Samsung Galaxy S5 Active review: Combat ready

GSMArena team, 20 June 2014.

Dialer with Blocking mode

The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active has strong reception and in-call quality was clear and loud (even too loud perhaps at high volumes). The dialer is the familiar TouchWiz app and features all the basics - smart dial, quick dial and even a video call button.

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Smart dial is available

The dialer is part of a tabbed app that also houses the Logs. Those are very detailed and show not only calls, but messages too and you can filter by various types of events (missed call, received message, etc.). There's even a search feature if you need to look up calls from just one number or contact.

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The Logs tab Call rejection

The Galaxy S5 Active features auto call rejection - it can reject all calls, only calls from specific numbers, all unknown numbers and so on.

Blocking mode is even more restrictive - it blocks incoming calls and silences notifications and alarms. Only contacts on the priority list will be able to get a call or a message through. Blocking mode can be set to turn on and off automatically during a certain time period (e.g. at night).

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Blocking mode

We were worried that the extra protection will have detrimental effects to the loudspeaker. But instead, the Galaxy S5 Active speaker offers louder sound compared to the original Galaxy S5 - quite an impressive achievement.

Speakerphone testVoice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
HTC One (M8) 65.8 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 Active 73.1 69.3 76.7 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent


TouchWiz phonebook

The list of contacts is displayed alphabetically and there's an alphabet scroll and a search field. Your contacts automatically get synced with your Google account and your social networks.

Contacts are listed by either first or last name, depending on preference. They can be filtered based on where they come from - SIM, phone, specific online accounts or any combination of those.

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The Galaxy S5 contact manager filtering contacts by origin

The advanced menu offers a few more options: edit contact, import/export, join contacts, send or print contact cards, get friends via social services, etc. You can edit contacts and assign custom ring and message tones and even custom vibrations.

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Editing a contact

Messaging and text input

The Messages app has a row of shortcuts for the contacts you message most often and below that is the list of all conversation threads. Threads feels like a standard IM app and you can customize font size, the shape of the bubbles and the background.

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Favorite contact shortcuts options customization options

This app handles both SMS and MMS and features a wide variety of smilies. Note that using smilies greatly reduces the number of symbols in a message - it drops to 70 and each smiley counts for two symbols (that's because they use the Unicode format rather than the GSM alphabet).

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Writing a message inserting a smiley message options changing font size

The Messages app has some cool features too - you can delay dispatch by 3 seconds (or up to 30), so you can cancel a message before it goes out. You can also schedule messages to be sent automatically (say, congratulations for a birthday).

The app also features spam protection - messages from specific numbers or containing specific phrases can be blocked. Safe mode will disable the feature that automatically makes links clickable and will scan them for potential threats.

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Fighting spam cancelling messages being extra careful with links

You can set an Emergency message to go out to primary contacts when you hit the Power button three times fast. The phone can optionally take a photo (without making a sound) and send it along with the message.

The Galaxy S5 Active comes with two familiar email applications out of the box - one for your Gmail and a generic app to use with any POP3/IMAP account.

The generic app handles multiple accounts from any email server and features a combined inbox. It has a spam filter and Delayed send options similar to those in the text message app. It has a Primary Senders inbox just like Gmail too.

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The default email client swiping between messages

A couple of chat applications are preloaded on the Galaxy S5. Google's Hangouts does IM complete with group chat and sending photos, but it can handle video chat too. Google has turned it into its default SMS/MMS app.

The Samsung QWERTY keyboard features a row of numbers above the letters and a rich set of features. You can enter text by swipe-typing (like Swype and others), as well as move the cursor or view all alternative symbols for a key (which can be great if you use special symbols a lot).

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The default on-screen keyboard continuous input

The button row has a quick dial-like feature where you press and hold a number to enter a preset phrase. This can be used for standard messages like "okay", "can't talk now" and so on.

A small floating keyboard is also available, which comes in handy with Multi Window as you can move it out of the way (and it takes up less space to begin with).

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Assigning phrases to number keys floating mini keyboard

The final two input methods are Voice input and the Clipboard view.

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Voice input