REVIEW: Samsung S5 And Gear Fit Mark A Solid Improvement, But Only Slightly


Korean electronics giant, Samsung, is attempting to bully their way into the top of the smartphone/smartwear charts. Their latest is a less extravagant showing, but is it enough to live up to expectations?

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the company’s next-generations attempt at dethroning Apple from the top of the smartphone throne. After making a huge hoopla about their next iteration of the popular Galaxy series and their trio of Gear smartwatches, Samsung has proven that it wants to dominate the Android market and will do so through listening to their customers requests. We received an unlocked review unit from Samsung, which contained an S5 phone compatible for AT&T and a Samsung Gear Fit smartwatch.

The manufacturer gives techies and gadget hounds a phone that is durable and offers a host of new features in the form of a fingerprint scanner and an enhanced health tracking. In addition to its waterproof casing and its squarish shape, you can tell from initial glances that the phone is a Galaxy S. Other improvements were made primarily for those who are typically on the go and are always social. The S5 boasts an improved camera to give faster, cleanly defined shots, and the battery is billed as lasting longer and being larger than the S4 predecessor. The phone size is a bit more compact in comparison to the Galaxy Note S3 mini-tablet size, and the 2.5GHz quad-core CPU means that the processing is a bit quicker. Add to that 2GB of RAM, 16/32GB of memory (with up to 128GB extra through microSD), and a screen that’s been elongated to 5.1-inches and you have the makings of an improved smartphone.

Another improvement comes in the phone’s ability to be water resistant. The Galaxy S5 is water- and dust-resistant and can last up to a half-hour when submerged in a meter of water. The USB charger even comes equipped with a waterproof seal to ensure that H20 doesn’t affect the battery or phone indirectly. While that doesn’t mean you can drop it in a pool or a toilet, the new ability may be able to prevent a few premature phone deaths. The GS5 is also the first phone that comes with two-channel MIMO support, which means that it has an extra antenna to theoretically double your speed. Although this is not a first (since the Motorola Atrix 4G had it three years prior), the GS5 comes with a capacitive fingerprint scanner built into the home button, which is just like a feature for the iPhone 5. Privacy concerns aside, Samsung’s setup uses Synaptics’ Natural ID, which is a tiny sensor that sits underneath the home button. The phone draws a “map” of your fingerprint and allows for up to three prints total to be stored, although you may not realistically feel comfortable utilizing this feature. If, by any chance, the sensor or phone doesn’t recognize your fingerprint after five attempts, the phone will prompt an alternative alphanumeric password.

At best, the scanner can only approve App Store downloads, so you may not really double-down with the Touch ID feature. Meanwhile, the GS5’s Heart Rate Monitor is another additive that will entice exercise junkies to purchase this device over the iPhone 5 or 5C. Through an app called S Health, users can keep tabs on what they’ve ate or their workout regiment with relative ease. The sensor uses a light that allows it to measure your heart’s pulse rate, but users may find it awkwardly placed beneath the phone’s camera lens. If you are slightly off by a slim measure then the monitor cannot accurately measure one’s pulse and it would have to be redone. Software for Samsung, in addition to a few other things, is where they have struggled heavily. The GS5 is refined, but it still has some way to go before it can be comparable to competitors like HTC and Apple. Their customizations called “TouchWiz” don’t do much to make the experience enjoyable. It adds a bit of confusion to the mix since the hefty batch of icons are stacked in a row under numerous categories. Also, for the improvements the GS5 has made to the camera, it takes roughly three seconds for it to warm up, which is like an eternity for those wanting to post images immediately to Instagram.

Points also should be deducted for the physical design of the phone, as Samsung continues to mix plastic and faux leather to middling results. The end result comes off a bit cheap, but users will be rewarded with an updated screen. Even though many of these details will be moot for fans eager to get their hands on the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Fit smartwatch companion piece is also a sleek companion piece, but it doesn’t quite shine as a centerpiece device. The Fit only supports Samsung, cannot connect to social networks, and much like the GS5, has an inconsistent heart rate monitor. Samsung’s redesigns and its focus on what the people want are what will make the GS5, the Fit and the Gear 2 a success, but in comparison to the HTC One M8, there are some issues. The unnecessary features (“TouchWiz”) and the cheap physical design hinder the GS5. The iPhone-like fingerprint sensor and the heart rate monitor are ideal for health aficionados, but are really forgetful. Overall, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a solid Android smartphone, but isn’t quite the upgrade that will redefine the smartphone/smartwatch wars. Fans of Samsung will immediately love it, while others may just wait until a true upgrade comes out in stores.

Don’t believe us?! Just watch the trailer below: