Samsung Galaxy S5 & Samsung Gear 2

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The Galaxy S5 is Samsung’s Flagship smartphone of 2014. The successor to last year’s model, the Galaxy S4, it packs improved hardware and builds on top of the features that were introduced last year. New to the Galaxy S line phone this year is the included fingerprint scanner located on the home screen button (Like the iPhone 5S).

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The port and button placement has always been the same. The top you will see the 3.5mm headset jack and the included IR Blaster, which has been present since it was first introduced in the Galaxy S4 last year. The left side you get the volume rocker. The bottom of the phone is where the microphone is and the USB Port. Unlike most smartphones, Samsung is now using the faster connectivity mini USB 3.0 port instead of the traditional USB 2.0 port. Though a USB 2.0 cable is compatible with USB 3.0, the reverse is not true. Samsung first introduced mini USB 3.0 on their devices since the release of the Note 3. The right side is the power button.

Spec wise is pretty standard for a 2014 flagship device. Running Qualcomm 801 quad core processor with the Adreno 330 GPU. 2GBs of RAM, 16MP rear facing camera, though no OIS which was supposedly rumoured, a 5.1″ Super AMOLED display at 1080p. Connectivity is the standard a/b/g/n/ac dual band, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Powered and LTE is market dependent. The version of the Galaxy S5 I have is for North America, on the Rogers network. Internal storage at 16GB. Though there is a 32GB available, Rogers either decided not to carry it or was never offered to carry it. Either way, The Galaxy S5 has the option to add additional storage via the microSD card slot of up to 128GB. New this year is the IP67 rating, which makes this phone water and dust resistant. This feature was only available to the S4 Active last year. With the S5 also sporting an IP67 rating, I have to worry what the point of releasing the S5 Active. The glass uses Gorilla Glass 3. Even with the Gorilla Glass 3, I still recommend getting a screen protector.

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Samsung makes the phone “water resistant” I wouldn’t label it waterproof yet. But it can be submerged under water for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter. As you see inside the back cover there is a rubber lining that protects the battery from making contact with water when the phone is submerged. It is important that the cover is on tight and all the plastic clips on secured to the phone, otherwise the rubber will not be pressed up against the phone tight enough to block water from reaching the battery compartment. When that happens, the battery is not protected and will most likely cause a short and render the device useless. The USB port is also covered with a plastic cover and it too must be secured to the phone to ensure water does not reach the USB port and cause damage. The only port that’s been protected to be water resistant is the headphone jack. You will also notice that the rear speakers, camera and heartrate monitor are not within the rubber protection. The design protects it from water going into those parts. But that means water can still get into the back cover of the phone in parts that are not protected.

The cover I am currently using, the one in the phone and cover picture is Samsung’s Charge cover. It allows for wireless charging using the Qi standard charging protocol. This allows me to charge my phone wirelessly without constantly remove and resttaching the USB port thus keeping is water resistant. Both the original and charge cover has the rubber to make the phone water resistant.

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Not sure if you can see that properly, but that is the thickness difference of the stock cover that comes with the phone and the charge cover (sold separately). It’s only about 3-4 mm thicker. It also adds a little weight to the phone due to the wireless charging coils needed to charge the phone wirelessly.

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For the wireless charging feature to work, you must also buy a wireless charging pad. Any Qi based charging pads will charge the Galaxy S5. Samsung also sells their own branded charging pads as well.

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Here is an example of a third party Qi charging pad. This particular unit also acts as a 6000 mAh portable battery capable of charging the Galaxy S5 wirelessly whether you’re near an outlet of now. The Galaxy S5 battery is rated at 2800mAh, so this unit in theory should be able to charge my phone twice before deleting it’s battery.

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The fingerprint reader is new to the Galaxy S line. But certainly not new to the industry. The first smartphone to introduce a fingerprint scanner was neither Samsung nor Apple. Motorola released the Atrix, which came out in 2011 was the first to feature a fingerprint scanner for security. Though it was on the top of the phone. Apple first introduced theirs last year when they announced the 5S. Though the placement of both Apple’s and Samsung’s fingerprint reader are in the same location. (The home button). The implementation of it is different. Apple calls their scanner TouchID. You press and hold the Home button for the fingerprint to scan. Samsung’s is a more traditional swipe motion where you swipe your finger from top to bottom over the Home button for the scanner to work. Essentially it adds the convenience and security to your phone as only your fingerprint would be able to unlock the phone while not forcing you to remember a passcode or pattern to unlock the phone. This also means if you happened to lose your finger, you will no longer be able to unlock the phone. Luckily Samsung allows you to register up to 3 fingerprint for 3 different fingers. Try not to use any and you should be fine. If you do, you can always use the Alternative password. So you’ll have to remember that.

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The Galaxy S5 includes a heart rate monitor on the back of the phone as part of their S Health feature that they first introduced last year on the S4. S Health is a feature Samsung released to promote a more health and active lifestyle. Allowing you to track your workout progress, food intake and sleeping habit to help you determine how to be more healthy. I have not really tried this feature extensively so I will report back when I do get the chance. Though the Heartrate monitor on the phone is not completely accurate, it just helps give you an idea of how your heart rate is doing.

Software wise, the Galaxy is based on Android 4.4.2 with Samsung’s own TouchWiz interface. Most of Samsung’s own features require TouchWiz to function but you still have the option to switch launchers, such as the one I’m using, Nova Launcher. Samsung’s own UI features a neat UI they call the Magazine UI. Which is pretty much a nice interface for Flipboard.

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I suppose I will talk about the Samsung Gear 2 here as well. The Samsung Gear 2 is Samsung’s second generation smart watch. Unlike it’s predecessor, it is built on top of their new Tizen OS instead of a heavily modified version of Android. The Samsung Gear 2 is their premium smart watch line above the Gear 2 Neo. With a metal body instead of a plastic one. It feels more like a premium watch than a cheap toy. The previous generation Samsung Gear had the microphone and camera built into the watch strap causing it to not be user-replaceable. I guess they’ve learned their lesson as both have been moved onto the watch itself making the watch strap fully replaceable with whatever strap you wish. I chose the default strap since it feels good and easy to clip on. It features 1.6″ SUper AMOLED at 320×320 with a 1.0Ghz dual core processor and a 2MP camera. I guess it’s not bad for a watch camera. It is capable of taking 1080p pictures and 720p video. For people who are worried people would use this device to take stalker-ish pictures, there is no option to disable the shutter noise, and it is loud enough people close to you can hear it.

The Samsung Gear 2 is more of companion to your Galaxy Device. I say this because Samsung has limited support on this device to work on a handful of smartphones. All from Samsung’s Galaxy line. So before you go and buy this, make sure you have a Galaxy Phone and one that is supported to sync with the Gear 2. With the announcement of Android Wear, Samsung will be releasing a Gear Live which will be running on Android Wear OS making it compatible with any Android phone that suports Android Wear. This should be most Android phones if not all.

The Gear 2 also comes with an Ir Blaster for you to control your media center with your watch instead of a remote.

Now comes to my most important part… Battery Life. Normally it would be performance, but it wouldn’t be a flagship phone if the performance was terrible, especially at a off contract price base of 700 dollars. Rogers has it listed for 199.99 on a 2 year term. The battery life for both device will vary greatly depending on your usage. For me it’s medium useage so I’ve been getting by pretty good. Though I tend to recharge my devices at night so I’d have a full charge.

The Galaxy S5 so far has lasted me a full day with plenty to spare by the end of the night. Same with the Gear 2 watch as well. based on my usage, my Galaxy S5 would last me about 2 days with 1 charge while the Gear 2 watch looks like it can last about 3-4 days on a single charge, based ony my usage.

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The Gear 2 charges via the conductive pins you see under the watch body, where you will also find a Hear rate detector as well. Also for the S Health features of the phone.

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The charging dock for the Gear 2

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Once you have the charging cradle attached to the Gear 2, it’s just a simple as plugging the microUSB device to charge. With the built in 4GB storage you can also transfer music and use the watch as a media device.

Almost forgot to mention. the Samsung Gear 2 is managed via the Gear Manager app on your Galaxy device. The app is only available via the Samsung App store and not the Google Play Store. Most of the data on the Gear 2 is pulled from features only in Touchwiz, so theoretically you can hack your way to having the Gear Manager work on non Samsung devices, but without Touchwiz, most of the features won’t work properly. Though you’ll still be able to tell time and potentially see notifications. Features like the S Health features, S Voice, Weather will not update or function.

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Here is a random shot of the Galaxy S5 charging on the Wireless charging battery pack. Lovely wallpaper 🙂

Overall my experience with both device has been pretty pleasant. Though I admit I have not really played with all of the features of Touchwiz so far with the features I’ve used its pretty good. I’ve tried the fingerprint scanner and when it works, it works pretty well. There are some occasions where it would refuse to detect my fingerprint properly resorting in me using the alternative password to unlock the phone. However, since I got the Gear 2, I am unable to use the fingerprint scanner as a unlock option. I’m currently using the Auto lock feature, where it would detect how far away the phone is from the gear would determine whether the phone is safe to unlock or prompt you to enter your pattern. It would make sense why they force a pattern unlock rather than the fingerprint. If you’re there to unlock with the fingerprint, chances are you’re wearing the watch making the fingerprint scanner useless. Obviously if your friends know your pattern and you walk away from your device. Expect foul play.

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