Samsung has a bit of a tough act to follow in the Galaxy S4. The company’s flagship smartphone has been the top-selling Android smartphone since its release in 2013, it’s the biggest competitor to Apple’s iPhone and in many ways it set the bar for what other manufacturers brought to the table since then: bigger displays, more powerful CPUs and innovative software like S Health. Competition in the smartphone market is fiercer than ever in 2014, so the Galaxy S5 really has to hit it out of the park to stay on top. Based on what we saw at Samsung Unpacked today, it looks like the Galaxy S5 has the chops to keep Samsung’s winning streak going.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is top dog among flagship Android smartphones and expectations were high for its successor. Here’s what Samsung revealed early today at the Samsung Unpacked event as part of World Mobility Congress 2014 in Barcelona.

As expected, there are upgrades across the board, but Samsung is avoiding extremes. Last year it might have been emphasizing power, but this year the company says it’s “going back to basics to focus on delivering the capabilities that matter most to our consumers.”

Upgraded Hardware

The display has grown slightly to 5.1-inches, but it hasn’t increased in resolution, remaining at Full HD. The CPU is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 that features a speed boost and better graphics performance, but RAM remains at 2GB.

The camera is one of the big stories, growing to 16MP with a larger image sensor with ultrafast autofocus (0.3 seconds) the ability to selectively focus (for a DSLR-like blur on backgrounds) and the ability to shoot 4K video.

The Galaxy S5 also uses the latest 802.11a/c Wi-Fi with MIMO antenna and category 4 LTE for the fastest possible connectivity.

New Features

After Apple introduced the ToucH ID sensor on the iPhone 5s, it was pretty much a given that other manufacturers would adopt biometric sensors.

As expected, Samsung added a fingerprint scanner to the Galaxy S5 home button. They also incorporated a built-in heart rate sensor, boosting the capabilities of the improved S Health functions.

Key Specifications

  • 5.1-inch Full HD (1620 x 1080) Super AMOLED display
  • 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB or 32 GB storage (plus microSd card expansion slot)
  • 16 MP rear camera with HDR, video stabilization and fast autofocus,
  • 2.0 MP front camera
  • LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO and Download Booster
  • Bluetooth 4.0, ANT+ USB 3.0 NFC, IR 
  • Remote Finger scanner,
  • heart rate sensor
  • IP67 dust and water resistant
  • 2800 mAh replaceable battery rated at 21 hours talk time or 12 hours video
  • 145 g
  • Runs Samsung TouchWiz and Android 4.2.2 (KitKat)

Taking a page from the Sony Xperia playbook, the Galaxy S5 is also IP67 dust and water resistant. That means the smartphone should be pretty much impervious to blowing dust or rain and will even survive a short dunk in one metre of water.

The Look

One of the things Samsung took some flack for with the Galaxy S4 was its smooth plastic case. It’s not that it was unattractive, but it just seemed a little low rent compared to the aluminum textured cases other flagship smartphones like the HTC One were sporting.

The Galaxy S5 isn’t aluminum, but Samsung has adopted a pincushion textured plastic that adds visual interest and should make the phone less slippery to hold. They also gave a nod to the line-ups for a certain gold smartphone last year and added a Copper Gold option for the Galaxy S5. 

And a Surprise

Not content with a Galaxy S5 reveal, Samsung also surprised everyone with the Gear Fit, a new wearable fitness tracker.

With the Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone, the Gear Fit and the Gear 2/Gear 2 Neo smartwatches announced yesterday, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for Samsung. Canadian pricing and release dates for the Galaxy S5 have not been released, but Samsung says to expect global rollout to begin in April.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.