Archive for December, 2013

We were big fans of the Samsung Galaxy S4when it launched in March 2013, but time doesn’t stand still and the company is going to have to do some pretty special things with the Galaxy S5 if it wants to keep challenging Apple for smartphone superiority. Here we’re rounding up all of the Samsung Galaxy S5 rumours as they happen, so check back regularly to get the latest information.




Smartphone companies are rather predictable, generally launching products on a yearly timescale. With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to guess when the next product will be launched. As we had the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch in March 2013, it makes a lot of sense that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will be released in March 2014.

Some rumours have suggested that Samsung may push forward the release date of the S5 to February, but we’d only be talking about a matter of weeks here, and the rough timeframe should remain the same. So, until we hear otherwise we’re pencilling in an early 2014 launch for the 5th iteration of the Galaxy handset.




Apple moved its entire new mobile platform to 64-bit with the launch of the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad Mini, so it’s time for Samsung to play catch-up. By all reports, the Samsung Galaxy S5 will ship with a 64-bit processor as well.

Samsung’s CEO of Mobile Shin Jong-Kyun has stated that the company’s “next smartphones will have 64-bit processing”. There were rumours that the chip would be delayed and wouldn’t appear until the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was released later in 2014, but it looks as though Samsung’s back on track.

A senior ARM executive stoked these rumours futher, telling the Korea Herald that the company had finalised a deal with Samsung to provide the Galaxy S5 with a 64-bit chip. This would make it the first Android device to support 64-bit operations.

The as yet unnamed chip is expected to be known as the Exynos 6, making it the successor to the Exynos 5 found in the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition. However, previous Samsung smartphones used Qualcomm processors here in the UK compared to Exynos chips elsewhere in the world, so it’s unclear if Samsung intends to use a similar strategy for the Galaxy S5.

Of course, a 64-bit processor isn’t much good without a compatible 64-bit operating system. While Apple made the jump to 64-bit using hardware and iOS 7, Samsung doesn’t write Android, so it will need Google to write a 64-bit version.

It would be foolish to discount Qualcomm altogether, particularly followingbenchmark results were spotted online showing an unannounced Samsung smartphone with a Snapdragon 800 CPU running at 2.5GHz – a higher frequency than any other mobile device released to date.




Even with the limited amount of information regarding the Galaxy S5’s screen available so far, we really don’t think that Samsung will go significantly above 5in in size. While there is some room to increase screen size without making a larger handset, going significantly larger than 5in with the Galaxy S5 would start to impact on the Galaxy Note phablet range.

It’s possible Samsung will go higher than the Full HD resolution of the Galaxy S4, with Androibeat reporting that roadmap slides show WQHD (2,560×1,440) screens estimated to arrive in 2014 and Ultra HD (3,840×2,160, otherwise known as 4K) due in 2015.

Samsung analyst day screenshot

That roadmap was given some substance earlier this week when benchmark scores (mentioned in the previous section) revealed a 2,560×1,440 resolution display on an unannounced Samsung smartphone using the model name SM-G900S. The results make no mention of screen size, although we can make an educated guess; Samsung’s roadmap specifically mentions 560 pixels per inch (PPI) pixel density screens, which would equate to 5.25in based on the resolution.

Samsung also recently launched the curved screen Galaxy Round in Korea, and there’s no reason that technology couldn’t make it into its high-end phone. Then, there’s always the possibility of upgraded Super AMOLED technology. However, we’re going to have to wait until we’re closer to the launch date before we start seeing some real information.

Now it appears as though the 5.25in WQHD screen has now entered production, as reported by SamMobile. With the screen starting to be produced in December, it means that Samsung is gearing up for a Q1 2014 launch, as widely expected.

As well as finding out the screen has gone into production, there are some new nuggets of information on the technology being used. Rather than switching to cheaper LCD, Samsung’s new WQHD screen will be AMOLED, sticking with the same technology as used on the Samsung Galaxy S4.

A pentile arrangement of sub-pixels will also be used, with green pixels alternated with red and blue pixels. A diamond pixel arrangement will be used, too, with diamond-shaped pixels designed to make the screen look sharper.

One thing seems to be off the cards, though: a curved screen. Although Samsung has the technology to produce curved displays, we haven’t seen this screens in huge volume. Given the desire and demand that the S5 will likely have, a standard flat screen, albeit one with a super-high-resolution, seems like a safer bet.




The 13-megapixel camera was one of the highlights of the Galaxy S4, but since then we’ve seen the 20-megapixel Sony Xperia Z1 and the incredible 41-megapixelNokia Lumia 1020. It’s fair to say, then, that competition is tough and Samsung could go in several directions to up the quality of its camera.

Currently doing the rounds, reported by Samsung Tomrrow, is that the company’s ISOCELL sensor technology could be used in the Galaxy 5. This new sensor technology physically separates each pixel, minimising electrical crosstalk, producing sharper pictures with less noise.

GforGames reported that during Samsung’s 2013 Analyst day a slide revealed that a 16-megapixel ISOCELL sensor was marked for 2014 and 2015 smartphones. Although not an outright confirmation, it’s the biggest indicator yet that the Galaxy S5 will include a 16-megapixel rear camera. Unfortunately there’s no mention of optical image stabilisation (OIS), which could prove problematic if other smartphone companies up their camera technology in 2014 as well.

Depending on how quickly Samsung’s engineers make progress, the Galaxy S5 could even see a 20-megapixel camera. According to Korean news sourceETNews, the company is developing a 20-megapixel smartphone camera sensor now, with a view to include it in handsets from the second half of 2014 onwards. This would seemingly be too late for the proposed Q1 launch date for the S5, although it’s always possible the technology is perfected ahead of schedule, or the phone itself slips to a later launch date.



Samsung smartphones are renowned for their extra software features, with Smart Stay and Smart Pause turning off the screen and pausing videos respectively when the front-facing webcam detects you looking away. The company may go a step further, with the Galaxy S5 adding eye scanning security if a new patent filing proves accurate.


A detailed analysis by PatentBolt reveals how an upcoming Samsung smartphone could use a retina scanner, much in the same way as current iris scanners work now. Crucially, the patent explains that this design would be cheaper to implement than existing iris scanners, which makes us think this is one rumour worth keeping an eye on.

PatentBolt Galaxy S5 eye scanner

We’re beginning to see more smartphones put an emphasis on security, with Apple’s iPhone 5s using TouchID fingerprint sensors and the HTC One Max following suit. Samsung doesn’t like to be left behind, so we’re betting that there’s a good chance some form of extra security will make its way to the Galaxy S5.




As great as the Samsung Galaxy S4 was, the plastic case just isn’t as attractive as the all-metal one on the iPhone 5S. So, is 2014 the year that Samsung goes all-metal? According to the latest rumours, it is, with the Samsung Galaxy F being touted as a replacement for the Galaxy S. It could just be that the F is the prototype name, though, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 will have an all-metal body.

However, Samsung may go a different route. It recently bought a 50 per cent share of carbon fibre specialist, the SGL Group. That suggests that Samsung will forgo metal, opting for a classy carbon fibre finish instead. That could work well for the company, as it would distinguish its products from Apple, while giving the Galaxy S5 a classy and robust case.

There are also rumours that, following the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung with make the Galaxy S5 waterproof and dustproof out of the box. It’s certainly something that the company could do, but we’re not sure that this is the killer feature that will turn people away from the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S5 patent

Samsung could also be working on a brand-new design, completely changing the way its phones look. Reported by SamMobile patents have been uncovered, showing a squarer design for a Samsung phone, removing the physical home button. The patents were applied for in 2011 in South Korea and 2012 in the US, so there’s no telling if or when they’ll actually be used.




With Android 4.4 KitKat now released, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that this is the operating system that Samsung will choose for its latest handset. As well as faster multitasking and a new immersive mode, KitKat also has better cloud integration. It also supports, on the right hardware, the ability to be activated by voice without having to press a button first. With Samsung adding voice control on the Galaxy S3, this could be the next logical step.

There’s also a possibility that Samsung will make the switch to Tizen, its in-house operating system developed specifically for mobile devices. The company is currently trialling the OS in its NX300M compact system camera before it begins a rollout to smartphones, but if the Galaxy S5 uses a 64-bit processor and Android isn’t coded for it, Samsung may decide to push ahead without Google’s operating system.




It’s pretty clear that the Galaxy S5 is going to cost the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4, so expect to pay around £600 SIM-free. If there’s a whole bunch of extra tech in the handset we could see the price go up, but as Apple stringently keeps the same pricing structure, we can’t see Samsung wanting to be seen as the expensive manufacturer.

Apple’s new approach to tablets is to make everything easier to carry – and with a 43% thinner bezel and a 28% lighter device, the iPad Air is championing that drive.

If you haven’t seen a picture yet, then imagine an iPad mini that you’ve just held a little closer to your face, and you’re largely there with the Air.

It’s got the same smooth back design, thinner bezel and more attractive speakers at the bottom of the phone to make it look like more of a family with the cut down tablet from Apple’s stables.

While it’s a clear copy, we’re not going to get upset about that as the mini already had a stunning design, and the Air takes that message and brings it to the big leagues.

It also has machined buttons that don’t feel loose when shaking, bringing up the premium feel to the device.

On top of the new design, it’s also rocking Apple’s A7 chip, bringing with it 64-bit processing power and reams of battery saving techniques to keep your tablet going even longer in day to day use.

And the greatest thing about the iPad range in our eyes is the price – Apple is starting the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model at the same cost as its rivals, and while that outlay does spiral up as capacity and connectivity increase, for an Apple device to not charge an (unnecessary) premium is something we’re really happy to see.

We’re looking at a price range of £399 – £739 ($499 – $929 or AU$598 – AU1049), starting from the 16GB version (Wi-Fi only) to the 64GB cellular option.


iPad Air review


Add to that the fact Apple is lobbing in a lot of useful free software, as well as bringing a more refined experience with iOS 7, and you can see that it’s put a lot of effort into making the iPad Air the tablet that shows it’s not losing its relevancy in the market.

The keynote for the launch of the iPad Air talked a lot about Apple’s dominance in terms of tablet usage, but it’s no secret that a number of users are starting to warm to the idea of an Android model as their main device – the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is one of the best around at the moment, and offers expandable storage as well as a waterproof casing to trump Apple in that respect.


iPad Air review]


But Apple has countered by bringing out the same 128GB model as before, which, while pricey, gives more than ample storage for anything you want to do on the go, be it storing all the HD apps you want as well as your entire music collection and most movies too.

It’s worth noting that the 16GB option is nigh-on useless as a purchase if you’re thinking of pulling in all the free apps Apple is slinging your way – this was an issue when the Retina display landed on the iPad 3, and has only got worse as more HD apps from developers have been slipped onto the App Store.


iPad Air review


However, it’s still good to see options being offered when it comes to storage, as some Android devices (albeit mostly phones) are starting to eschew expandability and not really upping the internal space.

So you can see that Apple has covered its bases in nearly every area when it comes to the iPad Air – but how does it actually perform in the hand when subjected to rigorous daily use?


The iPad Air is an odd device when you pick it up for the first time. When you hear all the numbers being bandied about you’d rightly assume that you’d feel something that was almost ghost-like in the hand, a tablet that could almost get blown away.

And we’re utterly not disputing that – the iPad Air is the most balanced tablet on the market, with great precision going into the engineering throughout. However, if you’ve touched an iPad mini or just haven’t held an older iPad for a while (and with some people we tested with, even those that had) you won’t feel as much of a step up as you’d be expecting.

We’ve added that caveat to brace you should you be excited to purchase the new iPad, as it’s not something that affects the general usage in any way, with one-handed holding very easy, and something that puts the Air into a new product category.


iPad Air review


The design of the iPad Air is, as we’ve mentioned, very impressive. Yes, it’s totally based on the iPad mini, and the smooth aluminium back is really great to feel in the hand. It’s a shame that most people feel the need to slap a cover on an iPad as soon as it’s bought – while we get the notion of protection, it hides away some cracking design.

That said, at least it keeps the fingers away from the chassis, and the iPad Air is a real magnet for prints. The back cover isn’t too bad, but the mirrored Apple logo sucks down finger oil and is loathe to give it back even with hard scrubbing with a cloth.


iPad Air review


It might not sound like a big deal, but it makes your premium new tablet look a bit unkempt right from the start.

But in actual operation, the design of the iPad Air complements the impressive innards superbly. It’s unsurprisingly not possible to hold your hand the entire way around the edge of the Air, but then again it’s so light (and comes with the ability to disregard erroneous thumbs entering the screen, again like the iPad mini) that it doesn’t really make a big difference.


iPad Air review


The rest of the buttonry – the top-mounted power key and the silencing rocker switch and volume buttons at the side – haven’t moved far, but protrude nicely to make them very easy to hit no matter when you’re holding the device – being able to find such things without looking is often sacrificed in the quest to make tablets look sleeker, so we’re happy Apple has gone the other way here.

There is one note of criticism in terms of design for such a decent (and still expensive, despite costing the same as many of its peers) piece of kit: the screen has a plastic thud to it when tapping, thanks to the smaller and lighter innards.

It’s most noticeable when grazed with a fingernail, although in a case the effect is lessened. We’re surprised Apple let this feature go unchallenged, but it seems in making the design thinner and removing part of the inner cage the overall strength of the chassis is somewhat reduced.

It’s not a major issue by any means, and certainly one that you’ll only pick up on sporadically, but it’s still enough to irk at times when you’re expecting a truly premium experience.

Many of you will also be wondering why there’s no TouchID onboard the iPad AIr when it’s such a large selling point for the iPhone 5S.


iPad Air review


We’re in the same boat. The architecture is there. It surely can’t be an issue of space seeing as the technology fitted into the iPhone 5S.

So what could it be? Apple surely isn’t holding it back as the ‘big upgrade’ for the iPad Air 2, is it? That would be such an anti-climax… plus we’re waiting for the bendable iPad in 2014 anyway.

Hands on: SteamOS Beta review

Just a decade ago, Seattle-based Valve software was best-known for creating the first-person shooter Half-Life series. At the time we were eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Gordon Freeman’s sci-fi adventures in Half-Life 2.

But Valve’s side project, the Steam games distribution platform, was gently bubbling away as faster internet connections and more capacious hard drives meant that we could do away with physical media.

Today we’re in much the same boat. Anyone who has ever so much as handled a controller is waiting for the Half-Life 3 announcement. Steam has gone from being a controversial and slightly annoying way of getting games to the PC gamer’s title hub of choice. Bubbling away in the background this time is SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system which forms a big part of the company’s plan to infiltrate the living room gaming space.

Last week, 300 lucky US Steam users received their Steam Machines – prototype small-form-factor PCs capable of running SteamOS. At the same time the company released a public beta of the operating system, so anyone who fancied building their own Steam Machine could give it a go.


Steam Box


Well, almost anyone: “Unless you’re an intrepid Linux hacker already, we’re going to recommend that you wait until later in 2014 to try it out,” Valve said.

It could change everything. Not only does it threaten Microsoft’s dominance of PC gaming, which appears to have slipped a little with Windows 8, but it could finally push the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation out of that lucrative little gap beneath your television. Tiny media PCs that you can strap to the back of your plasma TV are a growing market, but they lack a coherent operating system, especially since Microsoft dropped Windows Media Center in Windows 8.


Default installation


SteamOS, then, promises to sit somewhere between Windows gaming and console usability. It’s built around Steam’s Big Picture mode, which is designed for large screens and controller-based interaction. A custom Debian Linux distribution sits behind the whole thing, which means it’s capable of web browsing and running programs as well as its gaming raison d’etre. As you’d expect from a Linux-based operating system, it’s completely free and totally open-source.




It’s a win-win situation for Valve, too. Even if SteamOS completely fails, its coffers will be lined for eternity with the estimated billions Valve makes from the Steam platform alone. But curiosity got the better of us, and we just had to try out SteamOS for ourselves to see how Valve is shaping the future of gaming.