The Galaxy S5, announced back in February, is just now hitting the shelves, and it brings with it some pretty unique and killer features. It’s not the most innovative smartphone out there, but it is a solid evolution of the Galaxy S4 and is definitely one of the best smartphones you can get.
So what are some of these amazing features, and even better, how can you get them on your existing phone?
Arguably the biggest and most talked about upgrade in the Galaxy S5 is the fingerprint scanner. It can be used to unlock the device and authorize PayPal payments, and it can recognize up to three fingers. It’s activated by sliding your finger in a straight line vertically down over the bottom of the screen and the home button. However, critics have argued that it is unintuitive and difficult to pull off.
Apple’s implementation of Touch ID isn’t perfect, but it certainly seems more intuitive than what Samsung did. Placing your finger on the iPhone’s home button seems like a much more natural motion than holding the GS5 in one hand and using the other to swipe down the home button without pressing it. Still, unlocking your phone with your fingerprint just seems so futuristic, right?
Given the hardware implementation, there really isn’t an alternative here for other Android users, unless you want to go with the HTC One Max which is basically a phablet version of the last year’s HTC One (M7) but with a sliding fingerprint sensor on the rear of the device.
The next major hardware change is the heart-rate monitor, nestled in next to the camera’s flash. To use it, you go into the S Health app and press your finger against the sensor. Then don’t move, or it won’t work.
If that seems unintuitive, that’s because it is. Putting a heart-rate monitor on a smartphone seems more gimmick than useful, especially since hardcore fitness junkies will probably be wearing a smartwatch like Basis or Samsung’s own Gear Fit, which constantly tracks your heart rate anyway without the need for pausing and pressing your finger to your phone.
However, if you’re just eying up S Health as a way to get in shape, take a look at apps like the fitness-tracking app Endomondo, which does everything that S Health does and more, minus the heart-rate monitoring.
Following in the success of the Galaxy S4 Active and Sony’s Xperia line (which we love), the Galaxy S5 is completely waterproof and dustproof to IP67 certification, which means 30 minutes underwater at three feet deep. You might not think that a waterproof smartphone is completely necessary, but accidental spills happen a lot, and this thing can brave anywhere you might take it: shower, the beach, your pocket when you’re shoved into a pool.
Waterproofing is obviously a hard feature to add to a phone that doesn’t have it, but many case manufacturers have risen to the challenge. You can protect your iPhone with any of these 5 cases, but Android users are going to have a harder time finding waterproof cases just because so many devices exist that case manufacturers can’t design a case for each.
You may want to think about sending your device in to receive a waterproof nano-coating from Liquipel. Sending in your phone and having Liquipel apply their special coating costs $60 and supports a wide range of devices, but it doesn’t guarantee against water damage — it’s only meant to protect against accidental spills and splashes.
Ultra Power Saving Mode
Many Android devices ship with some form of power saving mode that usually underclocks the CPU, turns off Bluetooth and WiFi, and may or may not disable background data and notifications. Samsung is taking it a step further here by turning the screen grayscale, customizing your homescreen to preserve energy, and shutting down all unnecessary background apps. Samsung claims you can get 24 hours of life out of the phone with only 10% battery left.
In Ultra Power Saving Mode, the phone becomes nearly as basic as a dumbphone. You can access the phone app, text messages, stock Internet browser, calculator, clock, memo, voice recorder, Samsung’s messaging app ChatON, and Google+. Of course, surfing the Web or using ChatON or Google+ is going to drain your battery much more quickly because they require data, but if you stick to just using the most basic apps, you should be able to squeeze out quite a lot of time with this.
You can save battery life on Android with these 3 apps, and you should definitely try out Wakelock Detector if you’re having battery issues, but Ultra Power Saving Mode on the GS5 has some features you can’t otherwise get, like turning the phone grayscale and displaying lots of black which uses very little power on Samsung’s AMOLED screen.
Private Mode is Samsung’s attempt to help you hide your, ahem, private pictures, videos, voice recordings, and files. To use this feature, you have the activate the setting in the Quick Settings pull down, set a password or PIN, hide the things you want, then deactivate the setting. Your private files will then disappear from the Gallery or wherever they were and appear in a Private folder in the My Files app.
While this is a welcome addition to the GS5, Android apps on the Play Store like Hide It Pro and Vaulty have been doing this for a while, and both of them have a more intuitive interface than Samsung’s setting which has to be constantly toggled on and off, as shown in the video above.
Floating apps, like Facebook’s Chat Heads, seem to be all the rage recently, and Samsung isn’t one to be left out of the feature race. Toolbox is a small three dot icon that hovers over whatever app you’re using, and once tapped, it displays a small list of five apps that is completely customizable.
It’s actually a pretty cool way to switch quickly between apps, and the little icon can be moved anywhere and will even fade to nearly transparent when not in use.
Toolbox seems to be a mixture between Swapps, a secondary Android launcher that has you swipe in from the side to quickly launch apps from anywhere, and SwitchApps, which floats on your screen and pops up apps at the bottom of your screen. For your own quick app launcher, try either of these two.
Even though it’s been disabled for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint variants of the GS5, Download Booster is one feature that actually got people (okay, maybe just us nerds) excited about the phone. It allows for your phone to increase download speed by using both your current Wi-Fi network and your 4G LTE data connection.
AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint say that they have disabled it to prevent customers from going over their data caps, but it’s unfortunate that they couldn’t even give users the option, at least with an irritating pop-up warning or something. Props to T-Mobile for keeping that feature intact.
An app by the name of Super Download has actually been available over at XDA for about two years, and it does exactly what Samsung’s Download Booster does, although it does require root access. The version at XDA is free, but there is also a free Lite version (limited to 50MB downloads) available on the Play Store and a $1.99 donation version available if you can support the developer.
The Galaxy S5 is undoubtedly a great phone, but not everyone is ready to upgrade yet or throw down the $650 for an unlocked version. Hopefully you can stretch out the life on your current phone a bit more with these alternatives.
Which of these features is your favorite? Any other new features from the GS5 that you’d like to have on your device? Let us know in the comments!