Samsung Galaxy S5 Is Something New, Just Not at a Glance

Samsung gave the Galaxy S5 a long list of impressive new features, but also a façade that can seem like "more of the same."

Samsung, during an evening event at Mobile World Congress Feb. 24, introduced its newest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S5, alongside a Galaxy Gear Fit fitness band and two new smartwatches, the Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo.

The watches weren't a surprise—Samsung had put out a press release that morning. And quickly, neither was the GS5.

Before the Barcelona Opera House Chamber Orchestra had finished its stage-side, pre-show concert, and so well before Samsung CEO J.K. Shin could take the stage and announce that Samsung understands what customers want, a Samsung Website too quickly posted online a press release for the GS5, nullifying embargoes and filling Twitter with stories by writers given early access to the phone, too many of whom found it a let-down, unattractive or both.

"Quite possibly the four worst words in the world used to describe Samsung's GS5: 'more of the same,'" tweeted Technology Business Research analyst Jack Narcotta, linking to a Cnet review, as the orchestra played on.

But it may be too glib to call the GS5 more of the same. Agreed, it's not a major redesign, or a phone that seriously wows at a glance; but it is a solid upgrade that users of Samsung devices may ultimately be quite pleased with.

The GS5 has a very noticeably bright and rich 5.1-inch Full-HD Super AMOLED display (with a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080); is water- and dust-resistant; has a significantly improved camera with the fastest (per Samsung) auto-focus on any smartphone on the market; has a built-in fingerprint reader; has a power-saving mode that can make a phone at 10 percent battery life last another 24 hours; includes a feature called Download Booster that can bond WiFi with LTE for super-fast downloading speeds; and, among other fitness features, has a built-in heart-rate scanner—the first on a smartphone.

Indeed, some people glancing at the face of the GS5 won't be able to tell it from the GS4, or maybe even GS III; but on the whole, that's a solid new-feature list.

One major change Samsung did make—and which quickly proved as controversial as the changes it didn't make—was to the back of the GS5, which is faux leather with a perforated pattern in white, black, gold or blue.