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Touchwiz and GS5 software improvements - What you need to know

While Samsung might not have provided as big of changes to the software as the rumor mill suggested, there are new features and improvements. Join us as we rundown some of the biggest changes.
February 26, 2014
Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands on MWC 2014-1160048
MWC 2014 Coverage brought to you by: Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus for Android.

The Galaxy S5 is here, and so far it seems to have been greeted with fairly mixed reception. While some folks enjoy the look of the new soft-touch plastic backing and the new software improvements, others feel that the Galaxy S5 fell short of what was expected.

Part of this is because the rumor mill went so crazy with the Galaxy S5. We not only heard several times about a major design change, but various leaks also suggested the UI would see a major overhaul as well. As it turns out, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, that doesn’t mean Samsung hasn’t made changes to TouchWiz or its onboard apps with the introduction of the Galaxy S5.

Let’s jump in and take a look at what’s new (or improved) here:

Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands on MWC 2014-1160031

Circular buttons in the Settings Menu and Notification Dropdown Toggles: One of the more noticeable aesthetic changes in the latest version of TouchWiz are the circular buttons that exist both in the settings menu and in the notification dropdown toggles. The circular look is somewhat similar to what we’ve seen with the NotePro.

New Toolbox option: Within the settings you’ll find a new option called Toolbox. Clicking on the Toolbox causes white dots to appear, inscribing an ellipsis. You can tap this and it will expand to reveal shortcuts to various tools including the voice recorder, calculator and notes app. You can also swap in other apps instead.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands on MWC 2014-1160039

Recent apps button replaces menu button on the GS5: The Galaxy S5 rids itself of the menu button in favor of a recent apps button, which allows you to go in and out of apps — giving you slightly improved multitasking.

My Magazine in the Homescreen: While the homescreen itself is the same as ever, Samsung seems to be taking a page out of Google’s book, putting the My Magazine UI as a second screen that you can swipe to from the right.

Quick connect: S-Beam was reasonably decent for sharing content between NFC devices, but Quick Connect is a new setting that you can get from the notifications shade and makes it easy to connect to your computer and many other devices for transferring files and other data.

Kids Mode: As previously rumored, the Galaxy S5 features a kids mode that prevents younger kids from getting access to certain apps, data and more. There are also several special apps built into kids mode such as karaoke app. For those looking for even more control over what their kids have access to on their phones, parental controls allow you to set a time limit, prevent certain apps from being installed and more.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Hands on MWC 2014-1160083

Improved camera software

We already know that the Galaxy S5 has a dramatically improved 16MP camera with ISOCELL technology, but the camera options have also been greatly improved. Here’s a highlight of some of the major features coming to the GS5 cam:

Phase Detection Auto Focus: Advanced auto focus speeds for capturing a shot quickly – first smartphone with phase detection auto focus, a feature usually found in DSLR cameras.

Real-Time HDR: High Dynamic Range (HDR) preview mode makes it easier to choose when to use HDR – like trying to photograph a beautiful sunset. It also enables users to capture HDR photos or videos with no shutter lag or post-processing.

Selective Focus Mode: Blur images near or far for a creative, one-of-a-kind shot.

Shot and More Mode: The camera chooses and recommends Drama Shot, Best Photo, Best Face or Eraser shot after the picture is taken to create the best photo

Studio: Add effects to photos and edit movies with a complete suite of editing tools within the Gallery.


Fingerprint integration and Heart Rate Monitor

While the fingerprint scanner  and heart rate monitor are obviously new hardware features, Samsung had to make some software changes in order to accommodate the technologies. Let’s talk about some of the the things you can do with the fingerprint scanner:

Logging in: The most obvious benefit is that the fingerprint scanner allows you to skip a passcode or other authentication method, and instead lets you simply swipe your finger.

Integrated Paypal support: For those that use Paypal both at retailers that accept mobile payments via the Paypal app and online, you can now use your fingerprint instead of a password. For those wondering, Paypal does not have access to your fingerprint, as the phone simply verifies to Paypal that your fingerprint is the correct one.

Multiple finger support: More than one fingerprint can be registered with the fingerprint scanner and different levels of access can be provided. For example, it’s possible (though completely optional) to have your Galaxy S5 launch in a ‘demo mode’ of sorts, with no access to personal info, files or media and then unlock the full experience with a fingerprint.

Knox 2.0 support: Yesterday Samsung took the wraps off of Knox 2.0, bringing two-factor biometric authentication to the mix, which obviously requires the Galaxy S5’s fingerprint scanner. For more details on Knox 2.0 and its fingerprint integration, be sure to check out our original Knox 2.0 announcement post.

Samsung Galaxy S5 s health heart rate monitor 2

As for the Heart Rate monitor? At the moment, there’s only support S Health integration, though the SDK has since been released, so eventually we should see more apps that support the heart rate monitor.

S-Health integration: Using the heart rate feature is easy in the newly updated S-Health app. You start by selecting the heart-rate monitor icon from S Health, then you place your index finger on the flash module and hold it for a few seconds — it will then give you the reading. Whether this feature is truly useful or just a gimmick is up for interpretation.

Wrap Up

All the features listed above are some of the biggest changes we’ve learned about so far, though it’s also worth noting that several of Samsung’s core apps have also been updated, providing a look that falls in line with the updated S-Health app. As the dust settles and we continue to learn more about the Galaxy S5, we’ll update this post with even more information regarding new apps and Touchwiz features.

What do you think about Samsung’s latest software changes? Like what you see, or were you hoping for something more drastic?