Perhaps a bit of an unpopular opinion, but I actually like the Galaxy S5

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: February 25, 2014

Yesterday was the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S5, one of the most anticipated flagship devices to appear on shelves this year. As the next generation in a line of smartphones that have grown to be the most recognized face of the Android platform, it's safe to say that people had pretty high expectations for what they wanted to see out of the event. In my own wishlist, I stated that I would have liked for Samsung to ditch the smooth plastic backing, I wanted them to keep the removable battery, and I also hoped they would hold on to the microSD card slot. Among others, Samsung seemed to answer all of them.

Yet, it seems that the initial reaction regarding the Galaxy S5 is not happy. It might have been the rumor mill churning rumor after rumor of metal housing, new TouchWiz (although I guess UX is kind of like a new TouchWiz?), a 64-bit processor, 20-megapixel camera, walking your dog and fixing dinner for you. Out of all of those rumors, none of them happened. Does that make the Galaxy S5 a bad phone? In my humble opinion, no. Perhaps this is a direct result of realizing that any and all rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt, but mostly I think I just realized that even if the Galaxy S5 isn't the be-all, end-all of phones, it still has some pretty significant upgrades from the Galaxy S4 that are worth mentioning. 

First of all, I would like to point out that even thought metal housing didn't happen, Samsung at least made the effort to get rid of the smooth plastic backing that they had used for so long. Instead, the back of the Galaxy S5 is now optimized for natural gripping, which is better than being optimized to slide out of your hand like a warm stick of butter. It also didn't follow the same slightly-cushioned pleather design of the Galaxy Note 3, so in that sense the Galaxy S5 really did bring something different to the table when it comes to design. Overall, I would see this as good news for people who prefer to go without cases so at least the risk of dropping the phone isn't as high. I see opinions saying that the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S5 look identical from the back, but in my opinion that's going to be one of the biggest indications of which phone you're dealing with. Everything else heavily relies on inner tweaking to differentiate between the two.

I think what I like most about the Galaxy S5 is that Samsung seemed to take the time this year to improve on features they already had rather than releasing gobs and gobs of new features and bloatware. As for the specs, while it doesn't exactly look like next-generation specs from the get-go, you also have to realize that Android seems to be heading in a direction where faster specs aren't exactly needed to make a platform run quickly and smoothly. KitKat was designed with lower-end handsets in mind, which means that high-end flagships like the Galaxy S5, among others released this year, don't have to worry so much about getting that octa-core processor or 4GB of RAM or anything like that. I mean yeah, it would be cool, but in the end it doesn't really matter what the specs are as long as the software runs smoothly. It's kind of like how Windows Phone is able to make their flagships run on 1GB of RAM and dual-core processors and still run like a champ. I imagine that KitKat is just the first in a long line of well-optimized updates from Android to come.

Another bonus about the Galaxy S5 is that Samsung was able to do one more thing that I had wished for last year - mashing the features of the Galaxy S4 Active with the Galaxy S4 from the get-go. Everybody's smartphone is vulnerable to elements, so it made no sense to me that they made a separate smartphone designed for protection against water and dust. I always thought it would have been better if they had just implemented it in the original Galaxy S4 to begin with, sort of like Sony did with the Xperia Z. Apparently I am not the only one to think this, as the Galaxy S5 did just that, and I can't say I'm disappointed with it (as long as it works like it's intended to). 

The Galaxy S5 also managed to make improvements to the 16-megapixel camera. Although the megapixels remained the same, the features and other aspects of the camera didn't. The camera is now able to focus and snap pictures in just 0.3 seconds, which is faster than any other smartphone out there. The Galaxy S4 can also provide HDR in real-time, which is something other smartphones can't do as of right now. My biggest issue with the Galaxy S4 camera was that it did take too long to take pictures, often resulting in blurry photos. However, the camera application on the Galaxy S4 was one of the most detailed I had ever seen, so it was a shame that the camera itself wasn't as great as it could have been. It seems that the Galaxy S5 was able to implement changes that make those issues irrelevant at this point.

Last but not least, I would like to commend Samsung for not making their phone that much bigger than its predecessor. I seem to get nervous these days that next generation flagships are heading in a larger-than-life direction, and even made a post not too long ago on my opinion that next generation phones don't have to be larger in order to be better. Although the screen size did increase to 5.1-inches over the Galaxy S4's 5-inch screen, it's not something I could find myself complaining about. It could have been worse, but it wasn't. 

The Galaxy S5 is not perfect, but I think it managed to address a lot of problems that the Galaxy S4 suffered from. Really, I don't think this phone is as bad as some people are leading it on to be. I just think that hype and rumors translates into fact far too quickly in this industry, and blinds people from seeing a phone as it truly is sometimes. 

Images via Business Insider