Digital Life

Samsung launches Galaxy S5 and Gear smart watches in Australia

Samsung fired the latest shot in the battle for gadget supremacy in Sydney on Wednesday night, announcing pricing and availability for the new Galaxy S5 smartphone and Gear smart devices, and a deal with Westpac and Commonwealth Bank to allow people to pay for goods with their phones.

The Galaxy S5 runs on the Android operating system and will be available in four different colours for $929 from April 11, with pre-orders beginning on Thursday. It will also be available on plans with all three major mobile carriers - Telstra, Optus and Vodafone - on their 4G networks.

Anthony "Harries" Carroll and Bruce "Hoppo" Hopkins at the Samsung Galaxy S5 launch event at the Museum of Contemporary ...
Anthony "Harries" Carroll and Bruce "Hoppo" Hopkins at the Samsung Galaxy S5 launch event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. 

Samsung's wearable gadgets will also go on sale on April 11. The Gear Fit fitness band will retail for $249, while its smartwatches, the Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, will cost $369.95 and $249 respectively.

The wearable gadgets, first unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February alongside the GS5, will be available at Samsung's two flagship stores in Sydney and Melbourne, and at major electronics retailers across Australia.

The S5 claims to be dust and water resistant, allowing it to be submerged in one metre of water for up to 30 minutes - a point its sponsored ambassadors from Ten's Bondi Rescue and swimming champion James Magnussen were happy to make at the celebrity-studded Museum of Contemporary Art launch.

Other key features include a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen, 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, better battery - 2800 milliamps hours (mAh) compared to the S4's 2600 mAh - fingerprint scanner, heart rate monitor, download booster, and ultra power-saving mode.

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That mode shuts down all of the S5's key functions, turns its screen black and white, and dims it to allow users to squeeze out the last bit of battery power when they realise they have forgotten to charge it. While in the mode, users can use up to six apps.

The download booster fuses the phone's Wi-Fi and 4G data connections together, when requested by the user, so the phone can provide a smoother internet connection. Samsung says this feature can eliminate buffering.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, the phone also uses a smart antenna technology called MIMO, that enables it to connect to a Wi-Fi access point at two times the speed previously available on the S4. It does this by using two antennas to improve communication performance.

Mobile payment

Perhaps one of the most interesting features for those who like to pay quickly at the checkout is the phone's mobile tap-and-pay functionality.

Utilising near-field communication (NFC) technology, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank customers will be able to tap-and-pay their phones on point-of-sale terminals instead of taking their tap and pay-enabled credit card out of their wallet.

Unlike the solution found by the Commonwealth Bank to make NFC work on the iPhone, the Galaxy S5 does not require an NFC sticker or adaptor, as the functionality is built into the phone.

Samsung is also hoping a partnership with online payment provider PayPal that uses the phone's fingerprint scanner will provide people with another reason to use its device. 

When using the S5, PayPal users - there are 5.5 million active in Australia according to PayPal - will be able to scan their digits on the S5 to authorise payment from their accounts instead of entering an email address and password.

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