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Here's why the Galaxy S5 was underrated

androidpit samsung galaxy s5 review 4
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I used to think the Galaxy S5 was the worst phone Samsung ever made. That's because when viewed next to cheaper Chinese phones and shiny metal flagships in 2014, the Galaxy S5 looked tacky and overpriced. But it wasn't, and this is why.

samsung galaxy s5 front screen display 3
Why is it only now I love the Samsung Galaxy S5? / © ANDROIDPIT

It followed a world-beating handset

The Galaxy S5 fell between two very distinct Samsung eras. The Galaxy S4, which had almost everything you could want from a phone in 2013, provided Samsung with record-breaking profits. And the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge were the first in the S series to achieve a premium design with that glass and metal treatment.

Did we really want to get rid of that plastic rear so badly?

With the S6, Samsung addressed the aesthetics question, but this led to the loss of expandable storage and removable batteries. But if the Galaxy S5 didn't look like a far superior phone to the Galaxy S4 – perhaps the difference contributed to Samsung selling 40 percent fewer S5 devices than expected – then what does the Galaxy S6 look like? It is outwardly more attractive, but it doesn't have the wealth of options that the Galaxy S series had previously. Did we really want to get rid of that plastic rear so badly that we'd give up credible features for it?

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You can fix an ugly phone with a case, but you can't fix poor components. / © ANDROIDPIT

It favored performance over design

The Galaxy S5's design wasn’t aesthetically pleasing – we already know this. It had a poorly conceived rear cover which was made of dimpled plastic, and this spoiled it in the eyes of many. What's more, the "chrome effect" plastic sides were a thinly veiled attempt at delivering a "premium" experience. With devices like Xperia Z2, HTC One M8, and the iPhone already available and housed in shiny metal, it felt somewhat cheap. 

The Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge+ look good, but do they provide essential features?

In our recent interview with OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, he said that "you can’t just have everything" in regards to smartphone designs and components: something has to get cut. In the Galaxy S5, it might have been a metal body. 

Design was a small price to pay for its performance.

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Still shining bright: the Samsung Galaxy S5. / © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung made a lot of compromises in 2015. Sure, the Galaxy S6 Edge and Edge+ look good, but are their edges really necessary? Not really.

The Galaxy S5 had a brilliant Full HD display, rock-solid performance and a camera that still holds up today. Essentially, if you put a US$5 case on the Galaxy S5, you have already fixed its major weakness (I wish it was so easy to improve other devices). The problem is that people have judged the device quality on its outward appearance alone. 

The 2014 Android competition was tough

Xiaomi and Huawei were really starting to get a foothold in the Android market in 2014 and this was the year that OnePlus arrived on the scene. Samsung had ruled the roost for a long time but 2014 was arguably the year that cheap smartphones got good. What's more, the HTC One M8, Xperia Z3 and Moto X 2014 were great phones made of metal.

It’s clear now how disastrous the combination of “ugly” and "expensive" can be

The Galaxy S5 was not cheap. It entered the market at US$650 off-contract, which is a lot of money for a plastic phone. And with low-cost, high-performance devices like the OnePlus One and Oppo Find 7 on the horizon, there was no wonder it struggled to impress critics. It's not that the Galaxy S5 wasn't good, it was just harder to see its strengths. 

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The Galaxy S5 even included a fingerprint scanner. / © ANDROIDPIT

Final thoughts

It’s clear to me now how disastrous the combination of “ugly” and "expensive" can be. But while Apple focuses on bringing luxury products to market – products which have far too high a value placed on them for what they actually do – I love that Samsung focused on performance with the S5. Focused on the parts of the phone which affect what it does, rather than how it looks.

The Galaxy S5 had a strong battery, camera, display, performance and also managed to add memory expansion, water-resistance and fingerprint scanner; it offered an incredible amount. But it didn't look the part. And in a world obsessed with beauty it surprises me little that it was so poorly received.

All in all, with the Galaxy S7 only a few months away, I have no problem saying that I hope it adopts an approach more similar to the Galaxy S5 than the Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge. Even if it looks worse.   

What are your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S5? Let us know in the comments. 

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Scott Adam Gordon

Scott Adam Gordon

Originally from the UK, Scott graduated in Popular Music Studies at Newcastle University and attributes much of his success there to his beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. His current aim is to write cool things about Android. And he loves it.

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  • 4
    Ava James Mar 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Samsung Releases Marshmallow For Galaxy S5 today
    read at smartphonestutorials . com
    New features include an improved Doze mode, better notifications experience, enhanced app permissions, overall bug and stability fixes as well as performance improvements.

  • Sakshi Gupta 2
    Sakshi Gupta Feb 3, 2016 Link to comment

    I used to think the Galaxy S5 is a brilliant phone. I love these features. Samsung better get its act in gear, since each new generation of phones has to offer some compelling reasons for people to upgrade from the previous generation.

  • 1
    Roy Spray Nov 25, 2015 Link to comment

    Love my S5. I think your idea of form over function misses the point tho. Most people that value tech over beauty encase a phone to protect it. My S5 looks no different from an Iphone with an Otterbox or other type of good cover. The people that complain about the screen being shattered on the phone are the same ones that picked "rose gold"

  • 10
    Misha Nov 25, 2015 Link to comment

    I was tempted by the Note 5, but the glass back, lack of micro SD card, limited storage capabilities, lack of color options (64GB? Black only) and inability to change the battery made me think twice. I never thought the plastic back on the S5 was a problem, since I always have a good gel case on it.

    If anything, the removable plastic back provided more styling options, since, with a clear or smoke-colored gel case from LUVVITT, I could easily change the plastic back to blue, white, gold, etc. for ~$6 courtesy of Amazon.

    Samsung better get its act in gear, since each new generation of phones has to offer some compelling reasons for people to upgrade from the previous generation. I will grant you that the Note 5 provides some reasons, but its deprecation of features made it a no-go for many of us.

  • 2
    Jean Lusky Nov 25, 2015 Link to comment

    I will not part with my S5 until someone comes up with a phone that is verifiably greater than the S5. My phone seems to evolve to meet my every need. I've had mine for a long time. I slapped a super glass screen protector on it and encased it in a fabulous turquoise Otter case. My phone also is loaded with a 64GB sd card to hold all the apps I can't live without. I drop that phone a least twice a day and it still keeps on tickin'! I love this phone!

    My only beef is with the garment industry. Why is it that women's lounge pants and PJ bottoms have no pockets? My phone goes everywhere with me (except in the shower). I want some decent sized pockets to carry my phone when I'm relaxing in my jammies. Heck, my husband can kick back in his flannel loungers that have cargo pockets! Men have pockets in their cozy PJ pants. Why don't women have pocket parity for their electronics?

  • 1
    Robert Parkin Nov 24, 2015 Link to comment

    I have a Z970..ZMax.... 4.4 kitkat ...and last night I seen a ZMax 2 ...5.0 lollipop...and the only difference I can see is 4.4 kitkat verses 5.0 lollipop... What one would u recommend?

  • 24
    Deactivated Account Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    I have a s5 and s6 edge and still use my s5. I purchased a s6 edge because upgrading from a s5 to the normal s6 would have been a waste in my humble opinion. exept for a few external and internal changes the s5 and s6 was to similar for me. I have to say I agree with the article the s5 is still one of the best and have all the things I need and I have to say the s5's battery life time is much better than that of the s6 edge's using it in the same conditions. The s5 have had far less issues firmware wise. For example had issues with the parralax function not working on the s6 edge. Thus in my opinion the s5 was and still is a good buy and didn't deserve the crtisism it got in the past, like I stated above still using my s5 and still enjoying the phone.

  • Mark G. 28
    Mark G. Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    It's good to see you finally agreeing that the S5 is a brilliant phone, it's unfortunate that journalists like yourself have so much influence. You and others slated and rubbished the phone.

    I tend to take your reviews now with a large amount of scepticism.

    I don't think I can fault the S5 it's a slick and powerful device.

    Peace ✌

    Joel Galli

  • 3
    Graham Bignell Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    If you get the Samsung S view case, not cheap, it doubles the weight of the phone and feels solid, still one of the best phones made and looks totally different just by changing the case.

  • 5
    Joel Galli Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    Wow. I keep my case on my Galaxy S5 so much that I'd completely forgotten about the dimpled back. Even when I change out my battery every so often, I didn't really notice. Taking the case off just now just reminds me how much I like it. It's got a great feel and doesn't slip. I'm going to hang onto this phone until I find a suitable Android replacement that provides a removable battery.

  • Tobias Apel 27
    Tobias Apel Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    Nice article Scott!

    Scott Adam GordonGT Ohh

  • 1
    dan s Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I've had the S5 since new. Don't forget wireless charging. I always use an Otterbox and a Zagg screen protector. The phone looks and performs great. Also recognizes my 5G home wifi.

  • An Droid 14
    An Droid Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    This is what I was telling you clowns for a whole year after the S5 launched! But no, "plastic and dimples on the back cover that looks like a band aid" was the only reply. Retarded Samsung haters!

    Joel GalliGT OhhMary ShadeBojan M.

  • 4
    Ste Vae Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    wow! finally someone in the press agreeing with what i have been championing for years now. i have never understood why so many people tried to unfairly label the galaxy s5 a bad phone. it has been attacked more than george bush. but i have fought for it on many, many blogs and boards. i bought one of the "Korean Only" versions of the S5, the LTE-A G906S, with three gigs of memory, a quad hd screen (577 ppi) and 32 gigs of rom space. even though it easily goes for almost two days on one battery charge, under normally usage, i have three batteries just in case, and two 128gig sd cards. this is incredible freedom. also, playing with my friends "NEW" metal or glass phones, they heat up quickly, are much more expensive to replace parts if dropped and are slippery in the hand. while my s5, BECAUSE IT'S PLASTIC, stays much, much, much cooler in the hand, has a replaceable battery and sd card, does NOT break if dropped, and if i ever did crack it, a new piece to replace it is very cheap. i think plastic has always gotten a bad rap in the phone industry. it's cheaper and easier to work with, while being more durable and easier to include better functionality. the biggest selling point for me was it being waterproof (notice i didn't say water resistent?). my s5 was knocked into our pool last year, and i didn't know it for almost two days. our pool is nine feet deep. when it was discovered at the drain a couple of days later, not only did it still have a charge, but was unaffected. i wiped it dry, changed the battery, and it has remained working ever since. try that with one of the new phones out today. i highly doubt they would survive it. and i have often said that the only thing that really needs to look good on a smart phone is the screen. while i actually like the way my s5 looks, i agree that the s6 edge looks better. but i have never wanted to upgrade because function is a hundred times more important to my everyday life, than a cool looking exterior. i have put my galaxy s5 lte-a g906s up against every new phone my friends have bought, such as the new iphones, lg's and htc's, and with the exception of sound quality against the htc's, my phone has run circles around theirs. i have a brighter, sharper more vibrant display, it's within milli-seconds as fast as any of them (my phone is rooted with a custom rom and kernel) and i have much more functionality than any of them. i can easily upgrade to any of the new phones if there was a good reason to do so, but there just isn't. that is why i am STILL using my s5, and always willing to take on any of those with new phones, in a side by side comparison. i haven't lost yet!

    Joel GalliGT OhhMary ShadeBojan M.

    • 5
      Joel Galli Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

      Great comment, but it also reminds me of how sad it is that Samsung has dropped the functional features in favor of fashion. If LG would simply move those stupid buttons on the back of the phone to the side, I would jump ship in a heartbeat. At the moment, I'm just hoping the S7 brings back some important features.

  • 5
    Sissy johnson Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I do agree with Mary on the usb port. I have had to replace mine once so far about 6 months ago. The good thing is they are very easy to replace and you can get them on ebay pretty cheap.
    But still love my s5.

  • Brad Bahr 2
    Brad Bahr Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    The galaxy s5 is the best smartphone I've ever owned. I put a 64 gigabyte memory card in it and bought a nice case for it. I'm very happy with it and will continue to use it for a long time to come.

    Joel Galli

  • 1
    JJ Jones Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I am renting a Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport from Sprint. I've loved it from the start. I didn't want another Samsung since 2010 because I endured a terrible handset set of issues. The S5 was said to be awesome so I went for it and haven't had one regret. I purchased a 128GB sd card for $100. The sd card works well to abundantly fill it with my choice apps. My only wish ... longer battery life. I believe I will purchase the handset at the end of my rental contract near November 2016.

    • 4
      Ste Vae Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

      all you need to do, is root it and put a custom rom on it. that takes care of the battery problem. most of the apps and other things which cause the battery to be used up prematurely, are stock samsung crap. rooting it, you can get rid of all of them, and put better replacement apps in their place. i use my phone a lot, and always get a day and a half out of each battery.

  • 1
    Mary Shade Nov 22, 2015 Link to comment

    I have an S5 since it was first released and for the first time I have no desire to trade it in. It does everything I need it to do. As a matter of fact it does more than I need it to do, like the fingerprint lock. It doesn't work for me anyway as my finger print is hard to detect. I don't get why the case design is such a big deal. Most people use protective covers for them anyway.
    The only issue I have is the cover for the USB port. Now THAT was poorly designed. I had to order a new one and will probably have to order another one soon.

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