Samsung's Galaxy S5 Is a Total Disappointment

If the rumors about its Galaxy S5 had been true, Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) could've been about to take a commanding lead of the smartphone market. Everything from a metal body, to an ultra high-definition screen, to a radically different take on Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android operating system had been promised for the handset, and reported on by a variety of fairly reputable publications.

As it turns out, virtually none of it was true.

Given Samsung's marketing budget and retail presence, the Galaxy S5 is still likely to be this year's best-selling Android-powered smartphone. Nevertheless, from a product standpoint, it barely moves the needle and should be of no concern to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) or Google shareholders.

Samsung's S year
If Samsung were following Apple's naming conventions, the Galaxy S5 might instead be called the Galaxy S4S. This year, Samsung has made only modest changes to its flagship handset.

The screen is a tiny bit bigger, but not any less sharp.Touchwiz is largely unchanged, except for a new menu system. The processor is slightly faster, but still 32-bit. The backplate is now dimpled, but still made of plastic. The phone is waterproof, but the ports are annoyingly covered.

The two biggest changes are the addition of a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner -- ancillary features that could appeal to some users, but are far from instrumental.

Apple gears up for the iPhone 6
Apple, coming off its own S year, should roll out a much improved iPhone in the coming months. If the failure of the Samsung rumor mill is any indication, nothing is known for sure, but widespread reports from publications including The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have indicated that Apple has some dramatic changes planned.

Most notably, Apple could be about to increase the size of the iPhone's screen -- perhaps bumping it up to 4.7-inches and pairing it with a larger, 5.5-inch iPhone phablet. Certainly, the iPhone is due for a new body design, as Apple has revamped the look and feel of the iPhone roughly every other year since its original release.

Although Apple's customers are notoriously loyal, some may have strayed if Samsung had delivered a radically improved smartphone. As it stands, there doesn't appear to be anything that would convince buyers to make the change -- if anything, Apple may be able to capture some of Samsung's customers this year by offering a larger display.

A great phone for Google
Although Samsung's latest phone is unlikely to turn many of Apple's customers into loyal users of Google's Android, the Galaxy S5 as it stands is still great for Google. If Samsung had delivered on some of the rumored changes, it could've tightened its grip on Android further still.

Of all the Android devices in existence, about half were made by Samsung (according to OpenSignal), and that sheer dominance has created a rift between the Korean tech giant and Google. With just minor improvements this year, Android buyers may be tempted to look elsewhere, perhaps settling on a competing Android handset from one of Samsung's many rivals.

In addition, while the Galaxy S5 still sports Samsung's unique take on Android, it isn't as unique as it might've been. Last month, Samsung debuted a new Android interface on its Galaxy Pro tablet line -- a radical take on Android that did away with the traditional grid view.

Ahead of the Galaxy S5's unveiling, leaked images showed a phone with a similar, radically revamped interface. Yet, as with the other rumors, that's not how it turned out -- a good thing for Google, as Samsung's new twist on Android buried Google's apps and services behind a wall of tiles.

A modest improvement
Samsung isn't shipping the same phone as last year, but the improvements it has made are hardly noteworthy, and extremely disappointing compared to what was rumored.

The Galaxy S5 isn't the sort of paradigm-defining phone that's likely to win over Apple's customers, and it may even open the door for some of Google's other hardware partners to take center stage.

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Read/Post Comments (35) | Recommend This Article (17)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 7:34 AM, TechHeader wrote:

    So normally I don't comment on the MFools board, because most articles or blogs are pretty good.

    This one however, not so much. It's more of a fanboy gone crazy write up.

    No real meat to it when comparing phones and companies. Kind of like trying to be a paid for ad for Apple by bashing or belittling Samsung. Pretty much, in my opinion without to much merit. There is always something that each company delivers or does not deliver with any models.

    But in reality - the Samsung 5 is a better business phone then the IPhone (any version). It's just how they are designed. IPhones are mostly for the entertained crowd, where as the Samsung (and most Androids) are built with both business and play in mind. It's open, where IPhone products are not, and support by the community is by far better. Case in point - latest patches (version 7) of the IOS still has real issues (and they are documented) where the IOS suddenly kicks you out of apps or resets itself. On the Apple various support blogs everyone is complaining about it, but I have yet to see Apple support admit to anything...if I am wrong please let me know with a a link about it.

    Anyway, it really depends on what you want in a smartphone. I know lots of folks who just don't like the smallish latest iphones and others who adore its cuteness. Samsung is pretty much the same...love it or hate it.

    Oh and to set the record straight (like many have in the last several months). That biometric finger print reading thing - been out in the Android world (and free) for quite a while before the latest IPhone copied it.

    MFool - please write something a lot more objective next time and not sound like someone just gave you a lot of money from their advertising budget? At least with this one, in my opinion, that's what it reads as.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 7:51 AM, 69camaross wrote:

    The biggest problem the S5 has is that it is ugly. The faux dimpled leather back is hideous. Whoever let that out of the design room, should be executed. And the metallic plastic rim looks like it was taken off a folding table from the 70's. This is a big step in the wrong direction, a direction Samsung has been moving in since the New Note.

    Soon a bunch of gorgeous phones are going to be available, sitting right next to the S5's in the showrooms: The HTC OneUp and Sony Z2 come to mind. These new phones are headed in the right direction in terms of design, so a heart rate monitor ain't gonna cut it.

    The S5 prime is Samsung's only hope.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:17 AM, ShepardRahl wrote:

    "Samsung's Galaxy S5 Is a Total Disappointment" - Said no one ever.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:42 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I don't think the author is an Apple (or Samsung) fanboy. He is just trying to analyze the situation. Kudos to him for trying and providing a different take on things.

    Here's my take (disclaimer: I own Apple devices and stock and have been analyzing the tech sector for a while now):

    The S5 will not save Samsung. The device is a marginal improvement over the S4 so one can expect about the same sales numbers plus any market growth, which is slowing down (Samsung sold about 40M S4's up until Nov. 2013). Notably missing was a 64-bit processor. The fingerprint sensor is not as robust as the iPhone 5s. The best improvement was an increase in screen size whioh I think it is important (Apple needs to do that too).

    The iPhone 5s was a relatively big upgrade (64-bit, Touch ID, battery capacity boost, etc.) over the 5 (and the sales numbers showed that --- a record 51M devices, inc. 4s and 5c, were sold in the 4th quarter -- all those people can't be wrong).

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:52 AM, Drew9944 wrote:

    So basically all Samsung did to "improve" its top Galaxy Phone over last year's model (besides the dimples on back case) was to add a Fingerprint Sensor, to continue copying Apple. But Apple's new Fingerprint Sensor is patented, and so Samsung was not able to fully copy it, and so Samsung's fingerprint sensor does not work as well, the Press is saying.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:59 AM, Loranzo2knows wrote:

    @TechHeader, If you knew any thing about which phone was or wasn't a business phone anybody with tech savy wouldn't of said that. Samsung has nothing but a host of feature/smart phones that are for kids and people who are fooled to believe there worth it. Apple makes a better business smartphone than anybody in that area. Please read this from Business Insider: It’s clear that the enterprise area has huge potential, and we’re doing well from a percentage of companies that are using iPhone and iPad. It’s up to unbelievable numbers. The iPhone is used in 97% of the Fortune 500, and 91% of the Global 500, and iPad is used in 98% of the Fortune 500 and 93% of the Global 500.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/apples-enterprise-sales-unbel...

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 9:30 AM, tdtour wrote:

    Oh no the samsung groupies will not like this article. It is funny and sad how protective people are about their smartphones. Both Apple and Android devices a like. As heard on the "Honeymooners"...can it core an apple? lol

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 9:31 AM, furry wrote:

    We will have to wait for what the competitors has to offer to decide. It is really a pity Samsung that you did not sell us S5 without any doubts. This launch should have been bang and WOW that cause all potential buyers to just forget about any other competitors and just go get the S5. But at last, this is not the case in this bad launch. If they think they have a premium set under wraps, that would be a stupid marketing strategy as the whole world was waiting so eagerly for this S5 and it drop like a "Oh well just another high end phone, nothing really special". If the Ram was 3G and battery was 3200mah, I would go for it even if it is not so nice in design. But then, there are no redeeming factors on S5. What features available on S5, they are on the other similar competitors handsets (LG Pro G2, Xperia Z2, HTC M8). This is a sad story for S5 launch.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 9:58 AM, Hecklrkosh wrote:

    Why should consumers run to the stores for these phones? I'm still on the GS3, and it works fine. If Apple wants to go out and waste money on one or two upgrades that aren't user friendly and/or essential to the everyday reutine then why should I spend?

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:09 AM, droolz wrote:

    i dont know why you guys make a big deal over apple 64 bit. its useless in the iphone cause it doesnt have enough ram to fully utilize the chip and its useless cause there isnt any app or programs that use 64 bit on the market for phones right now so why is it good? samsung did the right thing with the quad core 32 bit for now.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:21 AM, Mikeybear wrote:

    So basically the take-a-way from this is:

    The S5 has a bit bigger-sharper screen, a new menu system, faster processor, the phone is waterproof, has a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner... But is a total piece of crap if I read this correctly.

    Apple increased the size of the iPhone's screen

    (to 4.7-inches) and it is the BEST THING EVER!!!

    Really?

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:38 AM, jeepnariz wrote:

    too funny, both aapl and android fanboys... I own an android, Motorola droid maxx which I love but trade aapl, shorted at 680 all the way to 425, shorted it again at 560's....almost too easy because of all the hype when it runs up, this likely no different with the new 6 phone as the more it is mentioned the less the fan boys will buy the 5s waiting on the 6 which will not be out in June, likely later....if aapl is smart they will continue to try to move the 5s without cutting margins which are already taking a hit...

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:48 AM, furry wrote:

    The S5 was launch and the crowd of 5000+ was'nt very impressed! We will have to wait for what the competitors has to offer to decide. It is really a pity Samsung that you did not sell us S5 without any doubts. This launch should have been bang and WOW that cause all potential buyers to just forget about any other competitors and

    just go get the S5. But at last, this is not the case in this bad launch. If they think they have a premium S5 set under wraps, that would be a very bad and unwise marketing strategy as the whole world was waiting so eagerly for this S5 and it drop like a "Oh well just another high end phone, nothing really special". Have'nt they read of the saying strike while it is hot!!!. If the Ram was 3G and battery was 3200mah, I would go for it even if it is not so nice in design. But then, there are no redeeming factors on S5. What main features available on S5, they are on the other similar competitors handsets (LG Pro G2, Xperia Z2, HTC M8). This is a sad story for S5 launch.

    Note: Heart beat and finger scanner is just gimmicks. I do not have top secret info to hide and what makes you think your phone can be protected by the finger scanner when any app can easily access your contacts or browser history or SDcard if permission is granted. No smart phone is completely secured. The finger scanner is just a sales gimmick! Do not let this be a purchase factor. Screen size, Battery capacity, System memory

    and less bloat ware is what counts.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 12:23 PM, Luckey wrote:

    I don't think the S5 is a disappointment, Samsung is doing what they suppose to do, and that's putting out a phone for different price points to sell more. The S5 prime will be the phone that sits on top, same things Apple did with the 5c and 5s. Not a fanboy I have owned both and both make pretty good phones.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 12:39 PM, jimmychurch wrote:

    Tomorrow they will post another article saying how good it is. All these things are just paid advertisements.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 12:41 PM, DaveinSoCal wrote:

    @Drew944

    The fingerprint scanner was originally offered on the Motorola Atrix over 3 years ago (Android Phone). So it looks like your Apple love has you snowed you so that you think Apple was the originator of the phone fingerprint scanner. Keep on copying everyone else Apple.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 1:48 PM, miller6604 wrote:

    I had the iphone 4, it lasted a whopping 9 months, and had a total system failure, lost all data, wouldnt boot up. couldnt even retrieve the data. had to buy a samsung galaxy 3 for 500.00 because of "your contract's not up". Ill never see another iphone in my home ever. enough said.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 3:39 PM, eidsonb wrote:

    I will stay with my BB Z30...y'all are missing a really great phone

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 7:06 PM, hawkhell wrote:

    I was actually more impressed than I thought I would be. You don't need higher than 1080 on a phone that size, you don't need a metal frame, and you certainly do not need a 64 bit processor for at least another year on Android or iOS.

    I have 2 complaints with the S5, one it did not need to get larger and I believe the S4 was a perfect size phone especially with the Note 3 being available for those who did want a bigger phone. Two the ugly back cover, I believe they should have stuck with the faux leather since it gave the devices a nice feeling. However the back cover is typically not an issue for most people since most people use a case.

    "modest upgrades"

    13 MP camera >> 16 MP camera with added 4k recording

    1.6ghz processor >> 2.5ghz processor

    802.11 a/b/g/n/ac >> 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac HT80 MIMO (2×2) Wi-Fi

    LTE CAT 3 >> LTE CAT 4

    2600 mAh battery >> 2800 mAh battery

    Ultra Power Saving Mode

    Finger Scanner

    Heart Rate Sensor

    Dust and Water Resistance

    Download Booster (use WiFi and LTE at same time)

    Private Mode

    Kids Mode

    Now the iPhone 6 will come out with the exact same specs as the iPhone 5s except with a larger display and that will be "innovation".

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:05 PM, ukukukuk wrote:

    iphone 5s is joke

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 8:24 PM, ralphrides wrote:

    thats a relief, almost sold my AAPL stock, NOT!

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:02 PM, normgarry wrote:

    Every single conjecture-filled speculation from Motley, Wall Street Press and other Yahoo contributors sounds like fanboys gone wild.

    And I'm an iPhone user saying that.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 10:03 PM, Zbum wrote:

    DUMB article....S5 will have less bloatware....longer battery life....improved camera...bigger screen....only improvements needed from the S4.....makes the S5 best phone on the market ...period.....cant wait to get one..

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 11:44 PM, shixunrui wrote:

    Gotta read the end of the article... Motley admits being bias. "The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google."

    Fanboy article. All of these tech companies can learn from each other. The battles between these companies are ridiculous. Apple, Google, and Samsung phones all have pros and cons. If all of these companies would work together and make their products compatible with each other I believe everyone wins.

  • Report this Comment On February 27, 2014, at 11:47 PM, shixunrui wrote:

    Also, did Samsung really promise all those things that this article claims? Or were they just rumors? I don't know either way but if they were rumors then the guy who wrote the article could have been more creative with his lies. He should have went all out saying Samsung promised free S5 phones for everyone or something stupid like that.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 1:01 AM, Computerworgen wrote:

    Samsung could put a Replicator & a Holographic Projector from Star Trek in one of it's phones, the the Apple fanboy's at the Motley Fool will say that the phone is a Dud and a Failure long before the phone even comes out. But if Apple increases its screen size from 4 to 5 inches, & changes the number in the name, The Motley Boys will scream of Apples Great Innovation & technological prowess! I'm not saying this because of just this Article, but every Article I read on the Motley Fool is Biased & Pro-Apple. No wonder everyone thinks every Apple article at the Motley Fool is a Apple Ad.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 1:02 AM, Computerworgen wrote:

    And the* Really wish I could edit out the typos.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 8:16 AM, jacklyndenise wrote:

    The S5 is of no concern to Apple as long as Apple users are content to pay more for less. I work in an industry where being uber-cool is required and the shine has worn off the iphone pig. From an inferior display to a battery that is always dead, iphone users are finding they are carrying a paperweight not a cool tool.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 8:21 AM, dratsaB wrote:

    For the most part I like mf articles but this one seems a bit too critical.

    I am on I-phone user but some of these S5 features seem pretty good.

    I did have an s4 for a while but dropped it in water so had to go back to an old apple.

    So the water resistant really sounds good. Especially because it is much easier to drop a larger phone.

    I think the interface simplification would be the best Samsung could do.

    There are so many options in so many places that I was always googling how to adjust it. Even then most

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 9:22 AM, Pricha100 wrote:

    Not surprised since the Samsung galaxy s4 that I own is a stuttering laggy buggy crashy piece of junk. Will never buy this brand again and I am trading up for the iphone 6 when it comes out. Samsung's flagship products and they still can't perform smoothly. My brother's HTC one also eats the galaxy s4 for breakfast. Not holding my breath for the S5.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 1:01 PM, manny0053 wrote:

    This guy is totally an iphone person.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 4:15 PM, nicktaste wrote:

    how can apple people be anti-samsung while Samsung manufactures all the critical components of Iphone

    RETARDS!

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 6:50 PM, Beholder2001 wrote:

    The opening post got it right in that the S5, compared to the promises and pre-launch hoopla, was nothing particularly special. My personal opinion is that it won't cause people to gravitate to it from any existing product they own. Importantly what this does do is hand the initiative to Apple. If, and that is an if, Apple can come out with something that is cosmetically appealing they will gain market share. I state that meaning Apple does not need to be particularly technologically innovative this year to win this round. They just need to deliver something that does get consumers going wow from the cosmetics... which a sapphire glass bezel-less product may do and I'm picking to be the iphone 6. My personal opinion is that apple will win the 'trendy' war this year and that will get their nose out in front.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 10:22 AM, rickcremer wrote:

    I have to disagree with TechHeader's comment "But in reality - the Samsung 5 is a better business phone then the IPhone (any version)"

    I use my iPhone (and iPad) to trade Equity options (credit spreads) like SPY, GLD, and AAPL and do so successfully using TDAmeritrade's ThinkorSwim iPhone and iPad app. I also manage my small privately held hedge fund from those same devices.

    In my office I am still a Windows 7 PC user running a triple screen setup with 4th generation Intel core i7 desktop system and probably always well but I have found that the iPhone and iPad devices to be very business friendly.

    I have not yet had an opportunity to review the Samsung 5 but the reviews others have proffered haven't been all that good and, in fact, AAPL jumped 2% in last Thursday's session because Samsung was unable to meet the expectations the markets had leading up to the Galaxy 5 event.

    My AAPL Put credit spreads made me a little bit richer that day. What I sold at .50 I bought back at .10. And I closed out the spread using my iPhone while sitting with friends at my local cigar club.

    Whoever says "Samsung 5 is a better business phone" knows not of what he speaketh.

    Best

  • Report this Comment On March 03, 2014, at 8:53 AM, nicktaste wrote:

    ^ "I have not yet had an opportunity to review the Samsung 5"

    sums it up

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