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I had the pleasure of an unadulterated hands-on experience with the Galaxy S5 yesterday.  Here are the thoughts I walked away with.

Ergonomics

The size, weight, and feel are very similar to the Galaxy Note 3, and not at all like the Galaxy S4.  I’ve been trying to make sense why the S5 has gotten bigger and heavier than the S4.  It could be that if Samsung has anything to gain from making the S5 bigger is that people, after handling the S5, will feel more comfortable going just a little bit bigger with the Note 3.  The Galaxy Note owners are more likely to upgrade to another Note than anything else so maybe this is better for Samsung in the long run.

Is a New Flagship on the way?

Another reason why the S5, looks more like the Galaxy S2 is that, maybe Samsung is readying people for an exciting device coming with a curved Youm display sometime in the near future.  There are prototype designs making it’s rounds recently on the Internet.  A lot of people are speculating that a rounded edge display it will arrive on the Note 4.  My guess is that if that phone is coming, these new models will be an entirely new product and Samsung will push it as their new flagship.  

Samsung’s Pho-leather is Better than Metal

The Galaxy S5’s back cover is excellent.  It is very grippy, light, and surprisingly durable.  Metal on the other hand is heavy, slippery, and it scratches easily.  Once people realize that metal may not be the best material for a smartphone’s backing, people will easily see that Samsung is doing the right thing.  Sure, metal is certainly better than Samsung’s older plastic battery doors, but the new battery covers on the Galaxy Note 3 and now the S5 are the better option.

The New TouchWiz

UI is smooth as expected.  The S5 has the fastest processor on any Android today, and to deliver anything other than a buttery smooth UI would be unthinkable.  There are some issues with the new UI however.  The Newspaper is a great Flipboard-like integration into Touchwiz.  However, like the Newspaper feature was on the Galaxy Note 3, it's not for everyone.  The problem is, there is no way to disable it, and it is undoubtedly taking up ram and battery as it is always having to run in the background and crawl the difference sources for social media and news outlets.

One minor gripe is the new settings layout.  The settings on on the Galaxy S4 and Note 3 are, for the most part, well organized.  However, the S5 has gone back to the long list of settings you would remember on the S2 and Android 4.0.  It is not an upgrade.

The Best Camera Yet on a Smartphone

The most exciting features in my opinion are the new camera features.  20MP sensor, phase detection auto focus, and improved HDR.  HDR video is a first on a smartphone, and it is even available to be used while recording in 4K.  This leads me to believe that Samsung is using more than just software to do traditional HDR (by combining multiple photos together internally) found on most smartphones today.  It is recording more dynamic range on the fly into compressed file formats like jpg and mp4 video which means more usable photos and videos in non-optimal lighting situations.  You may just want to enable this feature and leave it on for good.

16GB or 32GB?

Here is an interesting bit of fact.  Some carriers have started to offer only one model, the 32GB Galaxy S5.  Maybe they understand a 16GB device with only 7GB of free space will only cause problems for the user long term.  However, carriers in the US are still pushing the 16GB model as an option.  It could be that the 16GB model gives them easy way for an up-sell to the 32GB device.  The 16GB models should be reserved for only the true minimalist who doesn't venture outside of stock apps except an occasional session of Angry Birds.

Where is the 64GB Galaxy S5?

My conspiracy theory about why 64GB Samsung Galaxy S5 (or any Galaxy) is multi-layered.  More on this in another article but in a nutshell, the carriers have all agreed to not order 64GB Galaxy phones from Samsung to sell.  Samsung probably has realized that there are more than just market forces at play.  To make the customers realize that a 64GB phone isn't coming later, they no longer list the 64GB for manufacture.

The Verdict?

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a solid device with the latest components, except the storage.  It is an easy upgrade from the S3, if you don’t mind the slight increase in size and weight.  The S5 should easily run smooth for the next 2 years.  My advice, get the 32GB model, unless you are a minimalist when it comes to apps that are floating in the app drawer.

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