Samsung sent out invites to an "Unpacked" event this month that's presumed to be the Galaxy S5 launch. CIO.com's Al Sacco rounds up a variety of GS5 hardware, software, design, price and release date rumors.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
The newest version of Samsung’s most popular smartphone, the Galaxy S5, is expected to be unveiled Feb. 24 at two separate “Samsung Unpacked” events. The main Unpacked event is in Barcelona, Spain, at the Mobile World Congress Show, and will be simulcast for press at a New York City location.
I received an invitation to the event last night, and though Samsung did not officially announce the launch of the Galaxy S5, the invitation starts with the title “Samsung Unpacked5,” so I feel fairly confident in assuming the event will indeed be based around the Galaxy S5 announcement.
What can you expect at the event? First of all: me — at least at the New York location. I won’t be in Spain for Mobile World Congress, but I will be at the New York location. Second, expect some kind of elaborate performance at both events, maybe even a celebrity appearance or two, at least if the “Samsung Unpacked 2014 Episode 1” event is anything like previous Samsung Unpacked events. The Galaxy S4 was launched at Radio City Music Hall last March amidst Broadway-show-like theatrics (Unpacked 2013 Episode 1), while the Galaxy Note 3/Gear launch event in Berlin Germany was simulcast at an extravagant event that took over New York City’s Times Square (Unpacked 2013 Episode 2).
I was at both 2013 Samsung events, and I’ll be in Manhattan for the next “episode.” In anticipation, I rounded up a number of rumors about the upcoming Galaxy S5. Again, these are just rumors, but here’s what the Internet suggests you can expect from the new Samsung Galaxy S5. (And we all know the Internet is never wrong…right?)
Samsung Galaxy S5’s New Camera
What would a new Galaxy S device be without an improved camera? It’s a near certainty that the device will have a new camera. Comments from Samsung officials during an analyst event in Seoul last fall reportedly suggest the Galaxy S5 could have a 16GB camera with a brand new ISOCELL sensor “able to deliver more color-accurate pictures, and [perform] better in low light conditions.” (The Galaxy S4’s 13MP camera is not exactly its strongest feature.)
Smartphone cameras are increasingly important these days, and they’re one of the most-used features. While the focus is often on pixel count, the image sensor is just as important, if not more, at least past a certain point and for the average user. For example, the iPhone 5s has one of the better cameras I’ve used, and its megapixel count is just 8MP. On the other end of the spectrum, Nokia’s Lumia 1020 packs a somewhat absurd 41MP shooter. So while a jump of just 3MP, from the Galaxy S4’s 13MP camera to a 16MP camera on the Galaxy S5, may seem somewhat insignificant in comparison, a better sensor could drastically improve image quality.
New Galaxy S5 Design
The initial feedback on the Galaxy S4 included quite a bit of grumbling and complaining about just how similar its design was to the Galaxy S3. Samsung also caught flak over the plastic body and bezel found on the GS4, which some called cheap and or flimsy.
Based on a number of rumors, it’s safe to assume the Galaxy S5 will feature some design changes, and it will very likely represent a more significant design departure than the GS4.
A Samsung patent suggests the Galaxy S5 could be much boxier, not unlike the iPhone, than current Galaxy S devices; that seems unlikely to me, based on the aesthetics of all the current Galaxy devices. It’s certainly possible, but Samsung isn’t generally known for drastic design changes. The Galaxy S5 could also do away with the “physical” home button found at the base of earlier Galaxy S displays.
If I had to guess, I’d say the Galaxy S5 will be made with some “premium” materials, possibly a metal or metal-like body. But I also expect the device to look similar to the Galaxy S4, with just minor tweaks.
Samsung Galaxy S5 and Android
Google’s latest version of Android, v4.4 “KitKat,” is already available on a number of devices, but not the Galaxy S4, at least not officially. (Leaked versions of the software are available.) It stands to reason that the Galaxy S5 will run KitKat at launch, but what’s less sure is what the software will look like.
The Galaxy S5, like all of Samsung’s recent smartphones, will presumably feature its “TouchWiz” UI, which is considered rather intrusive by many Android users. Samsung recently agreed, however, to tone down its Android UI tweaks, according to reports. And while it seems unlikely that the effects of that agreement will be seen so soon in the Galaxy S5 software, it’s possible.
The new Galaxy S5 will very likely pack an improved processor. Samsung’s Galaxy S devices compete directly with Apple and its industry-leading iPhone, and one of the more notable improvements in the iPhone 5s is its impressive 64-bit A7 chip.
Some reports suggest the Galaxy S5 could have as much as 8GB of RAM, but that seems hard to believe. A much more reasonable expectation would be 4GB of RAM, or 2GB more RAM than the GS4, and that’s in line with other rumors. But 3GB of RAM would also be an improvement, so that’s a possibility as well.
Samsung Galaxy S5 Expected Pricing, Availability
Considering the fact that the Feb. 24 Samsung Unpacked event isn’t even confirmed to be the Galaxy S5 launch, it’s a bit premature to offer up pricing and availability estimates. That said, if the devices is launched on Feb. 24, expect to see the major U.S. carriers release the phone within a month or so — maybe even a couple of weeks, in some cases.
As for price, the device will be a high-end smartphone, and it will be accompanied by a high-end price tag. Expect to pay between $200 and $300 for the lowest storage capacity version of the device, on contract, and probably closer to $300. Some estimates say unsubsidized devices will set you back as much as $1,080. But again, these are just predictions and they should be taken as such at this point.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.