Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the latest in a long line of bestselling Android devices from the South Korean tech giant, but is it the right phone for you? Before you go picking up an S5, you might want to hold off, because a sweet new Nexus phone might prove to be just the phone you’re looking for.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Samsung is just about synonymous with Android. The South Korean manufacturer saturates airwaves and the internet with ads for phones like the Galaxy S5 to the point that other phones are drowned out. The Galaxy S5, though, isn’t the hands-down favorite among Android phones. In fact, it received some pretty shaky reviews from the major tech outlets, who panned the design and Samsung’s software choices.
If you’re in the market for a new phone over the next couple of months, you might want to hold off on picking up a Galaxy S5 because a better option appears to be waiting in the wings. Google is widely expected to debut the next generation of its Nexus line of handsets in the coming months, and if the rumors are true, we think it will make for a really solid alternative to the Galaxy S5.
The Galaxy S5 sports some solid specs, including a Snapdragon 801 processor, 16-megapixel camera, and 2GB of RAM. It’s also got a fingerprint sensor built into the front of the device. Topping it off, the newest Galaxy S has a 1080×1920 display that’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s really something you’ve got to see with your own eyes to understand how clear the screen is.
Meanwhile, the Nexus 6 is expected to pack 3GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera with 4K video recording, and a 5.2-inch QHD display. It won’t have the clarity of the Galaxy S5, but it will probably be more than enough for your viewing purposes, and that leads us to a bigger point:
The specifications war among smartphones is mostly over. Phones nowadays, especially the Galaxy S5, are far more powerful than most consumers need. Games and movies and web-surfing will be a breeze if you’re picking up a higher-end phone, Don’t let the big numbers fool you: you’ll be hard pressed to actually push a new handset to the limit.
Since specs are largely overrated, the real value you’re going to get from your smartphone is going to come from the software that’s on it. This is an area where the Galaxy S5 will almost certainly be outclassed by the Nexus 6.
The GS5 runs the latest version of Android, version 4.4 KitKat, with a bunch of alterations Samsung made in order to differentiate its Galaxy line. Samsung’s Android “skin” is called TouchWiz, and it is almost unanimously panned in the tech community. Samsung packed the Galaxy S5’s operating system with a bunch of features you’ll use once or twice at most over the life of the handset, if they work at all. The result is a bloated operating system that actually winds up hindering devices like the Galaxy S5. Trust us, there’s little more annoying than having your Galaxy’s screen automatically dim because Samsung’s eye-monitoring technology thinks you’re not looking at the screen.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Nexus 6, as with previous Nexus devices, will ship with a pure Android experience. That means you’ll get KitKat without any annoying bells and whistles. Since KitKat is built to be a slim operating system, that means it will be blazing fast on the new Nexus hardware.
The bonus is that, since there aren’t too many tweaks to the system, a Nexus handset will get software updates months before they land on Samsung devices. Nexus devices typically get updates within a week or two of a build’s release. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S5 will likely have to wait months before getting the next version of Android so that Samsung can add crucial features like waving your hand over the phone to wake the display.
It’s a bit harder to comment on the design aspects of the Nexus 6 since the phone hasn’t yet shown up in any leaked pics, but previous Nexus phones have been lauded for a solid design aesthetic. Google’s partners typically use high-end materials in making Nexus phones, resulting in a device that feels good in the hand. That’s more important than you might think, because a phone that feels good is a phone that you’ll use more often.
The Galaxy S5, on the other hand, was widely panned due to Samsung’s design choices. While companies like HTC and Apple are building beautiful handsets out of aluminum, Samsung has stuck with plastic. The S5 feels a bit better than previous Galaxy S phones, but its faux-leather stitching and faux-metal plastic rim are almost tacky in appearance. The Galaxy S5’s successor may well have a metal body, but, if you’re looking for a beautiful phone, you’ll want to take a pass on Samsung’s offering for right now.
Of course, picking a smartphone is mostly about personal taste. If you like Samsung’s design aesthetic and software, you’ll love the Galaxy S5. Likewise, if frequent software updates aren’t at the top of your list of requirements, the Galaxy S5 might work fine for you. If you’re interested in a purer Android experience, though, or you just don’t like faux-leather stitching, you might want to hold off for a month or two, because the handset you’ve been looking for is probably on its way.