The Samsung Galaxy S5 has finally arrived, and along with it the cold harsh line that separates the new reality from months of hype has been drawn. But before we take all those unrealized rumors and sweep them under the internet’s thick shag memory rug to be lost among myriad blog archives, it’s worth reviewing the big things we didn’t get in Samsung’s new Android flagship smartphone.
1. Metal body design: Of all the relatively insignificant upgrades that Samsung could have made, this one would have addressed one of the most pervasive complaints about Samsung’s entire product line. For years now, Samsung devices have stuck to a relatively cheap and plastic design as Apple AAPL +0.46% and the iPhone (not to mention the HTC One) have evolved into something ever more sleek, experimenting with glass and metal surfaces to varying degrees of success. Rumors of a Galaxy S5 with a metal unibody were among the earliest gossip about the new Samsung phone, but so far it hasn’t come true.
“I thought they may have gone with a curved display or higher end casing to help differentiate the new Galaxy from the competition,” Gartner analyst Hugues J. De La Vergne concurred in an e-mail to me following the unveiling. “Of course, this would have cut into margins.”
Hope is not lost for a fancier Galaxy phone, however. Samsung is a big fan of releasing countless variants of its popular devices, so an all-metal or curved Galaxy S5 “Prime” or some such could still be in our futures.
2. A redesigned UX: There’s a real opportunity out there for some gigantic, enterprising device manufacturer to blow us away with a completely new mobile user experience. Reaction to iOS 7 has been mixed at best, and Android remains both mature and fragmented while approaching the same level of staleness that afflicts iOS. No one, in relative terms, uses Windows Phone, so I was particularly interested to see what Samsung was doing with its Magazine UX that was introduced at CES on its new Galaxy Note Pro and Tab Pro slates. An interesting mashup of Windows Phone, Android and TouchWiz, I was interested in seeing it on the small screen of the Galaxy S5, but instead we got a slightly updated version of TouchWiz on top of Android KitKat. Ho-hum.
3. Truly envelope-pushing specs: In advance of any anticipated device reveal, rumors inevitably quote mind-melting potential specs that never seem to fully bare themselves out. So while I’m not surpised that the Galaxy S5 doesn’t have a totally excessive 2K display, or a camera to rival the best Lumia, that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed. One beefy component I thought we might actually see was the new Snapdragon 805 processor. The Galaxy S5 would have been a logical choice for Qualcomm QCOM -0.28% to showcase its latest, but without that crazy retina-level display, I suppose it just might not have been needed.
4. The next generation of battery technology: Who cares about that rumored retina scanner we heard about CES? What really got me excited from the rumor mill was the notion of a rapid-charging battery on the Galaxy S5. I’d much rather have the ability to juice up my phone quickly than have it read my eyeball. Alas, the battery in the GS5 is only a modest iterative upgrade. At least wireless charging is still included.
5. A reason to upgrade: Yet again, the lack of a “wow factor” at a flagship device unveiling shows us just how mature a product the smartphone is. Unless you’re unusually excited about a fingerprint sensor or understand what Samsung means by the “modern glam” look that it tells us the Galaxy S5 possesses, it’s hard to see why anyone goes out of their way to upgrade to this phone. The biggest selling point for me personally is the new water and dust resistance, but I could already find that in the Galaxy S4 Active.
Rather than a reason to upgrade, I may now have more reason to wait and see if the next big thing from HTC or Apple will really wow me.