With Samsung likely to announce the Galaxy S5 at an event on February 24, now seems like a fine time to see what the rumor mill is saying.
Here’s the problem, though: With a highly-anticipated smartphone like the Galaxy S5, the rumors are so plentiful it’s hard to tell fantasy from reality. The best we can do is take stock of everything and make educated guesses based on the source material.
Let’s see if we can paint a convincing picture of Samsung’s Galaxy S5:
Screen Size and Resolution
Samsung will go with a screen size of roughly 5.2-inches in the Galaxy S5, according to at least three sources (Eldar Murtazin, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and KDB Daewoo Securities). That’s a 0.2-inch increase over last year’s Galaxy S4, and it makes a lot of sense if Samsung uses on-screen buttons, as a report by iTechAddict suggests. With on-screen buttons, the workable area is about the same as the 5-inch Galaxy S4, except for certain applications such as video, where those buttons slide out of the way. At the same time, Samsung can market its new phone as having a bigger screen. Win-win, right?
As for screen resolution, the three sources mentioned above, along with SamMobile, believe Samsung will go with 2560-by-1440 pixels. However, the New York Times is reporting that the so-called “QHD” screen is not going to happen. There is a theory floating around that Samsung is working on two versions of the Galaxy S5, one with the higher-resolution screen, which might explain the discrepancy. But 565 ppi is an absurdly high pixel density for a smartphone, beyond noticeable to the naked eye, so let’s treat this claim with skepticism for now.
Best Guess: 5.2-inch, 1080p display
Again, the unholy trinity of Eldar Murtazin, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and SamMobile agree that Samsung’s Galaxy S5 will have a 16-megapixel rear camera, up from 13 megapixels on last year’s model. Improvements in low-light photography could also be possible with Samsung’s ISOCELL technology, which the company has been talking about since last fall. You can bet on it given that Apple focused on improving low-light photos in the iPhone 5s.
There isn’t much consensus, however, on the front-facing camera, with Murtazin claiming 3.2 megapixels and Kuo claiming 2 megapixels. But let’s give the nod to Murtazin on this one, assuming that Samsung will at least improve the quality over last year’s model.
Best Guess: 16-megapixel rear camera with improved low-light photos, 3.2-megapixel front camera.
In the past, Samsung has used a mix of its own Exynos processor and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips, depending on market. That could happen again with Galaxy S5, and Samsung may push the performance envelope on all fronts with new Exynos 6 and Snapdragon 805 processors, according to SamMobile, Murtazin and KDB Daewoo. The Exynos 6 could even be Samsung’s first 64-bit processor, if earlier claims by the Korea Herald prove accurate, though KSI’s Ming-Chi Kuo doesn’t think it’ll happen.
These are always tough predictions to make, but Samsung’s tendency to tie new processors to its flagship phone make me think the rumors are accurate. The good news is it’s going to be a fast phone no matter what, and there’s a strong consensus around 3 GB of RAM.
Best Guess: Exynos 6 (64-bit) and Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 (32-bit), 3 GB of RAM
It looks like Samsung has caught the flat-design bug, and will dial back the cutesy level of its TouchWiz Android skin. Leaked home screen images from evleaks show thinner fonts and the absence of drop shadows. Screenshots from SamMobile show the same modern look carrying over to various Samsung apps. More screenshots from evleaks show a bunch of new home screen widgets, including fitness notes, recent purchases, friend locations and sports scores.
Best Guess: Samsung keeps piling on software features, but with a more modern feel.
It wouldn’t be a Samsung phone without some gimmickry, and while earlier reports of eye tracking in the Galaxy S5 have been debunked, numerous sources are talking about a fingerprint scanner (including evleaks, Ming-Chi Kuo and Korea Herald). A particularly intriguing report by iTechAddict claims that the scanner will be built into the screen, which makes sense if the Galaxy S5 uses on-screen buttons. In any case, the big question is whether Samsung can make the technology work well. That’s easier said than done.
Meanwhile, a pair of reports from ETNews claim that Samsung will improve the “hover” feature in the Galaxy S5, which lets you perform certain actions by floating your hand or finger above the screen. Makes sense.
Best Guess: No eye tracking, but an on-screen fingerprint sensor and improved touchless controls.
Metal or Plastic?
We’ve been hearing since last year that Samsung wants to bring some aluminum into its phone designs instead of just relying on plastic. But there’s no clear answer on whether that’s going to happen with the Galaxy S5. KDB Daewoo and EMSOne say yes. Ming-Chi Kuo and GalaxyS5Info say no. SamMobile says yes for some models, no for others. Hand it to Samsung for keeping everyone in the dark.
Here’s where things get weird: Reports by ETNews and Eldar Murtazin claim that Samsung is building an aluminum phone internally known as the Galaxy F. Murtazin says it’ll have the guts of a Galaxy S4, and that the “F” stands for “Fashion.” So even if you believe the theory that there are two versions of the Galaxy S5, with different processors and screen resolutions, they could both have plastic enclosures, while the metallic Samsung phone is something completely different.
Best Guess: Even if there’s a metal Samsung phone floating around, most folks will end up with a plastic Galaxy S5.
This one’s pretty straightforward. Eldar Murtazin and Bloomberg are both claiming an April release date for the Galaxy S5, falling roughly one year after the launch of the Galaxy S4. U.S. variants would likely show up a month or so later, and we’ve be stunned if it wasn’t available on all major carriers.
Best Guess: April internationally, May in the U.S., same $200-and-up on-contract pricing as always.