Sentenced to Regression: Revisiting the Samsung Galaxy S5

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ZTE Axon Pro

So I chose this week, of all weeks, to break my Google Nexus 6P. Ya know; the one that I just got in March. In the wake of the casualty, I considered the fact that I had just paid $650 for that phone. Dishing out for a second one was just not palatable. Fortunately (?), I had a bunch of phones left over from the winter upgrade that I considered as temporary replacements.

I still had my wife’s two-year old Samsung Galaxy S5. The S5 had been in an Otterbox Commuter case the entire time and was in excellent shape. But it was also the oldest and most behind-the-times device of the bunch.

I had the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, the device that was supposed to have been my winter upgrade, which presented absolutely horrific battery life, despite having a 3760 mAH  battery. But I knew the Turbo 2 was the fastest phone that I’d ever owned before the Nexus 6P. It felt great in the hand, was relatively new, and had a great display.

I had my Asus Zenfone 2 from last year. The Zenfone was also fast; I’d say probably the fastest next to the Turbo 2’s Snapdragon 810-driven performance. But the Zenfone 2 was also the buggiest of the four devices I had sitting around.

The last device I had on hand was the ZTE Axon Pro. Probably the proudest purchase of my alternative smartphone lifestyle period, the ZTE was the least recognizable (and therefore the most unique) device I carried about, as well as one of the most stable. It was reliable, predictable, had a great display, and a wonderful finish that felt great in the hand.

I dropped each of the choices in the chaos blender, and the decision output was to resurrect the Galaxy S5. I was really wary of spending all

of the effort to reconfigure the Turbo 2 only to potentially find out that time and software updates had not sufficiently affected the Turbo 2’s battery life to have an impact on my use of it. It just needed to go.

The Zenfone 2 offered 64GB of internal storage. While only half of my Nexus 6P’s storage capacity, that was still better than the other bench candidates. But I’d had all sorts of problems with the ZF2, including spontaneous re-boots and loss of various functions for seemingly no reason until I rebooted. For the ZTE, the only negative I could think of was that sometimes the screen was not great about being in low-light modes with auto-brightness on. Often when it was set in that lower brightness band, it would not brighten under the right conditions, and would many times actually get darker.

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I’ve been on the S5 for nearly a full week now. It has performed flawlessly. I can tell the speed difference between it and the 6P; it’s slower, but I do not feel like it is slow overall. My main beef to-date is the storage space. I, of course, had only given my wife the 16GB SKU, because she didn’t need more than that. Not so in my case. Only to a slightly lesser degree, the S5 suffers from the same issue as the S4. Namely that all those useless (and often downright creepy) S-features that I’m never going to use left barely more than 9GB of space available for me. The OS and all of Samsung’s crud consumed the rest of the 16GB.

I’m down to the last remaining 3.6GB, and from here, things can go downhill fast. Battery-life is also acutely pinched. But I have not been using the S5 in a normal operational profile, and I’m reckoning that the 2 year old battery suffers from a lower than max charge due to its age and usage. It is really tough for me to nail down whether I’m hammering the S5 with what will eventually be infrequent use-cases, or whether its battery life just sucks? I’m willing to take some time dealing with the battery issue to see if I can make it go away. I ordered two new units of the normal OEM battery, as well as two expanded capacity batteries. I’ll report out on how those go in improving my retro experience with this phone. I can say so far that, while the Nexus 6P was an awesome device, I’m not in some kind of geek-pain right now on the S5. Hopefully the batteries will provide the equalizer I need to feel completely at ease with going retro with this emergency phone replacement.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Seated in Hard Case

While I am no lover of TouchWhiz, I am glad that the Volume profile hotkey in the TouchWhiz windowshade eschews any need of dealing with Google’s mangled Do Not Disturb system. With a 5.1 inch screen, it’s not enough display for me, but it does allow for one-handed ops, which means I tend to use it more frequently than a larger phone. This S5 was originally supposed to have been my phone when I ordered it over spring break of 2014. My wife had said she would be fine with an HTC One M8. Of course, when she got home from vacation, she’d changed her mind and I wound up with the M8 and she took the S5 that came in two weeks later. I guess there is some degree of serendipity in events having brought me back around to it.

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Though initiated by a hardware casualty, this experiment is one that I used to run continuously, as my third phone slot used to be reserved for a cheap, older phone that I had missed and wanted to spend some time with. Such was the case with the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC Titan and the LG Optimus G2. My plan right now is to run with the S5 until one of the following occurs:

  • a new halo phone comes out (64 or 128GB of storage, 5.5″ or larger screen, stylus support optional but a plus)
  • the battery life drives me nuts (scenarios that require me to charge the phone on my return commute every day)
  • the storage drives me nuts, and I have to reset the phone and start over before I use it for three months
  • A 2015 phone within my target list goes on a nice sale or takes a permanent price drop. I missed the sales on the Blackberry Priv and Motorola Moto X Pure Edition, but I have my eyes out now for Blackberry’s, the Lumia 950XL, or a deeper price cut on the Moto X Pure Edition
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