for use with other wallpapers. It doesn't matter too much either way, since standalone apps exist on their own.

In addition to the aforementioned fitness apps, there's Samsung's Activity Zone with a compass, barometer, and flashlight (the S5 Active has this too); Lumen Toolbar; Sprint ID; Sprint Zone; Wi-Fi calling; Amazon and eBay; Eureka Offers; Messaging+; NextRadio; Scout, 1Weather; more Sprint apps; Lookout Security; and Flipboard. Whew! If those app tray icons don't blur your vision, Sprint has also prestocked an entire home screen with several of those icons, plus a Featured Apps widget showcasing eight more.