With Samsung's Galaxy S4 now pushing the ripe age of one year old, it's time for a new flagship -- thought to be called the Galaxy S5 — which Samsung will unwrap in under one week.
Last year, Samsung opted to unveil the Galaxy S4 in New York at its own event in March, but this year it appears almost certain that Samsung will bring forward the release of the Galaxy S5 a little, piggybacking on the big annual mobile shindig known as Mobile World Congress, held every year in Barcelona.
Although it's still not known when Samsung will make its Galaxy S5 available to customers, it has all but confirmed it will unveil the S5 at its 'Unpacked 5' event next Monday, which will be live streamed from Barcelona.
Carriers are already capitalising on the interest in the device, with O2 Germany launching a teaser page for fans to register to receive updates about the device from it around late February. But it doesn't give away much more than O2 in Germany will be selling the device, and that it will indeed bear the S5 name.
Previous rumours pegged the release as coming as early as the CES in Las Vegas in January; however, Chang Dong-hoon, Samsung VP and head of its design group, first gave the game away, hinting the S5 would indeed make its debut at Mobile World Congress.
The S5's debut comes as reports claim Samsung wants to get the phone out early in order to compensate for the company's slowing profit growth.
As the date nears, speculation about the S5's features seems to be focusing on biometrics and its display specs, suggesting the latest device may be an evolution, rather than revolution, for the range.
Finger or eye scanner, button or screen?
When Apple's decided to include TouchID in the iPhone 5s last year, the whole field of biometric authentication got a big shot in the arm, as consumers and companies alike began to consider the possibilities of the tech.
Some might call Samsung a copycat for its rumoured inclusion of a fingerprint scanner — just like Apple — on the S5's home button, but it's likely the whole smartphone industry will begin including these capabilities in one form or another in near future.
Biometrics form part of the authentication protocols being developed by the Google-led FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance, which now includes Dell, Microsoft, RSA, Lenovo and BlackBerry. Samsung hasn't joined the alliance, but it no doubt would be a welcome addition if it does in future.
Screenshots leaked in late January, purportedly from a Galaxy S5, appeared to confirm the device would come with a fingerprint rather than iris scanner. However, how Samsung would implement the fingerprint scanner remained unknown, with industry-watchers putting forward the possibility that it would use the device's display to scan fingerprints rather than using the TouchID model, where the sensor is found beneath the home button.
Today, new leaks suggest Samsung is following Apple down this path by putting its sensor under the Galaxy S5's home button.
There are a few differences though. Instead of a light touch as on TouchID, Galaxy S5 owners will need to swipe the button vertically. Also, like TouchID, it doesn't mean the end of PIN codes, while Samsung is tipped to be using the technology to introduce new ways to access shortcuts: for example, by assigning up to eight fingerprints a different task with at least one solely used for unlocking the device.
One of the highlights of the Galaxy S4 was its five-inch Super AMOLED display that offered 1920x1080 resolution at 441 ppi. As with previous its Galaxy S releases, Samsung could be expected to improve the specs with its next model.
Recently uncovered benchmarks for a mystery Samsung device running Android 4.4 KitKat possibly point to large leaps on the S4's display specs.
The benchmarks indicated a device with a 2,560x1,440 resolution or 2K QHD, which seem to support earlier theories about the S5's display specs, based on Samsung's plans to launch devices this year as small as five inches with 560ppi displays. However, those specs could just as easily be for the Galaxy F rather than the S5.
Nevertheless, the 560ppi display has been one of the more persistent S5 rumours. This week, a Dutch site published alleged leaked screenshots of a diagnostics page on the device which also pointed to a QHD display, which is much larger than the 'qHD' display that Samsung's new Galaxy Core LTE ships with.
Will Samsung ditch its plastic frame for a metal body?
The plastic frame Samsung has retained through to the Galaxy S4 has helped keep the device lightweight without apparently harming its popularity. But it's a feature that many fans would like to see swapped for a metal replacement, particularly given HTC's move to an aluminium body for the HTC One and Apple's ability to deliver lighter phones without going plastic for its higher-end iPhone model.
If rumours from December are right, Samsung will give its flagship a premium feel with a metal unibody frame that brings it up to par with its main rivals in the over-$600-unlocked market.
On the other hand, some complained that the S3's plastic casing made the high end phone feel cheap yet Samsung barely changed a thing in the S4's design and materials, so why there is some doubt about whether it will feel compelled to now.
Another option for holding back from metal is if the company wants to reserve a higher-end casing for a new premium phone. Samsung is thought to be releasing a super-high-end Galaxy F around the same time as the S5, which also is said to come with a metal casing, alongside a QHD 2K display at 2,560x1,600 pixels, according to a recent report from Korean news site ETNews.
Although Samsung's Chang Dong-hoon mentioned "new materials" for the S5, such as the use of metal and a flexible display, the executive stopped did not provide concrete details about the materials that would actually ship with it.
So far Samsung hasn't released a curved display phone using its Youm technology to any market outside of Korea, and questions remain whether consumers see any value in it, so it would be an interesting move if it were actually to put such a display in its flagship phone. A metal frame, however, seems a more likely addition.
Another tidbit released by Samsung that could point to improvements in the S5 is its new 8GB LPDDR4 mobile DRAM, which it plans to use for its premium 4K or UHD display smartphones and tablets.
Bets are on that Samsung will at least bring the S5 in line with the 3GB RAM on the Galaxy Note 3, which would take it a notch up from the S4's 2GB RAM. Add the LPDDR4, and the S5 could come with 4GB RAM.
Another question is whether Samsung will retain a Qualcomm processor as it used in the S4 or replace it in the S5 with a homegrown Exynos chip. Though the S4's 1.9 GHz quad-core processor was one of its highlights, times have changed and rumours have it that Samsung's efforts on its own Exynos line will be put to use in the S5 to rival Apple's 64-bit processors in the iPhone 5s and latest iPads. Numerous reports claim that Samsung has prepared a 64-bit Exynos chip with 8 processor cores that will be ready for the S5.
Android, Tizen, skins and software
While fans love Samsung's hardware, few — even its own leaders — appreciate its software capabilities. As with the S4, it could be expected Samsung continues its tradition of bundling homegrown features like AirView, Air Gestures and Smart Scroll in with the device.
A rumoured feature highly unlikely to make an appearance in the S5 is the Tizen OS, the Linux-based operating system that Samsung and several other telecoms players have been investing time and energy in.
There were rumours early last year that Samsung could ship the S5 with Tizen, but would it really be willing to risk a proven formula by forcing fans to a new OS detached from Google Play and Google's suite of apps? Unlikely.
With more grunt and improved display also comes the need for more power. Samsung swapped out the 2,100mAh battery in the S3 for a 2,600mAh battery in the S4, so could be expected to raise the bar again with its next Galaxy release — a 3,100mAh or above would sound reasonable.