Samsung Galaxy S5 Review: What it Means for Healthcare and mHealth

Last week Samsung took the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain to unveil the Galaxy S5, the newest addition to Samsung’s a growing line of Galaxy products. The tone of the unveil was refined and to the point, a complete 180 from last year’s Galaxy S4 unveil which attendees described as “spectacular” and “unprecedented” and showcased two hours of Broadway actors acting out scenes using the new phone.

The event was kicked off by Samsung CEO JK Shin who explained the obvious change in tone by explaining "Our customers do not want eye-popping technology, or the most complex technology. Our customers want durable design and performance." The new Galaxy S5, very much like its unveil, is simple with no gimmicky new features, and few cosmetic changes over the S4.

The phone brings subtle upgrades to software and hardware, and continues the Samsung tradition of building on a cornerstone of health features. As Simon Stanford, VP of Samsung UK said “We’ve decided to go back to basics with the Galaxy S5 and focus on the features and things that matter the most to our customers – namely the camera, ability to view and download data and content quickly, and their health and wellbeing.”

Hardware: Maintaining the Status Quo

Samsung’s Galaxy launch and Apple’s iPhone launch are the only two unveils of relevance in the smartphone industry, and it’s a sure bet that they are spaced several months apart so that both companies have enough time to make sure they include upgrades over what the previous vendor just released. This year is no different.

With the Galaxy S5 Samsung once again increased its screen size, as it continues to push toward the unification of phone and tablet. With a 5.1 inch screen, the Galaxy S5 is one of the largest conventional smartphones on the market, beat only by the LG Pro 2 and the Sony Xperia X2.

Samsung also earned praise when it announced that it had upgraded the battery to a 2,800 mAh battery that, in conjunction with new software enhancements, was able to power 390 hours of standby time, 21 hours of talk time, or 11 hours of video playback. The company also claims that the phone will provide 24 hours of standby power on just 10 percent battery life.

Samsung powers the Galaxy S5 with a 2.5GHz Quad core processor, an upgrade over the S4’s 1.9GHz quad core processor. The new processor has not been independently bench tested yet, so there’s no knowing how significant an improvement it is over earlier models or compared to Apple’s 64-bit A7. The Galaxy S5 comes with 2GB of memory, the same as the Galaxy’s S4 model, but double the RAM of the iPhone 5S.

Sensors: Catching Up With Apple

The S5 comes packed with all the standard sensors a modern smartphone is expected to have but is adding two new ones to keep up with the work being done in Cupertino. First, Samsung added a fingerprint scanner to their home screen button to match the Apple 5S. The design is nearly identical, so unless the two head to court to fight over the similarities, there appears to be a growing consensus in the mobile world that fingerprints are the new digital password.

Once piece of big mHealth news coming out of this week’s announcement was Samsung’s decision to incorporate a heart rate sensor in the new phone. The sensor is located on the back of the phone just below the camera lens. Hands on testers report that it works quickly and accurately. For the few fitness enthusiasts that already own activity trackers, the heart rate sensor will seem silly because most people won’t pull their phone out on a run to check their their heart rate. Still, it’s another health sensor that will now be carried in the average Joe’s pocket, and it’s capable of collecting data that can be used by mHealth developers.

Three New Connected Wearables Mean More Data for mHealth Developers

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The next big news to come out of the Samsung unveil was that the Samsung Galaxy S5 would be compatible with both the newly released Galaxy Gear 2 and Galaxy Gear Nano, Samsung’s second-generation smartwatches, and its first-ever activity tracker, the Galaxy Gear Fit, which uses a curved-glass design and won the "Best Mobile Device” award at Mobile World Congress.

Both the Galaxy Gear Fit and the two Galaxy Gear smartwatches will monitor heart rate and activity, and will push data back to Samsung’s core health app, S-Health. Within S-Health, users will be able to trend activity patterns over time and through a newly released S-Health software developer kit, mHealth developers will be able to access and integrate with that data.

Conclusion

From a hardware perspective, Samsung took the easy route with the S5, and the general consumer electronics media is responding by labeling the S5 a lackluster disappointment. However, with the addition of a heart rate sensor built into the phone, two new smartwatches, a new activity tracker, and a software developer kit that lets mHealth developers access all the data from each device, it’s a big day for mobile health.

While Apple is still quietly hiring armies of mobile health experts to work on its secret smartwatch, Samsung has released three and an activity tracker. The pressure is now officially on Apple to bring something to the wearables table that will make up for its late entrance.


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