Samsung's Galaxy S5 is a blazing-fast smartphone with a slew of unique, productivity-boosting features. Compared with last year's Galaxy S4, Samsung's new flagship smartphone sports a bigger display, longer-lasting battery and a new fingerprint scanner. It adds up to one of the most satisfying business phones ever made.
The Galaxy S5 looks and feels better than its predecessors, but its plastic design is still a bit lacking compared with the metal builds of phones such as the iPhone 5s and the HTC One M8. The Galaxy S5 features faux metal trim and a dimpled, textured back that makes it easy to grip. A subtle dot pattern on the front of the phone helps unify the design, and it comes in white, black, blue and gold versions. Overall, the Galaxy S5 is a slim, attractive smartphone that feels light for its size.
And the Galaxy S5 is a big phone. It’s not as large as huge phablets such as the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3, but the slight increase in overall size compared with the Galaxy S4 makes it a bit harder to use with one hand. When typing in portrait mode, we had to stretch our thumb to reach keys near the edges.
One perk is that the Galaxy S5 is the first phone in the Galaxy line to be water-resistant; Samsung says it can even be dunked underwater and remain functional, thanks to a flap that covers the phone’s charging port when it’s not in use. The flap felt flimsy, however, and needing to remove it every time we wanted to plug in the phone was a bit of a nuisance.
Other hardware highlights include up to 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for expandable storage. Meanwhile, the removable back allows the battery to be swapped out for a new one.
In terms of overall picture quality, smartphone displays don’t get better than this. At 5.1 inches, the Galaxy S5's 1080p Super AMOLED display is even bigger than the Galaxy S4's 5-inch screen. That's a plus for most business users, since a little extra screen real estate can go a long way toward improving productivity. When viewing and editing spreadsheets or documents in the included Polaris Office 5 software, we had plenty of room to zoom, pan and read. And the Galaxy S5's display isn't just big; it's also bright and extremely sharp. Text is crisp and readable, and colors stay vibrant even when viewing the display at a sharp angle.
With a powerful 2.5-GHz Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM, the Galaxy S5 is one of the fastest smartphones available. That means you can expect buttery-smooth multitasking and snappy performance overall. The phone also features LTE/Wi-Fi aggregation technology, which lets you download the same file using both networks, resulting in faster downloads.
The Galaxy S5 uses Samsung’s TouchWiz skin, which runs on top of the Android 4.4.2 operating system. Since the debut of the Galaxy S4 last year, Samsung has worked to smooth out the TouchWiz interface with less clutter and flatter, cleaner-looking icons.
One of TouchWiz’s best features is Multi Window, which lets you run two apps at once in a split-screen view for easier multitasking. Most smartphones only allow you to run one app at a time. The feature is even more useful on the Galaxy S5, since it boasts a slightly bigger display than the Galaxy S4.
Multi Window is easy to use; swipe in from the left side of the screen to pull open the Multi Window app drawer, then drag two apps onto the screen. You can display the apps vertically or turn the phone to view them side by side. Resizing the windows is easy, and you can even copy and paste text between them. Multi Window could prove useful for business users who want to use the calculator while browsing the Web or checking email, for example. We liked having the option to view two apps at once, but found the display a bit cramped while using the feature.
A business phone needs top-notch security, and the Galaxy S5 delivers with a fingerprint reader built right into the Home button. To quickly unlock the device, just slide your fingertip over the button, located on the phone's face, near the bottom edge. This extra security boost is a real plus for business users who regularly access private business or client data on their mobile device.
In practice, however, the reader is a bit finicky. If you slide your finger over the sensor too quickly, or at the wrong angle, it might not be recognized. After five failed attempts, the phone asks you to input your alternate PIN number. For best results, we had to slide our finger vertically over the sensor from top to bottom. But because of the phone’s large size, we had to shift its position in our hand — or even use two hands — to consistently swipe at the correct angle. We prefer the implementation of the fingerprint reader in Apple’s iPhone 5s, which lets you simply place your finger over the Home button to unlock the phone.
But the Galaxy S5’s fingerprint reader does offer functionality the iPhone 5s lacks. For example, you can use the reader to activate Private Mode, a hidden folder where you can store your most sensitive documents, photos or messages. Putting files into your private folder is as easy as selecting them and tapping Move to Private in the options menu. And you can view your private files at any time by activating Private Mode and opening the My Files app. Unfortunately, Private Mode doesn’t turn itself off after a period of inactivity; you’ll have to remember to manually deactivate it once you’re done using it. And it’s a bit cumbersome to use, since you must navigate into the phone’s settings to enable it.
New software features also give the Galaxy S5 a security boost. That includes Knox Workspace, which lets you run business apps in a secure "container" that’s separate from the rest of your smartphone, to ensure that private and confidential business data can't be accessed by other applications. Knox 2.0service costs $3.60 per month for each user.
The Galaxy S5 delivers good battery life. It packs a high-capacity 2,800 mAh that lasted about 9 hours and 40 minutes in tests that involved continuous Web browsing. That means business users can expect it to last well through the end of the workday.
That longevity is coupled with a new feature called Ultra Low Power Mode, which dramatically cuts your phone’s power consumption to extend its battery life. Activating the feature changes the display to grayscale and disables mobile data when the phone is off to conserve power. It also disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and restricts which apps can be used for the Web browser, messaging and phone. For business users who depend on their smartphone, it could be a lifesaver. One downside is that it takes a long time to enter and exit this mode: between 15 and 20 seconds each time you switch.
Business users can’t go wrong with the Galaxy S5. It packs top-tier specs, fast performance and the best smartphone display around. Its large 5.1-inch display offers plenty of room for multitasking, and its battery life is well above average. Finally, its fingerprint reader offers unique security benefits, and new software features can help keep your data secure. We had minor complaints: The phone’s design lacks the “wow” factor of other flagship phones, and its user interface is a bit cluttered. But overall, the Galaxy S5 easily is one of the best business phones money can buy.