Samsung Galaxy S5 review: Fab Five
TouchWiz has many faces
The Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with a dedicated Car mode. It features four large shortcuts but you don't need even those as the phone goes into listening mode and you can dial, send texts ask for navigation instructions and control the music player without touching the screen.
Another special view is the Kids mode - it features colorful, kid-friendly graphics and limited functionality. There's a drawing app, gallery and media players, even a custom camera UI. Kids mode can handle multiple users, each with their own account. The app hides your photos and content. Only photos shot with the Kid camera are visible. The app also keeps track of how much each feature has been used.
That's not the only way to keep things private - Private mode secures photos and other files with your fingerprint (any of the three prints set up, with the password as a failsafe). Those files are only accessible when Private mode is enabled and completely hidden from apps otherwise.
Note that this is completely separate from the lockscreen - you can have the insecure Swipe to unlock screen and still keep your files safe with Private mode.
The fingerprint scanner has been certified by PayPal and can be used by apps to secure transactions, unlike the iPhone's sensor, which cannot be accessed by third-party apps.
Samsung has enabled two power-saving modes as well. The first makes the screen black and white and limits the chipset speed. Optionally it can block background data too.
If you really need to make those last few percent battery charge last, you go to Ultra power saving mode. This one cuts off all advanced functions and even changes the homescreen to a simple one with big shortcuts (only 6 of them too).
This one also works with the Safety assistance feature. In case of an emergency, the phone will alert you to Geo News (e.g. extreme weather, earthquakes) and you get easy access to the primary contacts. Two buttons send "I need help" or "I'm OK" to the contacts.
The Ultra power saving mode is enabled to make the battery last as long as possible but with a different set of shortcuts - flashlight, emergency alarm and sharing your location get top spots on the homescreen.
Finally, there's Easy mode, which shows only a handful of large shortcuts on the screen. The step counter is also visible on the homescreen, so this mode is meant for when you're out on a run and aiming for tiny icons is too hard.
The Galaxy S5 also has the Smart screen features, Stay and Scroll. Air View is available too.
Samsung's additions to Android are very helpful. Private mode in particular is something that will make even the iPhone 5s jealous, but we think Kids mode is well-executed too.
S Voice and Google Now
The Galaxy S5 features both Google Now and Samsung's S Voice.
Google Now integrates with your Google account and can access your daily routine, internet searches, email, etc. and give you information relevant to your interests and daily needs.
It provides traffic information to your work or home, knows the scores of sports teams you follow and gives you the weather forecast for your location. It's great for at-a-glance info, but can handle voice input as well.
Google Now also has its own dedicated homescreen widget.
S Voice is meant for just voice commands. It can be used to dictate text, play music, open an app, change a setting, make a memo (including voice memo), add a reminder, schedule an event, set an alarm or timer, check the weather, do a search on the internet, look for local listings (e.g. nearby restaurants) and even get an answer to a question.
Car Mode uses S Voice, so you should familiarize yourself with it even if you prefer Google Now, mostly to check if there are any options your didn't know about.