It's a Galaxy S5, only tougher. A lot tougher.
Behold, the Samsung Galaxy S5 for the hunting set. OK, that's not quite fair — camouflage is but one color you can get the GS5 Active in — gray, red and green are other options — but how can you not go for camo, right?
So what we have here is basically your standard Galaxy S5, hardened even beyond the IP67 rating of the original with some MIL-spec 810G thrown in. Basically, a rougher, tougher Galaxy S5.
The physical differences are easy enough to discern. It's just a tad taller and thicker. The smooth lines of the GS5 are broken up by what those of us who have seen too many sci-fi movies would perhaps call an exoskeleton. (But probably more accurate is to just say it has some extra armor.) Like the Galaxy S4 Active, there are exposed rivets, which have always struck me as sexy, in an industrial sense.
The capacitive buttons have been traded out for physical counterparts — recent apps, home and back — and they've got a nice click and texture to them. They're physical buttons — a bit of an anachronism, to be sure, but remember that this is a rugged phone. Capacitive buttons just won't cut it. The power button is in the usual place on the right-hand side of the phone.
There's a new button by the volume rocker, though. That's the "Active Key." By default, a long press takes you to the camera app (and can serve as a shutter button, if you'd like, but you'll have to enable that in settings). A short press takes you to the "Activity Zone." It sounds like a fun kids hangout, but in reality it brings up a screen with barometer readings — elevation and pressure in millibars — a compass (with GPS coordinates), and one-touch buttons to a flashlight and stopwatch. You can remap the Active Key to any number of other apps, though.
The new 'Active Key' on the side lets you jump into the camera, or the phone's new sensor-filled 'Activity Zone.'
Like the Galaxy S5 and the GS4 Active before it, the USB port is hidden under what feels like a pretty sturdy flap. Note that it's just a standard microUSB port, though, and not the newer USB3 with its funky second connection. Hardly a deal-breaker, in our opinion. Along the top bezel is the 3.5mm headphone jack, IR port (in case you have to change channels out in the wild), and a secondary microphone.
While this is a rugged-ish device, it's still got a removable battery cover — with a removable plastic sticker warning you to put it back on right if you want to keep the water and dirt out — and a removable 2,800 mAh battery, same capacity as the GS5 proper. (For what it's worth, both phones' batteries are of the same size and shape and can be interchanged, but they have different product numbers.)
While we're on the back of the phone, it's worth mentioning that there are a couple of protective plastic covers on the camera lens and the flash/fingerprint sensor. (Again, just in case you need to check your heart rate in the bush.) You'll want to take those off.
Software-wise, we're looking at Android 4.4.2 with TouchWiz and a whole lot of AT&T bloat. (To the surprise of absolutely no one.) We've got a 16GB model here (which is all that's available) and about 10.9GB of storage available for us to use. There is still a microSD card slot under the battery door, though.
The Galaxy S5 Active manages to do all this without feeling like a tank, though. To be clear, there's not much about it that's dainty. It's a big, semi-rugged phone. When you hold it, you don't worry about it. There's still a whole bunch of glass on the front, of course — that 5.1-inch display has quite the footprint, but it's also very excellent in the full Florida sun — but at least there's a little bit of a lip to keep it off the workbench should you leave it face down.
The GS5 Active is currently available on AT&T for $199 on contract or $714 outright.