Today's the big day for Samsung's latest flagship phone. The Galaxy S5 is available now in 125 countries.
The Galaxy S5 is a moderate upgrade over last year's Galaxy S4, with a better camera, faster processor, slightly larger screen and lighter software with less focus on cheap gimmicks. The S5 is also waterproof, and includes a heart-rate sensor and a built-in fitness tracking app. We'll have a review shortly, but in the meantime you can check out our review roundup.
If you're in the United States and considering a Galaxy S5, here's what you need to know about the pricing and availability options for all four major U.S. carriers.
Verizon's Galaxy S5 is available now in stores and online, though the phone is currently backordered until April 14 on Verizon's website. Verizon is only selling the 16 GB model, in either white or black variants.
The price with a two-year contract is $200, or $600 with no contract. If you sign up for Verizon's Edge program, which lets you trade up to a new phone after paying half the price of the current one, you'll pay no money down and monthly installments of $25. (You'll also get a discount on the cost of wireless service.)
AT&T has the Galaxy S5 in white or black with 16 GB of storage. The two-year contract price is $200, and the full price is $650. With AT&T Next, you can pay no money down and monthly installments of $32.50 and upgrade after 12 months, or pay installments of $25 and upgrade after 18 months. Paying full price or signing up for Next will get you a discount on the cost of wireless service.
Sprint's Galaxy S5 has 16 GB of storage and black or white color options. As with AT&T, the two-year contract price is $200 and the full price is $650. You can also pay in monthly installments of $27 with Sprint's "Framily" plan, which offers bigger discounts on service as more people join the plan. The Framily plan also lets you upgrade to a new phone after a year if you have unlimited data; otherwise you'll have to wait the usual two years.
T-Mobile's Galaxy S5 comes in white or black with 16 GB of storage. The full price is $660, which you can pay immediately or spread out over 24 monthly installments of $27.50. An extra $10 per month gets you onto T-Mobile's Jump program, which lets you upgrade to a new phone once you've paid half the price of the old phone.
Note that all other U.S. carriers have disabled the Download Booster function in the Galaxy S5, but T-Mobile has left it intact.
Samsung isn't selling an unlocked Galaxy S5 directly, at least not in the United States, but you can buy an unlocked model on eBay for $630. Strangely, this model is advertised as "3G Data Capable," so it's unclear whether the device would work with 4G LTE networks in the United States.
The advantage of getting an unlocked model, aside from not having a long-term carrier commitment, would be to avoid the bloatware and restrictions that carriers have forced onto Samsung's flagship phone. For instance, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have all blocked Samsung's killer Download Booster feature, which combines Wi-Fi and cellular for faster data transfers.
In addition to the Galaxy S5, Samsung is also launching the Galaxy Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit smartwatches. AT&T is the only U.S. carrier selling these smartwatches, but you can also pick them up at other retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon, and they'll work with any carrier variant of the Galaxy S5. Pricing is roughly the same across all retailers, at $200 for the Gear Fit and Gear 2 Neo and $300 for the Gear 2.
This story, "Samsung Galaxy S5 Arrives: Everything You Need to Know" was originally published by IDG News Service .