Samsung at Mobile World Congress
The back of a gold Galaxy S5 smartphone. Photo: Bloomberg
Samsung has unveiled its answer to Apple’s flagship iPhone 5s in a move set to ramp up the rivalry between the world’s two biggest phone makers.
Samsung debuted the Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday evening (Tuesday morning AEDT).
Samsung’s Gear Fit fitness band. Photo: Reuters
The phone freshens up the flagship Galaxy line, which has been Samsung’s chief weapon in the battle for global smartphone supremacy. It begins shipping worldwide, including to Australia, on April 11.
With a 5.1-inch screen, the S5 is slightly larger than the phone it updates – the one-year-old Galaxy S4.
Samsung has also given it a better camera and built a heart-rate monitor into the flash on the rear. The smartphone is also water- and dust-proof, designed to withstand 30 minutes submerged in 1 metre of water.
But the biggest addition is a fingerprint scanner which, like the one on the iPhone 5s, is built into the home button.
Users can teach the phone to recognise three different fingerprints. They can then swipe their finger across the home button to unlock the phone rather than having to key in a code or swipe a pattern.
And in a considerable expansion of the technology, Samsung has partnered with online payment provider PayPal to enable a range of online purchases to be verified with the swipe of a finger.
The fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s, by contrast, can only be used to unlock the phone and to verify purchases through Apple’s own App Store.
The camera shoots in 16 megapixels – an increase of three megapixels on the S4.
Samsung has also sped up the autofocus from about 1 second to 0.3 seconds, allowing for better action shots, while another feature allows for better photos in low light.
A more powerful battery means the phone will last about 20 per cent longer than the S4 before needing a recharge. The company claims the device has 21 hours of talk time, though this decreases when using the phone for other things such as browsing the web and watching videos.
For people who need even more battery life, the S5 has an optional ultra power-saving mode which turns the screen black and white and cuts down the phone’s functions to the bare essentials, such as phone calls and texts.
The smartphone will come in black, white, blue, and gold, the company said, with either 16 or 32 gigabytes (GB) of on-board storage.
The S5 features a full-HD 1920 by 1080 pixel screen and is powered by a 2.5-gigahertz quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM.
"The Galaxy S5 has great features and will probably sell well due to massive marketing support," said Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson.
"But is the total product experience it offers differentiated enough to continue the sales success story? Is it enough to bet on fitness and fingerprint sensors to beat Apple – rooting the experience in people’s daily lives? I don’t think so."
Samsung has not said how much the new flagship device will cost. Optus and Virgin Mobile have confirmed they will offer the S5.
The company also unveiled its first attempt at a dedicated fitness-tracking wristband.
Called the Gear Fit, it has a colourful curved 1.84-inch AMOLED touchscreen and weighs about 30 grams.
It contains a pedometer, heart-rate monitor, timer and stopwatch and can also notify users when their phone receives a text, call or email.
It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth provides notifications from phone apps such as Twitter, and can serve as music controller.
The device is water- and dust-proof, the company said, and its battery will last for three to five days.
The Gear Fit has a core focus on health and fitness, as opposed to its larger siblings, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smart watches, which were unveiled by Samsung on the eve of the trade show.
There is no word on when the Gear Fit will come to Australia or how much it will cost.
What do you think of Samsung’s Galaxy S5? Let us know in the comments.
The writer travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Samsung.
AAP, Fairfax Media