A fitness-focused fraternal twin to AT&T's Galaxy S5 Active, the Galaxy S5 Sport is a welcome addition to Sprint's lineup
Think Samsung has gotten its money's worth out of the Galaxy S5 yet? Think again. Just when you thought the company tapped all of its flagship's marketing potential, another iteration — and another sales opportunity — has entered the ring. Meet the Galaxy S5 Sport, a Sprint exclusive that custom crafts the Galaxy S5 Active, which we met earlier this summer, into a durable, everything-proof companion for your fitness-driven lifestyle.
We spent a few weeks the S5 Sport to find out where it differs, or if it differs at all, from the Galaxy S5 Active, and how it stacks up against the rest of the super-charged Android flagships sitting on Sprint shelves this summer.
Sprint Galaxy S5 Sport hardware
First thing's first: Despite their similarities, the Galaxy S5 Sport and the Galaxy S5 Active actually serve very different purposes, at least according to the marketing strategies behind them. Think of the devices as fraternal twins: they share the same DNA and are similar in appearance, yet each is very much its own smartphone.
The differences you'll find are mostly limited to the exterior: The S5 Sport is the slightly sleeker, less rugged sibling, foregoing the Active's industrial, tank-like design for a more toned down appearance. The screws are gone, as is the "Active button", and rather than having the Active's hard plastic frame, the Sport has a bit of a softer shell that's more comfortable in the hand. But that's really where the differences end: what's left are the same boxy corners, the same IP76 rating for water, dust, sand, and dirt resistance, and the same physical buttons. Both feel great in one hand – much more so than the original S5 – thanks to the textured back, and both are designed to withstand an active, if not clumsy, lifestyle.
Both the Active and the Sport flaunt the same 5.1-inch, SuperAMOLED, Gorilla Glass 3-enforced display that made the Galaxy S5 famous, as well as the Snapdragon 801 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 2,800 mAH battery, and 16MP camera. We've covered both of the S5 Sport's siblings ad nauseum here and here, and everything from performance and battery life to image quality is tit-for-tat here, so for now I'll leave it at this: Samsung knows how to make stellar hardware, even if it's not as gorgeous as some of its competition.
The S5 Sport is the slightly sleeker, less rugged sibling.
One final, Sport-specific note: this iteration is Sprint Spark enabled, which means that it's compatible with the carrier's supercharged LTE network where available. Here in New York, Spark has come a long way, and I was seeing speeds of up to 60 mbps/down and 15 mbps/up in various areas of the city. If you're in a Spark market, the S5 Sport will fly, though if you're still stuck in one of Sprint's 3G dead zones, you're probably already aware of how stinted your speeds will be.
Sprint Galaxy S5 Sport software
Here's where the S5 Sport really blooms into its own. Sprint and Samsung didn't want just another version of the S5 Active, and rather than marketing this as phone that can be dropped, thrown, spit on and buried in the dirt, the companies are positioning the S5 Sport as your healthy lifestyle companion (that just happens to be extremely durable). And while its software doesn't really differ from other S5 iterations, the Sport brings the Galaxy line's health-focused features to the forefront.
Turn on the S5 Sport for the first time and you'll notice the same exact TouchWiz that ships on every other Galaxy device released within the past six months. You'll also find a home screen dominated by Sprint Fit live, a hub of sorts for all things fitness. The knob of this slide-out drawer follows you throughout the S5 Sport's UI — open it to find things like Samsung's S-Health, MapMyFitness, and Spotify, along with a news feed of the day's top Health and Wellness stories.
S-Health is the portion of Sprint Fit live focused more on your overall health rather than just your fitness. We've seen S-Health before on other Galaxy devices and it's just as useful and fun to use on the Sport as ever. S-Health puts the S5 Sport's heart rate monitor to good use while also acting as a pedometer and an exercise tracker. But it doesn't stop there — S-Health offers things like a food diary for you to track your caloric intake, a sleep monitor to track patterns and suggest a better night's rest, and a stress test that uses your heart rate to determine how much stress you're under. S-Health stores this information in your Samsung account to make mapping and tracking fairly simple.
MapMyFitness, on the other hand, focuses more explicitly on exercise: it offers a plethora of activities from running and cycling to weight training and yoga while suggesting exercise programs, tracking your progress, and offering ideas for diversifying your workout. MapMyFitness is appropriate for all fitness levels and requires a free account, which is upgraded to MVP status for a year (a $30 value) on the S5 Sport.
While the S5 Sport is marketed toward the fitness-savvy among us, gym rats shouldn't necessarily jump the gun and grab the device without weighing other options. As you can see, it's a great device that brings Samsung's and Sprint's health-centric software to the forefront, but doesn't necessarily offer any fitness apps that other Android smartphones do not.
Those looking for a slim, sleek and eye-catching smartphone might be better off sticking with the HTC One M8, while those who need a better camera and a bigger screen should look at the LG G3. And those Galaxy lovers who tend to be more careful with their device, or prefer keeping their phone in a case, should probably save a few bucks by sticking with the original S5, which also happens to features all of the Sport's "sport" features.
It is those Sprint customers who need a worry-free phone that should seriously consider the S5 Sport. This is a phone that can get wet, can play in the dirt, can get covered in mud and still make it out alive, all without sacrificing the speed, the gorgeous display, and the stellar camera that made Galaxy S5 so popular. The S5 Sport is also a no-brainer for those in the market for a Samsung Gear Fit, which is $50 off at Sprint with the purchase of an S5 Sport.
The bottom line
Is a Galaxy S5 by any other name as sweet? The answer is yes, proven first by the Galaxy S5 mini, then by the Galaxy S5 Active, and now by the Galaxy S5 Sport. This is a great addition to the S5 lineup, and Sprint smartly put its own spin on the device rather than just repurposing the S5 Active. The S5 Sport appeals to a broader audience thanks to its slightly toned-down aesthetic and its preloaded software, yet retains the ruggedness and durability that makes the S5 Active so unique.
The S5 Sport on Sprint is a powerful, durable smartphone with a best-in-class display, industry-leading camera, and an IP67 weatherproof rating priced fairly at $199 on a two year contract. Current Sprint customers should closely consider it as their next smartphone purchase, while customers from other carriers should only jumping ship if they live in one of Sprint's Spark-enabled markets.