news South Korean electronics giant Samsung this week revealed its latest flagship model, the Galaxy S5, would launch in Australia from 11 April, as well as supporting mobile payments for customers of top-tier banks Westpac and CommBank.
The Galaxy S5 features an overall similar design to last year’s popular Galaxy S4. However, the back of the phone has been changed to a soft touch leathery case similar to that found on Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. The back found on the Galaxy S5 will come in ‘Charcoal Black’ and ‘Shimmery White’ at launch, with ‘Copper Gold’ and ‘Electric Blue’ also coming soon.
Other major changes to the phone include the addition of dust and water resistance (with the GS5’s new IP67 rating meaning that it’s dust and water resistant to a maximum of one metre for up to 30 minutes), support for a new ‘Ultra Power Saving Mode’ which turns the display to black and white and shuts down specific apps and non-essential tools to help minimise battery consumption (extending battery life by up to 24 hours at 10 percent of battery) and new fitness sensors include an in-built heart rate monitor.
The smartphone’s display is a 5.1″ Super AMOLED model running at a resolution of 1920×1080, it comes with a 16 megapixel rear- and 2 megapixel front-facing camera, its CPU is a 2.5GHz quad-core model and it comes with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal memory and support for an add-on microSD card with up to 128GB of storage. Its main button at the bottom of the screen features a fingerprint scanner.
Optus customers will especially be happy with the Galaxy S5’s network capabilities, as the phone supports all of Australia’s 4G networks, including the FDD 700(APT)/850/900/1800/1900/2100/2600 MHz frequencies, and the 2300MHz TDD frequency. It also supports Category 4 LTE/4G speeds of up to 150Mbps down and up to 50Mbps up, and up to 42.2Mbps down and up to 5.76Mbps when using a 3G connection. The weight of the Galaxy S5 makes it a mid-range phone at 145g, and it measures 142 by 72.5 by 8.1mm.
“The Galaxy S5 is an amazing evolution in Samsung’s smartphone technology, with features that are genuinely helpful and relevant to the everyday lifestyles of Australians,” said Arno Lenior, Chief Marketing Officer, Samsung Electronics Australia (pictured, above).
“It’s dust and water resistant and offers health and fitness management tools including a Heart Rate Monitor. It also has a fantastic camera and mobile payment technology that will give users the ability to make everyday credit card purchases with the tap of the phone,” Lenior added. Samsung announced at the launch of the GS5 on Wednesday night this week that the phone’s Tap ‘n’ Pay functionality would allow customers of Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank to pay for products and services with the phone’s in-built NFC chip. Mobile payments via PayPal are also supported.
“Samsung has delivered a phone that will offer Australians a fantastic set of features, great freedom to use their phone in wide range of environments, and a form and colour range that style conscious people will love,” Lenior said.
The Galaxy S5 is already available for $929.00 for pre-order at the Samsung Experience Stores in Melbourne and Sydney. The phone will go on sale in Australia from April 11, 2014. It will also be made available through selected partners including Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile, each of which issued their own statements this week noting support for the phone.
Samsung has also launched its new range of smartwatches, which will go on sale locally for $249 (the Gear Fit and Gear 2 Neo) and $369 (the Gear 2).
I’ve spent the past several days knee-deep in smartphone launches. On Wednesday night I attended Samsung’s launch in Sydney for the Galaxy S5, and yesterday afternoon it was HTC’s One (M8) launch. I’ve played with both phones and have formed initial opinions about them. So which one should you buy? Well, it’s a difficult question.
There is no doubt that the Galaxy S5 will be the more popular of the two models. Samsung just has way more resources to throw at the launch of its new flagship handset than HTC does, as the relative size of the pair’s launches amply demonstrates. Samsung hosted a huge party in Sydney’s Circular Quay for its smartphone launch, shipping in celebrities a-plenty and inviting partners a-plenty, as well as the technology media. In contrast, HTC held a smaller and quieter event with the technology media on a harbour cruise.
However, this doesn’t make the Galaxy S5 necessarily a better handset.
The truth is that the Galaxy S5 doesn’t represent a massive upgrade over the existing S4 or even Note 3 models which have already been on the market. Sure, there’s a better camera, dust and water protection, a fingerprint sensor and so on (and virtually every other technical area has also received an upgrade), but the reality is that most users won’t really notice the difference with the camera, and won’t use most of the other new features the Galaxy S5 offers after they get over the novelty value.
The Galaxy S4 and Note 3 were already excellent smartphones in virtually every area. The S5 doesn’t really move the needle enough to make it an instant purchase for existing Samsung users.
The HTC One (M8), on the other hand, does add in quite a few new features which move the needle for the Taiwanese company. The One (M8)’s camera now can take additional depth information, which unlocks a whole plethora of innovative in-camera editing capabilities. Some of these — such as the ability to easily crop someone from one photo and insert them into another, because of the depth functionality, or to change the focus location post-shot — are very impressive, and not normally possible unless you are experienced with Photoshop.
HTC’s new Dot View cases, which display basic notifications in a retro dot matrix style, while also allowing rudimentary user interactions without turning on your phone, are also very cool and designed to make the One (M8) a cult favourite. There are several more reasons for HTC users to upgrade here than there are for Samsung fans.
Overall, however, the problem for both models in terms of a recommendation is the price. Both models can be picked up in Australia for around the $900 mark. But for just $400 — less than half the price — Australians can buy the similarly specced Nexus 5 direct from Google. You won’t get the advanced hardware sensor features which Samsung is offering, or the advanced camera features HTC wants to sell you — but you’ll get a best of breed Android smartphone which does almost everything its rivals will do, with a stock version of Android, for less than half the price.
The Nexus 5 won’t sell anywhere near the level which the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the HTC One (M8) will. Google and manufacturer LG won’t put the marketing and distribution support behind what is essentially a reference model to make that happen. And if you look at all three of these models from a feature perspective, it’s clear that the HTC and Samsung models outclass the Nexus 5.
But that doesn’t mean the Nexus 5 doesn’t deserve our recommendation. Less than half the cost, for a phone that delivers all of the functionality that actually matters and without compromising on user interface or design aesthetics? Now that’s an easy option to recommend. We like the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8) a lot. But we don’t like them $500 more than the stellar Nexus 5. For everyone else, of course, new iPhones will be out later this year. As always ;)
Image credit: Samsung