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Samsung Galaxy S5
Selecting the New Pocket Computer

Jim Carter, 2015-04-15

My Samsung Galaxy S3 is now almost 3 years old since inception (2012-05-xx). It is not getting attention for an upgrade to CyanogenMod-12. Apparently the device maintainer quit after finishing CM-11-M12. Also suppose it breaks? Although the Galaxy S3 is working fine, I don't want to be stuck in a time warp. It's time to upgrade. (Update: S3 started getting CM-12 nightlies on 2015-05-02. If I had been patient I wouldn't have had to do this, but the S3 even so is not exactly a spring chicken.)

Timeline of my pocket computers:

Model Purchased Upgrade Reason
To be determined 2015-04-15 (Current)
Samsung Galaxy S3 2012-10-23 No upgrade to CM-12 (Lollipop)
Motorola Droid 3 2011-11-23 Bit rot (memory failure)
HTC G1 Dream 2009-03-30 Insufficient memory for CM-7 (Gingerbread)


My goals this time around are quite similar to those for the Galaxy S3.

A lot of pocket computer activities depend more on operating system support than on hardware components. However, the point here is to pick the hardware. But we need to keep aware whether the operating system uses that hardware effectively.


CyanogenMod-12 is being developed on phones which a lot of people have, i.e. popular phones. To pick the phone, I need to do a three-way intersection: which of them have CM-12 nightlies now; which are best sellers; and which ones meet my goals?

Who's Getting CyanogenMod-12?

Here's a list of devices that are getting nightlies for CM12 as of 2015-03-28, mostly excluding tablets. Also, older models are excluded when they're easy to recognize, e.g. since the Samsung Galaxy S5 is getting nightlies, the S4 is excluded even though it also gets nightlies. For tracking down which chassis name refers to which phone, see the Wiki page for supported devices.
Chassis Name Vendor and Marketing Name
mako Google Nexus 4
shamu Google Nexus 6
tilapia Google Nexus 7 (GSM)
jewel HTC Evo 4G LTE
m8 HTC One (2014)
t6 HTC One Max (suffixes vzw spr)
memul HTC One Mini 2
ls980 LG G2 (Sprint)
spyder Motorola Droid Razr
umts_spyder Motorola Razr
obake Motorola Droid Mini/Ultra/MAXX
xt925 Motorola Droid RAZR HD (GSM) (also suffix _jbbl)
xt907 Motorola Droid RAZR M
targa Motorola Droid Bionic
xt897 Motorola Photon Q
mb886 Motorola Atrix HD
maserati Motorola Droid 4
peregrine Motorola Moto G 4G
titan Motorola Moto G 2014
quark Motorola Moto MAXX
klte Samsung Galaxy S5 (also suffixes spr usc vzw)
honami Sony Xperia Z1
sirius Sony Xperia Z2

Popularity Contest

For popularity I would prefer to cue on CyanogenMod registration statistics, which governs the priority of the phone for continued CM development, but unfortunately the CyanogenMod statistics site has been out of action for six months. So I'm going to go by sales figures. Here's a list of Amazon's best selling unlocked phones, most popular first.

Here's a list of the most popular phones by David Nixon, 2014-10-29. He took the most popular one from each brand, then sorted just those.

I'm starting the search with these models:

Features of Phones

Web resources for phone specifications:

Feature Galaxy S5 Moto G 2014 HTC One M8
CM chassis name klte titan m8
Model Number SM-G900M
Inception 2014-04-xx 2014-09-05 2014-03-xx
Unlocking Not Verizon Moto site HTC site
Price on Amazon $525 $180 $460
Chassis size 142x72.5x8.1mm 141x71x11mm 146x71x9.3mm
Mass 145g 149g 160g
Display size 5.1in 1920x1080 5.0in 720x1280 5.0in 1920x1080
Display tech Super AMOLED IPS Super LCD3
Contrast 3.55 sunlight n/a 2.37 sunlight
Chipset Qc MSM8974AC
Snapdragon 801
Qc MSM8226
Snapdragon 400
Qc MSM8974AB
Snapdragon 801
Processor Krait 2.5Ghz x4 1.2GHz x4 Krait 2.3GHz x4*
GPU Adreno 330 Adreno 305 Adreno 330
RAM 2Gb 1Gb 2Gb
Internal flash 16/32Gb 8Gb 16/32Gb
External flash uSD 128Gb uSD 32Gb uSD 128Gb
Rear camera f/2.6 16Mpx f/2.0 8Mpx f/2.0 4Mpx
Front camera 2Mpx 1920x1080 2Mpx 5Mpx
Battery 2800mAh remov 2070mAh fixed 2600mAh fixed LiPO
WiFi 802.11 abgn/ac
Simul. LTE+Wifi
802.11 bgn 802.11 abgn/ac
USB rev 3.0(cable sep.) 2.0 2.0
Sensors Accel, Gyro, Prox, Hall, Baro, Fingerprint, Heart rate, Gestures(?) ? Accel, Gyro, Prox, Compass, Baro
Audio 3.5mm, Noise cancel 3.5mm 3.5mm, Noise cancel
GPS Has Has Has
Light sensor In color Has Has
Charger Micro-USB
Water resist IP67 dust+water Resists:Yes
SIM size Micro SIM, 12x15mm Micro SIM Nano SIM
FM Radio None Has Has


Choosing the Pocket Computer

I'll start the evaluation from the bottom.

Motorola Moto G 2014

This appears to be a less expensive phone with a chipset from the previous generation, and without LTE. For people who want a nice smartphone to be used in rural areas that lack LTE, it looks like a good buy on Amazon. But it's a step down from what I'm replacing.

HTC One M8

The specs of this phone are very similar to the Galaxy S5, so let's concentrate on the differences.

Samsung Galaxy S5

The S5 and the M8 are very similar, but in the differences indicated versus the M8, the S5 comes out a little ahead, and particularly, it has a removeable battery. This is the one that I am going to pursue.

Picking the Model

Each cellphone is actually a family of small variants; the major difference is which modulation and frequencies they support. The purchaser needs to be very sure that the one he gets is going to work with his preferred carrier, and my case is more complicated because I'm targeting two USA carriers from different families, plus international operation. A problem is that resellers' product pages may not always have correct data. Another problem is that flaky resellers may give you a model different from the one you ordered; there were several such complaints in Amazon product reviews about Amazon affiliates (outside vendors).

Here is a list of Amazon products, all but the last of which are to be avoided.

So what frequencies are we getting on the SM-G900M? This is from the Amazon product page indicated above.

See this Wikipedia article about E-UTRA, which is the formal acronym for LTE. Significant LTE bands (ordered by frequency) and their regions of use are:

Band Frequency
US, Canada
12 700 LSMH T-Mobile --
13 700 USMH-C Verizon, Telus --
17 # 700 LSMH AT&T, Rogers --
29 700 LSMH AT&T (future) --
20 * 800 EUDD -- Europe, Asia
05 # 850 CLR AT&T Korea
26 850 ECLR Sprint Japan
08 900 E-GSM -- Korea, Taiwan
04 **# 1700 AWS All South America
10 1700 EAWS AT&T Verizon T-Mobile --
03 * 1800 DCS -- Europe, Asia
02 **# 1900 PCS AT&T, T-Mobile --
25 1900 EPCS Sprint --
01 # 2100 IMT -- Japan
30 2300 WCS AT&T (future) --
40 * 2300 -- -- Russia, Optus(AU)
07 *# 2600 IMT-E Rogers Europe, Asia
38 * 2600 IMT-E None Various
* = Good for roaming in Europe, Americas, Asia
** = Good for roaming in Americas
# = Allegedly supported by SM-G900M

So as jimc reads the table, the G900M should work with AT&T, T-Mobile and Rogers (Canada), all the formerly GSM carriers. But the situation with Verizon is ambiguous: CDMA-2000 modulations (non-LTE) will almost certainly be useless, band 13 is in the covered 700MHz range but does not overlap T-Mobile and AT&T specific bands (17 and 12), but bands 04 and 10 (1700MHz) are shared among all three USA national carriers (excluding Sprint) and likely will be functional. (Band 04 is a subset of band 10.) The roaming situation in Europe and Asia is also unclear: band 07 (2600MHz) is supported but that's the only preferred global roaming band.

Update: With a Verizon SIM the G900M is unable to connect to Verizon's network. One person has told me that Verizon requires the phone to authenticate over CDMA2000 or EV-DO or 1xRTT before it will let the phone on its LTE service. And this of course is not going to happen.

Some more useful web links:

In this GSMNation customer support forum post, Danny Daniels (about 2014-05-xx) asks what model of S5 meets his needs. Arsalan K (GSMNation tech support?) gives a link to GSMNation's compatibility web app and says: G900M does LTE in North and South America. G900F does LTE everywhere else. G900H does not have LTE, only 3G, and also has the 8-core Exynos CPU. You need to activate the G900M in North-South America, then it will work anywhere in the world.

In the same forum post, Ig Shpo ( gives a list of frequency variants:

Here are some results from the GSMNation Compatibility Calculator. (I'm not sure how much I trust it.) GSMNation only reports on GSM.

Country Carrier 3G/4G LTE
USA AT&T 850 700 MHz
USA T-Mobile 1900 1700
DE T-Mobile 2100 800/1800
DE Vodafone 2100 800
UK Vodafone 2100 (none?)

This product page for the Galaxy S5 from gives these frequencies for the G900M (overpriced):

This product page for the Galaxy S5 from Tronic LTD gives these frequencies for the G900M:

On this T-Mobile customer support forum post, erosmoura asks if a G900M will work on T-Mobile in Florida (he will be visiting from Brazil). drnewcomb2 quotes gsmarena's page and says the freqs match up. tmo_erika (customer service) gives this link to T-Mobile's Setup Guide for Bringing Your Own Device (supplemented by jimc's notes from neighboring T-Mobile pages):

So the SM-G900M should do GSM, HSPA and LTE on T-Mobile, and may be able to do LTE on Verizon (but not CDMA-2000). Update: replace may with won't.

Purchase strategy: The Samsung Galaxy S6 comes out 2015-04-10. After that, the price on the S5 will drop. (Dreamer! It's already dropped as much as it's going to.) I will wait, then buy an unlocked S5 SM-G900M from Amazon. This should come with an unlocked bootloader, i.e. will accept unsigned images. I will just transfer the Verizon SIM to the new phone; no need to notify Verizon. Later when we jump ship to T-Mobile (2015-12-xx) the S5 is expected to work with them. [Update: since the G900M can't connect to Verizon at all, I'm going to have to jump ship immediately.]


Setup Preview

Setup steps before installing CyanogenMod:

Installing CyanogenMod

Here is a preview of how to install CyanogenMod-12, from CyanogenMod's installation page. Do not use this procedure on devices with Verizon or AT&T stock images! They require signed boot images which this procedure does not mitigate. This is a preview summary for planning purposes; read the page for necessary details. Here is the procedure I actually used.