Sprint Galaxy S5 Sport Hands-On: The Phone for Fitness

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When Sprint announced they were heading to the gym this morning, we’re not sure what we expected. But what they really meant was they want you to head to the gym with their tech. The company is launching Sprint Fit Live, a collaboration between the carrier, Under Armor, Samsung and Spotify. The service will only be available on the just announced Sprint-exclusive Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport. We got to play with said handset a bit. 

The Galaxy S5 Sport will be available in Cherry Red and Electric Blue. It includes the IP67 water and dust resistant specification that weekend warriors want in mobile device. An added bonus — the navigation keys along the bottom are physical keys instead of touch sensitive buttons and a home key, just like on the Galaxy S5 Active.

MORE: Galaxy S5 Features: What to Enable and Disable

This variant of the Galaxy S5 will be available on July 25th, but will be available for pre-order for $199 with the requisite two-year contract and mail-in rebate. It’ll include a complimentary 12-month MVP subscription to Map My Fitness as well as a coupon for $50 off a Samsung Gear or 50-percent off a pair Yurbuds or JBL in-ear headphones.

In person, we noticed the S5 Sport was slightly thicker than the standard Galaxy S5 and weighed a tiny bit more — 5.6 ounces versus 5.1 ounces. Despite the weight difference, the Galaxy S5 Sport doesn’t feel too heavy. The silver band around the regular S5 is replaced with the same cover as the back. The dimpling on the back of the phone is less pronounced and is broken up by a smooth bezel framing the back. It’s also not as bulky as the AT&T-branded Galaxy S5 Active which weighs in at 6 ounces and has rubber bumpers on the sides.

For this extra healthy version of the Galaxy S5, there’s Sprint Fit Live, a collection of apps that launches on the S5 Sport and integrates Samsung’s S Health, Map My Fitness and Spotify. The idea behind it is to keep all of your biometric data, workout apps and cardio playlists in one easily accessible place. Plus, you’re able to challenge other users to see who runs the fastest mile.  There are two ways to launch Sprint Fit Live, via a peel back corner of the homescreen or via a small tab that sits on the left side of the screen. Along with the aforementioned apps, there are health news headlines, so you can quickly find out what the media thinks about carbs and CrossFit at any given moment.

Samsung’s Activity Zone comes preloaded on the S5 Sport and features an easily accessible barometer, compass, stopwatch and flashlight. While it’s nice to have all of those features in one place, it doesn’t seem to warrant its own app. One cool flashlight trick — it will blink out messages you write in Morse code.

If you’ve seen a Galaxy S5, then there aren’t too many surprises with the S5 Sport. The internal specs of the phone are the same, with a remodeled exterior and some added apps. Like the OG S5, the S5 Sport includes S Health and the heart rate monitor under the camera lens.

Sprint made a big deal this morning of its new partnership with Under Armor, but aside from Map My Fitness (owned by Under Armor), the sporting goods company doesn’t bring a ton to the table aside from motivational wallpapers with quotes that change at intervals (thankfully, these can be swapped out for a photo of a couch). After listening to Under Armor’s CEO talk about how his company reinvented the workout T-shirt, we were hoping the partnership would include something like a biometric monitoring clothing that would integrate with the phone. No such luck.

Map My Fitness, which grew out of the apps Map My Run and Map My Ride, was purchased by Under Armor in December 2013 and currently has 26 million registered users. It works with the ANT+ protocol, which is like Bluetooth, but for fitness-related devices like heart rate monitors and bicycle cranks. Samsung’s phones support the protocol, hence the easy relationship between Map My Fitness and the Galaxy S5 Sport. From our time with the device, all this fitness tracking seemed a little gimmicky.

But it was reminiscent of Apple’s recent announcement if its Health app for iOS 8. Rather than create a separate phone model, however, it’s expected to come baked in to the next iPhone, potentially accompanying a fitness device. We’ll have to wait a few months for that to be revealed for sure, however.

MORE: Apple iWatch Rumors: Features, Specs and Release Date

In the end, Sprint wasn’t all about hitting the gym today. The company’s HD Voice service will be available nationally starting today. It expands the clarity of audio quality from four to seven octaves, though it requires both parties to us an HD Voice-capable device and is currently only available on calls between Sprint customers. 

Sprint is expanding its WiFi calling capabilities internationally in the coming weeks to allow customers to make calls and send texts over WiFi, eliminating the need for a country-specific SIM card or Skype. The service is built-in to many of Sprint’s phones without the need for a separate app.

Lastly, Sprint Spark launches in three new markets today: St. Louis, Winston-Salem, NC, and Greensboro, NC. Spark, which is supported by the Galaxy S5 Sport, is the carrier’s network improvement solution that capitalizes on the 2.5-GHz spectrum. Spark should deliver average network speeds of 6 to 15Mbps, with peak speeds of 50 to 60Mbps.  

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