It's incredible just how wrong the batch of pre-release rumors about the Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF) Galaxy S5 were. There was no metal casing, no 2560x1440 screen, no Snapdragon 805/Exynos 6, no 64-bit, and no 5.24" display. That being said, while the S5 looks like a really nice device with top-shelf specifications/features, it doesn't really look like the iPhone-killer that many expected.
The phone is nice...so what?
The Galaxy S5 is a phenomenal and powerful device. The Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 801 that powers it is incredibly zippy, right up there with the iPhone's A7 in both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. The phone also sports the latest connectivity and cellular standards, allowing it to shine from a total device performance standpoint. Plus, it sports a fingerprint reader (although some reviewers feel that it's nowhere near as nice as the iPhone 5s' Touch ID).
As far as Android devices go, the Galaxy S5 really is the creme de la creme of phones. With top-notch specifications and features coupled with a large screen, this is a device that is sure to sell rather well, particularly if the success of the Galaxy Note III (which sold 10 million units in a mere two months) is any indication. However, while the device seemed to be hailed as an iPhone-killer, the truth is that it probably -- in stark contrast to this Fool's earlier thoughts -- won't drive a meaningful market share shift back to Samsung.
The bottom line is that the Galaxy S5 is simply another Galaxy phone that follows the established, tried-and-true, and very profitable "Galaxy S" legacy. Relative to the S4, the specifications have been beefed up, it's slightly bigger, and it's available in a much more interesting color palette (you can now get them in roughly the same colors as the iPhone). However, the verdict is likely to be the following: anybody who would have bought a Samsung will probably buy the S5, and anybody who would have bought the iPhone will probably still buy the iPhone.
One more complication, though
The one complication, however, is the lot of equally impressive phones from the likes of Sony (NYSE:SNE) with its Xperia Z2. It won't be long before Lenovo (OTC:LNVG.Y), HTC, LG, and others are out with compelling next-generation devices that, too, play the "spec wars" against the Samsung Galaxy S5. Of course, Samsung's brand is resilient and very well known, particularly in the US, but it's not hard to see these players eventually becoming more powerful over time (particularly as these are not small, unsuccessful companies trying to go up against Samsung).
Foolish bottom line
It really seems like the high end of the handset market, the Android market in particular, is starting to saturate as the phenomenon of "good enough" starts to kick in. Now, in the U.S., where carrier subsidies mask the rather high costs of these phones, the market for higher-end phones is likely to remain robust. But, in areas where the subsidies aren't so steep, all high-end devices -- especially Android ones -- will likely face material headwinds as mid-range and low-end phones start to offer phenomenal performance and features for very little upfront cost and no subsidy.
At any rate, the Galaxy S5 is here and it's as high end as smartphones get. Let's see how it sells.