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Android this week: Galaxy S5 launches; Nokia X hands-on; Android security boost

Have we really been talking about the Galaxy S5 for nearly six months? Yup and we’ll likely be talking about it for another half-year as well, but the difference is now we know what we’re talking about.

Galaxy S5 and Gear

Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 along with a trio of wearables at Mobile World Congress this week. The handset didn’t offer many surprises, unless you were counting on a high-resolution “2k” display; Samsung kept last year’s 1080p resolution while enlarging the screen from 5- to 5.1-inches.

A new Qualcomm Snapdragon 801(s qcom) chip powers the phone, bringing improved battery life and faster image processing. Samsung chose a 16 megapixel rear camera sensor while the hone has a 2 megapixel camera on the front. The phone is also dust and water-resistant by default so I don’t expect an “Active” variant of the phone because this is likely it.

Galaxy S5 settings

The early verdict is favorable based on our hands-on look provided by Alex Colon. Samsung has simplified its software interface and focused less on including new features that may or may not add value. Says Colon,

“Simplification is a big theme for the Galaxy S5’s software in general. The phone is running Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. Samsung has cleaned up the interface considerably from its TouchWiz past. It still looks nothing like stock Android, but it also looks better than anything else I’ve seen from Samsung so far. I like Samsung’s new icons and its minimalist take on the Settings menu. There are still probably more settings to choose from here than you’ll find on any other smartphone, but the layout looks neat, clean and approachable.”

I think that’s exactly what Samsung needed to do with the Galaxy S5 as the complicated interface and “everything but the kitchen sink” approach for the Galaxy S4 wasn’t appealing to me. The company appears to have taken a similar and welcome approach with its new Gear Fit wearable: I call it a lite smartwatch as it provides support for just a few key smartphone notifications along with several health tracking stats.

gear fit

The Gear fit doesn’t actually run Android, however, the Nokia X phone does. So too do the Nokia X+ and XL; two handset variants of the X that were unexpected.

Nokia X group

The X family of phones won’t impress those who currently use Android but it’s not a phone meant for them. Instead, Nokia has built a low-cost handset with a fork of Android that relies completely on Microsoft’s cloud services. The Nokia X, which starts at €89 ($122 US), is meant to get first-time smartphone owners using Microsoft and Nokia apps. When ready to step up to a better device, these folks will hopefully consider a Lumia running Windows Phone because the experience will be familiar. That’s why I think Microsoft will keep the Nokia X line available once it closes its deal to purchase Nokia’s phone hardware business.

Does Nokia have a compelling product? Perhaps, says Colon, who got a chance to use a Nokia X this week. While the phone performs slow, it’s a nice step up from Nokia’s even lower-cost Asha line which doesn’t currently run Microsoft apps. And Nokia says the X phones will run around 75 percent of all currently available Android apps.

Android Verify Apps screen

Speaking of Android apps, not all of them are safe. Google added a Verify Apps feature to Android in 2012 that checks apps prior to installation. Computerworld reported this week that Google is beefing up the feature so that apps will be monitored even after installation. Expect the improved security to be part of a Google Play Services update for all phones running Android 2.3 or greater.

8 Responses to “Android this week: Galaxy S5 launches; Nokia X hands-on; Android security boost”

  1. Mike Cutmore

    We got the Samsung S3 on day one. Nice flagship hardware, but today, less than two years on we find on our bare minimum install that after booting up the thing & letting it idle, it’s already near using 3/4 of it’s available 1GB RAM. Now running 4.3 after being rendered near unusable by a buggy previous update for months, system bloat is unreal. It’s a slow useable device by today’s standards, albeit 3G. But now we hear it might not get Kit Kat which has been around with lower system requirements for some time on even lesser newer hardware. Problem is that it’s touchwiz bloat may be eating some resources & it needs more RAM. So 2GB should really be a minimum then? Well just as well the S5 has that to play with. What’s the betting in less than two years that won’t be enough.

  2. Michael Scharf

    Could you imagine writing this article if Samsung was treated like Apple…

    The Galaxy S5 is a failure, an absolutely disappointing new entry into an already crowded market, let me tell you why:
    – Although it’s been six months since a 64 bit chip was introduced on the iPhone, Samsung chose a new, faster and more battery efficient 32 bit, multi-core chip. We were expecting better
    – Not only is there no 64 bit main processor, but a co-processor that focuses on realtime data (heart rate, pedometer, etc.) no where to be found. How will they be able to compete with the iPhone
    – Moving from a 5.0″ screen to a 5.1″ screen should have their entry into the 2k screen market. Users will have to suffer through another year with a 1080 full HD screen (even though the average user would not be able to tell the difference.
    – The case has some new materials for the back panel, but still plastic, so it still feels cheap.
    – Users will find that all their accessories will continue to work with the new 5S, and that means no innovation on the accessory front, no new revenue stream for Samsung and their approved 3rd parties.
    – Last but not least, who launches new products in April?!? That means Samsung will have no new products launched for the Christmas season come this September or October. How come their new flagship phone is only updated once a year? Any why is the company so deaf that they launch the new phone at MWC? That’s an insider show, not a real good consumer launch strategy.

    Wonder if anyone will write the story this way?????

    • Hank Azaria

      Michael Scharf, I would bet good money your hypotheses will be proven false, especially the statement “The Galaxy S5 is a failure.”

      Failure to you and similar people, but I bet they’re gonna sell a lot of phones.

      And I don’t have a samsung, nor do I have any interest in getting this one.

    • Logic Rules

      Hey Michael, well….I agree with a lot of your input on the S5 but they will release a new version of the Galaxy Note range before December 2014, so that will be their flagship device again. The current Note 3 has done well in the market as it has great features and the stylus appeals to many consumers. Screen size has been swallowed up by consumers and has had great feedback. I have a sneaky suspicion that the new Note will be a NOTEworthy contender! :)

  3. Frank Ramirez

    is it just me or does the new simple icon UI borrow a lot from Windows 8? Are circles that much better than squares? I am a fan of my active tiles in Windows 8 as it seems more clean than the proliferation of icons floating in free space on other platforms and the associated notification bubble.

  4. Daman Bahner

    Nice article, looks like a great phone!

    Just a heads up on a typo I caught:

    “A new Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chip powers the phone, bringing improved battery life and faster image processing. Samsung chose a 16 megapixel rear camera sensor while the hone phone has a 2 megapixel camera on the front. The (hone) phone is also dust and water-resistant by default so I don’t expect an “Active” variant of the phone because this is likely it.”