We're almost certainly about to see Samsung's Galaxy S5 superphone next week, the long-awaited followup to the company's Android flagship. With competition heating up from the likes of Motorola and HTC, will it be enough to stay near the top of the heap? Here's what we're expecting to see.
While there wasn't a huge difference between the S3 and S4, the jump from S4 to S5 will supposedly bring a phone that "feels" more premium, according to statements to Bloomberg from a Samsung exec. That lines up with a Sammobile report that Samsung is finally ditching the cheap-feeling plastic frame, and moving onto a metal unibody design. About time!
The display that body houses will reportedly be a slightly larger 5.2 inches. Emphasis on slightly, as the S4 measures up at 5 inches, but the size bump makes sense given the general embiggening-of-phones trend.
Update: As dug up by TechCrunch, purported images of the S5 have popped up on some smaller Android rumor sites like SaudiAndroid and HardwareZone. They seem to align with what we've heard, but take them with a grain of salt:
Let's get the obvious out of the way first. The Galaxy S5 will have a sharper screen. Duh. This is almost a guarantee, because you expect that screens will keep improving. But just how much better? According to @evleaks, a smartphone rumor-tweeting account with a fairly reliable track record for actually getting things right, it will have a QHD 2K display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. That's a pretty good upgrade next to the S4, which had a 1920x1080 Super AMOLED display, and it would give the S5 an edge over the Nexus 5's 1920x1080 IPS-LCD display, as well as over the HTC One's 1920x1080 Super LCD 3. @evleaks has also dropped some evidence that the phone will have a 3D viewer. Why you'd want that on a smartphone is unclear, but Samsung's never shied away from gimmicks before.
Next up? A significantly better battery, reportedly coming in at 4,000 mAh to the S4's 2,600 mAh power pack. Battery might not be one of the most exciting specs, but it's certainly one of the most important, and it's one area where we've really started to see Android phones excel. And with other Google operating system-running phones on the market boasting batteries that can last two days on a single charge (the Droid Maxx, the LG G Flex, to name a few), Samsung would be crazy not to drastically improve on this front. Depending on other factors like chip size, screen resolution, and usage habits, 4,000 mAh should, in theory, last even longer than two days on one charge.
While there had been some fleeting rumors about iris recognition, a more reliable report from SamMobile says that the S5 will actually have a fingerprint scanner similar to the iPhone 5S. It would be on the home button and be able to register up to eight different paw prints. Apparently, you'd also be able to assign different tasks or open apps based on what finger you're pressing with, which sounds so batshit and unnecessary that it just might be true. Despite contradictory rumors that the phone will ditch all of is onscreen buttons, it seems likely that fingerprint recognition will play at least some part in next week's announcement.
It's also pretty much a gimme that the S5 will have a better camera. Accordingly, the rumor that's been kicking around for a while is that the fifth-gen Galaxy guy will sport a 16-megapixeler. The last Galaxy had a 13MP lens, whereas, say the iPhone 5S has 8 megapixels. But megapixels really don't matter so much as what the shutter speed is like, or how a camera deals with low light, and camera software overall.
Lastly, there are a few miscellaneous rumors kicking around. Apparently the phone will have 64-bit Exynos processor or a Snapdragon 800 chip. The S4 was powered by a Snapdragon 600 chip, so an 800 seems like a logical upgrade, especially because that's the chip that the good recent Androids (like the Xperia Z1) and even the bad ones (like the LG G2) are powered by. The S5 is also expected to have 3GB of RAM, and will run Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which again, is a fairly safe bet since it's the current Android OS. But it may lose some of the Samsung customization.
Update: Pocketlint accidentally posted its review early, and although its been taken down, we were able to cull some details from screenshots. Among them are that the S5 definitely has a fingerprint scanner, and that the phone is getting a silver metal-looking back that's actually still plastic. Additionally, the review confirms the 16-megapixel camera, with a few new features such as one called Selective focus which lets you refocus the picture after you've snapped it.
One of the rumors we're more hopefully on is that Samsung will finally tone down its use of unnecessary proprietary apps that don't serve much purpose other than slowing things down and being a battery drain. By all means! Because the UI is one of the chief concerns with Galaxies past. Samsung has hinted that the entire interface will get a redesign, but we'll see.
According to a recent interview given to Bloomberg, Samsung says the phone will be out by April. This would be consistent with Samsung's past habits with the Galaxy line, which is generally refreshed around March or April.
However, there's a pretty strong chance the S5 will rear its head earlier than that. Next week is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and Samsung is hosting Unpacked, an event it'll also livestream in New York. Most tech press seem to agree this is the place Samsung will Vanna White the S5. Now, there's a chance that it's round two of Galaxy Gear, or even something else entirely. But we'll see come Monday.
Actual availability is a little less clear. The most recent report—via Gsmarena—puts the phone on sale three weeks from now.
Okay, so the purported specs of the S5 might not be much to write home about, but what if the phone was $100 on contract, half the price of its forebear? There have been rumblings via Bloomberg that it might be. But there's also a chance that this is just analyst wankery. However, you can be sure it won't be more than $200, which is where the S4 started.
We'll be liveblogging Samsung's event here starting at 2pm EST/11am PST.