A Second Look: Samsung Galaxy S5

A Second Look: Samsung Galaxy S5

Not as bad as I'd feared; quite good, in fact

I'd like to provide an interim update on the Samsung Galaxy 5, something that sits between my first impressions article and my eventual review. The reason for this fairly unprecedented event is simple enough: Despite my initial middling response, this is in fact a very nice smart phone.

As a quick refresher, in my Samsung Galaxy S5 First Impressions and Photos article, I expressed some ambivalence about the device, noting that it seemed "average," or "middle-of-the road." To be fair, that's what first impressions are all about, right? First impressions. And I have a long history with very well made Apple iPhones and Nokia Lumias. I know quality when I see it.

Since then, of course, I've actually started using the device. And if you were defending Samsung for some reason in the wake of my initial peek, then you'll be happy to hear I'm coming around a bit. I may not quite get some of Samsung's specific design decisions still—the weird ribbed silver edge, or the dimpled back cover that looks like a Band-Aid—but I'm starting to understand what they're doing in a big picture sense.

For example, the S5 may be made of fairly flimsy plastics—typical Samsung, really—but the versatility of having a removable back panel extends far beyond the basics, like a removable battery (amen!) and hidden micro-SD and SIM card slots. This system also means you can replace the back panel. You can replace it with a different-colored back panel. With a panel that adds wireless charging. Or with a panel that is connected to a variety of covers, including some from Samsung (in multiple designs and colors) and some from third parties (ditto).

I purchased two for testing. One is a fairly basic flip case from Ionic Design that costs next to nothing and gets the job done. The other is an amazing Samsung S-View Flip Cover that provides a unique secondary display through a window in the flip cover that provides the time, the weather, notifications, and even access to the camera. Very nice, though it does make using the camera normally a bit more awkward.

But even without a new cover, the S5 feels surprisingly solid in the hand. It's ... nice. It may not look like much, but the screen is the right size (just north of 5 inches), and is gorgeous (which I did note in first impressions). It has a good balance to it, and isn't dense and heavy like some Nokia Lumias. (It's also not a postage stamp like the increasingly ludicrous iPhone.)

The software interface is good, too. Android is growing on me as it matures, and despite all the hand-wringing over third party modifications to the OS, I'm starting to come around on that as well. The changes I see from Samsung in the S5, like the changes LG wrought in the G Pad I use regularly are, well, fine. In fact, they're pretty similar. Similar enough that it's not off-putting or difficult to switch between them, certainly.

I don't want to spend too much time on this stuff ahead of the review. But I do feel like I got off on a bad foot with the Galaxy S5, and providing an early heads-up to that fact is clearly the right thing to do. Yes, there are still things I don't like: The stupid USB port cover is always in the way (I may just rip it off) and I spend the first few weeks with every Android device laboriously configuring app notifications as they annoy me. But whatever. 

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