Samsung Galaxy S5: Release date, rumours and specs

Samsung Galaxy S5: Release date, rumours and specs

Summary: UPDATED: With Samsung's unPacked 5 event now less than a week away, we round up the latest batch of rumours and sort the wheat from the chaff.

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TOPICS: Samsung, Android
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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.  

Release date

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. 

Display  

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.

Processor, RAM

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.

Battery?

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.

Further reading

Topics: Samsung, Android

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

29 comments
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  • Pixel wars are stupid...

    I'm reading this article on a 10.8" tablet running 1920x1080 pixels, and I can't make out any pixels. Putting that same number of pixels on a 5" screen is insane, and putting more than that is just ridiculous. All you're doing is needlessly taxing the CPU, GPU and battery.
    dsf3g
    • True but

      These are mature devices as far as functionality goes. What's left is improving the specs..just like in the PC market. That's what drives the upgrade cycle. Nothing wrong there as long as the price does not increase.
      SunFire23
      • No "but"

        His point is that that's not adding a feature at all. At that screen size, the eye shouldn't be able to tell the difference in the resolution, meaning absolutely no benefits to the user. What it will do is drain the battery more powering that screen. There IS something wrong there, the battery life just went down because they put that screen in, with no benefits due to said screen.
        CLHatch
        • Not exactly

          There are other factors that impact battery life far more than the increase in display, such as brightness, which will drain it faster than pixel density. Don't forget the sensors embedded in the phone, the faster CPU, etc. etc. In the end, display probably has the least effect on battery life compared to the other factors, and it's tweakable, to boot.
          Ekwensu214
          • Screen Size = Power Draw

            According to my S4, the screen is currently drawing 65% of all power consumed, including Android OS (16%) and 4g standby (11%) wifi and bluetooth. You may want to reconsider your comments after looking at actual data.
            panzrwagn@...
        • Based on research I did in microbiology

          The human eye (and by that I mean my own eye) won't max out on actually being unable to differentiate between two pixels until somewhere around the 550-600 ppi range at about 18 inches away.
          An actual "retina display" as apple originally defined it is actually closer to ~170% of the resolution of their own "retina display".
          blarelli
        • Screen Size

          As one with far less than 20/20 vision I always welcome a bigger screen size and the expectation of a bigger capacity battery.

          What is your problem CLHatch?
          lvr181
  • Purchase Date

    Assuming this unveiling date is correct, when approximately would customers be able to actually purchase/recieve the phone?
    Analyst09
  • Purchase Date

    Assuming this unveiling date is correct, when approximately would customers be able to actually purchase/receive the phone?
    Analyst09
  • Samsung should have all carriers sell 16,32 and 64GB

    I would love to see T--Mobile and other have all 3 or everyone should be able to get 32gb.
    Randalllind
    • They Shouldn't sell 16GB at all...

      The problem with markets outside the US is that Samsung would only sell the cheapest model of a particular unit.

      Right now, I'm stuck with a Samsung Galaxy Note II 16GB (10GB usable) and I am having a hard time conserving the available space as you can't install apps on microSD. Samsung does not sell models with higher internal storage here because of fear that it wouldn't sell because of the price.

      I applaud their move with the SG Note 3 in which they made the 32GB their minimum internal memory. I hope this will continue on the SGS5.
      triadwarfare
  • Unibody you say?

    Well, as an owner of SGS3 and considering the N3, I have to ask: does "unibody" means I lose my all important ability to use a microSD and swappable batteries? Before you rant on the whys of these 2 features, I *use them*. Both of them. And I demand to have them. After HTC dropped those features I moved to Sammy since it still supports them. I would hate to have to find another manufacturer the developper community has experience on. (because I also hack my phones and mod them too).
    Also, 2 times that I dropped my phone, the fact that the removable back absorbed much of the impact saved it. Would hate to lose that "feature" too.
    MoonCHilde
    • AGREE

      I 100% agree. I've been having the same sd card since my g2x. And on my last 2 phones ive had extra batteries to swap out. Any phone without these is a deal breaker for me, and I usually put a case on it right away, anyway. Why follow the pack, when all of this time you've beem leading it, Samsung.
      Tommy723
  • hmm

    When Samsung can make a phone that doesn't randomly break, I'll look at them again but, until then.. Not buying anything they make!
    slickjim
    • Any links

      to a manufacturer that has never had a single broken product? Like, anything; microwaves, cars, is there a company out there that has NEVER had a warranty claim? I doubt it. Certainly no smartphone maker, so......

      So which other manufacturer that has random breakages will you be giving your money too? I'm genuinely interested who you'd choose as they all suffer the same (to a certain extent). Istuff goes wrong, WP goes wrong and we all know android reboots randomly, although so frequently it's a huge problem.
      Little Old Man
      • There's a difference

        Between a random product breaking and every product randomly breaking!

        Both my wife and I have owned multiple Samsung phones and things like the SIM cars slot, SD Card Slot, USB Port, and Battery Connectors have just stopped working randomly on their phone.

        I had 3 original? Galaxy tabs and all of them corrupted their own firmware. I had 2 different Nexus 10 tablets and both had intermittent lockups.

        My wife and I each had both Note 1 and Note 2 models of their phones.

        They're not good products even though the screens are awesome.
        slickjim
        • the problem may be in the mirror

          with that track record... have you considered that YOU are the problem?
          Crash613
      • Oh and um

        Android, pure android doesn't reboot frequently unless they broke something with a patch but, my Nexus 7 2013 isn't randomly rebooting with kitkat.
        slickjim
    • My S3 is now 14 months old and still pristine!

      I don't know what people do to break their phones. I'm very careful with mine when a drop would mean an impact with a hard surface such as concrete or tile. However, I have dropped it several times onto (office) carpet and the detachable plastic back has protected the phone by flexing and in one case popping off. So the phone is still pristine despite over a year of being carried around without a case in miscellaneous pockets, sometimes with keys. I'm very very happy with a plastic back. Why do modern cars have plastic bumpers? To protect them in the event of an impact. Same with phones. Please, Samsung, if you do bring out a metal cased phone, bring out the same model at a lower price in a plastic case.
      JohnOfStony
      • true

        Ive seen phones dropped from thirty feet onto concrete, probbaly the only thing that saved them was how all the detachable parts shattered and took some of the impact energy with them.... wish i knew who made it, but watched my coworkers astonishment as he put the phone back togwther and relaized "wtf?? IT STILL WORK?!?!?!"

        I wonder how many actual users care about the metal body vs prissy reviewers and phone snobs just making a bunch of noise about it
        dosmastr@...