The Phones of Summer: Samsung Galaxy S 5 and Sony Xperia Z1S

These submersible, dust-resistant smart phones are ready for action on land or sea

Published: April 25, 2014 03:30 PM

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A casual cavort at the beach or poolside may do wonders for a winter-weary soul, but it can be tough going for your smart phone. A close encounter with surf or sand can put your phone on extended disability—or turn it into a pricey paperweight. Not a problem for several recent additions to our smart-phone Ratings. These sleek models are designed to survive a 30-minute dunk in about 3 feet of water and laugh off wind-swept sand and other small debris. The cameras actually work under water, so you can take exciting underwater still pictures and videos without expensive and bulky contraptions. Of course, these recommended models handle traditional smart-phone tasks as competently as their landlubber cousins.

The Samsung Galaxy S 5

This is the top-scoring phone in our Ratings, offering great performance in critical areas, beginning with a superb 5.1-inch display that's easy to see in sunlight. The ultra-responsive 15.9-megapixel camera provides equally fast and simple access to useful controls and effects, and you can also record video in ultra HD resolution. Switching to Ultra Power Saving Mode enables you to stretch its already great battery life even more in case of an emergency. In the unlikely event you should completely drain the battery, you'll be able to fully recharge in a very short time, thanks to the included 2-Amp USB 3.0 charger.

The Galaxy S 5 fingerprint scanner is a convenient option for unlocking the screen or authorizing PayPal purchases with a single swipe. There's also a heart-rate monitor mounted next to the main camera's LED flash. When you put your index finger on it, you should see your heart rate on the phone's display.

Even the phone's menus have been improved. For instance, the Settings menu now includes a search tool, similar to the one on the Note 3, so that you can quickly jump to the control you want without wading through the phone's considerable list of options.

Find the right smart phone using our cell phone buying guide and Ratings.

The Sony Xperia Z1S

This attractive phone is actually a better swimmer than the Galaxy S 5, since it's the first phone we've seen that’s built to handle a 30-minute immersion in up to 5 feet of water—not the typical 3 feet. Plus it has one of the best cameras of any phone in our Ratings. Its 20.7-megapixel camera, which has a very short shutter lag, produced excellent-quality pictures at ISO settings up to 800. It shoots very-good-quality 1080p videos, a tough task for most smart phones, including the mega-megapixeled Nokia Lumias. Video quality is on a par with what we’ve seen from the iPhone 5 S, the Samsung Note 3, and better pocket camcorders.

And what you shoot will look spectacular on the phone's gorgeous 5-inch display, which is easier than most to read in bright light.

Gamers will appreciate Xperia Z1S's ability to morph into certified PlayStation complete with a virtual set of four directional keys, four face keys, and four shoulder keys. The Xperia Z1S comes preloaded with PlayStation and PlayStation Mobile apps and supports the DualShock 3 (PlayStation 3) Controller. Some games also support the PSN Scoreboard feature that shows how your scores stack up against others.

Mike Gikas

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