With its latest flagship smart phones, Samsung is listening to its customers and going with high-quality materials and less bloat. The result is two stunning smart phones, the Galaxy S 6 and Galaxy S 6 Edge, the latter of which features two curve-around screen edges that really differentiate this product from the competition.
I have a Samsung Galaxy S5, and while it gets the job done, it absolutely misses the mark on desirability. I don’t mind the plastic back panel at all—it lets you access the removable battery, SIM and microSD cards, and you can replace that back panel with different colored covers and flip covers—but the styling is just … off. The weird ribbed side panels, clearly plastic mimicking aluminum, are among the worst design decisions I’ve ever seen in a modern smart phone, as is the pain-in-the-ass USB cover that is necessitated by the device’s “need” to be waterproof. Ugh.
So as noted, Samsung listened. The design is familiar—iPhone fans would say a bit too familiar; more on that in a bit—but is now made entirely from high-quality glass and metal. And the software and services preload is far less onerous than before, with less stupid app and functionality bloat. Everything I mention in the previous paragraph—good and bad—has changed in the S 6 (and S 6 Edge).
Here’s what’s new with the Samsung Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge.
Form factor. Both of the S 6 handsets are 5-inch devices with smaller bevels than the previous generation S5, though I never found that design to be particularly problematic. But instead of being clad completely in plastic, as was the S5 and all previous Galaxy flagships, the S 6 and S 6 Edge are all metal, with Gorilla Glass on the front and back, as with older iPhones. There is no plastic anywhere on the exterior of these devices.
Design. From a design standpoint, there are elements of the new Galaxies that will drive iPhone fans nuts, in particular the bottom of the devices, and the edges of the S 6, which are quite obviously “inspired by” iPhone 6. But that said, much of the design here harkens back to Samsung’s long-standing hardware design language, and no one would mistake one of these handsets for iPhone in general.
Home button. This is a big one for me: Where Apple’s Touch ID sensor-based home button works wonderfully, a similar home button on the Galaxy 5 is miserable, requiring a swipe that, for me at least, never registers correctly. With the S 6 and S 6 Edge, Samsung moves to the Apple model, where you just press on the button and, hopefully, it just works. I can’t wait to test it.
Screen. With the Galaxy Note line taking up the phablet baton, the S 6 and S 6 Edge remain 5-inch devices like their predecessor. But these devices up the ante from Full HD to Quad HD (2560 x 1440), delivering a stunning 577 pixels per inch (PPI) and Super AMOLED quality.
Processor. Here, Samsung boasts the fastest and most powerful processor in the smart phone industry, a 64-bit octo-core 2.1GHz processor with a separate 1.5 GHz “application processor.”
RAM. This one will make Windows Phone users who are pining for a new flagship fall on the ground and flagellate: The S 6 and S 6 Edge both feature 3 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. So it’s more RAM, of course, but also faster RAM.
Storage. Though Samsung has dropped the microSD expandability—few customers were using it, apparently, and of course the back cover is no longer removable—it has also bumped up the minimum storage allotment to a full 32 GB, double that of iPhone 6. You can also get the S 6 and S 6 Edge in 64 GB and 128 GB versions.
Camera. The S 6 series camera doesn’t look much better than the unit in the previous-gen device, delivering a 16 MP sensor (5 MP “selfie” camera on the front, naturally). But it features must faster response time for instant picture clicks, optical image stabilization (OIS), an auto real-time HDR feature for better quality shots, 4K video recording, and a much simpler and more powerful camera app that provides both auto and fully manual modes to address all needs.
Connectivity. Only the best here, with LTE Category 6 (300/50Mbps), 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC, plus USB 2.0.
Sensors. As you might image, the Galaxies are loaded down with sensors, including Accelerometer, Light, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Barometer, Fingerprint, Hall, and Heart Rate Monitor.
Simpler user experience. While Android obviously has its challenges, Samsung historically made things even worse with its gimmicky software preloads and unique features. But with the S 6 series, Samsung is trying something new: a simpler, more intuitive user experience with fewer annoying alerts and notifications and superfluous features no one used anyway. The firm heavily adopts the Android 5.0 material design language in its own apps, with bold, opaque colors and simpler UIs.
Bundled apps. It’s still Samsung, so they still throw a bunch of stuff on the phone, including S Health 4.0, Samsung Pay (coming this summer, a more compatible Apple Pay alternative), Smart Manager, Sound Alive+, Samsung themes, Quick Connect, Private Mode, S Finder, S Voice, and the Microsoft apps and 100 GB of extra OneDrive storage I wrote about earlier. Still, a lot less than usual.
Enterprise and security. Samsung has been curiously active with its enterprise-class security technologies, and its Knox platform is so good it’s been adopted as part of Android. This puts Samsung in a unique position to dominate business and government mobile sales, filling the void left by Blackberry.
Battery charging. Possibly the biggest bugaboo in mobility these days, Samsung claims that the S 6 and S 6 Edge charge faster than any smart phone in the industry, with just 10 minutes of charge time netting an astonishing 4 hours of normal usage. To get to 100 percent charge, you’ll need just half the time to do so on the iPhone 6. And the new S 6s support wireless charging, though it’s not the Qi-based charging we see with most Lumias. Instead, Samsung is WPC1.1 and PMA 1.0 compatible. (UPDATE: As noted by a few in the comments, WPC 1.1 is another term for Qi 1.1.)
Galaxy S 6 Edge. It’s important to call out this version of the phone because it’s very innovative, gorgeous and even potentially useful. In fact, I’d be surprised if this design didn’t simply become the normal/only version of some future edition of this smart phone lineup. With the Edge, you get curved edges on both sides of the screen, which is visually distinctive. You can swipe from this edge to do different things, like access a particular contact—you can assign up to five contacts on the right side of the screen—and the edge will even glow in that person’s assigned color when they call or text. This is the one I’ll be buying.
Availability. Both the Samsung Galaxy S 6 and S 6 Edge will be available for sale starting on April 10, 2015 in 20 countries, with more coming on board in the weeks and months following.
This one looks like a winner. I’m eager to test it.