5 Ways Samsung Could Ruin The Galaxy S5

In just a few days, the Samsung Galaxy S5

will be unveiled. Across the world you’ll see hundreds of headlines

dedicated to the thing. Some will declare it to be the best phone ever,

others will say it shows Samsung has lost its touch.

However,

there are a few ways Samsung could ruin the S5 if it doesn’t make the right decisions. But rather than just shouting the phone

down, we’re going to look a bit deeper into the issues that will make or break the Galaxy S5.

#1 – By messing up the Galaxy S5’s waterproofing
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One

of the most eye-catching rumoured design changes in the Galaxy S5 is

waterproofing. The Galaxy S4 wasn’t, the Galaxy S5 might be. The tip off

came along with a bunch of camera leaks that suggested the phone will

have an ‘aqua’ mode, and then in an official Samsung teaser.
 
However,

waterproofing is tricky to get right. Most mobile phone water

resistance relies on rubber seals that act as physical barriers between

the inside and outside of the phone. This means ports have to be sealed

with rubber flaps – which are ungainly and awkward – and such things

aren’t hugely reliable.

Tiny bits of rubber are easy to damage,

especially if they are to be manually fiddled with regularly.

Sony is

the company that has pioneered this in Android phones – they’re used in

high-end mobiles like the

Xperia Z1 Compact and the Xperia Z1. They do work, but we’ve heard many reports of them failing after a few months thanks to everyday wear.

It’s

the power socket that’s the worry, as there’s no getting around how

often its flap will have to be opened and closed. Wireless charging is a

possibility, but given its repeated failure to take off, it seems

unlikely it’ll be included in the Galaxy S5 – or used by many people if

it is.

Waterproof phones are almost universally chunkier than their direct non-waterproof alternatives too. The Galaxy S4 Active

is a good example – Samsung followed-up the Galaxy S4 with this

waterproof (slightly lower-end) alternative last year. Adding a bit of

chunk to Samsung’s already slightly dubious-at-times design would do the

Galaxy S5 no favours.

#2 – Using too small a sensor and too many megapixelspics

The

Samsung Galaxy S5 is highly likely to have a higher-resolution camera

than its predecessor the Galaxy S4. Rumours indicate that’ll mean a

16-megapixel sensor, up from the 13-megapixel one in the S4.

A

focus on increasing the megapixel count for conspicuous improvement in

photo detail can have negative knock-on effects.

If, like every Galaxy S

camera to date, the Galaxy S5 has a 1/3.2-inch sensor, more megapixels

mean smaller pixels in the camera sensor. And smaller pixels result in

worse low-light performance.

Samsung has managed to hide this

pretty well over the last four years – processing can dramatically

reduce noise in photos. However, fitting 16 megapixels into such a small

sensor is pushing it.

There is a mitigator – ISOCELL. This is a

new sensor type that Samsung announced in September 2013. It is pitched

as an evolution of the BSI cameras sensors used in most phones these

days.

We’re yet to try out an ISOCELL camera, but Samsung claims

it offers better low-light performance, and greater colour fidelity

than BSI or FSI sensors. It makes barriers between the pixels and

increases the sensitivity of the sensor pixels to help them reap more

light even though they’re absolutely tiny.

Hopefully it’ll help

to minimise the pixel size issue, but there’s a reason to have doubts.

Sony is the king of the mobile phone camera sensor, not Samsung. It

makes the sensors for the LG G2, the Nexus 5,

for Sony’s phones and even for the older Samsung S-series phones. Even

some S4s use Sony sensors – the load is split between Sony and Samsung’s

Semiconductor division, which produced Samsung’s CMOS mobile sensors.

And, at best, ISOCELL is an apology, a compensating factor.

#3 – By adding more (or not removing enough) software bloat pics 1

Samsung

has a real problem. It doesn’t know how not to overdo things.

The

principle of ‘less is more’ seems to be completely alien to it – in its

phone division at least.

The Galaxy S4 was already saturated

with features and extra content, and it seems like Samsung is going to

go even further next week with the S5. The company has already stated

its intent in its new tablets, like the 2014 version of the Galaxy Tab

10.1.

We’re likely to see Samsung add the Magazine UX to the

Galaxy S5. It’s a bit like a turbo-driven version of the BlinkFeed

interface we saw in the HTC One.

However, in usual Samsung

fashion, it over complicated the interface. It gives you another bunch

of home screens in addition to the normal Android ones. The premise is

sound, but it feels like something that should be covered by a separate

app, not a core part of the Galaxy S5’s interface.

In recent

times the Samsung approach to software has also had serious effects on

performance. The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition is a good example. It had

all the power in the world to work with, but it still devolves into a

stuttery mess at times.

#4 – By not fixing the issues with its OLED screens
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There’s

a lot of talk about the sort of screen the Galaxy S5 will have. Most

sources agree that the phone will have a 5.25-inch display using AMOLED

screen technology.

However, we’re not sure whether it’ll be a

1080p display or a ‘2K’ one. We’re not hugely fussed about an even

further increase in resolution over last year’s models, but the Galaxy

series is the one out of all high-end ranges that could do with the

upgrade. It’s down to the PenTile subpixel screens Samsung seems to be

obsessed with.

The Galaxy S4 uses a ‘diamond’ PenTile

arrangement, while its latest tablets have screen pixels with an extra

white subpixel – to help make them brighter and more efficient. In each

case sharpness suffers. And while the effect is extremely minor in the Galaxy S4, it could still be improved.

These

PenTile screen types are often a symptom of Samsung’s obsessive need to

offer something over its competitors in every field, and when it

affects basic performance, it’s not healthy. Still, in Samsung’s top

phones it’s a minor issue.

What Samsung could do with improving a

little in the Galaxy S5 is colour accuracy. In the early Galaxy S

phones, colours were severely oversaturated – it was particularly

noticeable in the Galaxy S3. Samsung made serious improvements in the

Galaxy S4, but for us to prefer the Galaxy S5 display over the

top-quality LCDs we’ll see in phones like the HTC One 2.

For a

bit of proof that there’s further to go, we only need to look at some

colour gamut results Extremetech found in 2013. 100 per cent of sRGB is

technically ‘correct’, where the Galaxy S3 is 139 per cent and the

Galaxy S4 132 per cent.

In order to shed the ‘trying too hard’

image Samsung has, it needs to step back and put a bit more emphasis on

quality standards, not just the sort of standards that’ll make people

produce coo’ing noises on first seeing the phone.

#5 – If its rumoured fingerprint sensor isn’t as good as Touch ID
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One

of the brand new rumoured features of the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a

fingerprint sensor. Rumours indicate it’ll live where the central select

button is – whether it’s a virtual soft panel or an actual clicky one.

At this point we’re not sure as, unusually, there have been hardly any

S5 hardware/shell leaks.

However, we believe it’s more likely to

be closer in operation to the HTC One Max to TouchID sensor of the

iPhone 5S. The core difference is whether you simply place your finger

over the sensor, or swipe it. Apple’s way requires just placing your

finger, where the Galaxy S5 is likely to require a swipe.

Swiping

a finger across a phone that is large enough to require two-handed use

at times is not going to be easy. Or at least not easy enough to be a

convenience feature that really hits the bullseye. As usual, Samsung’s

approach will revolve around letting you do more with the sensor, rather

than making it simple and easy.

It’ll reportedly let you use a

bunch of different fingers to do all sorts of things – most obviously

run specific apps. While other systems let you ‘train’ the sensor to

recognise multiple fingers, we fully expect Samsung to go to the next

level. And take it that bit too far.

What are the make or break issues?

Samsung’s

priorities aren’t always in the right order and we’re starting to see

the benefits of spec improvements slow down to a near-halt. However,

even if Samsung was to fall into all the traps mentioned above, there’s no way the Samsung Galaxy S5 won’t do very well indeed.

The two issues 

that stick out to us, though, are the fingerprint sensor and the phone’s

waterproofing. They’re quite obvious, conspicuous new hardware features

that are tricky to get right, and that rivals have failed to ace in the

past. Stay tuned for the Galaxy S5’s launch on the evening of Monday 24

February to see how the phone really turns out.

Next, see the phones the Galaxy S5 needs to beat in our 10 best smartphones round-up.

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