The Samsung Galaxy S5 ships with one killer feature that real consumers can’t stop talking about when I share the details about this new phone — the water-resistant design.
Samsung is set to make a splash with a “rugged” phone for the average user and if it catches on it could push Apple in the direction of delivering a slightly more rugged iPhone 6.
While the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t a rugged phone like those we see from Casio and CAT, and we don’t expect the iPhone 6 will be either, it is the first real flagship consumer smartphone to deliver blockbuster features and specs with the ability to withstand water and dust on all major U.S. Carriers.
Up til now Users had to settle for an outdated Sony Xperia Z on T-Mobile or opt for bigger bulkier phones that ran old versions of Android and traded consumer friendly features like an amazing camera for the ability to drop the phone in water. Yes, the Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE is a great phone for a user that needs a truly rugged phone, but for the user that just wants their phone to survive an accident involving water the Galaxy S5 is a better option.
Rugged smartphones typically arrive with older specs and are slower to see Android updates. We also see longer periods between hardware updates. Samsung’s decision to make the Galaxy S5 water-resistant will bridge a gap between these fully rugged devices and the desire of consumers to not spend $80 to $100 on a waterproof case. Samsung didn’t opt for a design that will survive drops as well as a rugged phone, but with built-in water-resistant features many users will be able to pair the Galaxy S5 with a less dramatic case option that can handle the drops.
The Galaxy S5 is designed to survive your life without the need for an expensive case, and that is something we think will influence the rest of the smartphone market in 2014 and beyond. This is not the first phone to bring this feature to market, but it is poised to be one of the top selling phones with a water-resistant design. The Galaxy S4 Active is a water-resistant smartphone, but this was a niche device that used an inferior screen, lesser camera and was not available on all carriers.
The iPhone 5s is not water-resistant in any fashion, and while it is not as easy to trigger a water sensor by keeping the iPhone in the bathroom during a hot shower, there is still a need for waterproof iPhone cases. There is an entire industry of waterproof iPhone cases designed to help the iPhone 5s survive bath time with your kid, a trip to the beach, reading in the hot tub or just lounging near the pool in range of a cannon ball splash.
The Galaxy S5 should survive all of these scenarios without the need for a case, without the need for owners to spend an extra $50 to $80 to survive common life activities. Of course Galaxy S5 owners and iPhone owners will both need a heavy-duty waterproof case if they plan to use the device to take underwater photos or in extreme water sports, but it’s nice to see Samsung offer a solution that fits the majority of smartphone users who don’t need a truly rugged phone.
The lack of a water-resistant iPhone feature played a role in the estimated 5.9 billion dollars that Americans spent on iPhone repairs by September 2012. The study from SquareTrade identified the top five iPhone accidents including the iPhone being immersed in liquid (#2) and something spilling on the iPhone (#5), that accounted for 27% of iPhone accidents.
Further proof that a water-resistant iPhone 6 could solve many of the iPhone accidents also shows up in a data released in December 2012 which identified 51% of iPhone accidents took place at home. This is not an area we typically think of for a rugged smartphone or where we need a rugged waterproof case that can survive for 82 days at the bottom of the ocean. The kitchen is the most dangerous place for an iPhone, but the rest of the house is also full of potential issues. 9% of iPhone owners dropped an iPhone in a toilet at the time of this survey, and 5% sent the iPhone through the washing machine. The survey reports water, soda, beer and coffee or tea are the most common liquids spilled on iPhones.
The Galaxy S5 could survive the toilet spills of water, soda, beer and coffee; as long as the owner quickly rinsed off the sticky substances. The Galaxy S5 water-resistant rating is for 30 minutes in 1M of water, so users can run it under water to rinse off dirt and sticky spills like beer or pop.
Samsung’s decision to make the Galaxy S5 a little thicker and deliver a feature that consumers will actually use and that will prevent millions of dollars of damaged phones. Apple is reportedly shifting to a Sapphire iPhone 6 display cover that will make the display nearly scratch proof. This addresses a common complaint of iPhone owners, and while there is a debate over whether Sapphire can prevent as many broken iPhone screens it is a sign that Apple wants to deliver a more rugged or durable iPhone 6.
Apple received multiple patents relating to using Sapphire in new products to cover the screen of a mobile device. While Apple patents do not always come alongside major investment in a company that can help Apple manufacture the needed products the patents do show where Apple may go with future products.
An Apple patent from early 2014 shows one way Apple could make a waterproof iPhone 6 using a moisture barrier to keep the internal parts of the iPhone safe when the phone is exposed to water.
We don’t know if an iPhone 6 will be water-resistant like the Galaxy S5, but with increased competition in the smartphone space and the realization that consumers are in need of devices that can survive their daily lives it is possible Samsung is kicking off a trend that could catch on in 2014 or at least 2015. If consumers respond with their wallets a phone being water-resistant could soon be as expected as offering a great camera.
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