Samsung’s newest flagship, the Galaxy S6, is here, a shiny wonder of metal and glass. But given the number of quality smartphones out there, you might be asking yourself, “Is Samsung’s newest TouchWiz-laden device really worth my upgrade?” It’s a loaded question, and there are many answers — some of which may surprise you. Let’s dive in.
Samsung has for the past several years made well-performing phones. But its hardware design and general asthetics left a lot to be desired. The company had built a reputation of packaging extremely capable innards in what many considered to be the cheapest looking bodies around. Plastic was in evidence everywhere, and it seemed like Samsung wasn’t particularly concerned with making its phones seem attractive.
And then last year’s Galaxy S5 truly underwhelmed. The S5 had killer specs, a great camera, good battery life, and featured water and dust resistance. But it looked, if possible, even more pedestrian than its predecessor, the Galaxy S4. The company had one of its worst performances from its smartphone division in 2014, its profits declining, and losing consumers to a number of more premium-looking flagships.
The Galaxy S6 is the company’s response to anyone who feels a premium smartphone should not only play the part, but look good doing it. It is a stunning device. Real — not faux — metal sides accentuate the glass on both the front and back of the device. And the eye-catching back plate just oozes class. And the feel in the hand is the absolute best in any smartphone I’ve ever picked up. The S6’s rounded edges, smooth back plate, slim bezels and light weight combine to make a fantastic experience. You’ll feel right at home with the S6 if you’re coming from an HTC One series phone or an iPhone; the attention to detail matches these premium lines. The attention to design puts other flagship lines to shame. Motorola, LG, Sony and even Google itself have produced nothing in the past several years to rival the sheer class of the S6.
All that aside, the Galaxy S6 shouldn’t be the next phone for some of you. A gorgeous device like the S6 isn’t made for butterfingers; drop this phone on a hard surface and it’s going to lose its pretty facade in a hurry.
Samsung’s Galaxy S line has always been top-notch when it comes to raw power, and the S6 is no different. The phone jumps up to 3GB of RAM from the S5’s 2GB. Samsung has ditched Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 SOC and its real or perceived thermal and throttling issues in favor of its in-house 64-bit Exynos octacore 7420 processor. And Samsung has incorporated faster onboard storage and bumped the minimum capacity to 32GB. The result is a device that virtually flies through anything you throw at it with nary a stutter. The specs and performance alone are worth the upgrade from any device up to and including the company’s own Galaxy Note 4. The raw power is truly impressive.
But even with all that raw power, this won’t be the device for everyone. Gone are the waterproofing, microSD card and removable battery of the S5. Power users and outdoorsy types likely need to look elsewhere.
Is this the best camera in a smartphone?
The Galaxy S6’s rear camera has 16MP, just like the S5. And that’s where the similarities end. Double tap the home button to launch the camera — it’s shockingly fast. Every part of the S6’s camera is a substantial improvement over the S5. This is the best smartphone camera you can buy right now. You’ve got optical image stabilization, an f1.9 aperture, 8x digital zoom and the ability to shoot 4K video. And the front-facing camera is no slouch either. It’s been bumped up from 2MP to 5MP and it shoots QHD video to boot.
Samsung’s overwhelming camera interface has been given a complete overhaul. It’s no less capable than before, but now, a simplified user interface hides a powerful suite of features. Want point and shoot? The S6 has you covered. Want all the control in the world? Give Pro mode a shot to set up the perfect shot. There is no camera better than this available, except maybe the LG G4.
Bright and Beautiful
The Samsung Galaxy S6 has the best display on a smartphone. Period. The LG G3 had a ground-breaking QHD screen. But it can’t hold a candle to the display on the S6. The Super AMOLED QHD screen has a 2560×1440 resolution, a whopping 577 pixels per inch. The 5.1-inch screen is the sharpest on the market. The display cranks up brighter than anyone, and it lowers as dim as you can go without turning completely off.
Battery life and Charging
Battery life might be the Galaxy S6’s Achilles’ heel. The 2550mAh isn’t a beast to begin with, and it drains quickly. Don’t expect to get much more than three hours of screen-on time. But when your battery does go dead, at least you can bring it back quickly. The S6 features built-in wireless charging and supports Quick Charge 2.0. In 10 minutes, you can have 50 percent of your battery capacity back. Road warriors may need to find another device, but if you’re someone who nearly always has access to a power supply to charge up, you’re all set. Maybe Samsung shouldn’t have made fun of those iPhone owners as wall huggers.
Speaking of the iPhone: Remember Samsung’s clunky fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S5, the one you had to swipe your finger across, sometimes multiple times? History. The S6’s fingerprint sensor works just like Apple’s Touch ID: Rest your finger on the home button and you’re in almost instantly. Much better. And something else the S6 now shares with the iPhone is a speaker on the bottom of the device rather than the S5’s unfortunate back-firing speaker. Want the best security on an Android? This is it.
The Galaxy S6 is running Android 5.0 Lollipop with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin.
The good: If you’re a fan of TouchWiz and multiple features, there’s a lot to like here. The Note 4’s pop-up window is here: swipe in from the corner to enable an app within a window that you can resize or minimize. Multi Window is here as well, Samsung’s excellent multitasking solution. And Samsung has included a theming engine that lets you change app icons, system sounds, the look of notifications, wallpapers, accent colors, SMS chat windows and more. TouchWiz is definitely more refined on the S6 than previous incarnations.
The bad: Despite a pledge to pare down its OS skin, Samsung has included even more preinstalled apps on the S6 than the S5. And you can’t uninstall any of these apps, only disable them. And despite the S6’s ability to change app grids and apply folder themes, Samsung has included text buttons rather than icons for many of its in-app software buttons, offering up a confusing user experience. And, sigh, Samsung’s cartoony app icons are still here. C’mon, Samsung! It’s 2015. If TouchWiz isn’t your thing, maybe a Nexus, or even a Moto X might be more your cup of Lollipop-flavored tea.
So far, we haven’t touched on the Galaxy S6 Edge. And here’s the reason: Outside a few questionably useful features, the Edge is an infinity-pool novelty of a screen. If having an eye-catching device is worth at least a $100 premium on the S6, hey, it’s your money.
So there you have it: Plenty of reasons to upgrade yourself to a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S6, and even a few reasons why Samsung’s newest flagship might not be for you. It’s decision time! For more on the Samsung Galaxy S6, stick with iTechTriad for a full review, comparisons, and more.