x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Bigger and better but lacks extreme innovation

After all of the hysteria Samsung's Galaxy S5 is still just a phone. And don't even consider the Gear Fit attachment unless you are a tech nerd.

New Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit fitness band. Albert Gea / Reuters
New Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, Gear 2 smartwatch and Gear Fit fitness band. Albert Gea / Reuters

There’s something quite pancake-ish about Samsung’s Galaxy range of phones. The rounded-edges and the flatness are very pancake like, squished with no life; that is until the screen comes on and then bang, it’s just colour.

The Galaxy S5 is a phone. This is an important fact to bear in mind amid the hysteria that surrounds the launch of Samsung devices. Those familiar with the Galaxy range will appreciate the updates of the new flagship. The screen is bigger at 5.1 inches; the phone is faster; the battery life is better and there is a fingerprint scanner to replace passwords, but I will skip over the basics since they are all fine and dandy as you’d expect.

My main gripe was with the home button. It will be familiar to Samsung users, but for touchscreen users it feels backwards pressing a button to go to the home screen. Its voice-controlled assistant, “Galaxy” was also a let-down. It has a pure English accent, so unless you speak in received pronunciation, Galaxy will have a tough time trying to decipher the word “pumpkin” be it in a Scouse, Scottish or an Arab accent.

The main innovation Samsung has offered up with the S5, besides water resistance, is health. There are applications dedicated to monitoring your heart rate, pedometer, exercise routine, all with the aim of making the user fitter by tracking their daily activities. The heart rate sensor sits just below the camera lens and three consecutive readings using my fingertip varied from 52 beats per minute to 171bpm. I was sitting still on a swing for all three readings.

I had hoped for a killer application with the S5, something so innovative that I’d want to invest in one. But Samsung has spent too much time creating mediocre accessories like the Gear (still a hideous-looking watch) and the more demure Gear Fit, a fitness version of the watch.

The Gear Fit sits heavily on the wrist, a fact that became particularly noticeable when hanging up the laundry. It is also bulky and suits only a particular type of consumer – tech nerds. There isn’t anything feminine about it, unless you’re the type of woman, or man, who dresses like a teenage boy.

It was nice to know that I was motionless for 86 per cent of my sleep and that I walk 7 kilometres daily, but unless Samsung has a more comfortable and attractive way of giving me this information, the Gear Fit is a no-no.

Q&A

Hayssam Yassine, the head of telecoms at Samsung Gulf Electronics, explains Samsung’s success in the Middle East.

Samsung still dominates the region’s smartphone market. Where will growth come from?

With the GCC accounting for some of the highest rates of smartphone penetration globally, it is not uncommon for people in the region to have two handsets. Many of them have a hunger for the latest gadgets, which has contributed to a steady growth in sales. As of December 2013, Samsung was leading the UAE smartphone market with a 49.4 per cent share. We also expect growth from the launch of our latest wearable products.

The S5 has been accused of merely being an upgrade and not a game-changer. Do you agree and what innovation can we expect next?

The S5 is certainly more than a simple upgrade on the previous generation’s device. While of course there are certain features and design elements shared in common, a considerable amount of research and development was invested into the production of this device. A highly customisable phone, the S5 delivers the fastest internet, a great camera, and brand new fitness features and more.

How will you convince users to adopt the Gear, given its less than appealing aesthetics?

The design is both contemporary and sleek. The functionality of the device is matched by the design … we foresee our devices soon becoming the latest must-have accessory.

thamid@thenational.ae

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