Thursday, March 5th, 2015
We joined Samsung for their Galaxy Unpacked 2015 event in Barcelona this weekend, where Samsung unveiled its latest flagship phones.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 marks a new age in Samsung design, with a glass back and metal frame that provide a markedly more premium in-hand feel. The S6 Edge goes even further, with a screen that bends back on both sides to provide a wider view and extra space for controls and notifications.
Let’s have a look at each of the phones in turn to see where the differences lie.
Samsung Galaxy S6
The Galaxy S6 is a big step forward when it comes to design. The plasticky exterior of the Galaxy S5 and its predecessors is gone, replaced with a stylish metal frame and Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back. The phone is incredibly thin too, measuring just 6.8mm thick. It feels great in your hand, and the 5.1-inch 1440p display looks incredibly sharp too.
The S6 is available in a unique colour, blue topaz, as well as the three colours it shares with the S6 Edge: white, black and gold. Each colour gleams and changes as you adjust the angle, even though the blanket of fingerprints does reduce the effect somewhat. This is definitely a phone you’ll have to keep clean with a cloth or in a case – and with a glass back, a case may be a real requirement.
Another downside to a glass back is that we lose that battery cover… and with it, both having a removable battery and the microSD card slot.
Samsung calls their efforts “design with purpose”, and for once I’d be hesitant to disagree. This is an excellently engineered phone, which knocks everything else Samsung have done into a cocked hat… and may yet rival HTC or Apple’s efforts.
The Galaxy S6 is powered by Samsung’s latest Exynos processor, the Exynos 7 Octa. It uses a new 14nm process, meaning it can fit many more transistors into a similar space. According to Samsung, that increases performance by 20% while reducing power usage by 35% – not bad. Samsung have also paid attention to the backing elements, with 3GB of DDR4 RAM (“80% faster”) and a hybrid storage solution which promises to offer speeds more akin to solid state drives (SSDs) than traditional flash storage. Storage options have been upgraded too, with 32GB being the smallest option, with 64GB and 128GB models also available. Together, these upgrades could make the Galaxy S6 a performance titan.
When it comes to battery power, we’re looking at a smaller unit than shipped in the S5 – 2550mAh compared to 2800mAh. Samsung say that the phone will last for a long time though – 12 hours of WiFi, 11 hours of LTE, 13 hours of video or 49 hours of music. This is complemented by Samsung’s fast charging tech, which promises to deliver 4 hours of battery life in just 10 minutes of charging. Charging from empty to 100% will take half the time of an iPhone 6, despite that phone’s much smaller battery. Samsung are also building in wireless charging to a Galaxy phone for the first time.
The camera setup is the final area that Samsung are focusing their attention. They’re using a 16-megapixel rear sensor on the back, with an f1.9 lens and optical image stabilisation. On the front, they’ve upgraded to a 5-megapixel shooter with f1.9 and a special low-light mode. The camera can be launched in less than a second by double-tapping the home button, which worked very effectively in my testing. There are also some fun modes, including a cartoon mode that surprised the demonstrator Samsung provided at the hands-on session.
The Galaxy S6 runs Android 5 with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI. Samsung made a big point of showing how they had upgraded their apps to comply with Google’s Material Design guidelines. One notable example is the camera app, which now uses labels to make functionality more obvious, and has a single screen for common functions.
Samsung are debuting ‘Samsung Pay’ with the Galaxy S6, which can use either NFC or mag-stripe technology to work with a massive range of existing terminals. Samsung are promising a launch in the summer for the US and South Korea, alongside partnerships with VISA, Mastercard and (mostly American) banks.
Overall, the experience seems smoother and faster, with fewer added features and other assorted bloatware. Interestingly, the phone comes with Microsoft apps pre-installed, which would suggest a partnership between the two companies.
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 – Black 32GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 – Gold 32GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 – White 32GB
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
The S6 Edge utilises a dual-curved screen, bending subtly backwards on the left and right sides. That means there’s essentially no bezel on the sides at all. The phone is slightly thicker than the S6 (7.0mm vs 6.8mm), but the difference isn’t noticeable in-hand. What you do notice is that the phone is a bit sharper on the edges, although its overall shape is more comfortable to grip and hold to your face. Otherwise, the phone is near-identical to the standard S6, with the same glass back and metal frame. The S6 Edge is available in a unique colour, green emerald.
The Galaxy S6 Edge is almost entirely the same when it comes to specifications: the same processor, the same storage, the same camera. The only slight difference is the battery, which is slightly larger (2600mAh vs 2550mAh) on the S6 Edge. Otherwise, you’ll benefit from the same Exynos 7 processor, 3GB of DDR4 RAM and 32, 64 or 128GB of ‘eMMC / SSD universal flash storage 2.0′.
The S6 Edge has a few unique software features compared to the S6, thanks to that curved screen. You can set up to five contacts as your favourites, giving them each a unique colour. Then, when these contacts call when your phone is face-down, you’ll see a beautiful neon underglow in their colour so you’ll know who’s calling.
You can also access these favourites by swiping in from the side of the screen, letting you call or text them quickly from any screen. Finally, notifications also appear on the side of the screen; you can pull them out to see the full notification and respond right there.
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – Black 32GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – Black 64GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – Gold 32GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – Gold 64GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – White 32GB
- SIM Free Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – White 64GB
|Galaxy S6||Galaxy S6 Edge|
|Screen||5.1-inch flat||5.1-inch dual curve|
|Unique Colour||Blue Topaz||Green Emerald|
|Price||£579 for 32GB||£649 for 32GB|
Samsung slipped in the last year, but the release of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge shows that the company is serious about renewing its efforts to craft great phones. The new design of the S6 and S6 Edge are miles ahead of what we saw from Samsung last year, and together with meaningful hardware and software upgrades, the next series of Galaxy phones looks incredible.
What do you think of the new phones? Let us know in the comments below!