It is March again so it is time for Samsung to unveil its new flagship smartphone. Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S5 was a disappointment to many, including me, and Samsung felt the need to make the change so the rumoured Project Zero was started: to design the flagship from zero. So here’s the results from their effort, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Both phones are quite similar, except for the dual-curve display found on the S6 Edge.
Samsung Galaxy S6
Let’s start with the ‘ordinary’ S6. The plastic build and the bandage back of the Samsung Galaxy S5 received much more mocking than compliments and Samsung has omitted that design language. This time around, Samsung has opted glass and metal to build the flagship and the results are impressive. The front and back of the phone are covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and the sides are framed by metal, resulting in a design that looks good and feels premium. Even though the glass back is a fingerprint magnet, the way it reflects the light is awesome and the sacrifice is worth the price. Coming at 6.8mm, it is a hair thinner than the iPhone 6. I feel that this is the best-looking phone Samsung has ever made.
Although the phone has been redesigned, the front is still very familiar. We have the same layout like all Samsung phones. The home button below, which are flanked by two capacitive buttons, still works as a fingerprint reader. This biometric sensor has been improved and no swiping will be required anymore. You can place your finger on the button with any orientation and it will be registered, much like what we have on iPhone’s Touch ID.
The display size is kept at 5.1″ but the resolution has been bumped up to 2560×1440. The QHD Super AMOLED display is saturated in colours. It has a pixel density of 577ppi and it is the densest display on the market. While the display is superb, I still opine that we don’t need a QHD display on a 5.1″ display like this. The Full HD display on the Galaxy S5 is already impressive and I doubt the extra pixels will improve the viewing experience by much.
Samsung has decided against using Qualcomm’s silicon and choose to use its own Exynos processor. They mentioned that the Snapdragon 810 has issue handling the heat but looking at the performance of the devices powered by that SoC, the claim might be invalid. Anyway, the decision is not ours to be made and Samsung has equipped the Samsung Galaxy S6 with the Exynos 7420, which has 4 2.1GHz Cortex A57 core and 4 1.5GHz Cortex A53 core, and 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Samsung claims that performance will receive a 20% boost and power consumption will be cut down. Performance should not be an issue at all but I have doubts on battery life as the Samsung Exynos chips do have a poorer record in the past compared to Qualcomm’s offering.
To make the S6 fly, Samsung has tried to tone down the heavy TouchWiz. Number of preloaded apps have been decreased and theme is now supported for users to customize their devices. There are a few aesthetic changes which come along with the Android 5.0 Lollipop too. Samsung Pay is a new mobile payment system will be supported by this phone but the system will not be available until Q3 2015. Anyway, I really appreciate that Samsung has finally listened to us by stopping to add all kinds of gimmicky features into the phone. The simpler software will help to reduce the lag typically found on Samsung devices after months of use.
The rear camera is an improved version over the impressive Note 4 camera. The 16MP unit has a f/1.9 lens and it comes with smart optical image stablization. A new tracking autofocus will help to track moving objects while taking photos. The front facing camera is a wide-angle 5MP shooter. While the hardware is top-notch, Samsung improves the viewfinder to enhance the shooting experience. The viewfinder is cleaner now and you can access more settings and shooting options without scrolling here and there. Double pressing the home button will launch the camera within 0.7 seconds instead of the crappy S Voice, regardless if the phone is locked or unlocked.
While the new design is much welcomed, there are a few drawbacks too. First of all, the back is non-removable and so does the battery. MicroSD card is not supported too. To fit the slim design, the camera protrusion is quite significant and the battery capacity has been decreased to 2,550mAh. Removable battery and microSD support are what some of the Samsung Galaxy users proud of and omitting that might be a deal breaker. Interestingly, these problems are exactly what people complaining about iPhones in the past. Waterproofing is also absent on the S6.
For storage, Samsung has made 32GB, 64GB and 128GB model available so it might be a lesser problem. I have concerns with the battery life as the combination of small battery capacity, QHD display and the yet-to-be-proven Exynos processor might be a potential disaster. We really hope that the engineers from Samsung can make the miracle happen. To make things better, fast charging and wireless charging technology has been implemented so that you can get the juice conveniently and rapidly.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
The special part about the S6 Edge is obvious. The dual curve display is the continuation from the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. This time, Samsung is not trying to add a lot of features to the Edge screens. The presence of the dual curve display is more of form than function. After looking at so many candy bar designs in the market, the S6 Edge is at least something refreshing and I do like that it a lot.
While adding aesthetic value to the device, the Edge screen is not completely useless. It can show notifications and time when the phone is locked if you swipe at it. Samsung also allow you to assign 5 contacts and these 5 contacts can be accessed by swiping from the edge of the display. Colours can be assigned to these contacts and the Edge screen will glow accordingly when the person is calling. It lets you know who is calling when the phone is placed face down. It looks cool too.
Essentially, the S6 and the S6 Edge are the same device except for the screen. The S6 Edge is a little lighter, thicker and narrower. The battery is marginally larger at 2,600mAh. So if you are choosing between the two, the curves on the display and the price tag will be the only thing you need to consider. The price for both are not confirmed but the S6 Edge should be priced considerably higher than the S6. You do have to pay a little extra for the bleeding edge technology.
I am not a big fan for Samsung devices due to its plastic design and the bloat brought by TouchWiz. However, Samsung learn its lesson from the S5 by offering too few changes and they are addressing both of the stated issues on the new flagships. Thus, the new devices turn out to be likeable for me. I do have my concerns about the battery life, but I have no complaints the rest of the phone like the design, the camera, the display and the performance. I have no chance to try them yet, but the first impression is pretty good. I do hope that the S6 Edge will be the only S6, but I guess that is too much to ask for right now.
So, I think Samsung has done a pretty great job here. Starting from zero might be more difficult, but they have managed to design a very attractive phone here. It does stand out when compared to the HTC One M9 launched on the same day. I bet the S6 will help Samsung to continue its dominance in the smartphone market.