UPDATE: The major Telcos have launched dedicated web pages for consumers to pre-register interest for the Galaxy S5, including Optus, Telstra and Vodafone.

[Original Story]

Samsung took to the stage in Barcelona for its Mobile World Congress launch event this morning. We were there (in spirit) and we have all the big details on the new Galaxy S5, Gear 2 and Gear Fit, as they happened.

Check out the details below, as they were announced, and get ready for the 11 April 2014 launch date!

(All timestamps are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time)

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0600: In true Samsung fashion, the launch has started with the Barcelona Opera House chamber orchestra playing generically inspirational music, as the gathered media patiently wait for another Mobile World Congress unveiling. Twitter is already lighting up with predictions and commentary on the lavish launch.

0612: Alright, we’ve been listening to the same chamber music song for a while now. But it seems to be having the desired affect – the hall is more packed than for a Boss concert, and the crowd is politely clapping after each rendition.

0614: Things have finally kicked off with a video of stock-photo-ready actors talking about “living life at my own pace” and a passion “for all the things that make life even better”. True for a smartphone, but it could apply to any device really…

0615: Samsung Electonics global marketing guru David Park has arrived onstage to welcome the crowd, but don’t get too used to him, it’s timeto introduce JK Shin, President & CEO head of IT and Mobile Communications Division, Samsung Electronics.

0616: Mr Shin appears onstage to talk up the history of the Galaxy S Series, which he says “has been a key driver of smartphone growth”.

“I truly appreciate the 200 million customers around the world who have chosen our Galaxy S devices – we are very grateful…and we know that we must continue own the consumer’s choice,” he says.

Importantly, he talks about how “that small, one-step-further innovation always changes the world”. This is prophetic: with Samsung expected to launch the Galaxy S5, maybe it will be more of an evolution, rather than a revolution in smartphone design. Mr Shin continues:

Our consumers don’t want eye-popping technology or the most complex technology. Our consumers want durable design and performance, our consumers want a simple yet powerful camera, our consumers want seamless connectivity and our consumers want a phone that can help them stay fit.

Telling us he won’t make us wait any longer (thanks Mr Shin, the chamber orchestra looked like they were warming up again), he introduces the Galaxy S5 (with a high concept video of course).

0620: Now it’s time to talk features. JK Shin manages to sound positively effusive about the features that we’ve all come to expect from a high quality smartphone. He talks about browsing speeds, and lingers on the “top 3 most wanted camera features” being “fast autofocus, enriched colour with advanced HDR and an improved user experience”.

0622: We’re up to the features that get their own dedicated applause. Shin announces that the GS5 has been designed to work with the new Samsung Gear (our interest is piqued, but more on that later…), and it has a built in heart-rate sensor which is the “first of its kind”. It boasts IP67 water and dust resistance (*applause*), the “highest level of security for enterprise users with the new evolution of Knox” (*more applause from the enterprise security nerds in the audience*) and a “long operating time with ultra power saving mode”. Shin also says the design is “modern and refreshing”. Our first impressions from the teaser video are that the device looks quite similar to the previous Galaxy S4, albeit with a new “perforated” rear panel, and a shinier look.

Shin adds that all the new features of the GS5 are “great complements to our new Gear portfolio”. That’s right, it looks like it’s time for another

0624: High concept video!

This time it’s for the Samsung Gear 2 and the Gear 2 Neo, or as we would label them “Gear and Gear Light”. The smart watch format looks relatively unchanged, but it’s certainly more sleek and streamlined than the original Galaxy Gear that was launched in September last year.

Samsung Gear 2 and Gear Neo on show at Mobile World Congress
The Samsung Gear 2 and Gear Neo on show at Mobile World Congress

0625: No time to dwell on product evolution, it’s time to introduce a whole new addition to Samsung’s wearable technology portfolio, the Samsung Gear Fit — an “iconic design for consumers that are focused on being stylish on the go”. Similar in form factor to LG’s recently launched Lifeband Touch, the Fit has a curved screen, which allows you to check your heart rate while you’re exercising, monitor phone calls and sms updates and do “a lot from your phone”.

Wrapping up, Shin says the S5 and Gear products are a result of Samsung’s “open, flexible and cooperative” company philosophy. Thanks Mr Shin.

0627: David Park has returned to the stage to “dive deeper” into the devices. But apparently there’s no time for that, because now he’s welcoming Jean Daniel Ayme, Vice President of European Telecommunications Operations, to the stage (we assume he’ll be diving on Mr Park’s behalf today).

0628: Ayme takes some time to talk about the way Samsung’s consumer insights were used to inform the design process with the Galaxy S5:

Improving human life is at the heart of Samsung. Continuing to be the choice for customers is our number one consideration. This is why, while we were planning the Galaxy S5, we focused on what’s essential to them and how to enrich their lives with fundamental, meaningful and relevant improvements. As you’ll see tonight, when it comes to the voice of our customers, we are listening.

So what were consumers after? Ayme says they wanted a “glam look”, a great camera, the “fastest network”, a device that is “protected for your lifestyle” and finally, he says, “we hear you want to stay fit and you want your smartphone to help you do that”. So Samsung went back to the basics according to Ayme. How? Let’s have a high concept video to help explain this.

0631: Ayme starts with design, highlighting the phone’s “shimmer finish”, perforated back panel and coloured cases (those playing ‘creative colour name bingo’ at home will be pleased to know the GS5 comes in Shimmery White, Charcoal Black, Copper Gold and Electric Blue). There’s also a new UI to come with that exterior design, including new icons, and (the ever important) new unlock effect. There’s a 5.1-inch Full HD Amoled screen, and the display can dim in low light situations and offer greater contrast in sunlight. Plus the adaptive display adjusts to suit content on the screen, depending on what you’re watching.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Mobile World Congress
That’s one shimmering phone: Samsung’s new Galaxy S5

Battery wise, the GS5 has a 2,800mAh battery which “boasts 10 hours of web surfing with an LTE connection,” according to Ayme. “That’s a lot of cat videos!”

Summing up the design, Ayme said the GS5 offers, “A great look, a refined user interface, a better control and a longer battery life — now that’s design”.

0634: We’re on to imaging capabilities now. Ayme says the “camera is core” according to Samsung’s customer feedback, so they’ve focused on 3 new features. DSLR-quality ‘Phase Detection Auto Focus’ has been added to standard auto focus to create “Hybrid Auto Focus” — at 0.3 seconds it’s the “fastest ever auto focus for a smartphone”. There’s an HDR (High Dynamic Range) function “for taking good photos when there is too little or too much light”; the updated HDR gives you brighter contrast in real time as you take photos and it’s also available on video (another “first for a smartphone”). Finally, Selective Focus offers “a cool way to take your pictures to the next level” by choosing what is in focus and what’s out of focus, so users can take pictures “just like the pros”.

0638: Now there’s talk about speed, and in-depth details about the phone’s “full LTE” coverage (we’ll wait on the local telcos to add to this detail, but Ayme promises “remarkable data connection with every carrier” so 4G is a given here). Samsung has combined 5th generation Wi-Fi with MIMO technology to “nearly double Wi-Fi connection speeds” (another “world first in smartphones”). Finally, there’s a Download Booster that combines the enhanced Wi-Fi with the LTE connection for “blazing fast downloads” — Ayme asks the audience to “imagine a gigabyte in just 30 seconds”.

0639: Ayme is back on the IP67 water and dust resistance (IP stands for Ingress Protection for those playing at home). “Because your phone is now water resistant, you don’t have to be resistant to water,” he says, before adding a caveat: “But don’t go too far! Water resistant is not water proof, so don’t keep it under water.”

0641: From protecting against water he’s now on to protecting the battery, talking up the S5’s Ultra Power Saving Mode. Apparently this mode turns the display to black and white and shuts down all features except the essentials (like SMS and calls) meaning the phone can still last a further 24 hours on standby with only 10 per cent battery left.

0642: The security fans are buzzing again. Ayme let’s his hands do the talking — he keeps raising his index finger in the air to talk about the phone’s Finger Scanner, saying the finger is “the ultimate password to validate your identity”. He promises “a simple swipe of your finger to make secure payments” and mentions that the Finger Scanner also unlocks Private Mode, where videos and files are kept secured “because only your finger will unlock them”. On the topic of secure modes, the phone can be set to Kids Mode where kids can play with pre-loaded and designated apps, without messing up the important stuff (presumably the info held under lock and finger).

0644: David Park is back! And it looks like he’s actually here to talk this time, specifically about a way to “monitor, inform and track your fitness with a device that’s with you all the time”. It’s time for the Gear 2.

According to Park, Samsung kept the good stuff from the first Gear, “fixed customer pain points” and added new features. They’ve moved the camera, speaker and microphone into the bezel, meaning the strap can be swapped out. The Gear 2 strap is available in black, brown and orange, and “designer versions are also available”. Samsung also “added a home button like the ones we have on our smartphones” plus more watch face options (like the ability to change background or font). There’s a heart rate monitor and 4GB of memory, meaning “the Gear 2 is also a standalone music player”, and there’s an IR blaster to control your TV or Home Entertainment system.

Samsung Gear 2 at Mobile World Congress
Samsung’s David Park models the new Gear 2.

He also touches on the Gear 2 Neo, a “lighter version for your wrist and wallet” (so there’s no camera, and it will be cheaper).

Back on the Gear 2 — it syncs with 17 devices (not just Note 3 like the previous Gear), it lasts up to three days (three times longer than first Gear) and it’s IP67 water and dust resistant.

0650: It’s been a while, looks like it’s time for another high concept video!

This time it’s to introduce the Samsung Gear Fit. According to Park, the “Gear Fit redefines the category” — it has the world’s first curved Super AMOLED touch screen display on a wearable device, it weighs 27 gram weight and, like the Gear 2, it has a changeable strap (standard colours will be black, grey and orange) which is also hypoallergenic. The Gear Fit is compatible with 20 Galaxy devices, it allows you to reject phone calls and control alarms, it has a built-in heart rate monitor as well as a built-in pedometer (which the Gear 2 also offers).

Samsung Gear Fit at Mobile World Congress
The Samsung Gear Fit can be removed from it’s band.

In terms of apps, Park says fitness data can be tracked and monitored on the S5 with S Health, which features options for manual data input (such as the user’s weight and nutrition). He also mentions that the S5 has built in support for ANT+.

0654: Speaking of heart rate, Park shows off the “world’s first heart rate monitor for a smartphone”. Just under the camera on the back of the GS5, there’s a red light to indicate an area that reads heart rate through the user’s finger. Park wraps up by saying “We’ve worked out the work out”.

0655: Retailers take note: there will be accessories! This includes covers (designs by Nicholas Kirkwood and Moschino were flashed up during the presentation), and wireless charging solutions as well as new Samsung Sound “premium headphones” (In-Ear, On-Ear and Around-Ear options were shown off).

Samsung Sound headphone range
The Samsung Sound headphone range

0656: Park drops in a quick mention of something called Samsung Galaxy Gifts: “free rewards from top content and service brands that make your Galaxy S5 experience even more enjoyable and productive”. We saw a quick flash of a few brand icons, including PayPal.

0657: And that’s it from Park. Ayme is back to wrap up on “Samsung’s commitment and vision”. He also announces April 11 as the launch date in over 150 countries. Is Australia included? We’ll keep you posted!

UPDATE: On the theme of Galaxy S5 accessories, Belkin has already announced a range of cases for the new device, retailing from between $29.95 and $59.95. Here are our two favourites:

Belkin Classic Folio for Samsung Galaxy S5
The Belkin Classic Folio for the Samsung Galaxy S5 (F8M921, RRP $49.95) features an inner card slot and it converts into a stand for media viewing. Available in Blacktop, Mask, Azalea, Lagoon and Orchid. (As a side note, “Radiant Orchid” is Pantone’s colour of the year for 2014).
2-in-1 Wallet Folio Case for Samsung Galaxy S5
The Belkin 2-in-1 Wallet Folio Case for Samsung Galaxy S5 (F8M924, RRP $59.95) has a removable frame that fits around the phone and slides in and out of a separate case (so you can slide it out for quick photos). Available in Black/Gravel and Azalea/Fiesta.

UPDATE: PayPal has announced a collaboration with Samsung that will allow GS5 users to use the phone’s in-built Finger Scanner and “use their fingerprint to login and shop at any merchant that accepts PayPal on mobile and in-stores – no passwords or logins to remember”. We’re expecting other third parties to follow the lead and announce additional services that utilise the device’s new hardware.