Samsung Galaxy S5 camera: first impressions

Once, we bought phones to make phone calls. Years ago, that’s all a phone did. But in the era of the smartphone, we’re just as likely to judge a handset by its abilities as a camera. So I was keen to find out how the Samsung Galaxy S5‘s snapper performed.

Galaxy S5 shot of Richmond, Surrey

Galaxy S5 shot of Richmond, Surrey

First impressions are good, at least outdoors. I got the chance to test the camera at the seaside at Penarth, Wales and Richmond, Surrey, last week. The sun was shining, and the Galaxy S5 captured the colours beautifully.

Richmond, Surrey, captured with an iPhone

Richmond, Surrey, captured with an iPhone

But, as you can see here, my 2012 iPhone 5 was just as capable at capturing the sunny scene. And it’s arguably easier to use as a camera, with its smaller size and physical button (the volume up button) to release the shutter. (UPDATE: I have since realised that you can also use the S5’s volume button to shoot, although it’s hardly instant.)  Finally, the iPhone camera is quicker to open from the lock screen, which may make all the difference between capturing a moment and cursing at missing it.

I did find the S5 better at switching between video and still shooting modes. After all this time, I still struggle to cope with the iPhone’s slider to choose between the two – and find selecting flash on, off and auto modes even worse. The S5 is much more logical, once you remember that clicking the video camera button starts filming, rather than just switching mode.

Where the S5 really wins is when you view photos and videos on that beautiful large screen. It makes such a difference.

Its weakness? Taking photos indoors and in poor light. It’s a weakness it shares with my iPhone 5. It’s too soon to ditch a real camera, although Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone has the advantage of being the camera you always have with you, unlike a bulky SLR. I was glad I had it with me when the Thames was at high tide in Richmond last week (below).

Richmond high tide, seen on Samsung Galaxy S5

Richmond high tide, seen on Samsung Galaxy S5

PS: read my post: How to take Samsung Galaxy S5 screenshot and other tips

Smartphone wars: why Apple doesn’t fear Android

My first iPhone: goodbye Nokia, goodbye Sony…

If you believe the stories, the battle for dominance in the smartphone market is between Apple’s iPhone and Android phones, based on Google’s mobile operating system.

Android phones still outnumber iPhones, but a fascinating post by BBC technology reporter Rory Cellan-Jones today suggests that’s the wrong way of looking at it. Instead, we should be looking at how much money mobile phone brands are making. The answer is that only Apple and Samsung are making any money. (See also Lance Whitney’s CNET post.)

Rory links to analyst Horace Dediu‘s infographic that shows smartphone makers’ profit share over recent years. In 2007 – the year Apple launched the original iPhoneNokia enjoyed over 50% of the market’s profits. Nokia no longer turns a profit. Sony [Ericsson], Blackberry maker RIM and LG used to share some 20% of the market by profit. Again, they’ve all seen profitability disappearing. In return, Apple has gone from nothing to 73% of market profits. (Samsung has the remaining share aside from a consolation 1% for HTC.)

Back to Android. Samsung has that part of the market sewn up. Cheap Android phones are unlikely to make money for their makers anytime soon. Apple’s focus on the high end of the market, combined with its brand appeal and consumer-friendly approach, have created a revolution in a market long dominated by Nokia.  Nokia has bet its future on offering Windows Phone handsets, yet killed sales of its Symbian-based phones by declaring its plans way ahead of the switch.

It will be fascinating to see whether anyone can break the Apple and Samsung duopoly.

Not such a smart TV: no BBC iPlayer on Samsung

I bought a new TV today for our kitchen. The old one stopped working after digital switchover this week, so I replaced it with an internet-connected one that enables us to watch BBC iPlayer on TV. John Lewis in High Wycombe said the Samsung UE22ES5400 LED 22 inch TV would do just this.


I was impressed by how easy it was to set up. But I couldn’t find the iPlayer. The web based iPlayer said the BBC didn’t support my device (above).

I didn’t think that mattered. After all, Samsung’s BBC iPlayer app features prominently on the company’s website – but that was also missing:


At this point, I called John Lewis. Its friendly technical help person couldn’t help. He said I could return the TV – or call Samsung. I didn’t think there was much chance Samsung would answer the phone late on a Saturday afternoon. But to its credit, I did get through to someone who explained after some research that the iPlayer app wasn’t yet available for the 5400 TV as it was a new model but would be in early May.

So I won’t be taking the TV back to John Lewis just yet.

PS: why are TV names so obscure and impossible to remember? Samsung could learn a lot from Apple. iPhone is so much more compelling and easier to remember than UE22ES5400.