What would make the Galaxy S5 Active a truly rugged smartphone?
To our surprise, the Galaxy S5 didn’t just turn out to be a marginally improved version of the Galaxy S4; it came with a small bag of unique tricks.
From the outside, it looks almost identical to last year’s Galaxy S handset, save for the radius of the corners, the texture of the back panel, the physical size, and a few minor details, like the camera or navigation button layouts. But this year’s Galaxy S is far more ruggedized than last year’s, more like the under appreciated Galaxy S4 Active.
It comes with an IP67 certification for protection against dust and water. It’s rated to withstand water up to a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes.
For those keeping track at home, that’s the very same IP certification last year’s Galaxy S4 Active came with. And since there is a rumored Galaxy S5 Active allegedly on the horizon, it has us wondering exactly what the Galaxy S5 Active has to offer that the Galaxy S5 doesn’t already.
Based on some rather detailed videos from earlier this week which show what is said to be a Galaxy S5 Active in the flesh, some things have been cleared up, like for instance, the inclusion of a barometer. But a lot of finer details are left untold.
As such, here are some ways Samsung could justify the need for a Galaxy S5 Active.
The same specs as the Galaxy S5
As with many smaller versions of flagships (i.e., Galaxy S4 mini), specifications are often sacrificed for space or cost concerns. I ranted about that a little earlier today.
For reasons unbeknownst to us, this often happens with ruggedized versions of such devices, as well. If we’re to believe all the information in the videos from TK Tech News, the Galaxy S5 Active does, in fact, come with all the very same specs as the Galaxy S5, maybe even newer hardware.
Unlike the Galaxy S4 Active, which came with an 8-megapixel camera that didn’t quite compare to the Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel camera, the Galaxy S5 Active supposedly comes with the same 16-megapixel image sensor as its non-ruggedized counterpart. TK Tech News states the S5 Active comes with optical image stabilization, but we’re not so quick to believe that based on some rattling hardware.
In the video, it also appears as if the displays are not exactly the same, though it’s said they’re both AMOLED panels. TK also says the S5 Active comes with the newer Snapdragon 801 AC instead of the 801 AB found in the Galaxy S5.
Michael said it most succinctly back in 2012; Durable phones shouldn’t have to be crappy phones, Galaxy S5 Active included.
We need to wait for final confirmation on all of these features, but it seems as if Samsung may have gotten this one right. This is a Galaxy S5 Active, it should come with all the same specs as the staple version.
Lose the fugly flaps
Again, the videos seem to shoot this hope down indefinitely, but there’s still a chance the Galaxy S5 Active shown was not final hardware.
If I can complain about unofficial, unannounced hardware (and I will), I’m not impressed with the hideous water-tight flap over the microUSB port. This is easily one of the worst aspects of any water-resistant phone. In my short time with the Galaxy S5, I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I nearly ripped the cover off by accident when unplugging it.
Even if this version of the phone is supposed a much more rugged phone, a flap is not something anyone wants to see.
It appears the phone does have a flap in the video, but I’ll keep hoping it doesn’t make it into the retail version of the phone. (I know, I’ve practically lost my mind.)
Military grade materials
If there’s one thing that keeps Samsung’s phones from being truly resilient and rugged, it’s the materials Samsung is so notorious for using: cheap, flimsy plastic.
I showed my girlfriend my old Galaxy Note II today and what happened when I dropped it on a bathroom floor several months ago. It hit the floor hard and exploded into three pieces – phone, battery door, and battery – in multiple directions, and the battery door suffered a pretty nasty stress crack.
While the softer plastic used on the Galaxy S5 probably wouldn’t so readily stress and break, it neither looks or feels rugged.
Fortunately, what we’ve seen of the Galaxy S5 Active so far tells us it will be far more rugged and … beefy. The physical footprint appears larger, though the device is slimmer, but it appears to be made of a tough metal and what TK Tech News calls “military-grade” materials. We won’t so readily believe this phone is made to military spec, but it should be. And it definitely looks more durable than its non-Active compatriot.
This would make for a great ruggedized smartphone option for people who tend to be a little rough on equipment or spend their days swinging hammers or driving machinery. It’d be nice for the construction workers and the like to have a great smartphone spread to choose from, too, right?
Honestly, though, the biggest thing about water-resistant smartphones is that most, if not all, are really only resistant to fresh water. Salt water is notoriously more troublesome than the fresh, clean water that runs from your faucets. It’s corrosive and horrible on electronics.
Michael learned to read the fine print the hard way with the Galaxy S4 Active by taking it for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean and temporarily putting it out of service.
The thing is, taking pictures in the ocean is something a lot of people want to do. My girlfriend starts her new job in a few weeks and she’ll soon be in the market for a new phone. She asked me which phones were waterproof. Naturally, I told her the Moto X (she already has) can handle some heavy splashes, the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 both have respectable water-resistance ratings, but no phones are truly waterproof, and they’re all limited to fresh water.
She wanted to take her phone into the marsh and take pictures of the work she’ll be doing on the coast all summer, yet none of the phones (theoretically) will handle the salt water.
When you consider only a measly 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh, it really makes the whole “water-resistant” modifier far less impressive. It may be asking a lot, but if Samsung truly wants to differentiate its Galaxy S5 Active from the already element-resistant Galaxy S5, this would be the way to do it.
What say you folks? Is the Galaxy S5 Active, as we know it to be right now, enough? Or should Samsung further differentiate it from its own Galaxy S5? Is there even a point to the Galaxy S5 Active anymore? Sound off below with your thoughts!