On Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung unveiled its highly anticipated new smartphone, the Galaxy S5. Rolling out its Unpacked event with a full orchestra and impressive display, Samsung placed the Galaxy S5 center stage, and it certainly has big shoes to fill considering last year’s record-breaking release. Here’s the thing, though, Samsung also claimed back in January that its goal was to go “back to basics.” We’ll let you decide if that’s what the company has done with its new flagship smartphone.
Updated on 04-10-2014 by Andy: Samsung is ready to launch the Galaxy S5, so we’ve added in the first TV commercial for the device, along with news on the Download Booster app which is missing from AT&T versions of the phone, plus a selection of videos showing just the phone’s toughness.
Samsung prepares to launch the Galaxy S5 at 11:11 a.m. on April 11
Samsung has confirmed through its official mobile Twitter account that the Galaxy S5 is ready to go on sale. The message reads “Get ready for the worldwide exclusive Galaxy S5 launch event,” and includes an image of a map showing the phone’s progress through the world over the next 24 hours or so. Samsung calls this the S Carpet (groan), and the journey begins in Australia, before spreading through Asia, the Middle East, Europe, America, and finally, Canada.
To celebrate the launch, Samsung has also posted the first U.S. TV commercial for the device, which you can check out below.
Mostly minor hardware upgrades
At 5.1-inches diagonally, the Galaxy S5 is only slightly larger and slightly more impressive in terms of hardware than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. Samsung must have been displeased about something with the Big.Little octa-core processor that it tried out in last year’s International Galaxy S4, because the S5’s processor is still quad-core, clocking in at 2.5GHZ. Beyond that, the S5 retains the same 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM as the Galaxy S4, showing no real advancement in the core hardware tech. On the bright side though, the battery has been juiced up to 2800mAh in capacity, meaning better battery life than ever, the S5’s camera is up to 16 megapixels, and , like the Note 3, the S5 includes USB 3.0 support.
Screen described as the best ever tested by display experts
According to the experts at DisplayMate, where smartphone screens are put through their paces, the Galaxy S5’s 5.1-inch, 1080p screen is “the best performing smartphone display we have ever tested.” That’s high praise, and the company produced an exhaustive 7,000-word report on the subject, where it’s stated the screen is the brightest DisplayMate has tested, with the lowest reflectance, and the highest color accuracy. It’s also described as a major improvement over the Galaxy S4’s display.
Adding DSLR features to a smartphone
These days, smartphones give us less and less of a reason to carry around a point-and-shoot camera, and the Galaxy S5 does a lot to continue that trends thanks to an even more powerful camera app. This one not only adds special High Dynamic Range (HDR) functionality to allow your phone to adjust a photo based on the amount of light available, but also a special blur effect popular on DSLRs called selective focus. Selective focus allows users to decide what on the image should be in focus, say as a person or a face, and blur the background around them. These are certainly interesting features in concept, but we’ll see how they turn out in practice.
It’s resistant to dust and water (but don’t risk it)
Remember the whole Galaxy S4 Active debacle? This time around Samsung has brought dust and water resistance right into its flagship device, offering an IP67 rating just like the Galaxy S4 Active of last summer. While Samsung bragged left and right about it being “whatever-proof” and “summer proof,” we should forewarn you that IP67 is hardly rugged, and at best good for a shallow dunk in water (technically up to 3.3 feet deep). We have no idea what the Samsung Galaxy S5 warranty will be, but we warn users to think of this as “insurance” against exposure to water, rather than an invitation to go swimming with your phone.
Ultra Power Saving Mode is pretty cool
Power saving mode is something all Android devices come with, but at times it can be very disappointing feature. Some power saving modes turn off your cellular mode, conserving power but also defeating the purpose of having a phone in the first place. The one Samsung has developed aims to change that. According to the Unpacked keynote, the Galaxy S5, when in Ultra Power Saving Mode, can last a whopping 24 hours on standby with just ten percent of battery life remaining. That alone is impressive, especially because it leaves your cellular radio on, letting you still receive calls and SMS messages, even while your phone sits on the bleeding edge of a dead battery.
It has a fingerprint reader and heart rate sensor
Nobody should be surprised that Samsung was looking for a way to one-up the iPhone 5S and its built-in fingerprint reader. Not only is Samsung’s fingerprint reader stashed in the Home button of the device allowing for easy unlocking (just like the iPhone 5S), but it’s also capable of confirming payments. We’re not sure how this will work yet, especially since it sounds like storing credit card information is involved, but we hope Samsung will address the risks of keeping such sensitive information just a swipe away, as well as the problems that can come with accidentally swiping a payment.
Along with the fingerprint reader, Samsung stashed a heart beat sensor – yes a heart beat sensor – onto the back of the phone near the LED flash. The idea is that this can be used to monitor your heart rate before and after a workout, which is what Samsung brags as being a big part of the latest version of S Health. Unlike the new Galaxy Gear though, it seems a little awkward to take your heart rate while standing still, holding a finger up to your phone’s back. Still, we’re sure there’s a few gym rats who’d love to have this kind of technology always at their fingertips.
Special modes for children, privacy and faster downloads
Smartphones are not transformers, nevertheless, it seems Samsung is big on the whole “transforming” aspect of its new flagship smartphong, enabling special modes depending on who’s handling the device. The first mode they spoke of is Privacy mode, which allows users – thanks to the help of the built-in fingerprint reader – to restrict access to things like images and other content unless you are actually using the device (or at least as long as your finger is in easy reach.)
The other mode, which is certainly something new for a smartphone, is a special “Kids Mode” that will allow parents to give kids their devices without fearing the worst. The Internet is littered with stories about kids who have inadvertently spent thousands of dollars after parents handed over their iPad, but Samsung hopes to help curb this fear with a special mode that lets you decide what apps a child user can access, as well as choose cute and fun theme modes with custom apps and content just for kids. For those who don’t have kids, we recommend testing it out on your friends.
The last feature is a special download booster, which is supposed to allow simultaneous downloading from LTE and 3G networks in order to speed things up a bit. We don’t know how much this feature will affect battery life, or those with capped data, but it’s an interesting feature nonetheless.
No download booster for AT&T Galaxy S5 phones
Early reports from owners who have received their Galaxy S5 phones early, are saying the AT&T model isn’t coming with the Download Booster application installed. This feature combined Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connections to speed up large downloads, but is missing from the device’s quick launch menu, and app tray. According to Android Police, the feature will return in a future software update, but for now, it looks like AT&T devices won’t have the feature enabled. It’s not clear whether this was Samsung’s or the network’s decision.
T-Mobile confirmed in its original press release for the Galaxy S5 that the Download Booster would be included on its phone, along with devices connected to MetroPCS too, so it may be AT&T’s choice not to install the app on its phones.
See some Galaxy S5 phones tortured
The Internet is full of horrid videos which you wouldn’t usually want to watch, and the Galaxy S5 has attracted some sick individuals to take their flashy new devices, and torture them on film. It’s all in the name of science, of course, but those of a fragile nature may want to look away. The contain violent images involving knives, hammers, and boiling water.
Why? The boiling water is used to test the Galaxy S5’s water resistance, and it does very well, while the other video shows how it stands up to some heavy duty abuse. Take a look, so you don’t feel the need to do any of these things to your own phone.
When is it coming … and for how much?
Arrival in the U.S. is slated for April 11, with pretty much all the major carriers on board. You can find all the details on how to pre-order, or buy, a Galaxy S5 in the U.S. in our special post on the subject here. Additionally, it also contains details of the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit’s availability.
What do you think? Are you excited for the arrival of the S5, or is it too much of an incremental improvement on its predecessor?
Updated by Jeffrey Van Camp on 3-05-2014: I’ve merged what we now know about the Galaxy S5 since it’s debut on Monday, 2-24-2014 with a fact checked version of our rumor roundup for the phone, which was published up until the device’s release. Andy Boxall and Joshua Sherman contributed heavily to this article, as have other mobile team members like Simon Hill.
NEXT PAGE: WHAT WE THOUGHT THE GALAXY S5 WOULD LOOK LIKE
Rumors are a funny thing: When they’re right, people brag, but when they’re wrong, we just forget about them. On page one, we told you what we now know about the Galaxy S5 as it was revealed by Samsung, but here is a look at all the rumors and speculation that circulated the Internet before it was announced. We’ve marked each rumor as true or false.
TRUE: Samsung Unpacked event Feb. 24, hints at Galaxy S5 launch
The annual release schedule for smartphone flagships has become pretty standard in recent years. The Galaxy S2 was unveiled in February and released in May 2011. The Galaxy S3 was revealed and released in May 2012. The Galaxy S4 was shown off in March and released in April 2013. However, it looks like Samsung is pushing its next phone forward after disappointing S4 sales.
Following speculation the Galaxy S5 would debut at, or just before, Mobile World Congress at the end of February, Samsung has sent out invitations to the first official Unpacked event of the year. It’ll take place in Barcelona on February 24, which is also the first day of MWC 2014. Although it hasn’t been confirmed the S5 will be the star of the show, the use of the number 5 at the end of the invite’s title drops a substantial hint of what’s to come.
If the earlier leak is correct, and it wasn’t far off with the date and time, then we should expect the S5 to go on sale in April, which is more or less in-line with the Galaxy S4. It could be slightly earlier though, as according to this Korean news source, production of the phone was rumored to start at least a month earlier than the Galaxy S4.
HALF TRUE: Samsung may add Magazine UX, and redesigned interface to the Galaxy S5
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: The GS5 has a new interface, but Samsung didn’t add its Magazine UX to the phone. The new interface actually looks closer to Google’s vision for Android and has less bloatware than previous Samsung phones. We were impressed with it at MWC.
At CES 2014, Samsung launched a new range of tablets under the Galaxy Note Pro name, and one of the headline features was the introduction of the Magazine UX software. It’s a major alteration, and could be designed to usher in a new Samsung-backed operating system underneath in the future – like the aforementioned Tizen – all with limited disruption for the user. There’s a good chance we’ll see something similar on the Galaxy S5.
At the time, Magazine UX was viewed as evidence Samsung wanted to get rid of Android, but since then, bridges have been rebuilt between the two firms, thanks to the sale of Motorola to Lenovo, and the signing of a 10-year patent sharing deal.
All this may be too late to alter much on the Galaxy S5 though, particularly if a series of leaked images from the @evleaks Twitter account turn out to be accurate. One of the screenshots shows an icon labelled, “Magazine,” hinting the Note Pro tablet’s Magazine UX will be included. The swish new version of TouchWiz, Samsung’s much-maligned Android UI, appears to use elements familiar to Windows Phone users, and even those who’ve experienced HTC’s BlinkFeed home screen. Here, it looks colorful, visually interesting, and less cluttered than the current version.
To go along with this, a second event invitation may have included our first look at Samsung’s redesigned TouchWiz icons. Flatter and more minimalist than before, similar examples then turned up on a leaked screenshot, supposedly taken from a new Samsung device.
FALSE: High-end Prime and basic Standard versions of the S5
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: There is only one version of the Galaxy S5 announced so far.
KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has speculated we’ll see a pair of Galaxy S5 smartphones announced, and like Samsung has done in the past, the two models will have key differences. He calls one the S5 Standard, but says this isn’t the final name, and lists the spec as a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, a Snapdragon 800/Exynos 5 Octa processor, and 2GB of RAM.
The relatively ordinary Standard could be joined by the S5 Prime, which could share a 5.2-inch screen but up the resolution to 2560 x 1440 pixels, boost the RAM to 3GB, and the processor could be swapped for the latest Exynos 5 Octa. Kuo also adds the S5 will have a plastic body, a 16-megapixel camera, and a 2850mAh battery.
The good news is, KGI expects both the Prime and the Standard to be sold internationally, with the worldwide version of the Prime still using the Exynos 5430 octa-core chip. Rumors surrounding this chip suggest it’ll be an iPhone 5S rivaling 64-bit chip.
As the phone’s release gets ever closer, the leaks keep on coming. A picture, supposedly taken of the S5’s packaging, seems to confirm many of the above specs again. A 5.25-inch AMOLED screen with a QHD, that’s 2560 x 1440, resolution is top of the list, along with a 2.5GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM. A 3000mAh battery, GPS, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, and HD Voice support are also mentioned. The one difference is the camera, which will apparently have 20-megapixels, rather than the 16-megapixels we were expecting.
Not long after the iPhone 5S was revealed Samsung’s mobile head, JK Shin told the Korea Times, “our next smartphones will have 64-bit processing functionality.” According to Digital Daily in Korea, the new Exynos processor is a 14nm chip with 64-bit support and ARM’s Cortex A53/A57 Big.Little octa-core configuration. However, KGI doesn’t agree with all of this, and its report says the chip will be built using a 20nm process, and will be a 32-bit chip. We would expect at least 3GB of RAM to back that up, as does KGI, but Samsung is already producing 4GB LPDDR3 mobile DRAM, so that’s always a possibility.
Mobile industry watcher Eldar Murtazin has sent out a tweet containing the S5’s possible spec list. It’s stated the phone will have a 5.24-inch display with a 1440p resolution, adding up to a pixel density of 560ppi, and come with either a Snapdragon 805 or Exynos 6 chip. A 16-megapixel rear camera, a 3.2-megapixel front camera, a 3200mAh battery, and a choice of 32GB or 64GB internal memory are also mentioned.
TRUE: A 16-megapixel camera, but no optical image stabilization
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: The Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel camera and no optical image stabilization.
There were early suggestions that the Galaxy S5 would sport a 13-megapixel camera, possibly with optical image stabilization, but now we’re hearing different. ET News predicts that Samsung will opt for a 16-megapixel sensor that’s capable of better low-light performance than the competition. Leakster @evleaks has published a test picture supposedly snapped with the Verizon version of the S5. The camera’s EXIF data reveals it has 16-megapixels, but little else.
However, a 16-megapixel camera isn’t set in stone, as a leaked picture of the S5’s packaging lists it as coming with a 20-megapixel camera instead. In December last year, a report stated Samsung was planning to add a 16-megapixel camera to one in four of its 2014 smartphones, and was developing a 20-megapixel camera for use in 2015. As neither source is official, things may have changed, so both megapixel counts remain possible options.
Regardless of its size, the new sensor will be produced in-house and feature Samsung’s ISOCELL technology which, “substantially increases light sensitivity and effectively controls the absorption of electrons, resulting in higher color fidelity even in poor lighting conditions.”
Hope of the Galaxy S5’s camera having optical image stabilization have also taken a hit, as a rumor states Samsung is still having trouble sourcing the components, at least in a size that would be suitable for the usually slimline device. Optical image stabilization was thought to have been dropped from the Galaxy Note 3 due to a shortage of the modules.
FALSE: The S5’s 1440p resolution screen could be made by Sharp
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: The Galaxy S5 has a standard Full HD, or 1080p, screen much like the Galaxy S4. No phone has a 1440p screen yet.
We’re expecting 2560 x 1440 pixel resolutions to become the standard on top-of-the-range Android smartphones during the next couple of years, so it makes sense Samsung’s flagship will be one of the first to showcase a 1440p display, and most current rumors back this up.
Both Samsung and LG have confirmed such a screen is in the works, and one has already made its debut on the Vivo XPlay 3S. However, a rumor spread through the Chinese website IT168.com suggests Samsung has chosen a 1440p LPTS screen produced by Sharp for the S5, as it has had difficulty making AMOLED screens at such a high resolution. However, a Korean news source, quoting a Samsung Display executive, says the company has finished working on a 1440p screen of its own and it would be fitted to a smartphone soon.
FALSE: Multi-person video conferencing, using both cameras
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: This feature was not announced.
A patent uncovered by GalaxyClub.nl hints that Samsung may be updating its ChatON messaging service to include multi-person conference calls. The listing, which includes the screenshot you see here, indicates the software may enable both front and rear video cameras, along with multiple streams visible along the bottom of the screen. It sounds a little like Google’s own conference call system available through Hangouts, which can support ten different feeds at the same time. Should the software being included with the Galaxy S5, it may come as either a part of ChatON, or a new TouchWiz feature.
FALSE: This one comes in metal
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: This one does not come in metal. Samsung stuck with a plastic shell, like previous Galaxy phones.
The idea that Samsung might break with tradition and produce a flagship with a metal body instead of plastic first surfaced way back in June. It was a vague notion to begin with, but in August the S5 metal chassis rumor got some meat on its bones when Korean news site ET News suggested magnesium and aluminum as possible materials.
Criticism of the Galaxy range has long focused on what some perceive as a “cheap, plastic feel” and many other flagship smartphones in the same price bracket have opted for aluminum designs. Should Samsung decide to switch to metal it would likely mean a heavier, more expensive device, and it could spell the end of the removable battery.
It’s worth noting that this new metal Samsung phone could be the mysterious Galaxy F, a stop-gap in the flagship calendar that may land a few months before the S5. A further report does seem to indicate the Galaxy F may be closely related to the Galaxy S5, and could be more technically impressive, with a flexible screen similar to the Galaxy Round fitted. Another model, perhaps the Galaxy S5, would keep the standard Super AMOLED screen and plastic body shell.
A report at GalaxyS5Info agrees the phone could have a flexible screen, and also reckons that the faux leather polycarbonate of the Note 3 could make an appearance on the S5. There’s also a chance that the S5 could use carbon fiber in its construction. Android Beat reported a partnership between Samsung Petrochemical and SGL Group (one of the largest producers of carbon fiber in the world). It’s an extremely light and extremely strong material, so it could be ideal.
Japanese mobile industry news source EMSOdm.com has chipped in, saying the Galaxy S5 will have a metal unibody, which will be unlike any other Samsung phone to date. The company charged with producing the first run of cases is Catcher, which also builds the HTC One, the iPad, and the MacBook Air. Catcher was previously linked with Samsung and the Galaxy S5 back in September, but with cases for a device expected to arrive during the second half of 2014.
Despite all this talk, a metal Galaxy S5 is a sure thing yet. During CES 2014, Samsung’s head of technical management told TrustedReviews.com, “I don’t believe Samsung will go down the route of making a metal device just because others are,” adding the firm wanted to offer customers, “the best materials.” Plastic, he says, is, “Very light and very durable,” and also, cheap to produce.
This isn’t a denial on Samsung’s part, more a clarification of why it would choose to alter materials used to build the S5, but it certainly hints that it’ll be sticking with plastic for some time yet. This fits in with another recent rumor, which said Samsung was experimenting with a diamond metal coating for future phones. This process increases durability, provides a metal-look, and can be applied to polycarbonate. Will this be the route Samsung takes for the Galaxy S5?
FALSE: Brand new GS5 design
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: Nope. The GS5 has a slightly new design, but it’s almost identical to the Galaxy S4 and GS3. It does not look like these pictures.
Even if the Galaxy S5 doesn’t end its love affair with plastic that doesn’t mean it won’t look different from its predecessors. The Galaxy S line has stuck to a certain design aesthetic, the S3 and S4 are especially alike, but if the patent that Patent Bolt turned up is anything to go by then the S5 could ditch the home button and adopt a new angular form factor.
FALSE: Model numbers reveal multiple versions headed to North America
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: Nope. We haven’t heard about this. It will come in 16GB and 32GB variants, and possibly have slightly altered specs for different carriers, but there is currently only one GS5.
A host of model numbers which potentially relate to the Galaxy S5 have been leaked online, each indicating the phone will also be known as the SM-G900. Each variant is identified by a surprisingly informative suffix, for example, we can assume the SM-G900A_NA_ATT is an S5 headed to AT&T in North America, while the G900v_NA-VZW will be off to Verizon. A T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular edition of the S5 is also listed, along with various models set for release internationally.
FALSE: Eye scanning security?
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: The Galaxy S5 has a fingerprint scanner on the Home button but no eye scanning.
According to AndroidSAS, the Galaxy S5 could one-up the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S and take the lead in biometric security with an eye-scanning sensor. The idea is that S5 owners will be able to scan their eyes in order to unlock their smartphones. This would supposedly offer a higher level of security, but the sources are unnamed and there’s nothing to substantiate the rumor. We’ll be sure to keep an eye on this one.
TRUE: Fingerprint scanner, or not?
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: Yep, the Home button of the GS5 has a fingerprint scanner. You slide your finger down to unlock the phone.
We’ve already seen a report from the Korea Herald in which a Samsung official is quoted as saying “We never officially admitted that Samsung was weighing the fingerprint system and Knox for Galaxy Note 3 for security functions. We are not yet developing the technology.”
Analysts at KGI don’t agree, and included biometric fingerprint scanning in a recent list of expected S5 specs. Of course, if the eye scanning rumor has any truth to it then fingerprints are probably out the window.
FALSE: Galaxy S5 could run Tizen OS
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: Maybe a future Galaxy will run Tizen, but the GS5 is Android and the GS6 is too.
Samsung has not given up on its own Tizen operating system. The International Business Times reckons the company may release a Tizen version of the Galaxy S5. Would Samsung release two different versions of the S5, one with Tizen and one with Android 4.4 KitKat? It doesn’t seem likely, and we don’t think Samsung is ready to ditch Android for its own platform yet. Maybe the Tizen version may be limited to specific markets, if it exists at all. We’ll have to wait and see.
HALF TRUE: Stronger, more efficient battery
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: The GS5 has a 2800mAh battery, which is 200mAh larger than the battery in the GS4. So expect slight improvements. Samsung has also included a very cool new super battery saving mode that turns the screen black & white but greatly extends battery life.
An anonymous source told PhoneArena.com the Galaxy S5 will have a slightly larger, 2900mAh battery inside. The interesting part is the cell should be the same size as the S4’s 2600mAh battery, as it may use a new technology which would see it store 20-percent more energy without physically increasing in size. More standby without sacrificing size and weight? Sign us up, but battery tech doesn’t move very quickly, so we’ll remain skeptical on this one until Samsung tells us otherwise.
TRUE: Waterproof comes standard
Clarification by Jeffrey VC on 3-5-2014: This is true and we’re very happy about it.
Smartphones are getting tougher. At the start of this new flagship cycle the Xperia Z made a splash with its waterproof and dustproof credentials. Samsung released the Galaxy S4 Active as a waterproof variant of its flagship, but ET News thinks the Galaxy S5 may take things one step further and be waterproof and dustproof straight out of the box. According to the report, “industry sources” say the Galaxy S5 will meet the same standards as the S4 Active, which will bring into line with some of the other top Android smartphones.
That’s it for the Samsung Galaxy S5 rumor roundup. Past updates to this article are detailed below.
Updated on 02-12-2014 by Andy: A new Samsung event invitation has hinted we’ll see a redesign of TouchWiz with the Galaxy S5, while a leaked picture supposedly showing the S5’s packaging provides another set of possible specs.
Updated on 02-05-2014 by Andy: Samsung will hold a press event on February 24 at Mobile World Congress, where it could unveil the Galaxy S5. Plus, a new set of specs has been leaked.
Updated on 01-29-2014 by Andy: Rumors now hint we’ll see two versions of the Galaxy S5 released, and one will come with a new octa-core processor and a 1440p resolution screen. We’ve comprehensively updated the specs section of our roundup, added new information on the camera, plus a selection of possible S5 model numbers.
Updated on 12-03-2013 by Andy: Rumors the Galaxy S5 having a metal body have cooled, while a diamond metal coating is an increasing possibility. The new Galaxy Note Pro tablets may have given us a hint on its new software features too.
Updated on 12-03-2013 by Andy: Added further evidence the Galaxy S5 will have a metal body, and information suggesting it’ll be built by the same company responsible for the HTC One and the MacBook Air.
Updated on 11-28-2013 by Andy: Added new rumors backing up the Galaxy S5’s possible early launch, and the arrival of the Galaxy F as a separate device, plus talk the S5’s camera won’t have optical image stabilization.
Updated on 11-26-2013 by Andy: Added news of a new patent, which suggests Samsung may be working on conference call software utilizing both the front and rear cameras of a future Galaxy phone.
Article originally written by Simon Hill on 10-28-2013.
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