05 February 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5: Hardware specs, software, and release date rounded up

According to invites sent out this morning for an “Unpacked 5″ event, it appears that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be unveiled on February 24 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This event comes a little bit sooner than anticipated (the S4 was unveiled in March last year at a standalone event in New York), but it’s well within the margin of error. The Galaxy S5, according to the rumor mill at least, is expected to have a high-resolution screen (possibly 2560×1440), an all-new aluminium chassis that finally does away with Samsung’s love affair for plastic, and a fingerprint or retina scanner. If the Galaxy S5 is unveiled in Barcelona, it will probably be released some time in March.

Let’s dive into everything that we know about the Galaxy S5′s hardware, software, release date, and price.

Galaxy S5 release date

First off, we should note that Unpacked 5 isn’t guaranteed to be the launch of the Galaxy S5. Previously, it was rumored that Samsung’s MWC event would focus on software and its Tizen phones, with the Galaxy S5 receiving its own separate event in the following weeks. Given the invitation’s prominent use of the number 5, though, it would be very sneaky if Samsung didn’t unveil the Galaxy S5 at MWC. Samsung tends to release its flagship Galaxy phones about a month after their unveil so expect a Galaxy S5 release date around the end of March or beginning of April.

Galaxy S5 hardware specs

Rather unusually for a smartphone, the Galaxy S5′s hardware spec is still quite nebulous. Most reports agree that the Galaxy S5 will receive a higher-res screen possibly as high as 2560×1440 (560 ppi, if the screen size remains at five inches). Beyond that, it’s mostly guesswork. The S5 will almost certainly have a beefy SoC but odds are, it probably won’t be a 64-bit chip (except for Apple’s A7, there simply aren’t any 64-bit ARM chips ready to go). RAM-wise, there are a few reports that the Galaxy S5 might be the first smartphone with 4GB of RAM.

There are also fairly solid rumors that the Galaxy S5 will have some kind of biometric sensor either a fingerprint or retina scanner. Evleaks, a fairly renowned leaker with a good track record, says the S5 will have a fingerprint scanner.

This is apparently the Galaxy S5′s aluminium chassis

One of the strongest rumors about the Galaxy S5 is that it will have a chassis that is significantly different from its predecessors i.e. it won’t be plastic. The general consensus is that the S5 will have a metal body and back, to give it the same premium look and feel as the iPhone 5S or HTC One. This would be fairly new ground for Samsung, which has nearly always produced plastic-backed smartphones. If the company does produce a metal smartphone (probably aluminium), the S5 may look very different indeed.

It’s also possible that the Galaxy S5 will be curved, like the special edition Galaxy Note 3, but we think it’s probably too soon for that technology to hit the mainstream especially if the S5 also has a super-high-res display.

Samsung’s Magazine UI (top) looks a bit like Microsoft’s Metro

Galaxy S5 software

Given that Android 4.4 KitKat was released in October last year, it’s a fairly good bet that the Galaxy S5 will run Android 4.4. When it comes to the user experience, it’s not clear whether the Galaxy S5 will feature TouchWiz, the new Magazine UI, or something else entirely. Following the Motorola Mobility sale, Google and Samsung cosied up by signing a global patent cross-licensing deal. There was also some kind of spat between Google and Samsung over the latter’s new Magazine UI, which made Android look uncomfortably like Microsoft’s Metro UI. It is believed that Samsung has agreed to downplay TouchWiz and the Magazine UI, in favor of a closer-to-stock Android UX (user experience).

It’s entirely possible that these agreements weren’t reached in time for the launch of the S5, though. Samsung has probably been working on the S5′s software and interface for the better part of a year. We might be waiting until the S6 for a Samsung phone without TouchWiz/Magazine.

As far as apps go, we can probably expect to see the usual slew of Samsung own-brand apps. Hopefully they’ll be better than what we’ve come to expect over the last few years.

Galaxy S5 price

The Galaxy S5 will almost certainly be priced equivalently to the Galaxy S4 though if manufacturing costs go up due to the higher-res screen and aluminium chassis, there could be a small price increase. We would expect a launch price, off-contract, of around £550/$650. On-contract, in the USA, it’ll probably be the usual $200.


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