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Here's why the Galaxy S5 was underrated

Here's why the Galaxy S5 was underrated

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?

androidpit samsung galaxy s5 review 2
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.

androidpit samsung galaxy s5 review 1
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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Readers' favorite comments

  • Tammi Duzan Nov 22, 2015

    I LOVE my S5. There is no way I'm parting with it until Samsung comes out with another phone with expandable memory and a removable battery!! For me, those are the top features, and exactly why I bought this phone!


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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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"

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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 ✌

  • 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.

  • 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
    • Admin
    • Staff
    Nov 23, 2015 Link to comment

    Nice article Scott!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • So did the fingerprint firmware ever firm up? Which ones? Did you pick an OS revision to declare a winner, or is it a washout if one got all hooked on the Samsung app store's brighter points that don't come to 5.1.1 or 6.something? The battery thing is down to being tolerant of thermoset seals it seems. Yeah, maybe you should explain what 3 cables you break out the connector and how awesome and power efficient simultaneous near-field, DLNA and wifi use is and I can have something to go find concurence with.

  • I love my S5! I will NOT buy another Samsung phone unless it has a removable battery and storage slot just like my Galaxy S5.

  • I agree. For the S7 bring back expandable memory, make it water resistant and I want it to be rose gold. Not gonna lie that shit is sexy lol.

  • I LOVE my S5. There is no way I'm parting with it until Samsung comes out with another phone with expandable memory and a removable battery!! For me, those are the top features, and exactly why I bought this phone!

  • Love my s5. The plastic does not bother me at all. It's been a great phone and is in no way a cheap budget phone.
    I will take it over a icrap any day.

  • I'm not parting with my Samsung Galaxy S5 cause it does feature the removable battery and an micro SDcard slot that I can upgrade to 128 gb.
    I'll seriously look forward to the Samsung Galaxy S7 if it will feature what the S5 has or if I'm really impressed with the features and upgrades of the S7.

  • Ummm,i think my S5 looks damn Good! It's way better then the inferior iphone. Just saying. .

  • I am personally very satisfied with S5
    Performance, and the display is excellent
    I bought on sale

  • I don't agree with you Scott!

    Yes, the S4 was a game changer because of its superiority in specs vs competition, and at the same time looking fine (especially with the very thin bezels around the FHD screen and the light/thin phone profile).

    The S5 didn't bring anything really superior (the SD card and replaceable battery were a carryover from previous models, the use of fingerprint scanner created more agony than pleasure, the display wasn't improved vs. S4, and the upgrade in the chip and camera were typical Samsung upgrades so the major improvement were the dust and water proofing). Yet, the S5 came with in a terrible suit and a high price tag. The faux shiny chrome was ridiculous, oh and those dimples on the back.....!
    Sometimes people shoot themselves in the foot, and that's what the S5 designers did for their product (and to some extent the brand).

    You don't have to be obsessed about beauty, but you don't have to promote ugly monsters either, right? Balance is the key for success. Better specs (but not necessarily more btw) in a nicely designed package, what's wrong with that proposition Scott? People don't accept compromises anymore when they shell $700+ to buy a smartphone, especially when there is huge competition around.

    I am sure Samsung are wise enough not to adopt your desired approach (i.e. The S5 approach) ;)

    • Sure hope you're wrong. S5 was, is, and if Samsung remain dumb, will be the best phone ever created in the world.

    • you're wrong! the s5 brought plenty that the s4 didn't. water proofing was huge. the finger print scanner works perfectly well, if you have half a brain, and set it up properly. i've been using it for years, and it always works fine for me. no agony at all. the emergency ultra battery saver feature, where the phone could run for seven days on the same battery charge. do you know about any of these things, or are you too ignorant to do a small bit of research? how about the "one hand" feature? the previous versions didn't have any of these things. what about three gigs of memory, or 32 gigs of rom? does any of this make sense to you, or are you just stuck in your own ignorance? bigger better display, much, much better camera, which is also a lot faster. how many features does it take to qualify in your measly little mind, as reason for upgrade? you seriously need to get a clue! because you don't seem to know much about either of these devices. i owned a s4 before getting my s5, so i speak from experience. you on the other hand, seem to be working from other internet posts.

      • - First, thanks for being so respectful in your reply! Really!
        - Second I did mention that it is waterproof, just read my comment again...
        - Regarding the "swype" fingerprint scanner (and the need of half a brain to set it), it was and continues to be failure vs. all other "touch" scanner in all brand (newer Samsungs, iPhones, LG, nexus, you name it). Every (yes EVERY) review about the S5 (and the note 4 for that matters) says so.
        - The display was not better than the S4's display. The increase in maximum brightness isn't considered a major improvement (that actually happened with the Note 4 which was considered the next step in Samsung display technology).
        Ohhhh and bigger you say, seriously? 0.1 inches?
        - One handed feature is usually needed for phablets, and anyway it is a software implementation that has nothing to do with the hardware discussion.

        You can agree or disagree with any comment without bashing and insulting others of having half a brain, ignorance and measly little mind, etc.

        I did have an S4, the S5 (for a shorter time) and the note 4, so I am not judging from other internet posts.

        What I really don't get is how people can snap even when they are discussing something like tech on an online forum (where the the real and actual objective is to discuss and agree or disagree)

        You have an S5 and you like it, that's fine. Just don't take it too personal pal. It is just a phone!

        And let me finish by saying that I still believe if the S5 had the same specs but a better outfit (i.e. balance) it would have been a killer for Samsung rather than the start of a decline. Because of the S5, Samsung received a strong red message from the market and changed direction. I don't think they will look back.

  • Unfortunately, looks is pretty important for most people who buy a smart phone, even for those who are buying a low end $100 devices, and Galaxy S5 just looks pretty ugly. Yes it's possible to put a case on an ugly phone and totally resolve any issue, but it seems to be irrational behavior on most consumers -for whom a smart phone is a very personal device. I still compare my Galaxy Note 4 to Galaxy S5 and Note 4 looks much better aesthetically than Galaxy S5. So it's not complete an unavoidable trade off between good looks and functionality. Just look at cheap Chinese phones like UMI Hammer S which looks quite nice, but it's really just a budget android phone. So Samsung can take a cue from tier 2 chinese android OEM and make a nice looking S7 with removable back/battery/SD card. Better yet, I hope Samsung comes out with two variant for S7, unibody design and traditional removable back/ battery/ SD card design to cater to more practical people. Samsung is a huge engineering organization and they can easily afford to do both, given the large profit margin they have on flagship devices. Otherwise, more sensible android users have no choice but to switch to LG or buy mid-range or competent entry level android phones, many of which still have removable battery and SD card slot

    • Agree with you a 100%. Forget the edge, make one like the S6 for all iPhone lovers and one like the S5 for all real android users ;)

    • i see nothing on the note 4 which looks any better than the s5. you are just being ridiculous, arguing to argue.

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