The GALAXY S5: A Story of Samsung and Android

The GALAXY S5: A Story of Samsung and Android

Nov 24, 2014

Samsung has come along way with regards to Android OS. The reception of its first forays were somewhat mixed, even up until the the galaxy line appeared on the scene. Back then, there was a different king of Android, and Android, believe it or not, was the underdog.

But then, seemingly overnight, Samsung struck gold. How in the world did the the company rebound from early missteps to create a platform fiefdom? Well, look at what is did.

It landed a modest hit with the Galaxy S2. The S3 lifted the device maker to stratospheric levels; Samsung was smart enough to ensure model variants were available on all networks, unlike the competition, which had devices on limited networks. The S4 continued the tradition, and the latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived looking to maintain the status as the Big Man on Android’s Campus. The S5 probably best shows how the Korean device maker manages to stay atop a crowded mountain.

We had a chance to look formally look at a Samsung provided unit on Sprint’s network. By now, most of the specs are known, but this doesn’t prevent one from enjoying the personal reveal. It rocks a 5.1 Super AMOLED screen on a 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 polycarbonate body that weighs 5.11 oz. The edges are slightly (dare I say?) rounded, with the white finish braced occasionally with metallic-looking accents around the ports. It sorts a 2MP camera on the front and a 16 MP one on the back. On the bottom front bezel, the ubiquitous home button resides, flanked by a new capacitive recent apps button on the left and the back button to the right. The micro-USB port is centered on the bottom, and is notably covered, which hints at the limited waterproof functionality. There’s LED, speaker grills, and audio jack at the top, and the volume rocker is on the left while the on button is on the right.


Internally, we get a variable Quad-core chip, and beside the usual sensors (accelerometer, proximity, etc), we get a heart rate monitor. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, infrared: check.

The screen is addictive; turning it on is a pleasure. It comes with skinned Android 4.4.2, and had all the basics with regards to Google Apps. Touchwiz is a bit more palatable in this iteration, but there is a fair amount of bloat included; still, the S Health feature is a pleasant feature I enjoyed exploring.

Performance-wise, the S5 lived up to expectations, with smooth performance and no lag.

And there you have it. Samsung just does it. It created a product line that is nimble and familiar at the same time; standard base core with the Apple-esque yearly refresh. It pretty much has its own store, and somehow, even TouchWhiz feels less annoying over time. Couple all this with Samsung’s propensity to provide devices and accessories in practically every conceivable product category, it’s easy to invest in its system.

Bottom line? Samsung makes itself relevant to everyday consumers.

Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Why Higher-Resolution Displays in Phones are a Marketing Gimmick, Not a Functional Feature

Jan 31, 2014

So, the rumor has it that the Galaxy S5 will have a 2560×1440 screen. Frankly, this is absolutely ridiculous. There’s no good reason for this to exist, because there’s such diminishing returns from a high-resolution screen. It’s time for Android manufacturers’ obsession with resolution to stop.

Now, getting up to 1080p was an acceptable idea, if not perhaps excessive in and of itself. After all, 1080p is a very standardized resolution in monitors, TVs, and entertainment, especially video content. Exceeding requires a particularly good reason. Monitors can make do of extra pixels in order to put more items on screen, and the “retina” movement hasn’t hit in a widespread way yet. As well, tablets going for “retina” resolutions often need to exceed 1080p.

But see, there’s a certain point where this all these extra pixels get to be too much. The push for 4K TVs are one example: for most people, even 1080p TVs are unnecessary because the eye can’t resolve detail beyond a certain point. Only in very, very large rooms will 4K TVs make a difference. For the average person or family, the TV they have right now is of high enough resolution. Doubling the vertical resolution won’t cause a noticeable quality bump. It’s all just a marketing push to sell new TVs because there was a successful push to get people to buy new TVs about 10–15 years ago. Of course, that worked out of necessity. 4K won’t because there won’t be any good reason for it.

This is a very similar situation with smartphones. Apple calls it a “Retina Display” because it’s said that the screen is at a pixel density where the human eye can’t resolve anything more detailed than that – at least for the expected use case of the device. For example, the iPhone, which is held closer than an iPad, has a higher pixel density than the tablet.

The iPhone 4's pixel doubling made sense - anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

The iPhone 4’s pixel doubling made sense – anything beyond that would likely be imperceptible.

What’s happened is that others have started making higher-resolution screens to match the Retina Display, but much like TVs, they’ve started making higher and higher resolution displays because hey, that’s a sexy bullet point. Now, stopping at 1080p makes sense. Again, 1080p is a very standard resolution. Advancing to 2560×1440 on a phone makes no sense. The human eye will only perceive a slight difference if any at all from 1080p at a 5" screen size.

As well, this will require even higher-resolution art assets from developers, which will bloat up app sizes and spend more data, which isn’t necessarily getting increased limits. Video content will now be upscaled on smartphones for no good reason. And games will particularly suffer: instead of being able to take full advantage of any power boost, now the games must also deal with pushing extra pixels. This can make a big difference, as anyone who plays PC games can tell you. Even small jumps can cause big performance hits.

And this is all isn’t for any good reason, either – it’s basically to get a sexy bullet point. OR to say that “we have twice the resolution fo the iPhone.”

While perhaps the march of false progress will continue unabated, consumers can make smart decisions. They can look beyond useless features for actual value, and realize that resolution isn’t everything. Just as a camera’s megapixels alone don’t determine quality, but the quality of the sensors plays a bigger role, consumers need to be smart and realize which numbers are important, and which are just there to seem more important.