Well, it's finally arrived. But for all the excitement that a new Samsung Galaxy smart phone brings, the firm's latest hero phone, the Galaxy S5, is surprisingly unexciting in person. It's just so decidedly ... average.
Be sure to check out mySamsung Galaxy S5 Preview as well. This is my first foray into Samsung's Android devices.
The S5's middle-of-the roadness may be by design. I know that the previous high-end Samsung phone, the S4, was derided because of a rampant case of featuritis. But with devices such as the iPhone 5S, the HTC One (M8) and the Nokia Icon/930 really pushing high-end hardware designs, the look and feel of the S5 only stands out because it's just not the same league.
In fact it's very ... plastic. The flimsy back panel pops off very easily, letting you access the removable battery (props for that) and the SIM slot.
If you can get past the humble form factor—with its curiously plastic-looking wraparound rim—the S5 is of course quite powerful. It features a gorgeous 5.1-inch AMOLED display, a speedy 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 microprocessor, 2 GB of RAM, and surprisingly strong speakers that handle high-end games like "Asphalt 8" easily. The screen is just color rich, absolutely beautiful. But it's also unreadable in bright sunlight.
The S5 ships with the same strange USB 3.0 Micro-B port one sees on devices like the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 and Nokia Lumia 2520 tablets. But this is the first time I've seen one on a smart phone. You can of course still use any normal micro-USB cable if you want. But there's actually a plastic cover for the port too. Seriously, Samsung?
Well, yes. It turns out that one of the marquee features of this device is that it's waterproof—well, "water resistant"—for up to almost an hour, meaning it should survive your typical toilet mishap. But only if that USB port is closed with the cover.
The camera is surprisingly good, and quite fast to take a shot. I'll do some tests comparing this with a Lumia 1020, 1520 and Icon, but I can already tell the S5's camera would be good enough for preserving personal events and vacation shots. And you can really zoom in using the built-in picture viewer in the Camera app.
There's a bunch of stuff I've not looked at yet. A heart rate monitor. The battery life. An iPhone 5S-like fingerprint scanner. And what looks like a boatload of Samsung software. I just got it. I will get to that stuff.
For now, however, I'm surprisingly unexcited by it all. I happen to prefer the plain Jane Nexus/Google Play experience as provided by the Nexus 5, though of course that device's camera is terrible. And the aforementioned HTC One (M8) is much more attractive, and features high-quality build materials.
How the heck is this company beating Apple and the rest of the industry so soundly? I just don't get it.
But I'll keep trying.