The smartphone to beat this season is the Galaxy S6 Edge. It’s slim, stylish, and powerful, a mashup between the previous Galaxy S series with the original iPod Touch. It’s well-made and unique, a combination rarely found in cellphones these days and it is as far from the Galaxy S5 as the T-1000 was from the original Terminator. In short, it’s pretty cool and probably the only S6 – the other being the non-curved standard model – I’d buy.
The Edge Case
This review is primarily about the S6 Edge. Out of the two phones released by Samsung at MWC the Edge most deserves to be called a flagship – a device that shows the best of what the company has to offer. While the “standard” S6 is solid, usable, and handsome, I think the Edge is the real winner here. Why? First off the design is unique and unique to Samsung. It is the one that you will notice and it feels great in the hand. The standard S6 is another solid slab and although the size difference is minuscule you can truly feel the difference. The Edge disappears in the pocket while the S6 is just another smartphone.
Everything in the S6 is available in the Edge. Both run a Exynos 14nm 64-bit Octa Core processor and both come in 64 and 128GB variants (you can get the S6 in 32GB.) Both have a built-in IR blaster for changing channels on your television, a usable heart rate monitor that doubles as a flash, acceptable front and back cameras, and a beautiful 5.1-inch 2560 x 1440 pixel Super AMOLED display that Samsung uses to excellent effect. Everything about the phone is smooth – from the pixel-free screen to the lush colors to the animations and transitions. This is Samsung kicking out the stops.
Those familiar with modern Android won’t be surprised by everything the S6 has to offer. It’s more of the same but better. NFC payments are on the table, where available, as is fingerprint recognition. The processor and 3G of RAM make things snappy and Samsung’s Milk services are built in to supply music and video. SHealth, Samsung’s health offering, can measure your steps and take your pulse. They pre-bundled Hancom Office on board in case you wanted to check out some spreadsheets on your flight.
The S6 Edge is just good. It has great battery life – it’s run for about 1 day on a charge with heavy use and lasted about two days on standby. This time will degrade with use, however, so expect about 18 hours of firm usage, less if you’re watching video or browsing a lot. Samsung has truly streamlined Android notifications and made them pleasing to swipe through and read. The lock screen is eminently useful thanks to a little list of icons under the notifications that show you what you have in your queue. A button on the right side wakes the phone up from sleep and there are volume buttons on the left side. That’s it. The rest of the phone is nearly featureless except for a little slot for the SIM card and the iPhone-like bottom face.
In terms of size the S6 is just right. While I’m honestly used to a bigger phone these days – the Note or the 6 Plus are my go-to devices – this is phone is a great size and, because it is amazingly slim, it fits the hand and pocket well. I never expected a Samsung device to look this good and feel this premium but it’s 2015 and they finally pulled it off.
A few bugs popped up in my testing. First, I found the fingerprint sensor to be useless.
While the enrollment process for the fingerprint sensor was surprisingly easy (and Apple-like with a little print that filled in as you put down your finger), using it was surprisingly hard. I enrolled a thumb that I use regularly on the iPhone with no issues but try as I might I couldn’t unlock the phone with a simple press. I turned off fingerprint recognition and used a standard PIN while I was testing.
The S6 is also missing an SD card slot and a removable battery. I find this fact quite ironic as, for years, Samsung proponents have held up these two features as must-have items. I would argue that the fast charging system, acceptable battery life, and usability should assuage your grief over a non-removable battery and I also suspect those who need more storage space will be happy just getting a phone with more memory rather than swapping in fingernail-sized SD cards. I could be wrong, but them’s the breaks.
The lack of waterproofing is a bit harder to swallow. Water fastness, for the most part, was a killer feature for the last Galaxy. What compelled Samsung to add it is anyone’s guess but I know it has saved number of phones after a trip to the drink. There are far more important things they could have left out but I know that the waterproofing was a fan favorite. You might also be annoyed by the wartish rear camera which sticks out quite prominently from the glossy white back. I would be concerned that it – along with the thin metal edges – would be a point of impact while tooling around with this device. I’m also concerned that a case – and I haven’t seen a case on this phone yet – could hide a lot of what makes this phone beautiful. It is, in fact, the first phone that I would honestly say shouldn’t be hidden inside a case. Here’s hoping the Gorilla Glass panels survive abuse.
Otherwise the S6 Edge is nearly perfect. The pre-installed bloatware – mostly carrier specific software – is acceptable and easily removed and the UI shows just how polished Android can be. The phone is pleasant to use, fun, and definitely worth a look.
The Bottom Line
Compared to the S6 the Samsung S5 seems like a fever dream. Designed to please all the people all of the time, Samsung poured everything they could into their previous model, resulting in something that, in the end, hit their profits. The S6 is Samsung at its finest. It is a phone that speaks to a consumer looking for a premium product and priced accordingly. Would I also recommend the standard S6? Given that the edge costs $100 more both off-contract ($650 vs $750) and on-contract ($200 vs $300) you should probably let your wallet be your guide. The phones are functionally identical but the features and value truly stands out in the Edge. It’s your call but I’d definitely lean towards Edge if it were my money.
I hesitate to say that Samsung “Finally Did It!” The fact that it took them this long to think carefully about design and not just paste a laundry list of features on the design lab wall is shameful. This phone can beat any lesser manufacturer’s offerings handily and it stands toe-to-toe with Apple. If Samsung can keep this up they will be truly successful in all facets of the manufacturing process. A friend once told me that he doesn’t buy Samsung phones because Samsung is a washing machine and air conditioner company. With this phone they are finally a mobile company.