Review: Samsung Galaxy S5

I’ve been struggling to find something original to say about the Samsung Galaxy S5. The phone’s already been panned by many reviewers, and I didn’t particularly like it either. After using it for about two weeks, I still have no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. But, honestly, the biggest challenge has been reconciling the frequently poor user experience with the phone’s legitimately great hardware.

I really do like some of its features. The camera is quite nice for one thing — one of the best I’ve used on any Android smartphone. The phone’s fingerprint sensor has worked flawlessly too. Oh, and did I mention it’s water-resistant? But all of this torpedoed by a confusing mess of extraneous software.

OK, backing up. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the company’s new flagship Android handset. It’s spec-heavy, and feature-rich, with innovative additions like pulse tracking. It does just about everything an iPhone does–you can use your fingerprint to unlock it, for example. And it has some truly wonderful abilities–you can drop it in your toilet without ruining it. I dunked my review unit in a sink full of water and stared down into the pool at its glowing screen, shimmering up at me. It felt significant. But it’s not a great phone.

There’s a consensus that’s been kicking around the tech press for a couple of years now that says smartphones have become kind of boring. I’ve bought into that. I think it’s both true, and also not necessarily a bad thing. Your TV is boring, and you probably love your TV. Sometimes, one handset will do something really interesting (the Moto X, which is always listening, always judging). But for the most part, phones are getting a little bit better with every iteration and that’s about it. That’s particularly true of flagship models, and it trickles down to the lower-end ones as well.

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