Samsung is dropping hints about the Galaxy S5 and likely features and the rumor mill is starting to go into overdrive for what's likely to be a launch in March or April. One thing is clear though: Samsung has a high hurdle rate to replicate the success of the S3 launch.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 launch was strong and sales followed, but gripes that the latest flagship smartphone was basically an updated S3 persisted. In an interview with Bloomberg, Samsung's Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of its mobile business, acknowledged as much.
Samsung will reportedly go back to basics and focus on the display and hardware feel. Apparently all of those Samsung Galaxy S4 software features that bordered on gimmicky weren't enough to stoke interest. The other item upping the ante for Samsung is that there are worries about growth for the Korean electronics giant. Samsung has a broad portfolio of stuff---CES 2014 is basically a Samsung showcase in many respects---but a Galaxy S5 flop would tarnish the halo effect in a big way.
With that in mind, here's a look at my wish list for the Galaxy S5. I have a Galaxy S4 and like the smartphone, but the next version of the device needs to woo me a bit more. Frankly, a Nokia running Android would be interesting to me (even though such a device is more rumor than anything.
Hardware changes and metal: The Galaxy S4 is big and thin, but plastic. That build doesn't put me off, but I'd be disappointed if I had an S3 first. The Galaxy S5 has to have something different. It'll need a metal frame at the least or some hardware change to get folks to give it a look. I doubt that a fancier screen will do the trick. How high-def do we really have to get on a smartphone?
Two killer apps (and that's it): Samsung threw the software sink at the Galaxy S4. You can scroll with your eyes, hover over icons and multitask handily. The built-in S Health app is handy too. However, all of these features could disappear tomorrow and I doubt I'd miss them. Samsung's goal is to make your life easier, but throwing software features at the problem is a shot-gun approach. For the Galaxy S5 to be a big hit, it needs two software features that will woo the masses with an emotional response.
Biometrics done right: I have an iPhone 5s too and find the fingerprint scanner also to be a gimmick in many ways. It just doesn't do much for me. Samsung's eye scrolling technology could become an iris reading approach as hinted by the company. But the biometrics have to be done right. I've tried fingerprints and face recognition to open my phone. The PIN wins every time. If Samsung can't nail the biometric approach well it may be best to sit it out. I doubt people will care. Biometrics just aren't the end-all when buying a device.
Software refinement: The Galaxy S4 is a hodge podge of Android and Samsung applications. For the most part, the mashup works. However, Samsung should spend a bit more time on the user experience and overall feel of the software. Just smooth it out a bit. These changes, which would probably be hardly noticed by many, would improve the S5. I have low hopes that the S5 will have a totally smooth software approach. Samsung's approach just doesn't allow it to cut features and simplify. After all, the company wants to dominate your house and connect every gadget you have. It's far more likely Samsung will add some bloat to the Galaxy S5 so it can talk to the bendable TV you won't buy immediately or connect to your refrigerator and washer.
Overall, the Galaxy S5 may disappoint many just because it has a high hurdle rate to surprise us. The S3 and S4 have done well and it's increasingly difficult in the smartphone market to offer us something we didn't even know we needed.