Over the last three years, Samsung has made an amazing run at the world of mobile with its popular line of Galaxy S series smartphones. Next week, it will announce its next Galaxy device in hopes of keeping Samsung atop the mobile heights.
The Galaxy S5 is likely to drop on Monday, February 24, at an event at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, Spain. Invitations for a Samsung “Unpacked” event went out last month.
Announcing the Galaxy S5 at MWC would be a dramatic departure from last year's Galaxy S4 launch at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, which was a fatuous, blown-out and somewhat sexist celebration. By attaching the Galaxy S5 to Mobile World Congress, Samsung is ensuring a more low-key (if still fancy) announcement that is likely to highlight the device and, hopefully, avoid charges of arrogance or chauvinism.
All that begs the question: what is the S5 actually going to bring to the table? Here are the five key elements we expect.
Bigger, Brighter, Sleeker
The rumors leaking ahead of Samsung's Galaxy S5 announcement point to a larger device than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S5 will likely feature a 5.2-inch display with a 1,440 x 2,560 resolution that runs full 1080p HD video.
Samsung may also trim down or completely eliminate the bezel on the device, although speculation about the S5 design has been all over the place since rumors started flying in mid-2013. One notable improvement may be the phone's casing, which has historically been plastic since the release of the first batch of Galaxy S smartphones. The casing for the Galaxy S5 could be all-metal, bringing it closer in design quality to other top-end smartphones like the HTC One and iPhone 5S.
Some rumors suggest Samsung will release two different versions of the Galaxy S5—one with a metal case and one with plastic. This would be very much like what Apple did with the release of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, the latter using a colorful plastic case. Samsung is known to release multiple versions of the same device, as last year's Galaxy S4 release came in several varieties such as the Galaxy S4 Zoom, Active and Mini.
Hardware Bump To The Top Of The Market
Samsung benefits by releasing its flagship smartphone early in the year, as it did when it released the Galaxy S4 last March, since it can come out with all the top-of-the-line hardware components. By featuring the latest and greatest technologies in the Galaxy S series, Samsung ensures all its other devices released this year will be compared to its top best-selling unit.
Rumored specs of the Galaxy S5 point to a bigger 2,900 mAh battery (the Galaxy S4 featured a 2,500 mAh battery), a Qualcomm 800 or 805 Snapdragon processor, a 16-megapixel camera with advanced LED flash and a couple of storage options (32 GB and 64 GB, most likely). If history is any guide, Samsung will again tap Qualcomm to power its U.S. devices with Snapdragon processors, while foreign markets will see S5s powered by Samsung's own Exynos processor.
Fingerprints For Security, Functionality And Access
Apple isn't the only smartphone maker to get in on the fingerprint sensor craze. Samsung has been experimenting with biometrics in its products for some time and it appears to be ready to ship a fingerprint sensor for security and functionality in the Galaxy S5.
According to Samsung-focused blog SamMobile, the fingerprint sensor will be embedded into the home button (like the iPhone 5S) and will require a swipe of some sort to get the full fingerprint. Samsung may have a “private mode” that is activated by the fingerprint sensor with a personal folder for documents.
Samsung may also allow users to create up to eight shortcuts to apps with other fingerprints outside of the one used to unlock the device. For instance, you could use your pinky fingerprint to unlock your calendars or your index to unlock your email.
Flat User Interface, Less Samsung Bloatware
Samsung and Google are often at odds with each other over the direction of Android. Samsung has been creating its own ecosystem of core apps and functionalities; Google, meanwhile, has evinced displeasure that Samsung is basically copying and cluttering its core mobile apps like email, calendars and the Google Play app store.
Earlier this year, Google and Samsung reached an agreement where Samsung would stop deploying so many copycats of Google’s core services, such as its Samsung Hub media and app store. In turn, Samsung may have leaned on Google to sell Motorola, which the search company offloaded to Lenovo earlier this year.
So, there's a good chance the Galaxy S5 won't clutter users' phones to the extent it has until now. But that doesn’t mean Samsung won’t have its own proprietary systems in place.
All of Samsung's much-touted—though inconsistently executed—touchess gesture controls from previous years, such as "air view" and "smart scrolling," will likely make their way to the Galaxy S5. The fingerprint sensor will likely be baked well into the experience. In addition, Samsung may have a flatter, sleeker user interface for the TouchWiz launcher it places on top of Android, according to chronic phone scoop expert @evleaks.
A Cheaper Galaxy To Ship By April
As we have seen the last couple of years, price and size tend to be the main drivers of smartphone growth across the globe. People like bigger phones (in the 5-inch range) that cost less. Samsung knows this as well as anybody and may try to manipulate the smartphone market by bringing the price of the Galaxy S5 down, perhaps as much as 25% before carrier subsidies and deals.
The notion of a price drop would also give credence to the rumor of a dual Galaxy S5 release with a cheaper plastic version and a full metal version. Samsung is not averse to hitting every carrier on the globe with smartphones at a variety of price points—this strategy has fueled its massive smartphone growth over the last three years. So if Samsung believes that it can crowd out the likes of HTC and Apple by undercutting them on price for high-end smartphones, Samsung will do just that.
Samsung typically takes about a month to ship its new smartphones flagship smartphones after they are announced, so a ship date for the first U.S. and international carriers by early April is what analysts are expecting.
We will be on hand at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona for Samsung Unpacked 5 next Monday. Tune in next week for the specifics on Samsung's newest smartphone.
ReadWrite will be on hand for Samsung Unpacked 5 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. Follow @Dan_Rowinski on Twitter for news as it breaks.
Top image: Samsung Galaxy S4 by Dan Rowinski