Samsung has taken Android 4.4.2 KitKat and skinned their TouchWiz interface over it for both a lightly-customized look and enhanced functionality. App icons are bold and the pallet Samsung chose is colorful. For us, it's straight forward, offers good contrast and works. Frankly, though we like the light footprint of stock Android KitKat, there are areas where things are almost too subdued, flat and lacking contrast such that certain settings and controls don't stand out well enough. With TouchWiz, though some Android purists might knock it, to us it's bold and intuitive with occasionally less fumbling and drill-down required.
And these added controls and functionality are first apparent when you pull down the advanced settings panel from the top. There are a ton of options here, frankly, probably too many. However, when you want to flip on or off a feature, it sure is handy, with one swipe down and a button push away.
Samsung's My Magazine app is readily available with a right swipe from the left side of the home screen. It's essentially an integration of Flipboard pulling in news and web content from various sources with the ability to add your social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube.
The Samsung S Health app is designed to be both a personal trainer of sorts and biometric monitoring system, along with "Fitbit-like" functionality to track activity and health metrics during the course of a day.
S Health works with phone's gyro to offer pedometer functionality and you can track both steps and calories burned along with tracking your calorie intake for the day. You also get the ability to program workout routines with the Galaxy S5 minding conditioning goals you set, urging you to achieve them. And finally there's the Heart Rate monitor integration with S Health that allows you to take your pulse at any time, just by placing your finger over the back sensor of the GS5. It's accurate and works quite well but you'll have to decide for your self whether the functionality is valuable or just novelty.
And finally, the other stand-out feature of the Galaxy S5 is its fingerprint scanner that is actually built into the lower part of the screen, just above the Home button. Essentially, with a few swipes of your finger, you train the device and then give it a backup password, should you want to disable the feature in the future. From there, to unlock the GS5, just swiped down on the small target screen area. For us it worked pretty well, though we’ve heard of a few complaints if you’re rushing to get in to the device. Sometimes you just need to swipe more slowly or in a more precise downward motion, for the scanner to work. In practice, we didn’t feel it was much of a hindrance at all and the feature is a convenient, additional security measure at your disposal.