There's a lot to unpack here, so let's break down the most important features before doing a deeper dive:
- The Galaxy S5 runs the latest version of Android called Kit Kat, has a 5.1-inch screen (which is slightly larger than last year's 5-inch model), and comes in three colors: black, gold, and blue.
- The phone is made of plastic, but has a rubbery, dimpled back cover. However, it feels like a much higher quality device in the hand than its predecessor.
- There's a fingerprint sensor in the home button that you can use to unlock the phone without a passcode. Samsung also partnered with PayPal so you can use your fingerprint to make secure payments from your phone.
- The rear camera flash has a built-in heart rate monitor. You place your finger on it for a few seconds and you can view your pulse through Samsung's fitness tracking app S Health, which comes preinstalled on the phone.
- The camera shoots 16 megapixel photos and the camera app has an entire suite of shooting modes, too many to list here. One really cool feature: the camera can focus on an object in just 0.3 seconds, which will reduce the chances of blurry images when taking photos of moving objects. Samsung claims it's just as fast as a high-end DSLR camera.
- It's water resistant, meaning you can submerge it for a few minutes without damaging anything.
- The software got a nice overhaul too. Samsung redesigned its customized user interface for Android with a more modern, flatter design favored by Microsoft and Apple in their mobile devices.
- The Galaxy S5 is equipped to pair with three new wearable devices Samsung announced this week, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches and the Gear Fit, an attractive fitness tracker with a curved touchscreen that will compete with popular gadgets like the FitBit and Nike FuelBand.
Unlike last year's Galaxy S4, which seemed to cram in more features than anyone could use (like eye tracking and touchless gestures), Samsung took a more cautious approach with the Galaxy S5, focusing on features that users care about the most like battery life and camera quality.
It's probably a smart move too. Critics panned the Galaxy S4 for being too complex for most users, and it seems like Samsung heard them loud and clear. We spent a limited time with the Galaxy S5 this week prior to Samsung's official unveiling, and on first blush found the phone to be nice upgrade, although we're not crazy about the odd-looking dimpled back cover.
The only gimmicky-sounding feature here seems to be the heart rate monitor, which doesn't make much sense on a smartphone, especially since the Gear watches and Gear Fit can monitor your pulse without going through the effort of launching the app and placing your finger on a scanner.
The Galaxy S5 will launch in the U.S. in April, but pricing and precise availability will be up to the wireless carriers.