Friday, April 25, 2014

Ramblings About My New Phone - Samsung Galaxy S5

The first 24 hours of owning the Galaxy S5 I spent in curmudgeon mode: Feh!  What does this device do that my Galaxy S3 didn't do?

But, after a week or so with device, I've really warmed up to it. In fact, I'd say I'm actually quite impressed.

Here's a random'ish list of things I've noticed about the device. Most of them, as you'll see, are pretty dang positive.

1.  Improved Bluetooth Keyboard Support. When I plugged in my Bluetooth Keyboard, it Just Worked.  The onscreen keyboard was hidden, and gone is the annoying behavior of setting the Samsung Keyboard as the default when BT disconnects.  I'll have more to say on this capability soon, I hope.

2.  I'm liking the new main button layout, where the Menu Key is replaced with the Show All Apps key.  I did have an app or two that depending on the menu key, and it took only a Google Search or two to learn that if you hold down (long press) the Show All Apps key, you get the menu key functionality back.

3. The pedometer is a nifty feature. The heart rate monitor, not so much.  Maybe my Brother David is right: the heart rate monitor may be useful for demonstrating remote medical care capabilities (think: heart patient who needs to report in on his heart rate activity daily).  The pedometer is just plain fun.

4. The camera has some interesting possibilities. Gone is the explicit macro mode, which is probably a good thing as accidentally leaving that set could make normal photos blurry.  The near/far focus feature is relatively cool as well.  All in all, plenty to play with here.

5. The Ultra Power Saving Mode, if it really delivers, is to me one of the coolest features on the phone. There are times when I've longed for my Mom's old school flip phone because, gosh darn it, the battery lasts forever. And now I can have essentially this capability.  I'm telling you,  in the right context, this is a game changer.

6. It really does work in the shower!  Yep, this baby's water proofness held up in my test.  The only catch is that I found the damp screen wasn't really usable.  Though, voice activicated functionality did work, even with the sound of the water in the background.  I'm thinking this water-proofness won't necessarily replace the plastic sleeve I've used in the past to capture underwater photos, but it certainly provides a nice level of protection.

7.  I was thinking the little plastic USB cover was going to be a real annoyance. But, within a day or so, I've gotten used to peeling it off and plugging it back in.

8.  Mutli-window support seems enhanced compared to my Galaxy S3.  Between the memo app, Chrome and Juice SSH all being multi-window friendly, I'm finding that I'm now able to setup truly useful window arrangements, and save them for quick access later.  As a nice bonus, when I open up a link from Hangouts or the message app, I get a split window between it and the browser.  It's still not perfect functionality, but I can see that it's definitely headed in the right direction.  It's certainly far more practical than it was on my S3.

9.  The fingerprint reader is actually useful.  I'm using it to unlock my screen and I find it more convenient than a PIN, and more secure than swipe.  I'm sure the technology can be defeated, but so can my PIN and swipe given enough time.

10.  I've always dedicated one screen of the Home Screen to folders filled with apps.  And I can still do this. However, you can now also create folders within the App Drawer. Mind blown. It took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out that there were two different kinds of folders and how they can both be maintained. For now, I'm shying away from using folders in my App Drawer.

11. The "Increase Touch Sensitivity Option," while to me not quite as slick as the Ultra Battery Saving Mode, is still remarkably useful.  And it does work: I was able to use regular old gloves to navigate my phone.  They say a pencil works on the screen as a stylus, though I haven't had the courage yet to try this.

12.  I've seen some claims that the battery life on the S5 is supposed to stellar.  I've yet to run a real test, but I'm thinking I'll still have little problem draining this battery in far less than day with heavy use.  I just know that that I'm at 66% of battery usage now, and I feel like my phone has only been unplugged for a few hours, if that.  I'm not ready to give up portable battery yet.

Bottom line: the S5 is a phone that's easy to rag on, yet it delivers. In fact, it's probably one of the few phones that's actually able to exceed its hype, that is, if you count Bloggers kvetching that there's nothing innovative on the phone as hype.

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